But you should pre-order it anyway!
Did you like Devil in the White City? Of course you did. Who doesn't? Chicago By Day and Night: The Pleasure Seeker's Guide to the Paris of America was a guidebook published for visitors to the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Daniel Burnham might've picked it up, though he's never once mentioned (the book was written before we began to worship architects as artists). H. H. Holmes's hotel might've rated a mention, had it been built when the book was composed. If you're a DitWC fan, this book will complement your enjoyment of Larsen's.
CBDN guides potential visitors to "free and easy" shows, saloons, carousels, masquerades, and other fun things to do away from the Fair itself. It's a fascinating artifact of the late 19th Century, when any woman who flirted with a man on the street might be an "adventuress" who planned to take him for all he was worth, via blackmail, the badger game, or the panel room. A taste from that chapter, with our notes after the jump:
The term adventuress is applied to women of careless reputation who, being much too smart to endure the ignominious career of professional demi-mondaines, resort to various shrewd schemes to fleece the unwary. Some of their class work in concert with male partners, and in such cases the selected victim generally becomes an easy prey. The confidence man may be dangerous; the confidence woman, if she be well educated and bright, as well as pretty, is irresistible except with the most hardened and unsusceptible customers. The shrewdest old granger of them all, who steers safely through the shoals and traps set for him by male sharpers, will go down like the clover before the scythe under a roguish glance, as it were, from a “white wench’s black eye,” as Mercutio said.
There is no mortal man in this universe of ours, be he never so homely or ill-favored, who does not cherish in his heart of hearts the impression that there is a woman or two somewhere whom he could charm if he wished to. It is the spirit of masculine vanity that forms the material upon which the adventuress may work. With the art of an expert she sizes up the dimensions of her victim’s vanity the instant she has made his acquaintance and plays upon it to just the extent she deems expedient and profitable. If it were not for masculine vanity, the American adventuress could not exist.
Along with my colleague Paul Durica, I've introduced, edited and annotated this fascinating bit of history. Some key features you might like: lots of dirty jokes, along with serious economic history (the chapter on gambling, for instance, includes the Chicago Board of Trade as just another way to lose your shirt, along with back-alley craps games or faro banks in saloons). Reminders of how cities change, and how they stay the same. Very cool illustrations, and lots of double-entendres (watch for the "delicious lays").
But all in the service of scholarship. Pre-order! Use the code DURICA13 for a discount.
This chapter outlines the three primary methods used by female con artists, and/or crooked prostitutes, to make money, in descending order from genteel blackmail to the badger game to the panel room. Just as a con man presenting an out-of-town visitor with a chance for some easy money requires his mark to cooperate, a con woman depends on her victim’s sexual desire and vanity to put him in a place where he will pay her off or be robbed. The emphasis placed throughout the chapter on not trusting any woman one meets for the first time in a public place continues the theme of gendered spaces in the city: women on their own in public were an erotic opportunity, a physical threat, or both. Blackmail would simply involve threatening to expose a man’s indiscretions to his family or business partners back home. The badger game involves a fake husband or other outraged man demanding satisfaction for his dishonor (see Nelson Algren’s “Design for Departure” in The Neon Wilderness for a story about a couple playing the badger game). The panel game was more straightforward robbery, although the writer here neglects to mention that this last ploy would not happen with a supposed dalliance but during prostitution. Some brothels were constructed with rooms furnished with only a bed and single chair. The man would leave his clothes on the chair, and as our author delicately puts it, “while the interview between the more or less affectionate lovers is in progress,” the woman’s compatriot would slide the panel back and steal the man’s watch, money, and other valuables. The customer could not complain (if he even noticed before leaving the “establishment”) because doing so would mean admitting he’d patronized a prostitute, and the brothel would have both paid-off police protection and on-site bouncers in any case.