The sex trade generated an enormous amount of money and was estimated to be second in dollar value only to the Crescent City's port itself. Previously in 1857, the New Orleans City Council decided to direct some of that revenue stream into the city's coffers. On March 10, 1857 the New Orleans City Council enacted "An Ordinance Concerning Lewd and Abandoned Women." The first attempt to contain and license prostitution in the United States, the law only minimally suppressed prostitution in some areas of the city; its real purpose was not to end the sex trade but to encourage the traffic to move away from the more respectable parts of town and to channel some of the profits into the city treasury. 2
Once referred to as the 'Gibraltar of commercialized vice...twenty-four blocks given over to human degradation and lust,' Storyville came to an end on October 6, 1917, when Congress extended the provisions of sections 12 and 13 of the Draft Act to include the Navy. New Orleans was told, "You close the red-light district, or the armed forces will. 3
This display includes maps from the Library's digital collection of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps depicting the Storyville district with locations highlighted indicating where 'Female Boarding Houses' or 'FB's' were located. 4
Also on display is a copy of "Guidebooks to Sin; the Blue Books of Storyville, New Orleans" by Pamela D. Arceneaux 5. This work includes reproductions of the famed, 'Blue Books' of New Orleans which offer not only advertisements but also references to bordellos, cribs, or "roping in" joints. The use of the term bluebook to describe these books is strikingly incongruent. As mentioned in the Guidebooks to Sin…, outside of its Storyville context, the term "blue book" often indicates official documents. "Blue book" has also historically referred to the social register, a directory of so-called "blue bloods." 6
In another work in the display, 'Spectacular Wickedness' 7, author Emily Epstein Landau characterizes the 'Blue Books' as a mix of high and low, social pretension and low humor. "Storyville's promoters were painting a picture of legitimacy but in an underworld milieu, where it was simultaneously preposterous. The tension behind the effort derived from the economic decline of New Orleans and the destruction of the aristocratic, slave owning classes, along with the rise of a new category of industrial elites, parvenus, and businessmen, not to mention the middle-class middle managers and clerks who served them." Surprisingly,
despite the Library's vast holdings, we were unable to find a single original copy of a 'Blue Book' as the term relates to New Orleans.
Storyville no longer appears on maps and today is referred to as an urban ghetto. Its buildings were purchased by the Housing Authority of New Orleans and its buildings destroyed in the late 1930's and replaced with low-income housing projects. 8
Business Reference Specialist
1. Long, Alecia P. The great Southern Babylon: sex, race, and respectability in New Orleans, 1865-1920. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, c2004. p. 112.
2. Schafer, Judith Kelleher. Brothels, depravity, and abandoned women: illegal sex in antebellum New Orleans. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, c2009.p. 145.
3. Brandt, Allan M. No magic bullet; a social history of venereal disease in the United States since 1880. New York, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1985. p. 75.
4. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. Geography and Map Division, Library of Cognress. http://www.loc.gov/rr/geogmap/sanborn/. Accessed on 02/06/2018.
5. Arceneaux, Pamela D. Guidebooks to sin; the blue books of Storyville, New Orleans. New Orleans, The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2017. 159 p.
6. Arceneaux, Pamela D. Guidebooks to sin; the blue books of Storyville, New Orleans. New Orleans, The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2017. p. 17.
7. Landau, Emily Epstein. Spectacular wickedness: sex, race, and memory in Storyville, New Orleans. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, c2013. p. 115.
8. Schafer, Judith Kelleher. Brothels, depravity, and abandoned women: illegal sex in antebellum New Orleans, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, c2009.p. 145.
Last updated: 02/08/2018