Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

“Sporting Guide” for GAR Louisville Encampment, 1895

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 1, 2015

LouisvilleA friend passed along this gem, a guide to “sporting” houses in Louisville for attendees of the 1895 Grand Army of the Republic Encampment. A typical entry:

Strangers Cordially Invited.

Mary Edwards
732 Green Street.

To the people that pay this city periodical visits Miss Mary needs no introduction, as those that visit her beautiful palace are so highly entertained that they are sure to pay her a return visit as often as they come to the city. She has a host of beautiful ladies who are excellent entertainers to assist her in making life well worth living to visitors to the Encampment and Races.

Finest brands of Wine and Beer. ​

I honestly can’t improve upon this.




13 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Andrew Raker said, on March 2, 2015 at 10:06 am

    Thanks for posting this! I was wondering where Green Street was, since I’d never heard of it/seen signs for it downtown, but saw that it was renamed “Liberty Street” because its reputation was so seedy. But I will make sure I think of the GAR next time I’m down there!

    • Andy Hall said, on March 2, 2015 at 11:31 am

      Since it came up elsewhere, I should probably state here that I don’t think this little guide was sanctioned or distributed by the GAR — rather, it’s a local venture to promote Louisville, um, businesses. I’m sure every train or steamboat arriving at Louisville that week was met by runners handing these out to any and all likely patrons.

      • Andrew Raker said, on March 2, 2015 at 2:06 pm

        Yet all the ads mention these establishments serve wine and beer, and not the business Louisville is best known for!

        • Andy Hall said, on March 2, 2015 at 2:45 pm

          I’m guessing that those mentions are to appeal to potential clients from “dry” communities. Cincinnati, maybe? Jeffersonville, across the river?

  2. Bob Nelson said, on March 2, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Hilarious. Hope you all took time to click on the link and read the brochure. 29 pages of text, the first 2 or so being ads for legitimate entertainment, the rest all ads for brothels. No wonder those GAR events were so well attended. LOL And we thought it was just for the camaraderie and a chance to meet up with old war buddies. LOL

    • Andy Hall said, on March 2, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      I was thinking about why I hadn’t seen one of these before, and then I realized that, the word “souvenir” on the cover notwithstanding, very few of these guides made it all the way back home with the veterans.

  3. woodrowfan said, on March 2, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Louisville had a number of successful breweries, Fehr’s (it’s Always Fehr’s Weather!) Oertels, Falls City. . Fehr’s produced a cool little souvenir for the GAR guys, a little scroll that listed the battles of the Civil War. Don’t know about Jeffersonville, but I got the impression that it housed the seedier Red Light district for Louisville, sort of like the Kentucky suburbs did for Cincinnati. FYI, Cincinnati was probably the least dry city in Ohio–heavily German.

    If you look at the back page of the guide the company published guides like this for other events, including the 1893 World’s Fair. Sporting Guides were available at newsstands at train stations, even if you had to ask the clerk for them as they were “under the counter.” Some of the more detailed ones listed, um, specifics about the types of activities available..

  4. Bob Huddleston said, on March 2, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    On 1997, Tom Lowry edited and Sergeant Kirkland’s Museum published _The Civil War Bawdy Houses of Washington, D.C. Including a map of their former locations and a reprint of the Souvenir Guide for the Chicago, Illinois, G.A.R. 1895, Reunion_. 100 pages including a large fold out map of Civil War Washington showing the location of known bawdy houses. You can find a couple of copies for less than $10, including postage at Those veterans were not Sunday-go-to-Meeting types, at least when they were at a GAR convention!

  5. Bob Huddleston said, on March 2, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    Based on his research in Civil War courts martial, Lowry also published other books on the subject. Two good ones are _ The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell: Sex in the Civil War_ and _ Sexual Misbehavior in the Civil War: A Compendium_. The blurb for the second reads

    Over three million young men left home, shouldered rifles, and set about killing one another in the 1860s. Behind, they left wives and sweethearts. The 50,000 books about the war have told us in meticulous detail about the strategy, tactics, weapons, uniforms, canteens, famous generals, religious beliefs, personality quirks, fortifications, battles, sieges, gunboats, medical care, and recruiting policies. The causes of the war have been endlessly analyzed. The surviving veterans wrote hundreds of memoirs, sometimes inflating their own heroism and importance. What rarely appears in this literature is any mention of sex, in spite of most soldiers being in their early twenties, a time of manly vigor. The late 19th century brought the ascendancy of Victorian prudishness and hypocrisy. The Comstock laws sent men to prison for mailing contraceptive advice. Just advice! Whatever willingness there might have been to reveal wartime hanky-panky evaporated in the tenor of the time and the admiring gaze of the veteran’s growing grandchildren. The following scene would be unimaginable: the old veteran sits by the stove in the country store. His long white beard covers his tattered vest. A faded medal graces his chest. On the floor are the shavings from his most recent whittling. A tiny child pipes up: “Tell us about the war, grandpa.” “Well, Jimmy, there was this pretty little whore in Memphis…” Never happen. Material collected twenty years ago resulted in the author’s 1994 book, The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell – Sex in the Civil War, which presented everything that was then known on the subject. There had been no previous book on Civil War sex. Since then, the author and his wife, Beverly, have read over 90,000 court-martials and countless letters and diary entries. What emerges is that sexual activity was far more common and public than our previous research or any memoir had ever revealed.

    • Andy Hall said, on March 2, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      I have and enjoyed The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell. Bad business, the later allegations about the Lincoln pardon.

  6. Leo said, on March 4, 2015 at 9:17 am

    “Sporting House” has to be the best term I have ever heard.

  7. Neil Hamilton said, on March 6, 2015 at 2:25 am


    You’ve got to post this over at Civil War Talk, PLEASE! 🙂


Leave a Reply to Andy Hall Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: