Back to Notorious Chicago
Minna Everleigh (left) and Ada of the Everleigh Social Club
Minna (1866-1948) and Ada (1865-1960) Everleigh, arrived in Chicago in 1899 from Omaha and the doors opened on 1 February 1900 what soon became the most famous brothel in America. Lavish rooms made their services seem respectable to many including the press. Regular patrons included Marshall Field, Jr., poet Edgar Lee Masters, author Theodore Dreiser, columnist Ring Lardner, industrialist John Warne Gates, boxer Jack Johnson, actor John Barrymore and Prince Heinrich of Prussia. Their corporate headquarters was located in the heart of the Levee District at 2131-2133 S. Dearborn Street. Their phone number was CALumet 412.
Grand ballroom of the Everleigh Club
The Everleigh Club had several parlors, each with a different theme: Japanese Throne Room, Rose Parlor, Silver Parlor, Copper Room, Mirror Room and the Turkish Room were some. The Gold Room was aptly named with its $15,000 gold-leafed piano, gold-rimmed fishbowls, and gilt furniture. Each room had a solid gold cuspidor. And, of course, tapestries, fresh flowers, perfume fountains, and live music from a piano and strings added to the ambiance.
The sisters had very high standards for their employees:
To become an “Everleigh butterfly”, a girl must have a pretty face and figure, be in perfect health and look well in evening clothes.
Be polite and forget what you are here for. Gentlemen are only gentlemen when properly introduced…. The Everleigh Club is not for the rough element, the clerk on a holiday or a man without a check book.
Their employees had to come to the house of their own free will; the Everleigh sisters would not deal with pimps, panderers, white slavers, or parents eager to sell off their daughters.
The girls were required to be graceful, well-read and able to converse on many subjects.
Girls needed to prove they were 18 years old and undergo regular exams by a doctor.
Drug use was grounds for terminating a girl’s employment.
Such women included the legendary Suzy Poon Tang, one of the club’s most popular girls and big draws. Hailing from China, Poon Tang was infamously good at satisfying the clientele, so much so that her name would later become synonymous with the now sullied term of “gonna get me some poontang.” Needless to say, her name and the term still maintains a more dignified connotation than that of a “Rusty Venture.”
The Everleigh Club might be the only brothel in American history that enhanced, rather than diminished, a man’s reputation. Clients reportedly boasted, “I’m going to get Everleighed” tonight, which helped to popularize the phrase “get laid.” A man wouldn’t want to be seen at the “lower” houses, however.
This provided a very safe and desirable environment for the girls. A typical visit at the Everleigh Club could cost close to $200 which was considerable since $6.00 a week was considered a good wage.
Room in the Everleigh Club that resembled a Pullman Car.
The club employed 15 to 25 cooks and maids. Gourmet meals featured iced clam juice, caviar, pheasants, ducks, geese, artichokes, lobster, fried oysters, devilled crabs, pecans and bonbons. There were three orchestras, and musicians played constantly, usually on the piano accompanied by strings. Publishing houses would publicize new songs by having them played at the Everleigh Club. The house was heated with steam in the winter and cooled with electric fans in the summer.
On a busy night, the Everleigh sisters could make as much as $5,000. They spent $18,000 per year in renovations alone, including the upkeep of a $15,000 gold piano and several $650 gilded spittoons. They allotted a budget of $2,000 to $5,000 a month for imported spirits. The sisters sold bottles of champagne for $12 in the parlors and $15 in the bedrooms, but never beer or liquor. They also paid about $800 a month in protection fees (to law enforcement officials).
The Everleigh Club “butterflies,” as they were called, pocketed from $100 to $400 each week-an unthinkable salary in other houses. “One $50 client is preferable to ten $5 ones,” Minna [Everleigh] advised her courtesans. “Less wear and tear.” A man had to pay $50 just to walk in the door, in an era when a three-course meal cost fifty cents. Dinner in the club’s Pullman Palace Buffet could cost another $150.
The murder of Marshall Field Jr on November 22, 1905 caused competitor madames to try and frame the Everleigh sisters for this high profile crime in order to destroy their dominating business.
Following a 1910 Vice Commission report that noted there were nearly 600 brothels in Chicago, Mayor Carter Harrison, Jr. ordered the Everleigh Club to be closed on 24 October 1911. The sisters retired with over a million dollars (about $22 million today) and traveled in Europe before changing their names to Lester and settling in New York. Ada Simms, the eldest, was born in Greene County, Virginia on February 15, 1864,and died in Charlottesville, Virginia on January 5, 1960. Minna Simms was born in Greene County on July 13, 1866 and died in New York, New York on September 16, 1948. They changed their name to “Everleigh” which was adapted from their grandmother’s habit of signing letters with “Everly Yours”.
LEFT: The Everleigh Club at 2131 South Dearborn.
RIGHT: The Everleigh Club just before demolition in July 1933.
The building was demolished in July 1933 and was a vacant lot till the 1970’s.
Chicago Examiner, October 25, 1911
The most notorious resort in Chicago, in the words of Mayor Harrison, “as well-known as the city itself,” was ordered closed yesterday by the Major. It was the “Everleigh Club,” at 2131 Dearborn street, and by the Mayor’s order no successor will be allowed on the premises.
The place is only one of tbe many that the Mayor has decided to wipe off the city’s map. The blow tell swiftly and it was admitted last night at the resort that its doors would be locked to-day. This was taken as an indication that the police had acted with alacrity on the Mayor’s instructions.
“it ls a disgrace to Chicago that such a place should be one of its most widely known features,” said Mr. Harrison. “My order means that it must close and remain closed. There are probably other places of the same kind, and as fast as they are found they, too, will be regulated—out of existence. It is an enormous sffair.
Place Must Not Reopen.
“It was as well known as the City or Chicago. I have had it in my mind to close it for some time, but have put it off because I wanted to start with some others in the same localities. 1 finally came to the conclusion that it would be best to start at tbe outskirts of the city and work in, so I decided to wait no longer and clean out that place at once. No one will be permitted to reopen it.
The Mayor also said no one would be permitted to open the Heitler saloon, the license for which he revoked Monday.
How drastic this order by Mayor Harrison is considered when it is known that never before in tbe history of the city has the Everleigh Club, as it is known, been interfered with by the police. It has always been considered immune, even from the most minor regulations.
Captain William J. Plunkett of the Desplaines Street Police Station before the Civil Service Commission now engaged in an investigation into gambling and other forms of vice yesterday admitted on the stand that he had received a letter of complaint from Mayor Harrison against Lieutenant
Howard for frequenting gambling places and had coolly ignored it.
He further caused astonishment when he professed to be in entire ignorance of a fight in the nortorious Collins saloon at 1:30 o’clock Monday morning. He was informed by Special Prosecutor W. W. Wheelock that a patrol wagon had been called to quell the disturbance and then had come to a sudden and unexplained halt a block from tha place where the trouble
Captain Plunkett will probably be asked to further explain irregularities that have been found in his district, and according to Major Miles, head of the efficiency bureau of the commission, will be recalled to the witness stand again.
Knows Nothing of Fight.
The day’s session was enlivened by the continuous and at times sharp cross-examination of the special counsel. Concerning the fight which ls known to have occurred in the Collins saloon the questions and answers were as follows:
Q—Did you know there was a fight in Collins’ saloon yesterday morning at 1:30 o’clock.
A— l heard a rumor.
Q—Why did the patrol wagon stop a block away from that saloon?
A—I don’t know anything about that.
Q—Don’t you know there was a fight there and arrests were made?
A—I heard there were some investigators,there from the commission and they got drunk.
Q— Well. I guess there were.
A—I heard there were some there at 6 o’clock this morning.
Q— That’s right, too.
A—I heard they were there this morning, too.
“No, that’s not right. They couldn’t get in this morning. It was closed.”
Captain Plunkett agreed to investigate and find out why the patrol wagon in question was stopped a block away from Collins’ saloon and report to the commission. He also agreed to investigate a report of a slumming party in the saloon and report what sergeant was with it.
Denies Gambling Complaints.
Q—Ever had any complaints as to gambling or all night saloons ln the Twenty-eighth Precinct?
A— No; not any.
Q—How long have you been on the police force, Captain?
Q—Do you believe from your long experience that the p^ice force is capable of suppressing gambling?
Q—As now constituted, can the force do this?
Q—If it were brought to your attention that soliciting in sight of plain clothes men and uniformed policemen, and wholesale violations of the 1 o’clock closing law,
selling liquor in resorts and other violations occurred in the Twenty-seventh Precinct during the last month, what would you say of the efficiency of the police force?
A— You’d have to furnish me a lot of proof.
Q—But answer my question.
A—I wouldn’t say it was good.
Q—You’d say it was pretty bad, wouldn’t you?
A—Yes, I would.
Q—Suppose it was proved beyond a doubt 1 o’clock every morning except this morning for a month, what would you say?
A—I wouldn’t believe it possible.
Q—Do you believe it possible that the saloon at the northwest corner of Monroe and Halsted streets stayed open after 1 o’clock?
A— lheard through the regular channels after Mayor Harrison revoked the license that it was true.
Captain John Rehm followed Captain John Plunkett on the stand before the Civil Service Commission. One of the surprising incidents occurred when Chief Mc-Weeny was ordered to furnish a complete list of all brothels before 6 o’clock ln the evening.
Only Thirteen Respond.
The men detailed on vice were ordered to report immediately to the commission with their books. Only thirteen responded. “Inspector Wheeler was at lunch,” said Policeman John J. Howe of Harrison street when asked why the order had been transmitted to him by Lieutenant
“Wheeler was at lunch,” said a member of the commission. “We certainly have official information on that point. Wheeler was at lunch the day the gambling order went out to the White Sox Baseball Park Labor Day.”
The men who reported were:
John Doheney and John J. McWayne, South Chicago, furnished report on twenty-seven houses.
Owen Ward, Fiftieth Street, no list.
Philip McCarthy. Woodlawn Station, list of four suspected hotels.
John J. Howe and John W. Norton, Harrison street, thirty-three hotels. We haven’t a resort in our district,” said Howe.
James J. Fleming, Warren Avenue, list of suspected hotels.
John Dempeey, Twenty-second Street, list of 152 resorts and 1,140 women between Sixteenth and Twenty-second streets and South State and south Clark streets.
John O’Halloran. Cottage GrOTe Avenue, list of forty-eight flats and fifty resorts made up at suggestion of Lieutenant Prim.
Philip J. Fitzgerald, partner of O’Halloran, told of a list in the station kept by a lieutenant who antedated Prim. Promised to produce it today if he could find it.
Thomas Keating, Desplaines Street Station, mislaid list, which he thought was at home in his trunk.
William Considine, partner of Keating, reported on same list; both men on the work since
the middle of August.
Patrick J. Loftus. Chicago Avenue, reporting for Eugene Hezner, absent ou furlough, gave the only official Btation record produced to the commission. All other records were personal memoranda of the officers.
“It was our desire,” said one of the members, “to strike quick and do away with the opportunity to make transfers.
No arrests were made by Assistant Chief Schuettler’s gambling squads yesterday, though more than 100 places were visited by his detectives.
Assistant Chief Schuettler says this is due to the fact that the gambling news service furnished by Mont Tennes to handbooks was discontinued because Tennes feared a raid on a clearing house in a building near West Jackson boulevard and South Clark street.
Schuettler learned that some of the handbook men were paying off wagers on horse-races from odds given on score cards. As a result of this he will ask the Corporation Counsel to-day whether the police can interfere with the publishing of the racing information on score cards.
Two slot machines were confiscated
A new book that describes in vivid detail has been written by Karen Abbot called Sin in the Second City.