West Gone Wild: Rare Photographs of “Trollops” in the American West

Prostitution has been practiced throughout ancient and modern times. It has been described as the ‘world’s oldest profession,’ and despite attempts at regulation, it continues and will persist.

The Page Act of 1875 forbade any importation of women for the purpose of prostitution but in the practice continued.  Until the 1890s, madams predominately ran the businesses, after which male pimps took over. This led to the generally declined treatment of women. It was not uncommon for brothels in Western towns to operate openly, without the stigma of East Coast cities.

Gambling and prostitution were central to life in these western towns, and only later, as the female population increased, reformers moved in and other civilizing influences arrived, did prostitution become less blatant and less common. After a decade or so the mining towns attracted respectable women who ran boarding houses, organized church societies and worked as laundresses and seamstresses, all while striving for independent status.

Big Nose Kate, pictured here aged 15, left, broke her lover Doc Holliday out of jail in 1877 by setting a fire and pulling a gun on a guard. Daily Mail
Mary Katharine Haroney, or better known as Big Nose Kate, pictured in the 1870s was originally from Hungary and traveled to Kansas at age sixteen. Whilst working as a prostitute in Fort Griffin, Texas, she began a relationship with one of the deadliest gunslingers Doc Holliday – which lasted until his death. Daily Mail
Big Nose Kate pictured circa 1900. Daily Mail
Belle Brezing from Lexington, Kentucky was so renowned she is said to have been the model for Belle Watling in the classic novel, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, pictured as a young prostitute. Daily Mail
Belle Brezing in her private parlor in her third and most famous bordello in Lexington, Kentucky. Brezing occupied the house until her death in 1940. Daily Mail
Belle Brezing, pictured here as a Madame. Daily Mail
Belle Brezing, pictured, became notorious when during the Spanish-American war of 1898 she only allowed men above a certain rank in the Army to use her brothel and became so famous that when she died she even received an obituary in Time Magazine. Daily Mail
Belle Brezing’s third and most famous bordello in Lexington, Kentucky. Daily Mail
Martha Jane Burke, better known as Calamity Jane, a famous American frontierswoman, pictured here in men’s clothing, 1895. Daily Mail
Martha Jane Burke, better known as Calamity Jane, a famous American frontierswoman, pictured here visiting ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok’s grave in Deadwood, Dakota territory, sometime in the 1890s. Daily Mail
Mattie Silks, pictured, made the equivalent of $1 million over the period of three months in Dawson City in Alaska. Daily Mail
Molly Hall arrived in New York in 1873 from Dublin Ireland, unable to find work, she headed west and ended up working as a prostitute under the name Molly Burdan in the mining community of Murray, Idaho – and was known for her colorful language. Daily Mail