Red light district

Peter A. McGraw pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU
Tue Apr 25 15:40:47 UTC 2000

The following message was posted to a railroad listserv that I subscribe
to.  It sounds like a folk etymology, but a CURSORY search of Am.Sp. and a
couple of dictionaries didn't yield anything better.  I thought I had a
vague memory of a discussion on this list sometime, but didn't find
anything in the archive.  The first citations in the OED are American
(Boston and NYC), from 1900.

Does anybody know the real origin of "red light district"?

Peter Mc.

---------- Forwarded Message ----------

<< From the Nevada State RR Museum newsletter is an interesting item:

  Not long after the Civil War, Kansas cowtowns of Abilene, Dodge City,
  Hays and Wichita were bustling centers of activity as trains carried
  Texas Longhorn cattle to hungry markets in the east.  with a rough and
  ready population composed mainly of single men, saloons and bordellos
  sprang up everywhere.  When railroad men visited the ladies of the
  night, they often hung a red lantern outside, in the event they were
  needed to make up a train.  The area of town lighted by these lanterns
  soon became known as "Red Light Districts".  And now you know the rest
  of the story. >>

---------- End Forwarded Message ----------

                               Peter A. McGraw
                   Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
                            pmcgraw at

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