Feb
27
2015

Strangest Book of the Week #19

What fascinates me somewhat more than the history and personalities behind the brothels and prostitution in the American old west are the “brass checks” used as currency in the industry. Guess I’m just a sucker for peculiar coins and currency. See also the “beard tokens” of Russia under Peter I, carried by the beard-wearer to indicate he had paid his beard tax. See also the personally printed currency of Emperor Joshua Norton of San Francisco, who proclaimed himself “Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico” in 1859. Emperor Norton was crazy, clearly, but the people of San Fran loved him and among his admirers was one Mark Twain. Anyway.

Brass Checks and Red Lights

by Fred and Jo Mazzulla, 1966, signed. 57 page booklet.

The authors of this book are hugely proud of how many photos they were able to include, and truly the booklet is chock full of them! …all very respectable, however. Gotta love the alliterative subtitle: “Being a pictorial pot pourri of (historical) prostitutes, parlor houses, professors, procuresses, and pimps”. I haven’t read enough of the booklet to know whether “professor” was a euphemism, or whether professors were just very regular clients. It does look like a fascinating and well-researched book, with biographies of a handful of ladies from the era.

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