The 19th century marked the legalization of prostitution in Prague with specific laws intact. Brothels became a common entrepreneurship opportunity and prostitution was on the rise, mainly due to the higher number of students and soldiers.
The anonymity and wealth of cities
Prostitutes were referred to in distinctive ways, whether it be ladies of the evening, ladies of pleasure, or more demeaning variants. Each and every single prostitute had to keep a booklet documenting her health.
Prostitution in the times of Josef II, around 1780, usually adhered to the countryside. However, with the forthcoming industrial age, more prostitutes began seeking a larger clientele, a stronger sense of anonymity, and further financial development in the comfort of bigger cities.
The practice of the world’s oldest profession wasn’t always what these women set out to do, as it was usually women of lesser education or insufficient qualifications for employment who deemed it a last resort. Still, some girls managed to make more money working at a luxurious brothel than a professor would, teaching at a university.
Prostitution was considered to belong to the streets of Prague. The same way celibacy was largely expected from brides prior to the wedding night, the sexual experience was anticipated from grooms, who often took advantage of services provided by prostitutes to ensure this.
It was said that around 2,000 prostitutes were living in Prague around 1918, which was a sizable amount considering the total population amounted to about 220,000.
Marketplace for love
The Czech crown jewels used to be transported down a historically recognized trade route starting in the Old Town of Prague, passing by the Powder Tower, all the way to Kutná Hora. This path simultaneously served as a haven for prostitutes dating all the way back to the Middle Ages. This would explain the Powder tower statue depicting a man trying to get under a lady’s skirt.
Prostitution continued to surge as time went on, author Josef Schwarz went as far as to coin the location as the marketplace for love in the 19th century.
Brothels on every corner
The Old Town as well as Malá Strana were scattered with public buildings and cabarets through and through. Prostitutes could be seen in front of Prague’s main railway station, around Old Town Square, and a number of other streets and pathways, luring in clients with sexually suggestive gestures such as purse-swinging.
This type of provocative behavior would soon become legally regulated. Back then, you were able to find a prostitute for 1 Czech crown, while wealthy men tended to splurge up to 50 crowns for a night at a luxurious establishment. For example, an establishment called U Červeného páva in Kamzíková street was one of the most visited. Some brothels even offered a 30% discount for students and soldiers.
The address of Prague City Hall used to belong to the infamous building of Batalion, which was primarily associated with the outcasts of society including criminals and prostitutes. It was equipped with only the most necessary of facilities with a reputation for being the worst brothel on Old Town Square and in Prague overall.
This sinhouse met its demise during Prague’s demolition of Jewish ghettos. The building U Černého medvěda in the Týn premises was also said to double as a house of ill repute known as The Tunnel, with scarlet women alluring bypassers from the foyer.
The end of an era
The owners of such establishments set out to satisfy the needs of their customers by providing a wide spectrum of girls. Clients would be able to pick and choose a girl from their display while more highbrow establishments guaranteed an entirely anonymous process without the presence of other visitors, which appealed largely to men of a higher social calibre.
However, 1922 became the year these establishments officially closed, marking the end of the golden era of brothels