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Raymond B. Fosdick, Chairman, Commission on Training Camp Activities, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels




July 10, 1917.

The Honorable Josephus Daniels,

Secretary of the Navy,


My dear Secretary Daniels:

          I beg to submit herewith a resume of reports on conditions in Philadelphia, made by investigators attached to this Commission.1 These investigators are trained men of long experience in this kind of work, and I can vouch for the accuracy of the facts they present.

Respectfully yours,               

Raymond B. Fosdick           





. . . .

     The so-called “red light district” of Philadelphia has been abolished, and the large houses of prostitution which often harbored as many as ten inmates no longer exist, although there are a few of the smaller“parlor houses.” Nevertheless, conditions in the “old district”, bounded by 13th and Franklin and Market and Noble Streets are very bad. Prostitution is rampant; drugs (cocaine, opium, morphine, and heroin) are easily bought, and some of the saloons through “runners” are selling liquor to soldiers in uniform.


     Prostitution takes the form of street soliciting, the girls taking the sailors to their apartments or flats. There are also a large number of disorderly apartments. The “district” abounds with “pimps” soliciting for their girls. Two notorious resorts for these“pimps” are 817 and 727 Callowhill Street. Sailors and prostitutes were seen to enter rooming houses at the following addresses:

405 N. Darien St.

210 N. 10th St.

146 N. 11th St.

227 N. 12th St.

243 N. 12th St.

The Central Hotel, 128 N. 12th St.

823 Buttonwood St.

233 N. 9th St.

132 N. 12th St.

236 N. 12th St.

251 N. 12th St.

1103 Vine St.

460 Franklin St.

404 Franklin St.

614 N. 8th St.

660 N. 8th St.

Prostitutes also solicit from the stoops of houses on Willow and Percy Streets.

     Disorderly apartments exist at the following addresses:

617 N. 11th St. (the “madam” of this house is Lizzie Fredericks; the apartment is situated on the ground floor)

917 Green St. (this house is conducted by Elsie Conley)

          The following addresses are those of assignation houses, with girls “on call”; and beer is sold to sailors at from 10c to 50c a bottle:

660 N. 8th St.

235 N. 10th St.

217 N. 9th St. (this is a dive for sailors only; eight sailors were going in with prostitutes, and five alone)

1220 Fairmont Ave. (run by Sally Meers)

337 N. 8th St. (run by Ray Flynn)

206 N. Franklin St.

335 N. 11th St. (run by Mary Harrington)

1315 and 1317 Fairmont Avenue (said to be conducted by Ed Hoffer)

2032 Watkins St. (Mrs. Mentel)

339 N. 10th St. (Grant Wylie)

     “Parlor houses” of prostitution are located at the following addresses:

636 N. 12th St. (run by Dorothy Quinn; price $2.; five inmates)

1017-1019 Green St. (run by Emma Wells; price $10.; four inmates)

1600 Wallace St. (run by Emma Steigerwald; price $25.; nine inmates)

559 N. 15th St. (run by Dorothy Weigle; price $25.; six inmates)

The last three names houses do not cater to ordinary sailors.

Chop Suey Restaurants

     Two of the most terrible dives ever visited by the investigator are the Chinese restaurants at 917 and 919 Race St. These places were filled with sailors and prostitutes. The toilets were used for their immoral relations. Chop suey restaurants of the same type exist at 931 and 937 Race Street.


     From 9th Street at the Post Office Building to Juniper Street, the corners contain from one to five males perverts, or “fairies”, waiting for the street cars coming with their loads of sailors from the Navy Yard. These degenerates take the sailors into the alleyways so plentiful in the “district,” also into the lavatories of the cheap saloons, and occasionally into their own rooms.


     The drug situation in the “district” is thoroughly bad, although there is no real evidence that the sailors participate in its use to any extent. The youths of the “district”, however, sniff their stuff in broad daylight. On North Darien Street on stoops at 6 p.M., “dope fiends” were seen to divide crystal cocaine between themselves. “Pimps” openly sell the stuff, and there is some evidence, although it is not inclusive, that it is sold by three prostitutes residing at 314½ North 8th Street.


     Sailors were seen in a “lemon” game of pool in the “Reno” pool room at 303 North 8th Street. A police officer, “quarantining” this gambling house, sat on a chair five feet south of the pool room, smoking and talking to “pimps,” while the three sailors were “trimmed” on the inside. One of the sailors lost four five-dollar bills on four games of pool.

Sale of Liquor

     Sailors have no difficulty in obtaining intoxicants from saloons in the “district.” The following saloons have “runners” in the vicinity of their cafes, “laying” for the sailors:

Clark’s, 8th and Vine Sts.

August Brichl’s, 12th and Callowhill Sts.

Logan’s, 9th and Arch Sts.

McDermott’s, 9th and Callowhill Sts.

Saloon at Wood and 8th Sts.

Saloon at Race and 9th Sts.

     The following saloons are also doing a rushing business with the sailors through “runners”:

Saloon, Percy and Noble Sts.

Saloon, 415 N. 10th St.

Alley at 440 N. Darien St., which leads to saloon on 9th Street.

O’Briens, 7th and Callowhill Sts.

O’Brien’s 9th and Cherry Sts.

Mahon’s Callowhill and 11th Sts.

Saloon, Vine and 12th Sts.

Regan’s, 10th and Cherry Sts.

     Vicious conditions exist in the back rooms of the following saloons, frequented by men and prostitutes; in some cases the men appeared to be sailors in citizens’ clothes:

M. F. Regan’s, 133 – 10th St.,corner Cherry St.

Max’s saloon, 11th St. near Callowhill (the room is upstairs)

Doyle’s saloon, 11th St. corner Pearl St.

Campbell’s, 11th and Cherry Sts.

Zali, 218 – 10th., corner Spring St.

Mankus, N.W.corner 12th and Vine Sts.

McDonald’s cafe, S.E.corner 15th and Vine Sts.

Meloy’s saloon, 1313 Race St., corner N.Clarion St.

Green’s Kitchen, 506 S. 17th St.

Breeze Point Park

     Conditions at Breeze Point Park need immediate attention, particularly after 10 p.m. The same remark applies to the street cars leaving the Navy Yard. Prostitutes make it a practice to board the cars on 12th Street from Arch Street north to Noble Street. They ride to the Yard, stay aboard, and on the way back make friends with the sailors who board the car at the Yard. Leaving the cars, they go either to the chop suey restaurants on Race Street or to the rooming houses on 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th Streets, also Wood, Cherry, Fairmont, Green, Spring Garden, Franklin, and other neighboring streets of the “district”.

Additional “Parlor Houses” of Prostitution

     Since the above report was compiled, additional information has been received of the following “parlor houses” in Philadelphia:

917 Green St., run by Elsie Conley (five sailors in civilian’s clothes were in the back parlor with four inmates, drinking beer at 25c a bottle)

1206 N. 12th St. (Jack Lester’s apartments)

1045 Fairmount Ave. (run by Ollie Bush)

1631 Fairmount Ave. (run by A. L. Lemont)

804 Wallace St. (run by Eva Bennett)

1201 Green St. (Julia’s)


Footnote 1: The Commission on Training Camp Activities (CTCA) was part of a large scale public health initiative spearheaded by the United States Army and United States Navy to combat venereal disease, drugs and alcohol abuse in the armed forces. The Committee head, Raymond Fosdick, was a prominent criminologist, and his responsibilities included the extensive suppression of saloons and houses of prostitution in areas where soldiers and sailors were stationed. Philadelphia was an important center of military activity and the Selective Service Act of 1917 barred saloons and house of prostitution within a five-mile radius of any training camp or facility. As pointed out in the document, certain Philadelphia neighborhoods were centers of prostitution, saloons, and illicit drug trade. These centers saw massive increases activity from the presence of passing sailor and soldiers. Federal agents and local police began interning and quarantining prostitutes under the Chamberlain-Kahn Act of July 1918, a law meant to protect men of the armed forces from venereal disease. The results were mixed, as prostitutes moved from organized parlors to the streets, where they practiced a method of payment called, “treating,” the exchange of sex for gifts and meals. Kennedy, Over Here: 286-287; and Michael B. Kahan, “‘There are plenty of Women on the Street:’ The Landscape of Commercial Sex in Progressive-Era Philadelphia, 1910-1918,” Historical Geography, Volume 40 (2012): 39-60.

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