Monday, November 7, 2011

Miss Kitty Lied. . .

Oh, Miss Kitty, how you deceived us all. Remember Gunsmoke and Sheriff Matt Dillon’s main squeeze? Perfect silk dress, perfectly styled red curls – perfect beauty mark. How clean and wonderful the life of a Wild West saloon girl must have been. . . 

*insert sound of screeching brakes here*

Um, no. Let’s look at some facts. In descending order there were: Parlor Houses, Brothels, Cribs. Even in a Parlor House *think 5 star hotel* where a night of food, fun and the other “F” word might cost a man $200+, the girl only averaged $10 per week because of the cut the Madam (or the house) took the rest to cover the costs of food, wine and the girl’s room and board.

 Brothel girls could make $2.50 - $7.00 per customer, but she had to pay room and board out of this plus any other expenses she had. Oh, and Brothels were significantly less grand than a Parlor House. Parlor houses the girl probably spent the entire night with one man and her sheets were changed afterward. Brothel girls saw more “traffic” and her sheets might be changed once per week.

 Cribs were a closet-like space where the girls lived and worked. She would rent this room for $10-$20 per week. She charged a man as little as 25 cents depending on how dirty or run-down she and/or her crib was. Her profit was in volume. In a cattle or mining town, she would little more than stay in bed as the men lined up outside her door. Normally, a crib nymph would see 20 to 30 men per night. During a cattle drive, she could see as many as 75 to 100 men per night. And no clean sheets here. She put a rain slicker over the bottom of her bed to protect the sheets from mud and cow manure since the cowboy might take off his hat, but not his boots or pants. Volume, remember?  

Yes, there were Saloon Girls who could just serve drinks, but they could also “go upstairs” for extra money. And Dance Hall Girls, yes, they were there, earning 12 ½ cents per dance. But all in all after researching this topic, I have to say, Miss Kitty lied to us.
What do you think?
*All statistics were found in UPSTAIRS GIRLS: Prostitution in the American West by Michael Rutter


  1. Oh Jenn - I love your facts on the Wild West! Great post :)

  2. What a great post, Jenn. It's amazing how wrong Hollywood got it. I'll be coming to you for my Western facts. :-)

  3. Oh no! You've completely busted my bubble of Gunsmoke memories. *grin* Nope, I cut my teeth on historicals back in my too many brothel house scenes to buy into that. If I ever decide to write one, I know who to go to for info. (Don't hold your breath, though.)
    Love ya girlie,

  4. Wow...that's frighteningly real. No painted over scenes there. Thanks for the reality check, Jenn.


  5. I love learning more about history and how thing really were. Thanks for the interesting facts, Jenn.

  6. Great post, Jenn! I love history as well and it is such an "ah-ha" moment when the truth is learned. So much of our culture romanticizes life in early America and the wild west. I really enjoyed this.