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Desperately Seeking Viola

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I ran across this pair of ads the other day, and while they remind me very much of the one I posted last Friday, I liked them so much I'm posting them now anyway.

This first one reads: Viola, who boarded at Mrs. Charles, 22D st - Reward for her address. Frank, 125 Herald Uptown.

That one was posted two days in a row, and this next one followed a few days later:

Frank, Box 125. - Your ignorance still continues to be an annoyance; I hereby request you to stop all personals in which my name is mentioned; I don't know you and do not care to. Viola, who lived at Mrs. Charles', on 22nd st.

Ha! Frank never posted a personal again, I might add. What I do wonder, though, is if Viola really doesn't know Frank, or if this is her way of blowing him off. I can only assume they must know each other somehow, because otherwise how would he know who she was and where she lived? Spurned boyfriend, perhaps? Trying to track her down to win her back?

I also wonder about exactly who she was. I don't want to malign Viola, who may well have been a perfectly lovely and respectable girl, but it's a fact that a lot of high-end prostitutes would advertise when they moved to new locations, so it's possible that clients might have tried to find them the same way. At the time this was written, most brothels were still run by women and 22nd St for almost the entire West Side was part of the Tenderloin - which was one of the major red light districts in New York for much of the 19th and early-20th centuries (all you people living in your charming 19th-century townhouses in Chelsea? Yeah, I'm talking to you. The tenants 100+ years ago may not be who you imagined).

So it is possible that Frank was one of Viola's former clients who is trying to find her again. Maybe she's left the business and is trying to start a new life as a respectable woman, which is why she refuses to admit she knows him. Or, poor thing, she was just a hard-working sales clerk, or stenographer, or whatever, who's trying to shake off an old and obnoxious beau and I just called her a hooker. Sorry, Viola!

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein

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