Home / General / Brothel Menu, 1912

Brothel Menu, 1912


Have you ever wanted to see a detailed brothel menu from 1912, with extremely graphic detail about the services provided? Well, here’s your chance.

This might be the most amazing historical document I have ever seen.

Here’s another link if the first isn’t working

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  • My disappointment at the lack of “American Style” is boundless. My relief, as well.

    • “American Style” = missionary position, for procreative purposes only, Wednesday night after bowling.

      • I’ve apparently been doing it wrong.

        • Halloween Jack

          You can certainly do it during bowling, as long as you’re wearing the provided shoes.

      • Book

        Surcharge for post-coital prayer.

    • Marek

      Plus, also, too, no Gangnam style?

  • Pee Cee

    Error establishing a database connection

    That’s hawt.

    • Leeds man

      Must have something to do with the bawd rate.

      • Or the change in the bawd rate: d’bauch/dt.

        • And that’s the geekiest joke I’ve made in years. I need a drink.

      • Hogan


  • Hogan

    I call bullshit. No Cleveland steamer? No dirty Sanchez? NO TEABAGGING?

    • pillbucket

      What’s unclear about “one female suckoff, stones in mouth“?

      • Brutusettu

        I’m just guessing here.
        Possibly something to do with Mrs Swallows who was formally known as Ms Spitz. Probably dealing with her married name.

  • arguingwithsignposts

    One would think they could move that onto a site that can handle the bandwidth, like photobucket or something.

  • arguingwithsignposts

    And what is a dry bob?

    • 49 pence, same as downtown.

      • Hogan

        FT other W.

  • Steve S.

    This must be a fake. Sex was invented c. 1962.

    • James Gary

      I think it was 1963, as Philip Larkin put it.

      Also, I’m pretty sure that “menu” is a fake. Speaking as a graphic designer with twenty years experience: the typography looks extremely digital to my eye.

      • I believe menus like that did exist back in the day. I recently read Island of Vice, about New York City in the late 1800s.

        Prostitution was a major industry in those days.

        • One of the few without belching smokestacks.


          • Jay C

            I think the “belching smokestack” was on the next page, and cost $1.50…….

        • James Gary

          I’m sure such menus existed, but “if you are not a self-starter, stay at home and jack yourself off” is a play on words involving the phrase “self-starter,” which as far as I know, only emerged as a buzzword for personal ads in the 1980s.

          Plus, the individual characters are INCREDIBLY uniform for letterpress. Either those pages were printed using a more expensive method intended for large-quantity runs (which seems extremely unlikely) or someone faked it on a computer.

          • I’ll only say that as a historian of the 1910s more than any other decade, this passes the smell test, both in terms of language and the typography.

            Anything is possible these days, but it passes my sense test.

            • oldster

              What is the claimed geographical provenance?

              I thought it was supposed to be from London–did I get that wrong?
              (it’s suggested by the tags at the other blog)

              • London, evidently.

                • James Gary

                  The only authority I can cite is my fondness for early P.G. Woodhouse novels of that time (none of which involve commercial sex)– but the copy just doesn’t feel British to me at all.

                  Obviously, opinions may differ.

                • Well, we’d have to find out more about its origin and the internet does not seem to provide any easily found information.

                • There’s also I suppose the possibility that it is London, Ontario.

                • Lecturer

                  If it’s supposed to be London, England, it’s a clear fake: the money’s clearly decimalized.

                • If someone is going to all this trouble to create a fake of this quality, I don’t believe they would mess up such simple things. Seems more likely to me that it is real and not from the UK as it is a fake.

                • Richard Hershberger

                  Sure the use of dollar signs is contra-indicative for London, England. In any case, a bit of Googling turns this same piece up going back to at least 2010. This site, http://kernut.com/dating/brothels-100-years-ago-and-tantric-sex-today/ places it in the collection of the “Block-Keller House” in New Orleans. The Block-Keller House, a bit more Googling reveals, is now a bed-and-breakfast going by the name “Canal Street Inn”. I didn’t pursue it beyond that.

            • efgoldman

              May I see the syllabus for the class in which you’re teaching this literature? I may want to go down to Kingston and audit, just to watch the kids’ faces.

              • I wish I could find a way to use it. Sadly, no.

                • efgoldman

                  The only other question is: Will you possibly be subject to another head on a pike moment for posting it? I mean, I’d like to think not, but…

                • For linking to a historical document?

                • John

                  It is a historical document published on the blog of a prostitute.

                • It’s published in 100 different places.

                  There’s whole genres of academic research on these things. This is a non-issue.

                • sharculese

                  It is a historical document published on the blog of a prostitute.

                  He got it from Josh Trevino?

                • John

                  It’s obviously absurd, but, again, the link you provided was not one of the 100 other links, but the one to the prostitute’s blog.

                • Manju

                  He got it from Josh Trevino?


            • somethingblue

              “poop hole”?

              Never in a million years was this written in 1912. Not in London England, not in London Ontario, not in New Orleans, not nowhere.

              • BKN in Canadia


          • John Revolta

            “Self-starter” referred originally to an automobile that you didn’t have to crank. Introduced by Cadillac in, funnily enough, 1912.

            • Jean-Michel

              The OED has citations for “self-starter” (in the automotive sense) going back to 1894. Their earliest citation for the metaphorical sense (“a person who acts on his own initiative”) is 1960, but a Google search turns up a novel from 1914–Personality Plus by Edna Ferber–that contains these lines: “If I’ve got this far, it’s all because of you. I’ve been thinking all along that I was the original electric self-starter, when you’ve really had to get out and crank me every few miles.”

        • cpinva

          it still is.

          “Prostitution was a major industry in those days.”

          • Not even close, though. It was ubiquituous in the 19th and I assume early 20th century in a way it’s not now. I suspect the the percentage of men who’ve visited a prostitute is inverse what it was then. When “good girls” started volunteering, the appeal of paying for it was lost on many (most?) men.

  • oldster

    It would also be extremely strange for “arse” to be spelled “ass” in London in 1912. I don’t say impossible, but extremely uncommon.

    I think it reads like a much more recent production.

    • James Gary

      Yes. Also, “BACK scuttling?” “Bum-scuttling” is an honorable British euphemism that probably goes back to the time of Chaucer…seems odd that the copywriters of a brothel menu would feel the need to alter it for the sake of propriety.

    • oldster

      All of the OED entries for “ass” in the sense of arse are American, and the earliest comes from 1930 (Dos Passos). Tons of American citations from the 40’s and later.

      (The OED gives one use of “ass” possibly in the sense of “arse” that is both British and pre-1930 (from an 1860 Admiralty-approved “catechism” of nautical terminology, where the arse-end of a pulley is described as “the ass of the block” ). But it is more likely that the sailors said “arse”, and the admiralty tried to change it to the polite equine term than that the sailors or the author said “ass”.)

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    I’ve seen this before…

    Ah, here’s where.


    • James Gary

      Nice. The Guttersnipe version is a lot funnier, in my opinion.

      • Left_Wing_Fox

        Given it’s a parody of that menu, It had better be. :D

  • Jeffrey Beaumont
  • Eggomaniac

    The $ sign would suggest this is not Ukanian in origin.

    • John

      The website that linked to it is of a British call girl. I assume that’s where the confusion comes in.

  • cpinva

    up until this very moment, no, the thought had never even crossed my mind, ever.

    “Have you ever wanted to see a detailed brothel menu from 1912, with extremely graphic detail about the services provided?”

    i am beginning to have third and fourth thoughts, about my son majoring in history, if this is what it will come to! on the other hand, there could be some cash to be made in this (cash i certainly won’t let him handle. i may be his father, i’m not an idiot.). let me get back to you on that.

    • Whatever else he majors in, the stories he tells at Thanksgiving dinner will be less interesting.

      Although any story is more interesting than the dry turkey everyone eats that day, but we’ll save that conversation for another 8 months.

      • cpinva

        living in the south has some advantages. one of them is that we normally have ham, as well as turkey, for thanksgiving, christmas and easter. i don’t recall that, from my (very) younger days, living in ny. so there is that.

        Although any story is more interesting than the dry turkey everyone eats that day, but we’ll save that conversation for another 8 months.

        you are correct about stories. so far, he’s met with (and had lunch bought by) the commandant of the marine corps, met with the head archivist of the national archives and had several phone conversations with the current chief of the navajo nation, all for various papers he’s written. one of them was selected for presentation in richmond, at some big meeting, this april. he’s also been interviewed, for an asst. curator’s position, in an area museum. if only some of this will pay for grad school!

        but yeah, beats dry turkey! lol

        surely you can figure out a way to include this in one of your classes. the northwest lumber industry, in the 10’s, was rife with prostitution. even though this clearly isn’t from that area, it could certainly give some flavor of the overall period, assuming it isn’t simply made up.

        • Actually, the timber industry was not particularly rife with prostitution, at least in timber camps which were truly nearly all-male spaces. Effectively too isolated for prostitutes. Now, when the loggers went to the cities between jobs, well, that’s quite different.

  • george

    It is from 1912 New Orleans

    Brothels 100 Years Ago, and Tantric Sex Today – Kernut the Blond

    • New Orleans makes more sense on several levels.

      • Richard

        There is no 22nd Street in New Orleans

        • Richard

          Just to be clear, there is a 22nd Street in the area of town called New Orleans East but that area wasn’t developed until the 1960s and was totally uninhabited in 1912

    • Richard

      This article says its in the collection of the Brocke-Keller House in New Orleans. Doesn’t sound likely. Brocke-Keller is a cheap bed and breakfast in the Mid City section of New Orleans. Not likely it was a former bordello and little reason to believe it has a library of brothel stuff ( it’s not mentioned in any reviews of the bed and breakfast). Also, there are good histories of Storyville, the red light district of New Orleans taken mainly from broadsheets that reported on the district, and they don’t mention menus like this

      • Jewish Steel

        Ah, you beat me to it!

      • Barry

        Remember that the name of the house could have changed.

        • Richard

          Not really. It was called the Brocke-Keller House, then fairly recently changed its name to the Canal Street Inn. The ads and write-ups for this place don’t mention the menu or give any indication that this b & b would have some historic document.

          Also the menu says that Mrs. F. A. Tasse recently opened a house on 22nd Street. There is no 22nd Street in New Orleans. So it doesnt make any sense that a modest b&b in the mid City section of New Orleans, miles away from the famous red light districts of New Orleans, would have this document or a “collection” of documents having to do with a house of prostition in another city.

          Plus, as I pointed out above, 1912 was the heyday of the Storyville district and there is much documentation about storyville. We have information about the names of the houses, the madams, the musicians who played the houses, etc. There is no mention of Mrs. F.A. Tasse or of the menu

          • chris

            F. A. Tasse

            I see what they did there. Pretty strong evidence of faking.

            • Stacia

              Agreed. This came up on my Tumblr dashboard this morning and the very first thing I noticed was the “Mrs. Fatass” pun; I’m shocked anyone believes this is real, let alone self-described historical experts.

  • Jewish Steel

    It’s been bouncing around the internet since 2010 and there’s still no source? Counterfeit!

    The wife, an expert, says the font is not very 1912.

    • Jewish Steel

      Supposedly on display at this house http://www.canalstreetinn.com/

      Why would this B&B have this document? They don’t mention it and neither do previous incarnations of this B&B.

    • All possible.

      The mystery is almost as exciting as the document, if real.

      • Vance Maverick

        I suspect the provenance is the same as the 1872 Rules for Teachers, though the production is more elaborate than in the printed Rules I’ve seen.

        • Vance Maverick

          And I speak as a reader who was actually taken in by the Hotheaded Naked Ice Borer, for a good two minutes (which was two minutes too long).

      • Jewish Steel

        Exciting in the New French Fashion or just the dog fashion?

      • John

        Seriously?? Basically everyone is saying “this document is a fake” and your response is “The mystery is as exciting as the document”?

        You got fooled by a fake, and you haven’t even had the courtesy to put any kind of update on the original post.

        • BKN in Canadia


  • Hugh Trevor-Roper

    I have examined the kerning in detail, and there is no doubt of its authenticity.

    • CD


  • My work has involved me in reading a lot of documents and correspondence from this period–none, admittedly, relating to the seedier side of society. The purported “menu” nevertheless sets my bullshit detectors chiming loudly. I’m fairly confident that its provenance will shortly be established as dodgy, and that Erik Loomis will “regret” (as Gene Sperling might put it) advancing the story on this site. I expect thereafter to see his head on a stick.

  • Dave

    Since every picture of this doc on a google image search for ‘1912 brothel menu’ is a copy or a crop of the same badly-assembled composite image of an angled pair of pages, I’m thinking that whatever this is, it clearly isn’t on public display anywhere, or there would be thousands of tourist shots of it…. Given that its ‘provenance’ is allegedly everywhere from London to San Francisco, why don’t we just give up at this point?

  • rea

    Yet another example of something that might not be true, but should be.

  • Richard

    And the attribution to Mrs. F. A. Tasse (fat ass) is a giveaway

    • anon

      Yes, I was about to say the same thing. This is so obviously a fake that it’s impossible to believe it was ever meant to be taken seriously.

    • witless chum

      Didn’t seem weird to me that a brothel operator would go by a punny, slightly dirty nickname.

      • Richard

        Given what we know about brothel advertisements from around that time, primarily from Storyville, it is highly unusual. Fact is that everything about this menu – only one known picture, the “self starter” pun at the end in an allegedly 1912 document, the reference to a collection at an obscure bed and breakfast, the typography, the fact that we have an alleged date for it but no traceable place of origin – screams fake.

  • Barry Freed

    69 (!) comments in and no one has seen fit to say:

    “I’ll have what he’s having”

    You people disappoint.

  • oldster

    Q: Why are historical documents like financial offers?

    A: Because if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

  • Barry

    Rand Careaga says:
    March 3, 2013 at 1:17 am

    “My work has involved me in reading a lot of documents and correspondence from this period–none, admittedly, relating to the seedier side of society. The purported “menu” nevertheless sets my bullshit detectors chiming loudly. I’m fairly confident that its provenance will shortly be established as dodgy, and that Erik Loomis will “regret” (as Gene Sperling might put it) advancing the story on this site. I expect thereafter to see his head on a stick.”

    Uh oh – Erik, this is your excuse to openly carry a Predator-style minigun (with a servant to lug the ammunition).

  • Halloween Jack

    A discount on anal for men over 45? Man, who needs the stupid AARP card?

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