The levee, chicago
The notorious Levee district, ostensibly closed down in -was a place where brothels, gambling houses, and illegal saloons were publicly allowed to exist, tolerated or ignored by the police, the city government and the citizenry. Visit our companion site The work includes a rich collection of contemporary photographs and illustrations.
The closing of the Levee in did not mean that there was no more commercialized prostitution in Chicagobut the operation of brothels in an open, accessible public area, such as those in the Levee district, was not continued in the flagrant manner in which it had existed ly.
Very useful in counteracting stereotypes and misinformation about these two surprisingly different saloon cultures, and their connection to political life in the two cities. Prostitution was never legal in Chicago.
Highly publicized, periodic efforts at reform had little impact. Much attention paid to drinking, gambling and the white slave trade.
The social reform movements, advocates for and against prohibition, and religious proselytizers produced a variety of hortatory literature often including statements attributed to public figures of the day. Organized crime controlled large and highly profitable illegal enterprises in this district and elsewhere, paying off police and politicians. Vice is principally prostitution, but also includes the distribution of alcohol, especially during Prohibition, and other illegal activities in the segregated districts of Chicago.
Included in the Commission Report of and in contemporaneous academic studies are details and statistics on vice, and a history of the development of the industry in Chicago.
The Levee district was notorious, in Chicago and around the world, described by many contemporaneous commentators and visitors to the city, including William Stead, If Christ Came to Chicagothe most famous journalist of his time. A resident of Hull House, and a reformer — who refused to be associated with any political party—Florence Kelley lived in Chicago from untilleading and participating in a variety of projects.
Prior tothe Levee was an area the police did not enter, and the new regime did document that and attempt to change it. And the enactment of state and federal laws imposing a prohibition on the sale and distribution of alcohol resulted in an entirely new set of regulations and administrative bureaucracies.
Photographs and illustrations are included. This is a comprehensive, serious study with a wealth of demographic and court data, including: an exhaustive review of prior reports and commissions, official data primarily on the post World War I period, and in some data going back to the early part of the century.
The most extensive reform effort directed at prostitution was in after the election of Mayor Fred A. Busse, and the appointment of the Vice Commission. An unusual and especially relevant history of public drinking and its legal regulation, comparing Chicago and Boston. In addition to the Chicago Vice Commission Report, the most comprehensive and scholarly treatment of the subject is: Walter C. Reckless, Vice in Chicago Chicago This is a well written, sociological study, with extensive demographic, public health and economic data on aspects of the industry in the notorious vice districts of Chicago.
Throughout this period, the regulation of the sale of alcohol and the concern with drunkenness and syphilis, was inextricable from reforms directed at prostitution. Topics include: the official regulation of alcohol, the criminal prosecution or non-prosecution for alcohol related offenses, the temperance movement, the economic constraints operating on the saloon keeper, the industry protective associations, ethnic and racial patterns associated with public drinking, saloons and immigration patterns, the enormous profits from the sale of alcohol and where they went, and the importance of saloons in political campaigns and ward politics in Chicago.
Thompson was Mayor fromand reelected in A lively, anecdotal of historic events, political scandals and the notorious underworld.
For their language, diction, and allegations of unverifiable facts, these books and pamphlets offer, if nothing else, a vernacular time capsule of public speech, and occasional glimpses into the life and conditions of the day.