Prostitution in Fargo: An Overview

Prostitution is known as the world’s oldest profession.  It should be no surprise then, that it was one of the earliest to arrive in Fargo, following the railroad into the city in its earliest years.   Rather than provide a thorough analysis of prostitution in Fargo or focus on one particular figure, what follows is a brief outline of the rise and fall of prostitution in Fargo in the late 1800s and early 1900s,
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Ku Klux Klan

Klan Background The Ku Klux Klan began in the American South after the Civil War to defy Reconstruction efforts to allow blacks to vote and hold office. It was inactive by the early 1890s, but resurfaced in 1915 when the film Birth of a Nation was released. The film depicted the original KKK as the heroic protector of Southern honor against the horrors of minorities. As the Klan moved beyond the South, it recruited F
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Fargo: the Divorce Capital of the Midwest

While Fargo was still a rough-and-tumble outpost, one commodity became a steady source of income: divorce. Even when lawmakers put a three-month residency requirement in place, a steady stream of unhappy spouses came to Fargo on the Northern Pacific. Hotels were built so they could live and dine in luxury while waiting three months, and lawyers set up shop to help them navigate the legal waters. The waiting period wa
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When houses of prostitution cluster in a city, they form what is commonly called a “red-light district”. “The Hollow,” as it was called in Fargo, had a scarlet glow from the 1880s to the early 20th century. Some “working girls” or prostitutes followed the men building the Northern Pacific Railroad, while others settled along the route. Many of the patrons visited Moorhead’s l
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Liquor once flowed freely on both sides of the Red River at Fargo and Moorhead, but when North Dakota statehood came, saloons had to be closed by July 1, 1890. Moorhead saloons quickly filled the gap, offering free transportation to Fargoans still needing a lawful drink. That liaison lasted until Clay Countians voted dry in 1915, closing Moorhead’s saloons ahead of national prohibition in 1920. But intoxicants
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Violent Crime

Crime Overview As railroad construction continued and industry expanded in the late 19th century, the gap between the upper and lower classes grew. With an influx of people looking to work along the tracks, complications arose, leading to an increase in crime. Although the introduction of the Northern Pacific and SPM&M improved economic opportunities, with it came prostitution, alcohol consumption, and conflict.
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Vaudevillian Culture in Fargo

Vaudeville shows were a major form of entertainment in the early years of Fargo.  Records of these theaters are numerous, but  but due to the culturally tabooed art forms played in vaudeville theaters and their association with sinfulness, alcohol consumption, and sex these theaters were minimally mentioned in the press of early Fargo and are mostly noted on accounts of deaths, crime, disturbances, or imposed fees.[1
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