Blue Book.' Those three words stir up quite an image among those who
delve into the more esoteric history of 19th and early 20th Century
America. 'The Blue Book' is the legendary directory of a city's 'red
light' district. Even the term 'The Blue Book,' for many years, took
on an unsavory meaning. To say that someone was 'in The Blue Book'
was to imply a sordid, certainly immoral if not outright criminal,
There actually was a 'Blue Book.' There were, in fact, at least two
major US cities in which 'Blue Books' were published in the early
20th Century-but, so far as has been proved, only two cities ever
had real 'Blue Books.'
One, of course, was the Queen City of the Big River, New Orleans,
where the first 'Blue Books' were published in the early 1900s. When
a reservation for the containment of prostitution-commonly known as
'Storyville,' much to the chagrin of the upright city councilman named
Story who was trying to contain prostitution rather than immortalize
it-was established, a directory with a blue cover, hence 'Blue Book,'
was produced as a guidebook to the area.
Numerous copies of the notorious Storyville 'Blue Book' have survived.
They reveal it as quite an ambitious undertaking. Photos of the various
parlor houses-and of their lavish interiors-are inside, but none of
Belloc's celebrated photographs of New Orleans prostitutes made it
within the covers.
The other city known to have a 'Blue Book' was San
Antonio. The San Antonio 'Blue Book' was a much less ambitious
project. It was a pamphlet measuring 4¼" x 6". The cover was pale
blue paper. Excluding the inside and outside covers, all of which
had copy on them, it contained 28 pages. It was titled THE BLUE BOOK
FOR VISITORS AND TOURISTS AND THOSE SEEKING A GOOD TIME WHILE IN SAN
ANTONIO, TEXAS. The date was 1911-1912, and we are assured it was
'published annually,' but nothing indicates by whom. It was priced
at 25¢ per copy-a substantial amount when most magazines sold for
a dime to 15¢ and hardback novels sold for 75¢ to a dollar.
In the edition at hand there are only two photos. The 'center spread'
on pages 14-15 features a large touring car with the top down, and
is an advertisement for 'Geo. Keene, Druggist' on Military Plaza.
The car is evidently Keene's delivery vehicle, for a notation under
the picture reads 'Free Automobile Delivery.' The other photo, on
the back cover, features a fleshy-faced man in a coat, stiff collar,
tie, and derby hat. It's labeled "For Information of the Red Light
District Ask Me.' Below the picture is the legend 'MEET ME AT THE
BEAUTY SALOON' followed by 'For Fine Wines, Liquors, Cigars, and Cigarettes
of All Kinds,' and lines informing the reader that there is a 'First
Class Restaurant in Connection,' along with 'Free Automobile Delivery,
Open Day and Night.'
On page 1 inside, the Preface reads:
of the Sporting District is intended as an accurate guide to those
who are seeking a good time. To the stranger and visitor while in
San Antonio, this book will be welcome, because it puts him on a proper
and safe path as to where he may go and feel secure from 'Hold Ups'
and any other game usually practiced on the stranger. Anyone perusing
this booklet expecting to be regaled with lewd and obscene reading
matter will be sadly disappointed, as outside of some harmless wit
or toasts it contains only what necessary information is required
to make it a directory.
This Blue Book is at this writing the second one of its kind in the
United States, (there being one in New Orleans, La.) and is issued
strictly for information purposes, nothing more. - The Publisher
DO NOT MAIL THIS BOOK
probable publisher of the book was William (Billy or Billie) Keilman,
who was both the proprietor of the Beauty Saloon and from time to
time, depending on the vagaries of city politics and the spoils
system, a San Antonio
city police officer. The section entitled 'A Straight Steer to the
Visitor Within the Gates of the Alamo City, When the Lights are
Turned On' describes the Beauty Saloon as a 'safe and sane thirst
parlor.' It seems likely that the fleshy gent whose picture is on
the back cover is Billy Keilman.
Mr. Keilman was also, apparently, an inventor-on page 24 of the
28-page booklet, we find a half-page ad reading:
Do things revolve when you retire?
Does your room whirl like a fly-wheel in a power-house?
Does your trunk go by like the Twentieth Century Limited?
Do you feel as if you were looping the loop?
If so you can flag the merry-go-round with one of
Billy Keilman's Patent Plugs For Pifflicated People
One of these, inserted anywhere in the wall, will bring things to
a standstill, or, put in place before
retiring, will insure a quiet night's rest.
Despite an assiduous
search by this writer-who has numerous acquaintances who would on
occasion benefit from the device-no example of Billy Keilman's Patent
Plugs For Pifflicated People has yet come to light.
from the introduction, which describes the boundaries of the 'reservation'
or designated red-light district-"south on South Santa Rosa Street
for three blocks, beginning at Dolorosa Street, thence from the
100 block to the end of the 500 block on Matamoras Street, thence
from the 200 block to the 500 block on South Concho Street, and
lastly the 100 block on Monterey Street. This is the boundary within
which the women are compelled to live according to law.
Take I&GN and San Fernando cars."-the majority of the book's 28
pages plus covers are taken up by advertisement. There are 12 saloons,
four restaurants, two wholesale liquor dealers (one of whom advertises
Old Crow whiskey at $1 per quart); a half-page ad illustrated with
a cut of a Ballantine's Beer bottle and mentioning Sunny Brook Whiskey,
Ballantine's Beer, Piper Heidseck Champagne (specifically the Brut);
Cuesta Rey, Manuel Lopez, and Tom Moore cigars, and Apollinaris
mineral water-the ad is not attributed to any specific business-two
hotels, one drugstore, one bowling alley, one pool hall 'For Smokers
and Poolists,' two livery stables, one taxicab company, three cab
stands, Crystal Turf Exchange (a bookie joint) and eight business-card
size ads of 'establishments' within the reservation.
Otherwise the booklet contains a half-dozen or so somewhat tame
jokes, the 'straight steer' section which describes saloons and
similar places of refreshment, the 1911 schedule for the San Antonio
Texas League baseball team, the addresses of two cockfight pits
in the city (both on South Santa Rosa), a directory of Road Houses
(saloons outside the downtown area), and, of course, the purpose
of the book, a DIRECTORY OF HOUSES AND WOMEN. In all, 17 1/3 pages
of the booklet's 28-plus-covers-better than ½ the booklet-are taken
up with ads in no way connected with the avowed purpose of the publication.
the directory there are 106 separate listings, though several listings
give the same address and telephone number. The listings are divided
into Class A, Class B, and Class C. According to an elderly informant-who
wishes to remain anonymous-Class A meant "$5 up," Class B was "$2.50
to $5, depending on the woman and what you wanted," and Class C
was "whatever change you had in your pocket and anything you could
There are 24 separate listings under Class A, though The Arlington
at 507 Matamoras (the name obviously borrowed from Josie Arlington's
famous pleasure palace in New Orleans) and Mildred Clifton had the
same address and telephone, as did Emma Wiley and Marguerite Williams
at 316 South Concho. Beatrice Benedict is listed three times-at
421 Matamoras, 309 South Pecos, and 501 Durango-with a different
telephone at each address. Unless there were three Beatrice Benedicts
in the 'profession' in San
Antonio in 1911-1912, Beatrice Benedict was a very busy
It is, of course, relatively certain that many of the names were
assumed. Only a few women used their legal names in the trade, but
'catch names'-like the 1940s prostitute in El
Paso who billed herself 'Pearle Harbour'-are notably absent.
Only two such names appear, both Class C. A Class A woman calling
herself Evelyn Thaw obviously assumed her nom d'amour in
imitation of Evelyn Nesbit Thaw of New York and Harry K. Thaw-Stanford
White murder fame. She was the most notorious prostitute in the
US in the early 1900s. She is listed at 316 South Concho.
Under Class B there are 20 listings, again with some duplication.
The Saint Paul, El Toro, Edith Raymond, and The Three Twins are
all listed at 309 South Pecos, and only The Saint Paul has a different
telephone number. Belle St. Clair and the Silver Slipper are both
listed at 410 Matamoras and have the same telephone, while Myrtle
Singleton and Frances Pruitt shared quarters and a phone at 317
South Santa Rosa. Every Class A listing was telephone equipped.
Only four Class B listings were without telephone service.
The remaining 62 listings, all in the 200 to 400 block of South
Concho, 200 block of Matamoras, 200 and 300 blocks of South Santa
Rosa, and 100 block of Monterey are Class C. Apparently there were
a number of one-room 'cribs' here, but in a number of cases we find
women sharing quarters. Anita Dupree and Marian Durant are at 320
South Concho, Pebble Denman and Ada Davis at 224 South Concho, May
Lomax and 'Maxine' at 403 South Concho, May Burkhart, Ione Marion,
and Helen Jones at 205 Matamoras; Rafaela Cantu and Theresa Carrejo
at 323 South Santa Rosa, Sallie Brewer and 'Legal Tender' at 216
South Concho, and Anita Stockbridge and Maria Rodriguez at 313 South
The directory reveals that telephone service was extremely important
to the business of prostitution even as early as 1911-1912. Many
Class C women shared telephones. Though 21 entries are followed
by telephone numbers, only nine numbers are listed in the Class
C section. Only Aleese Duval at 307 South Concho, Julia Garcia at
216 Matamoras, and Catarina Rey at 114 Monterey had telephones to
themselves. Anita Stockbridge and Maria Lopez, at 313 and 315 South
Santa Rosa, shared a phone, as did Sallie Brewer at 316 South Concho
and Anita Dupree at 320.
Marian Durant, who shared quarters with Anita Dupree, had a different
telephone, which she shared with Grace Jennings at 305 and Lea Mack
at 303. May Lomax and 'Maxine' at 403 shared their phone with Bessie
Edwards at 405 and Crickett Sullivan at 407.
Both the Spanish Club at 316 South Santa Rosa and The Dixie at 209
Matamoras had telephones, but the Spanish Club's was also listed
to Adele B. Rice at the same address, while The Dixie's phone was
also listed to Belle Wilson, who had the same address as the club.
In all likelihood these women were the madams.
Of the 24 Class A listings, four are houses or clubs. Of the 20
women, none has an ethnicity-revealing name. Of the 20 Class B listings,
there are four positive houses or clubs and one inconclusive that
may or may not be-The Three Twins. Of the 15 women listed by name,
only two have names that are even vaguely ethnicity-revealing.
In Class C only two houses or clubs are listed. Of the remaining
60 listings, 'Legal Tender' and 'Maxine' are certainly noms d'amour.
Twelve-slightly more than a fifth-of the remaining 58 are definitely
Hispanic, while two-Tama Kato and Sada Yoshima-seem to be Japanese.
About 1910 there was an influx of Chinese into San
Antonio, driven north by the 1910 Mexican Revolution. These
two women may have been ethnic Chinese who adopted Japanese-sounding
names to disguise their actual ethnicity and avoid loss-of-face
for their families. It would be extremely unlikely that any patron
of a Class C prostitute in San Antonio in 1911-1912 would be able
to distinguish between Chinese and Japanese.
Among the ethnically-uncertain names-they may belong to Anglo or
Black women-by far the largest majority are native to Britain, with
France running a close second. Many of the French names may be noms
d'amour. The use of a French name-and often a faked French accent
as well-was very popular among prostitutes in the period. Three
names-Mary Schwartz, Annie Schneider, and May Burkhart, are identifiably
German. Two, Vera Meyer (Class B) and Rosie Friedman (Class C),
may have been Jewish.
Proprietors of the bars and other establishments advertising in
the 'Blue Book,' though, are about equally divided between the British
Isles and Germany, reflecting the majority of the non-Hispanic population
of San Antonio. Only
two real outsiders, both Italian, appear. Some rather surprising
business partnerships for the era do turn up, as in the Elite Hotel
at Main Plaza and Commerce, owned by Kehoe (Irish) and Limburger
(German, likely Jewish). The German Kitchen at 117 Avenue C, entirely
outside the reservation, was certainly a Jewish restaurant. The
proprietors were Jacobson and Ginsburg. In addition to listing 'a
full line of cold meats and delicatessen,' it offered 'Special Dishes
at Noon,' which would be kosher food.
Documents like 'The Blue Books' are invaluable to historical study.
These documents, called 'ephemera' by collectors, help build an
accurate picture of life as it really was in what is, all things
considered, a poorly studied, usually badly documented part of society-for
reasons of the moral standards of the period. Things like 'The Blue
Book' and their associated paper and solid artifacts are slowly
helping to build an accurate picture of a side of life well known
to those who lived in the era, but often deliberately denied and
artfully concealed by the era's survivors. It is a pity so few such
artifacts survive today.
F. Eckhardt June 14, 2006 column
More "Charley Eckhardt's Texas"
Subject: San Antonio's "blue book"
In regards to article written by C.F. Eckhardt about San Antonio’s
Blue Book. My aunt just recently showed me a copy of the “blue book”
dated 1911-1912. Her father-in-law’s father, Italian immigrant living
near downtown San Antonio
on or about that time passed the ‘book” down to her late husband,
Robert Turella. She found it with his personal property and brought
it over for me to look at, since I enjoy history! Any idea of any
more books or persons who may have these books? Any other information
you may have or any person in San Antonio who may have more details.
- Thanks, Felix Rosel 210-355-7957, February 06, 2012
by C. F. Eckhardt