Home History Rare Books Shed Light on City’s Former Red Light District

Rare Books Shed Light on City’s Former Red Light District

by The 100 Companies
An old book.

Storyville, the red light district that operated from 1898–1917 in New Orleans, lives prominently in the local imagination, but little of it remains in the historical record.

Rare, pocket-sized guides—called blue books—offer valuable insight. Distributed by the District’s entrepreneurs, these advertising pamphlets sold prostitution as bourgeois leisure, promising lavish goods and services without mentioning sex. While the rosy portrayal means blue books aren’t the most reliable records, they demonstrate how local entrepreneurs tapped into a burgeoning consumer culture to promote their businesses.

Learn more with Pamela D. Arceneaux’s “Guidebooks to Sin” or “Storyville: Madams and Music.”

This is the second part of a four-part series about Storyville, a legally sanctioned red light district that operated in New Orleans from 1898 until 1917.

Lauren Noel, The Historic New Orleans Collection

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