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Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul

by

Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul Cover

 

Staff Pick

Take one bordello. Muddle it with a bit of turn-of-the-century Chicago. Add a few characters to the mix, including the Everleigh sisters, John Barrymore, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., William Howard Taft, and Al Capone, and you serve up quite a cocktail. This exhaustively researched and breezily styled book about sex, sin, and salvation is my pick for a rollicking good summer read.
Recommended by Chandler, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Step into the perfumed parlors of the Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history — and the catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation. Operating in Chicago's notorious Levee district at the dawn of the last century, the Club's proprietors, two aristocratic sisters named Minna and Ada Everleigh, welcomed moguls and actors, senators and athletes, foreign dignitaries and literary icons, into their stately double mansion, where thirty stunning Everleigh "butterflies" awaited their arrival. Courtesans named Doll, Suzy Poon Tang, and Brick Top devoured raw meat to the delight of Prince Henry of Prussia and recited poetry for Theodore Dreiser. Whereas lesser madams pocketed most of a harlot's earnings and kept a "whipper" on staff to mete out discipline, the Everleighs made sure their girls dined on gourmet food, were examined by an honest physician, and even tutored in the literature of Balzac.

Not everyone appreciated the sisters' attempts to elevate the industry. Rival Levee madams hatched numerous schemes to ruin the Everleighs, including an attempt to frame them for the death of department store heir Marshall Field, Jr. But the sisters' most daunting foes were the Progressive Era reformers, who sent the entire country into a frenzy with lurid tales of white slavery — the allegedly rampant practice of kidnapping young girls and forcing them into brothels. This furor shaped America's sexual culture and had repercussions all the way to the White House, including the formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

With a cast of characters that includes JackJohnson, John Barrymore, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., William Howard Taft, "Hinky Dink" Kenna, and Al Capone, Sin in the Second City is Karen Abbott's colorful, nuanced portrait of the iconic Everleigh sisters, their world-famous Club, and the perennial clash between our nation's hedonistic impulses and Puritanical roots. Culminating in a dramatic last stand between brothel keepers and crusading reformers, Sin in the Second City offers a vivid snapshot of America's journey from Victorian-era propriety to twentieth-century modernity.

Review:

"With gleaming prose and authoritative knowledge Abbott elucidates one of the most colorful periods in American history, and the result reads like the very best fiction. Sex, opulence, murder — what's not to love?" Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

Review:

"A detailed and intimate portrait of the Ritz of brothels, the famed Everleigh Club of turn-of-the-century Chicago. Sisters Minna and Ada attracted the elites of the world to such glamorous chambers as the Room of 1,000 Mirrors, complete with a reflective floor. And isn't Minna's advice to her resident prostitutes worthy advice for us all: "Give, but give interestingly and with mystery." Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City

Review:

"Karen Abbott has combined bodice-ripping salaciousness with top-notch scholarship to produce a work more vivid than a Hollywood movie." Melissa Fay Greene, author of There is No Me Without You

Review:

"Sin in the Second City is a masterful history lesson, a harrowing biography, and — best of all — a superfun read. The Everleigh story closely follows the turns of American history like a little sister. I can't recommend this book loudly enough." Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng

Review:

"This is a story of debauchery and corruption, but it is also a story of sisterhood, and unerring devotion. Meticulously researched, and beautifully crafted, Sin in the Second City is an utterly captivating piece of history." Julian Rubinstein, author of Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

Review:

"[D]elicious and exhaustively researched." Chicago Sun-Times

Review:

"Abbott's character sketches of individuals...make this engaging study read like a novel." Library Journal

Synopsis:

Readers of Erik Larson will loveand#160;this tale of sex, greed, and the American dream:and#160;A huckster imports a tribe of Filipinos to Coney Islandand#8217;s Luna Park, and two cultures collide.

The Lost Tribe of Coney Islandand#160;unearths the forgotten story of the Igorrotes, a group of and#8220;headhunting, dog-eating savagesand#8221; from the Philippines, who were transported to New York in 1905 to appear as and#8220;human exhibitsand#8221; alongside the freaks and curiosities at Coney Islandand#8217;s Luna Park. Millions of fair-goers delighted in their tribal dances and rituals, near-nudity, tattoos, and stories of headhunting.

Journalist Claire Prentice, who has spent years researching the topic, brings the story to life with her fluid prose and vivid descriptions. The book boasts a colorful cast of characters, including the disgraced lieutenant turned huckster Truman K. Hunt; his Filipino interpreter, Julio Balinag; the theme park impresarios behind Luna Park, Fred Thompson and Elmer and#8220;Skipand#8221; Dundy; and Dogmena, a beautiful girl who became a favorite with New Yorkand#8217;s social elite.and#160;The Lost Tribe ofand#160;Coney Island and#160;is a fascinating social history and a tale of adventure, culture-clash, and the American dream.

Synopsis:

Step into the perfumed parlors of the Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history-and the catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation. Operating in Chicagos notorious Levee district at the dawn of the last century, the Clubs proprietors, two aristocratic sisters named Minna and Ada Everleigh, welcomed moguls and actors, senators and athletes, foreign dignitaries and literary icons, into their stately double mansion, where thirty stunning Everleigh “butterflies” awaited their arrival. Courtesans named Doll, Suzy Poon Tang, and Brick Top devoured raw meat to the delight of Prince Henry of Prussia and recited poetry for Theodore Dreiser. Whereas lesser madams pocketed most of a harlots earnings and kept a “whipper” on staff to mete out discipline, the Everleighs made sure their girls dined on gourmet food, were examined by an honest physician, and even tutored in the literature of Balzac.

Not everyone appreciated the sisters attempts to elevate the industry. Rival Levee madams hatched numerous schemes to ruin the Everleighs, including an attempt to frame them for the death of department store heir Marshall Field, Jr. But the sisters most daunting foes were the Progressive Era reformers, who sent the entire country into a frenzy with lurid tales of “white slavery”——the allegedly rampant practice of kidnapping young girls and forcing them into brothels. This furor shaped Americas sexual culture and had repercussions all the way to the White House, including the formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

With a cast of characters that includes Jack Johnson, John Barrymore, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., William Howard Taft, “Hinky Dink” Kenna, and Al Capone, Sin in the Second City is Karen Abbotts colorful, nuanced portrait of the iconic Everleigh sisters, their world-famous Club, and the perennial clash between our nations hedonistic impulses and Puritanical roots. Culminating in a dramatic last stand between brothel keepers and crusading reformers, Sin in the Second City offers a vivid snapshot of Americas journey from Victorian-era propriety to twentieth-century modernity.

Visit www.sininthesecondcity.com to learn more!

Praise for Sin in the Second City:

“Assiduously researched… [Sin in the Second City] describes a popular culture awash in wild tales of sexual abuse, crusading reformers claiming God on their side, and deep suspicion of the threat posed by “foreigners” to the nations Christian values.”

——Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Lavish in her details, nicely detached in her point of view, [and with] scrupulous concern for historical accuracy, Ms. Abbott has written an immensely readable book. Sin in the Second City offers much in the way of reflection for those interested in the unending puzzle that goes by the name of human nature." — The Wall Street Journal

"Abbott's first book is meticulously researched and entertaining... a colorful history of old Chicago that reads like a novel."

——The Atlanta Journal Constitution

“With gleaming prose and authoritative knowledge Abbott elucidates one of the most colorful periods in American history, and the result reads like the very best fiction. Sex, opulence, murder — What's not to love?”

—— Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

“A detailed and intimate portrait of the Ritz of brothels, the famed Everleigh Club of turn-of-the-century Chicago. Sisters Minna and Ada attracted the elites of the world to such glamorous chambers as the Room of 1,000 Mirrors, complete with a reflective floor. And isnt Minnas advice to her resident prostitutes worthy advice for us all: “Give, but give interestingly and with mystery.”

—— Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City

“Karen Abbott has combined bodice-ripping salaciousness with top-notch scholarship to produce a work more vivid than a Hollywood movie.”

—— Melissa Fay Greene, author of There is No Me Without You

Sin in the Second City is a masterful history lesson, a harrowing biography, and - best of all - a superfun read. The Everleigh story closely follows the turns of American history like a little sister. I can't recommend this book loudly enough.”

—— Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng

“This is a story of debauchery and corruption, but it is also a story of sisterhood, and unerring devotion. Meticulously researched, and beautifully crafted, Sin in the Second City is an utterly captivating piece of history.”

—— Julian Rubinstein, author of Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

About the Author

Karen Abbott worked as a journalist on the staffs of Philadelphia magazine and Philadelphia Weekly, and has written for Salon.com and other publications. A native of Philadelphia, she now lives with her husband in Atlanta, where she's at work on her next book. Visit her online at sininthesecondcity.com.

Table of Contents

Cast of Characters

Introduction

1.and#160;From One Island to Another

2.and#160;First Steps

3.and#160;The Journey from the Tropics

4.and#160;The Money Men

5.and#160;Welcome to America

6.and#160;Making an Entrance

7.and#160;Meeting Uncle Sam

8.and#160;Divided Loyalties

9.and#160;Tribal Life in the City

10.and#160;Headhunting the Star Attraction

11.and#160;Unexpected Arrivals

12.and#160;Another Unwelcome Visitor

13.and#160;The End of the American Dream

14.and#160;Tall Tales

15.and#160;Fighting for Control

16.and#160;A Break for Freedom

17.and#160;Dear Dr. Hunt

18.and#160;A Rival Enters the Fray

19.and#160;Memphis Blues

20.and#160;Raising the Alarm

21.and#160;A Worthy Opponent

22.and#160;Dr. Hunt, I Presume

23.and#160;On the Run

24.and#160;Luck Be a Lady

25.and#160;An Ultimatum

26.and#160;Judgment Day

27.and#160;Vanishing Act

28.and#160;In the Care of the Government

29.and#160;A Gentleman Criminal

30.and#160;Trials and Tribulations

31.and#160;A Surprise Reversal

32.and#160;The End of the Line

Afterword

Acknowledgments

Notes

Bibliography

Illustration Credits

Index

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

lupabitch, September 23, 2008 (view all comments by lupabitch)
No, this isn't a knock-off of "Sex in the City". Though "Sin in the Second City" deals with sex, women, beauty, and money for luxuries, the latter book is entirely true--based on the incomparable Everleigh Sisters, Minna and Ada.

At the turn of the century, the Levee District of Chicago was a hotbed of vice--prostitution, gambling, illicit substances of all sorts, and a high rate of violent crime. Into this morass of sin came the Everleigh Sisters. Toting their profits from successful prostitution in Omaha, and a pair of fake histories to throw off anyone attempting to trail their true origins, Minna and Ada set up shop at 2131-2133 Dearborn Street. Rather than following local trends and buying white slaves who would then be abused, denied health care despite their professions, and intimidated by a house whipper, The Everleigh Sisters set out to create a whorehouse that had a waiting list a mile long--for prostitutes who voluntarily wanted to work for them.

In the decade that followed, the Everleigh Club (as their fine house was known) became the center of a blazing hot debate over white slavery and the red light district. Politics reigned supreme, from rivalries between different houses, to civic power struggles and grafting. And, of course, the morality police came out in force, using the worst cases of white slavery (and even some trumped-up charges) to paint the entire Levee District--the Everleigh included--with the same tawdry brush.

Karen Abbott devotes much of the book to chronicling the adventures, misadventures, and tragedies that resulted. This is no dry tome listing historical factoids. Abbott brings the early 1900s vividly alive, with a talented eye towards description, and the ability to weave a story that would leave the Everleigh Sisters looking larger than life--if we didn't already know this was a work of nonfiction. Indeed, the author has done her homework, and I look forward to learning from more historical narratives from her.

Every person involved in the sex and the scandals is brought forward as a true human being, well-rounded with heart and soul. Abbott has the ability to make the reader sympathize with all of them, both the hookers and the preachers, whether we agree with them or not. Related issues at the time are discussed to give context, and the connections between the politics at the time--including on a federal level--and the eventual demise of the Everleigh Club are made quite clear.

In short, this is an incredibly fascinating read about such a seemingly insignificant, yet truly important, part of American history. Whether you cheer for the sexual prohibitionists who brought the Levee red light district to an end, or for the sisters who brought about the premiere whorehouse for both the "boys" and the "girls", you'll be sure to be engrossed in a true story that, for all its age, has only become more interesting with time.
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(5 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)
eliwes, June 4, 2008 (view all comments by eliwes)
I discovered a love of history later in my life. In high school, history was a dry, itchy, tedious waste of time that bored me to tears. An uninspired teacher, a mediocre textbook, and the cute guy who sat in front of me conspired to see me fail World History. I was more interested in the latest thriller from Christopher Pike and those hallowed halls of Sweet Valley High to see the merits of historical fiction, so history was a dead subject for me.

Then I went to college.

There I fell in love with this beautiful subject with all its passionate love stories, bloody wars, vicious scandals that would put some of today's stories to shame, and the serene peace that happens to rarely in the world's history. I even made it my minor. Now I was more interested in Antonia Fraser histories of famous monarchs, Margaret George’s novelizations of Henry VIII and Cleopatra, and even Diana Gabaldon's wild romps through Jacobean Scottish moors. And in the 7 years that have passed since I graduated this love of history has only grown.

So, when I saw a mention of Karen Abbott’s Sin in the Second City in a blog post I knew I had to get my hands on it. Along the way I interviewed the author and came away with a great appreciation of just what goes into such a well-researched and studious work as this.

Sin in the Second City is the story of the "Everleigh" sisters, Ada and Minna, who came to own the most scandalous brothel in early 1900s Chicago. They were business savvy ladies, taking the $35,000 they entered Chicago with and turned it into an empire. Their business model was simple; supply the elite of the world with exactly what they wanted. They provided string orchestras. Fine dining. Exotic and lavish décor. Their girls, or butterflies as they called them, were they best the city had to offer and were well provided for; gourmet meals, weekly check-ups with a real doctor, the finest clothes and even education. They were free to come and go as they pleased, which, in this time and especially place came to be very important. And they drew in some of the best; John Barrymore, Theodore Dreiser and even a Prussian prince were among visitors. No other madam in the district could claim such success. And it would eventually lead to their downfall.

For religious leaders the world over descended on Chicago, determined to clean out all the whores, gamblers, mobsters and sinners they could find. Using the voice of America to push them on, they headed to the streets to preach on the sin and cry out for the poor "white slaves" who were forced to work the streets.


In my opinion some of the best nonfiction books are the ones written about the people you never hear about in history class. Those long forgotten heroes, rapscallions, rogues, and pioneers whose stories are fascinating and exciting. Karen Abbott has taken the story of the Everleigh sisters and delivered the goods – here is a tale of sex, lies, murder, religion, politics, and more all wrapped up in a beautiful wrapper that just begs to be read.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781400065301
Subtitle:
Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century
Author:
Abbott, Karen
Author:
Prentice, Claire
Publisher:
New Harvest
Subject:
General
Subject:
Human Sexuality
Subject:
United States - 20th Century (1900-1945)
Subject:
United States - State & Local - Midwest
Subject:
Prostitution
Subject:
Illinois
Subject:
Prostitution -- Illinois -- Chicago.
Subject:
Brothels - Illinois - Chicago
Subject:
General History
Subject:
United States - 20th Century
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Cloth
Publication Date:
20141014
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
39 b/w photographs
Pages:
416
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 1 lb

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Americana » Illinois
History and Social Science » Americana » Midwest

Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul Used Hardcover
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$4.95 In Stock
Product details 416 pages Random House - English 9781400065301 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Take one bordello. Muddle it with a bit of turn-of-the-century Chicago. Add a few characters to the mix, including the Everleigh sisters, John Barrymore, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., William Howard Taft, and Al Capone, and you serve up quite a cocktail. This exhaustively researched and breezily styled book about sex, sin, and salvation is my pick for a rollicking good summer read.

"Review" by , "With gleaming prose and authoritative knowledge Abbott elucidates one of the most colorful periods in American history, and the result reads like the very best fiction. Sex, opulence, murder — what's not to love?"
"Review" by , "A detailed and intimate portrait of the Ritz of brothels, the famed Everleigh Club of turn-of-the-century Chicago. Sisters Minna and Ada attracted the elites of the world to such glamorous chambers as the Room of 1,000 Mirrors, complete with a reflective floor. And isn't Minna's advice to her resident prostitutes worthy advice for us all: "Give, but give interestingly and with mystery."
"Review" by , "Karen Abbott has combined bodice-ripping salaciousness with top-notch scholarship to produce a work more vivid than a Hollywood movie."
"Review" by , "Sin in the Second City is a masterful history lesson, a harrowing biography, and — best of all — a superfun read. The Everleigh story closely follows the turns of American history like a little sister. I can't recommend this book loudly enough."
"Review" by , "This is a story of debauchery and corruption, but it is also a story of sisterhood, and unerring devotion. Meticulously researched, and beautifully crafted, Sin in the Second City is an utterly captivating piece of history."
"Review" by , "[D]elicious and exhaustively researched."
"Review" by , "Abbott's character sketches of individuals...make this engaging study read like a novel."
"Synopsis" by , Readers of Erik Larson will loveand#160;this tale of sex, greed, and the American dream:and#160;A huckster imports a tribe of Filipinos to Coney Islandand#8217;s Luna Park, and two cultures collide.

The Lost Tribe of Coney Islandand#160;unearths the forgotten story of the Igorrotes, a group of and#8220;headhunting, dog-eating savagesand#8221; from the Philippines, who were transported to New York in 1905 to appear as and#8220;human exhibitsand#8221; alongside the freaks and curiosities at Coney Islandand#8217;s Luna Park. Millions of fair-goers delighted in their tribal dances and rituals, near-nudity, tattoos, and stories of headhunting.

Journalist Claire Prentice, who has spent years researching the topic, brings the story to life with her fluid prose and vivid descriptions. The book boasts a colorful cast of characters, including the disgraced lieutenant turned huckster Truman K. Hunt; his Filipino interpreter, Julio Balinag; the theme park impresarios behind Luna Park, Fred Thompson and Elmer and#8220;Skipand#8221; Dundy; and Dogmena, a beautiful girl who became a favorite with New Yorkand#8217;s social elite.and#160;The Lost Tribe ofand#160;Coney Island and#160;is a fascinating social history and a tale of adventure, culture-clash, and the American dream.

"Synopsis" by , Step into the perfumed parlors of the Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history-and the catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation. Operating in Chicagos notorious Levee district at the dawn of the last century, the Clubs proprietors, two aristocratic sisters named Minna and Ada Everleigh, welcomed moguls and actors, senators and athletes, foreign dignitaries and literary icons, into their stately double mansion, where thirty stunning Everleigh “butterflies” awaited their arrival. Courtesans named Doll, Suzy Poon Tang, and Brick Top devoured raw meat to the delight of Prince Henry of Prussia and recited poetry for Theodore Dreiser. Whereas lesser madams pocketed most of a harlots earnings and kept a “whipper” on staff to mete out discipline, the Everleighs made sure their girls dined on gourmet food, were examined by an honest physician, and even tutored in the literature of Balzac.

Not everyone appreciated the sisters attempts to elevate the industry. Rival Levee madams hatched numerous schemes to ruin the Everleighs, including an attempt to frame them for the death of department store heir Marshall Field, Jr. But the sisters most daunting foes were the Progressive Era reformers, who sent the entire country into a frenzy with lurid tales of “white slavery”——the allegedly rampant practice of kidnapping young girls and forcing them into brothels. This furor shaped Americas sexual culture and had repercussions all the way to the White House, including the formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

With a cast of characters that includes Jack Johnson, John Barrymore, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., William Howard Taft, “Hinky Dink” Kenna, and Al Capone, Sin in the Second City is Karen Abbotts colorful, nuanced portrait of the iconic Everleigh sisters, their world-famous Club, and the perennial clash between our nations hedonistic impulses and Puritanical roots. Culminating in a dramatic last stand between brothel keepers and crusading reformers, Sin in the Second City offers a vivid snapshot of Americas journey from Victorian-era propriety to twentieth-century modernity.

Visit www.sininthesecondcity.com to learn more!

Praise for Sin in the Second City:

“Assiduously researched… [Sin in the Second City] describes a popular culture awash in wild tales of sexual abuse, crusading reformers claiming God on their side, and deep suspicion of the threat posed by “foreigners” to the nations Christian values.”

——Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“Lavish in her details, nicely detached in her point of view, [and with] scrupulous concern for historical accuracy, Ms. Abbott has written an immensely readable book. Sin in the Second City offers much in the way of reflection for those interested in the unending puzzle that goes by the name of human nature." — The Wall Street Journal

"Abbott's first book is meticulously researched and entertaining... a colorful history of old Chicago that reads like a novel."

——The Atlanta Journal Constitution

“With gleaming prose and authoritative knowledge Abbott elucidates one of the most colorful periods in American history, and the result reads like the very best fiction. Sex, opulence, murder — What's not to love?”

—— Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

“A detailed and intimate portrait of the Ritz of brothels, the famed Everleigh Club of turn-of-the-century Chicago. Sisters Minna and Ada attracted the elites of the world to such glamorous chambers as the Room of 1,000 Mirrors, complete with a reflective floor. And isnt Minnas advice to her resident prostitutes worthy advice for us all: “Give, but give interestingly and with mystery.”

—— Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City

“Karen Abbott has combined bodice-ripping salaciousness with top-notch scholarship to produce a work more vivid than a Hollywood movie.”

—— Melissa Fay Greene, author of There is No Me Without You

Sin in the Second City is a masterful history lesson, a harrowing biography, and - best of all - a superfun read. The Everleigh story closely follows the turns of American history like a little sister. I can't recommend this book loudly enough.”

—— Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng

“This is a story of debauchery and corruption, but it is also a story of sisterhood, and unerring devotion. Meticulously researched, and beautifully crafted, Sin in the Second City is an utterly captivating piece of history.”

—— Julian Rubinstein, author of Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

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