A Guide to the Stranger or Pocket Companion for the Fancy was a “correct list and description of the greater portion of the Houses of Ill-Fame in Philadelphia” published in 1849. The book reviewed both the brothels and bed houses—those rooms rented by the hour. It listed the names and addresses of the landlady or madams and the quality of services on offer.
In his introduction, the anonymous author assured his readers:
With this book in his hand a man will be enabled to shun those low dens of infamy and disease with which this city abounds, as a true and authentic description of each house is here briefly given.
Among the best madams and working girls were:
Miss Josephine Somers of 4 Wood Street, near Eleventh Street, who was described as “an accomplished lady” and her brothel a “Temple of Venus.”
You can spend an evening here with great pleasure; the young ladies are all beautiful, accomplished and bewitching—they are Elizabeth Moore, Louisa Garrett, &c. Go one, go all, and you will be pleased.
Miss Sarah Turner of 2 Wood Street, above Eleventh, who is a “perfect Queen” her house situated “in one of the most respectable parts of the city.”
At this house you will hear no disgusting language to annoy your ear; everything connected with this establishment is calculated to make a man happy. The young ladies are beautiful and accomplished; they will at any time amuse you with a fine tune on the piano, or use their melodious voices to drive dull care away. Stranger, do not neglect to pay a visit to this house before you leave our quiet city of sisterly affection.
Miss Mary Blessington of 3 Wood Street, a “young and beautiful creature” who “is as snug a lump of flesh and blood as ever man pressed upon his bosom. Her bed and house and first class.
Miss Emma Jacobs of Bryan’s Court, Cherry Street:
This lady is the Queen of Trumps, tall and majestic, and noble in appearance. She is a lady in manners and conversation. She lives well and her house is comfortable and safe. One glance will satisfy a person of that fact.
The author also gave the following caveat:
To every man the author of this statistical warning says, avoid each and every place that is marked with a woeful X, as a single visit might be the cause of utter ruin and disgrace.
Examples of such places include:
X—Madam Vincent of Lombard Street, who runs “a low house”.
...be cautious when you visit this place, or you may rue it all your lifetime.
X—Mrs Hamilton of 152 Locust Street who has “grown bald and toothless in the service.”
Beware this house, stranger, as you would the sting of a viper.
X—Sarah Ross, Passyunk Road:
This is one of the worst conducted houses in the city. The girls, though few in number, are ugly, vulgar and drunken. We would not advise any body of common sense to stay there.
The guide’s author(s) estimates there are some 10,000 prostitutes working in Philadelphia. This figure was based on an estimate of the number of working girls in New York. These women serviced the numerous businessmen, travelers and rural workers who came to the city for business and pleasure. How our author(s) managed to find out so much about these brothels and bed houses suggests some firsthand experience. The whole A Guide to the Stranger or Pocket Companion for the Fancy can be read below.
A stereoscopic image of ‘A Stranger’s Guide’ on sale in a hotel foyer.
Via Library Company.