Hell's Belles: Prostitution, Vice, and Crime in Early Denver: With a Biography of Sam Howe, Frontier Lawman

Hell's Belles: Prostitution, Vice, and Crime in Early Denver: With a Biography of Sam Howe, Frontier Lawman

Hell's Belles: Prostitution, Vice, and Crime in Early Denver: With a Biography of Sam Howe, Frontier Lawman

Hell's Belles: Prostitution, Vice, and Crime in Early Denver: With a Biography of Sam Howe, Frontier Lawman

Synopsis

This updated and revised edition of Hell's Belles takes the reader on a soundly researched, well-documented, and amusing journey back to the early days of Denver. Clark Secrest details the evolution of Denver's prostitution, the gambling, the drug addicts, and the corrupt politicians and police who, palms outstretched, allowed it all to happen. Also included in Hell's Belles is a biography of one of Denver's original police officers, Sam Howe, upon whose crime studies the book is based.

The popular veneer of Denver's present-day Market Street - its fancy bars, posh restaurants, and Coors Field - is stripped away to reveal the street's former incarnation: a mecca of loose morals entrenched in prostitution, liquor, and money. Hell's Belles examines the neglected topics of vice and crime in Denver and utilizes a unique and invaluable historic source - the scrapbooks of Detective Sam Howe.

Excerpt

Far back in an aisle of the Colorado Historical Society’s rare documents storage rooms, stacked to near the ceiling, rest fifty-six stately scrapbooks whose many thousands of pages offer a unique social portrait of an emerging western community. This series of books, some volumes of which are almost a foot thick, are composed of newspaper clippings detailing nearly every crime committed in Denver between 1883 and 1920.

The books were the life’s labor of Sam Howe, who became a member of Denver’s first police department, organized in April 1874, and was a Denver law enforcer before that. Howe served dutifully—some might say obediently, but for a stumble or two—for the next forty-seven years.

For that almost half century Howe scrutinized up to five newspapers each day—precisely scissoring out every crime story, down to the tiniest suicide; consecutively numbering each clipping, indexing and cross-indexing each, and then pasting every fragment into that year’s scrapbook. Sam Howe’s motive was simply to establish a data bank of crime information usable to himself and his fellow police officers. a century later, however, his scrapbooks have far greater importance: they are a vivid ongoing account of one frontier city’s attempt to keep order and of those who would disrupt that order.

In an era long before sophisticated computer networks enabled law officers to almost instantly store and exchange crime data, the fame of Sam Howe’s unique scrapbooks at the Denver Police Department spread throughout the United States. Lawmen, newspaper reporters, and statisticians consulted Howe’s books for information on virtually every miscreant perpetrating a crime in booming Denver. Peace officers from throughout the nation traveled to Denver to marvel over Sam Howe’s big books of clippings about criminals. Historian Frank Richard Prassel in The Western Peace Officer: a Legacy of Law and Order (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972) referred . . .

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