A Guide to 19th-Century NYC Houses No Gentleman Would Dare to Frequent





Encyclopedic in breadth but compact enough for the vest pocket of a 19th-century gentleman on the go, the book was an insider’s guide to Manhattan, easily picked up at the newsstand before a night on the town, much the way tourists and local residents now consult a guidebook when they are in the mood for a memorable restaurant or meal.

Only this palm-sized book, published in 1870 and long hidden away at the New-York Historical Society, did not confine its anonymous critique to the quality of wines or the ambience of the 150 establishments listed between its covers. Rather, it defined its role as delivering “insight into the character and doings of people whose deeds are carefully screened from public view.”...

Timothy J. Gilfoyle, a professor of history at Loyola University, put the number of brothels in Manhattan in 1870 close to 500 in his 1992 book “City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920”. While “The Gentleman’s Directory” did not survey every brothel, it managed to include more than 150 establishments — 23 on West 27th Street alone — in the book’s 55 pages of commentary and advertisements. Readers, who take the time to view this map of all known locations, might almost come to pity the researchers who knocked on all those doors, collecting information and sampling the wares. Coincidentally or not, all nine brothels that advertised in the book were found to be “first-class.”...


comments powered by Disqus