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Brothel Menu, 1912

[ 92 ] March 2, 2013 |

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This might be the most amazing historical document I have ever seen.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

Comments (92)

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  1. N__B says:

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

  2. Pee Cee says:

    Error establishing a database connection

    That’s hawt.

  3. Hogan says:

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

  4. arguingwithsignposts says:

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

  5. arguingwithsignposts says:

    And what is a dry bob?

  6. Steve S. says:

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

    • James Gary says:

      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.

      • Major Kong says:

        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.

        • N__B says:

          One of the few without belching smokestacks.

          What?

        • James Gary says:

          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.

          • Erik Loomis says:

            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.

          • John Revolta says:

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

            • Jean-Michel says:

              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 says:

          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.

  7. oldster says:

    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 says:

      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 says:

      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”.)

  8. Left_Wing_Fox says:

    I’ve seen this before…

    Ah, here’s where.

    http://www.guttersnipecomic.com/?p=188

  9. Eggomaniac says:

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

  10. cpinva says:

    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.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      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 says:

        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.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          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.

  11. george says:

    It is from 1912 New Orleans

    Brothels 100 Years Ago, and Tantric Sex Today – Kernut the Blond
    http://kernut.com/dating/brothels-100-years-ago-and-tantric-sex-today/

    • Erik Loomis says:

      New Orleans makes more sense on several levels.

    • Richard says:

      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 says:

        Ah, you beat me to it!

      • Barry says:

        Remember that the name of the house could have changed.

        • Richard says:

          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

  12. Jewish Steel says:

    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.

  13. Hugh Trevor-Roper says:

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

  14. Rand Careaga says:

    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.

  15. Dave says:

    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?

  16. rea says:

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

  17. Richard says:

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

    • anon says:

      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 says:

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

      • Richard says:

        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.

  18. Barry Freed says:

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

    “I’ll have what he’s having”

    You people disappoint.

  19. oldster says:

    Q: Why are historical documents like financial offers?

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

  20. Barry says:

    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).

  21. Halloween Jack says:

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

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