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Gambling, Drinking and Prostitution in Early Fort Worth

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Account of "Hell's Half Acre" in Fort Worth:


"Fort Worth in the late nineteenth century was no different than dozens of other western towns built on cattle and railroads. They all had their [gambler] Ben Tutts and saloons and theaters. In fact, every frontier community ----- from Deadwood to Denver and San Francisco to San Antonio ----- had its own red-light district. They were as ubiquitous in the West as "boot hills," but much more profitable for everyone involved. In Texas the chief rivals to For Worth for "Sin Capital of the State" were AUstin, San Antonio, El Paso, and Galveston ---- in all, two cattle towns, a railroad town and a seaport. Austin had an unfair advantage because, some said, politics are the worst sin of all and that was the main business in Austin. Dallas, some Fort Worthers were proud to point out, was not even in the running.

In the typical red-light district, prostitution went hand-in-hand with gambling, drinking, and general hell-raising. One just naturally led to another. The amount of sinning and hell-raising that went on in these districts largely explains a curious sameness in the names of the most notorious examples. From "Devil's Addition" in Abilene to "Hell's Half Acre" in Fort Worth, most paid homage to Satan, the devil, or hell somewhere in their names. Neither creative originality nor any desire to come up with mellifluous-sounding monikers entered into the picture; nor did anyone ever hold a contest to "Name that red-light district." Instead, the same names appear again and again in the local histories of western towns. San Antonio called its red-light district "Hell's Half Acre"; so did Tascosa, Texas and Perry, Oklahoma. Even Dallas, 30 miles away, had a smaller, less notorious district that went under the same name as Fort Worth's. "Hell's Half Acre" was such a common name on the frontier, it acquired an almost generic status. A cowboy could ride into practically any trail town and ask the first citizen he met, "Where's the Acre" and the locals would know exactly what he was talking about."


----- "Hell's Half Acre" by Richard F. Selcer. It is a very interesting read and can be purchased at the usual suspects

Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.

Posted : 29th December 2019 1:41 pm