West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of "Trollops" in the American West
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West

West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West

Jacob Miller - November 7, 2017

Prostitution has been practiced throughout ancient and modern times. It has been described as the ‘world’s oldest profession,’ and despite attempts at regulation, it continues and will persist.

The Page Act of 1875 forbade any importation of women for the purpose of prostitution but in the practice continued. Until the 1890s, madams predominately ran the businesses, after which male pimps took over. This led to the generally declined treatment of women. It was not uncommon for brothels in Western towns to operate openly, without the stigma of East Coast cities.

Gambling and prostitution were central to life in these western towns, and only later, as the female population increased, reformers moved in and other civilizing influences arrived, did prostitution become less blatant and less common. After a decade or so the mining towns attracted respectable women who ran boarding houses, organized church societies and worked as laundresses and seamstresses, all while striving for independent status.

West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Big Nose Kate, pictured here aged 15, left, broke her lover Doc Holliday out of jail in 1877 by setting a fire and pulling a gun on a guard. Daily Mail
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Mary Katharine Haroney, or better known as Big Nose Kate, pictured in the 1870s was originally from Hungary and traveled to Kansas at age sixteen. Whilst working as a prostitute in Fort Griffin, Texas, she began a relationship with one of the deadliest gunslingers Doc Holliday – which lasted until his death. Daily Mail
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Big Nose Kate pictured circa 1900. Daily Mail
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Belle Brezing from Lexington, Kentucky was so renowned she is said to have been the model for Belle Watling in the classic novel, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, pictured as a young prostitute. Daily Mail
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Belle Brezing in her private parlor in her third and most famous bordello in Lexington, Kentucky. Brezing occupied the house until her death in 1940. Daily Mail
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Belle Brezing, pictured here as a Madame. Daily Mail
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Belle Brezing, pictured, became notorious when during the Spanish-American war of 1898 she only allowed men above a certain rank in the Army to use her brothel and became so famous that when she died she even received an obituary in Time Magazine. Daily Mail
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Belle Brezing’s third and most famous bordello in Lexington, Kentucky. Daily Mail
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Martha Jane Burke, better known as Calamity Jane, a famous American frontierswoman, pictured here in men’s clothing, 1895. Daily Mail
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Martha Jane Burke, better known as Calamity Jane, a famous American frontierswoman, pictured here visiting ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok’s grave in Deadwood, Dakota territory, sometime in the 1890s. Daily Mail
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Mattie Silks, pictured, made the equivalent of $1 million over the period of three months in Dawson City in Alaska. Daily Mail
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Molly Hall arrived in New York in 1873 from Dublin Ireland, unable to find work, she headed west and ended up working as a prostitute under the name Molly Burdan in the mining community of Murray, Idaho – and was known for her colorful language. Daily Mail

West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Much of what Calamity Jane claimed to have witnessed, or participated in, cannot be proved. It is known she was illiterate, an itinerant alcoholic and occasional prostitute. Daily Mail
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Julia Bulette was known as the original ‘hooker with a heart of gold and was the only single woman when she arrived in Virginia City, Nevada in 1859 aged 27 and was in much demand by the miners, soon becoming a prostitute. Daily Mail
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Two Alaskan beauties show off their wares for the cameras. Women heading for Dawson City or Ketchikan made perilous journeys to Alaska, often traveling for months to reach their destinations. The trip was worth it, for those girls of the mining camps who earned better money. truewestmagazine
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
In 1886, soiled dove Bessie Colvin (shown) left Alice Abbott’s house of prostitution in El Paso, Texas, to go work for Etta Clark. After following her to Clark’s place across the street, Abbott punched the madam in the face. The angry Clark returned with a gun and shot Abbott in the groin. El Pasoans sided with Clark, perhaps because the tiny woman shooting the 200-pound Abbott caused some to chuckle; on May 12, a jury found Clark not guilty on grounds of self-defense. Robert G. McCubbin Collection
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
In Cripple Creek, Colorado, prostitutes and dance hall girls were required to wear aprons over their short dresses, lest anyone be offended at seeing their ankles. These gals and their cohorts are having a fine time at Crapper Jack’s. The famed Laura Bell McDaniel of Colorado City is said to be among them. truewestmagazine
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
In most red light districts, French girls were segregated to their own houses, often by choice. French women of the demimonde in the West sometimes charged a bit more but boasted better knowledge of sex and much cleaner houses than their American counterparts. truewestmagazine
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
A Jerome, Arizona, harlot shows off her finery in this photograph that was probably taken in the red light district on Hull Avenue. Some have speculated she may have been intoxicated, given that she is leaning on a wall and appears to have been held steady by the woman behind her. truewestphotography
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Alice Abbott (left) kept a photo album of her days as a madam in El Paso, Texas. The photo of Bessie Colvin on p. 24 appeared in it, as did one of the girls above, which she labeled “Lovers All,” next to a heart with the letter “A.” That symbol, which appears on numerous pages in the album, possibly denoted customers and girls who were extra special to her. Courtesy Robert G. McCubbin Collection
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
A district judge who visited Miles City in 1881 described it as a “lively little town of 1,000 inhabitants, but utterly demoralized and lawless. It is not safe to be out on the street at night. It has forty-two saloons and there are on an average about a half-dozen fights every night.” These two soiled doves in Miles City were among the “wild women of Montana’s frontier” featured in Lael Morgan’s Wanton West book. Chicago Review Press / Wanton West
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Girls of the row gained a great many admirers in their profession. Graffiti of the 19th century paid tribute to the red light ladies, on the sides of buildings, under stairs and in the rooms where they had worked. When a kitchen rug was taken up some years ago in Cripple Creek, Colorado, this “painted lady” was found underneath. truewestmagazine
West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West
Born in Knickerbocker, Texas, Laura Bullion worked as a prostitute in Fannie Porter’s famed brothel in nearby San Antonio. It was here that Laura began a relationship with outlaw and member of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, William ‘News’ Carver. Daily Mail

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