"A Report on the Vice Conditions in Elmira, New York 1913"

Being a report of an Investigation of the Moral Condition of the City [Elmira, New York] conducted
by the Executive Committee of the Women's' League for Good Government, 1913. 

This investigation was conducted under the direction of George J. Kneeland,
Department of Investigation of the American Vigilance Association.

The purpose of this Association shall be to suppress and prevent commercialized vice, and to promote the highest standard of public and private morals. To accomplish this purpose, the Association shall strive for the constant, persistent, and absolute repression of prostitution and the passage and enforcement of laws, for the rescue and protection of girls and women, for the promotion of knowledge of the social evil, its effects and results, and for the circulation of the best literature regarding it.The purpose of this Association shall be to suppress and prevent commercialized vice, and to promote the highest standard of public and private morals. To accomplish this purpose, the Association shall strive for the constant, persistent, and absolute repression of prostitution and the passage and enforcement of laws, for the rescue and protection of girls and women, for the promotion of knowledge of the social evil, its effects and results, and for the circulation of the best literature regarding it.


The responsibility for the publication of this report is assumed by the undersigned, on behalf of the Women’s League for Good Government.

In the early months of this year, citizens of Elmira were afforded form various sources, glimpses into the moral life of the city, revealing conditions which were to many almost unbelievable. In the interests of public decency it seemed desirable that, if these things were so, the truth should be laid bare. The Women’s League for Good Government, having been formed to be of service to the city, the Executive Committee, after careful consideration, decided that this was a task worth the doing. They accordingly entered into negotiations with The American Vigilance Association for the purpose of having an impartial and disinterested survey of the situation made. A glance at the aims, as at the names of the officers, of the Association is sufficient to show why it was appealed to in this matter.

The Committee has in its possession affidavits covering every statement in this report, and would assure readers that understatement rather than overstatement has been the policy pursued in preparing it for publication. In fact, much that was by very reason of its disgusting character unprintable has been eliminated.

The report is not offered as a complete survey. Only a few typical cases are set forth in these pages. Enough will be found, however, to acquaint the people of Elmira with the fact that in their midst, under the very shadows of their homes, are being practiced the lowest and most flagrant forms of vice.

As the work of investigation proceeded it became apparent that the prevalence of gambling in the city made it a problem of the greatest importance. In the many gambling joints and pool parlors are taken the first steps in the direction of crime and moral ruin. The companionship of toughs and sports who frequent these places opens up a vista of dire possibilities for the young men and boys of our city who are led thither, to say nothing of the hopelessness of winning against these practiced sharks.

It is the hope of the Executive Committee that the publication of this report will arouse the citizens to indignation and action. So long as the people are indifferent to, and silently acquiesce in, the existence of commercialized vice the blame for the appalling condition hereinafter described cannot be laid entirely on the laxity of the city administration, much as the report is a scathing indictment of the negligence and apathy, to say the least, of the officials.

The Committee believes the public will be aroused. Truly, prostitution must be known and understood in all its insidiousness before it can be combated before the people will even believe that it must be combated, not only because it is the most demoralizing and degrading of vices, but because it is the source of unspeakably abhorrent diseases which leave their mark with sickening certainty not alone on the guilty, but ofttimes on the innocent wife and child in the home.

It may take many generations – it may even be impossible ever to entirely eradicate prostitution – but it is possible, here and now, to abolish its flagrant manifestation, and to put an end alike to its commercialization and association with the sale of liquor.

--The Names of the Committee

Note: The Committee has felt advised to refrain from personalities in this report, and therefore all names of places and persons are ciphered. They stand ready, however, to aid the authorities by furnishing the actual names upon guarantee that they will legitimately used in the prosecution and suppression of crime and vice. Attention should especially be given to the dates and hours noted thought the report.


The investigation in ELMIRA was undertaken for the purpose of making a general survey of conditions pertaining to the Social Evil in its relation to prostitution, disorderly hotels, saloons and street conditions, and endeavoring to show the power of the liquor interests in politics by their control of many saloons.

The filed being so large, and the time at our disposal so limited, it was impossible to cover all the phases of the Social Evil in all its particulars, but we believe that enough has been discovered and described to show that conditions in ELMIRA are most deplorable and a disgrace to this community. There seemed to be a well-founded idea on the part of many as to conditions, but as is always true, not a thorough knowledge of conditions as they actually exist.

The investigator was instructed to follow his own plan of procedure and frequent conferences were held with member of the Committee. The investigator became on the most intimate and friendly terms with many young men who frequent the pool rooms, saloons, and hotels, as well as bartenders and waiters, and the confidence gained was fruitful in securing admittance to resorts where it would have been impossible for a stranger to enter, such as secret gambling places, saloons and hotels where liquor was purchased after closing hours and on Sundays, hotels where prostitutes solicit and where prostitutes sit for company.

The investigator found that, at the present time, ELMIRA is “tight” the “lid is on” to a certain extent, and from many sources the slogan is “wait until after election” and to lay low on account of the recent scandal(The Spooner-Cartwright case) and the activities of the Civic League. Therefore, the survey was made under abnormal conditions, and at a time when strangers were under suspicion.

By reason of his companionship with the sports around town, the investigator was unable to account of time and opportunity to note the street walkers to a great degree, but enough was observed to prove that there is street walking and soliciting, but it is not bold or openly practiced, although on Saturday nights, especially, prostitutes have been noted in the crowds on Water Street. Here also are to be seen many clandestine prostitutes and working girls who are fast. On Saturday nights the groups of young fellows loitering around the corners, notable West Water and Main, East Water and Baldwin, and East Water and Lake Streets, are a menace to the safety of unescorted young girls. These groups of young toughs should be broken up.

It is also the belief of the investigator that a thorough investigation would show that there are quite a number of disorderly furnished rooms in the city.

The control of the XX Brewery over a large number of saloons seems to be the explanation of most of the evil conditions. By this control of the licenses and equipment of saloons can be understood the power of this brewery over politics, and to this brewery can be traced the cause of most of the disorderly conditions in hotels and saloons. From the report it will be seen that so-called XX saloons and hotels, where XX beer is sold exclusively are the places where disorderly conditions are most flagrant. Attention is therefore called to the reports on the Hotel I, which is XX property. The investigator made a special study of this resort. He became intimate with the proprietor, with the waiters and prostitutes, and believes that the information secured is authentic. The same is true of the Hotels II, III, IV, and Café V and other places. Hotel I is typical. There may or may not be worse places in ELMIRA, but this hotel, situated as it is in the heart of the business section and being a dive of the worst type, should not be allowed to exist.

What the investigator has reported on Police Conditions is to be expected where the political situation is as it is in ELMIRA. Certain of the police officers are unduly familiar with the gang element and saloon keepers, and, therefore, their ability to uphold the dignity of the law is correspondingly lessened.

One of the salient features of the survey in ELMIRA, was the prevalence of gambling in nearly all its phases. Especially is this true of the numerous pool rooms, and attention is called to the various reports on this subject. Gambling is in the air; nearly every pool game is played for money, and, as elsewhere stated, this leads to evil in all its forms. The young men lose their money in these parlors, either their wages or their allowance, and, in addition to this, it will be seen by the reports that several pool rooms conduct poker games and dice games on the premises.

The investigator was told that a pool parlor where gambling pool is played is better than a saloon, as the profits are very large.

These conditions are absolutely against the law and should be prohibited in ELMIRA.

Gambling pool on baseball games is conducted in many saloons and pool rooms, and a large amount of money is bet on these pools. A typical case is in X52’s Café. X52 himself takes about thirty tickets a week in the Fort Erie baseball pool and sells many tickets besides. The purchaser of a ticket gets a different team each day for the week and wins according to the total number of runs his teams make. X52 said this pool takes in between $3000 and $4000 a week from patrons in ELMIRA.

With the grip that the machine has on politics and city officials of ELMIRA, the only solution seems to be an awakening on the part of the good citizenship of the City: a better understanding of the demoralizing conditions that exist by the public spirited men and women, and, consequently, the overthrow of the interests now in power. To this end, may this report in some measure be helpful.

Respectfully submitted,


The American Vigilance Association

The traffic of girls simply means the procuring of girls for immoral lives. The life of open same, of public prostitution, is so naturally abhorrent to nearly every girl that none go into it except in one of two ways; either they gravitate into it, or they are tricked or trapped into it. Very few young, unmarried girls walk into a house of shame and say, “Here I am; I want to be a prostitute.” Therefore, the number of girls going voluntarily into this life is far too small to meet the demand; hence, the necessity of tricking into the life large numbers of girls who would not come willingly. A resort owner in the vice district of Chicago admitted under oath to the US District Attorney Sims that it had cost the “houses” of the vicinity thirty thousand dollars in one year to hire procurers to get girls.



Chapter I

Hotel I
August 9, 1913 11:00-12:00PM

While the investigator was being shown about town by X3 and X6, they brought him to this place to pick up prostitutes. X3 is well acquainted here, (having worked on the tile floor). He and X6 being frequenters of this place, they vouched for the investigator and introduced him to X53, the proprietor, and several other fellows. This place is newly fitted up and tile floors are being laid; the back room is being renovated. X3 and X6 took the investigator into this back room where he saw about 25 men of the rough, disorderly type and six or eight women, all of whom the investigator is certain are prostitutes. Three of the women were intoxicated and noisy. As the investigator passed through the room, one of the girls, slovenly dressed, and who had a bad right eye, evidently blind in it, grabbed the investigator around the neck and tried to kiss him and boldly solicited him to go upstairs with here for immoral purposes. The investigator saw girls sitting in men’s laps and doing very indecent  things. The entrance to the stairs leading to bed rooms on the second floor is at the south end of this room. There is also an exit to an alley in the back through a narrow passage back of the bar. The investigator made an excuse to go upstairs and saw for bed rooms, the doors of which were open. One of the beds had recently been occupied. Drinks are served upstairs and the investigator saw the waiter carry up three orders of beer at different times, the tray each time containing five and seven glasses of beer. X3 told the investigator he could pick out a girl and taker her upstairs. X3 and X6 let the investigator through this room to another rear room which is a kitchen. There were four young fellows and tree girls here seated at a table. They were all drinking and one young fellow was quite drunk. The three girls were all fair looking girls. X38 is a pretty, dark complexioned girl about 24 year of age about whom X3 said was the proprietor’s woman and that the investigator couldn’t “stay” with her but could with the other two.

NOTE: The investigator in the course of his work became on intimate terms with a pool shark, referred to constantly in the report as X3, and by this means be obtained ready entrance into places and scenes which would otherwise have been closed to him.

X46 is a brunette about twenty years of age. She ironed her petticoat while the investigator and companions were there. The investigator was introduced informally and urged to drink with them. Girls X45 and X46 drank gin, and girl X38 took a soft drink. X53, the proprietor, came in and was complaining about the work on the repairs and also about the brewery not sending some beer that they had promised. A waiter came in and called girl X46 out. From the conversation that followed, the investigator learned she went upstairs with a man who had asked for her.

The investigator and his companions left at 11:15pm and returned at 12pm and were served drinks after 12pm in the narrow passage back of the bar. X53 seemed to be afraid of the police after midnight and told them to go out the rear way and to go out quietly. When they got outside there was a policeman walking on the opposite side of the street and the investigator’s companion X6 greeted him familiarly.

The saloon is a flagrantly disorderly place and one of the worst places the investigator has yet investigated in ELMIRA. The investigator was solicited four times in this place, the price of the women for their services being $2 and $3.

August 12,1913 4:00, 8:00 and 12:00pm

There are four to seven girls who hang out in the back room of the saloon downstairs in this place who are low type prostitutes. They boldly solicit nearly every man who enters, using indecent language and doing obscene things to arouse the men’s passions, also kissing and hugging them indiscriminately. They drink continually and urge the men to buy drinks. They get a commission on the drinks and room rent. They smoke cigarettes and sing and dance. The waiters aid them in soliciting and overlook their vulgar actions. In the rear room there are five dining tables which are used as beer tables and four smaller tables. An additional room in the rear is being fitted up and has painted on the glass in the door “MEN AND WOMEN” in gilt letters. It is here the more exclusive trade goes and the higher class of prostitutes sit for company. During the afternoon and early evening on the investigator’s visits here with X3 and X6he saw the girls drinking and soliciting in the big rear room. Two fellows, quite young, were drunk and the investigator noted five street car conductors and motormen. The investigator was solicited to go upstairs on both occasions and one of the girls sat on his lap and tried to kiss him. She was disgusting in here demeanor.

Again, about 11:15pm, the investigator came here with X3 and remained until 12:30am, being served with drinks after hours and going out the back door. At the time the investigator saw five girls take men upstairs and saw two men bring girls in and go upstairs. One of these was a stout, well dressed man who had a young girl about eighteen or nineteen years old, also well attired, and who wore a large Panama hat. They went through the back room from the rear entrance and X3 said, “Do you know that man?” The investigator said that he did not. X3 said, “That is ---------“ (naming a well-known citizen).

The annunciator was continually ringing, and the waiter called X18, a young fellow, light complexioned, and whose right name is ------, was carrying up beer in glasses and bottles, sandwiches and other orders. He was cursing the insistence of “those w----s upstairs and the men with them.”

There is a young girl here, a natural blonde, who is bold in her solicitations, and another girl, called X19, a bleached blonde, who is tall, and dressed in black sateen. There is another girl who seems to be a “greenhorn” and she passed the investigator’s table. As she did so X3 stopped here and they had a conversation in a low tone of voice. From what the investigator overheard, the girl is from Corning and she brought another girl with her. It seems there is a warrant of arrest out for her. She said, “Let the ----- --- ---- serve it and I’ll show him up.” X3 told her she had better go back to Corning and fix it up. She said, with vile curses, “Let them find me and see if they can get me.” She was on her way upstairs with a fellow she had solicited. She left the investigator’s table and the fellow and she went upstairs. A sport, the investigator had met, named X20, then went over and talked to girl X19. The investigator heard her say, “Well, the cheap -------: the cheap -------“ and other unprintable phrases. X20 returned to the investigator’s table and said that he had just told X19 that this girl from Corning was “staying” with fellows for whatever she could get, even 50 cents or just the room rent and he said it wasn’t right as it was hurting the other girls’ business and that  X53 should make her stay out. He said that girl X19 was sore about it.

As X3 and the investigator left, there was a man with a young appearing girl in the room where the rear entrance is. He was coaxing her to go upstairs with him.

The “boys” shoot crap here and the investigator heard they also have poker games.

The investigator was solicited four times in this place to go upstairs for immoral purposes. Price of a woman $2, price of a room $1. The investigator is quite certain that the girls get rebates on drinks and room rent.

August 14, 1913 11:00-12:00pm

While the investigator was in this place ton-night and sitting with X3, X6, and X21, a regular prostitute here, X19, and X22, another “regular,” came and sat on either side of the investigator. Both these girls boldly and vulgarly solicited him to go upstairs and also to buy them drinks. X19 was unusually vulgar in her approaches.

The investigator asked her her price.

She said, “One dollar for the room and one dollar for me.” She said she would do anything (meaning perversion). 

X22 told the investigator that she came from Montana and was going back in about four weeks – “the west is the only place.” She told the investigator that “this town is getting too d-----d tight, you can’t solicit on the streets much and when a girl in this business (prostitution) has to be so careful to keep from getting pinched there ain’t much money.”

The investigator asked her about several cities and she told the investigator she had lived in a sporting house in Newark, NJ and that she had a sister there.

Five of these prostitutes sit in this back room night and day, and no doubt, are employed by X53 to solicit for drinks and room rent. Upstairs to-night the investigator saw three beds that had been recently occupied and not yet remade, towels and litter on the floor and wash stands. They let the rooms several times a night.

X10, a New York gambler and pimp, hangs out here and was a waiter for a while. The investigator recognized him as from the pool rooms around 42nd Street and Broadway. The investigator feels sure that he has brought one or two of these girls here for immoral purposes. 

The new tile floor is practically finished and work is going on in the rear room and the “MEN AND WOMEN” room adjoining. The repairs are extensive, including a new plate glass front. The investigator counted six unescorted women on the premises, and three unescorted women loitering about the streets in the vicinity of this place. Two stopped men, The investigator counted three men going into this place with women. The investigator was solicited four times. Price of women, $1, price of room $1.

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