William O. Douglas Betty Bowen Carl Maxey Chief Joseph Bertha Landes Buffalo Soldier Home
Search Encyclopedia
Advanced Search
Featured Essay
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
7100 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donation system not supported by Safari     Donate Subscribe


Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search


Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Timeline Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

John Pinnell builds a Seattle brothel in 1861.

HistoryLink.org Essay 2738 : Printer-Friendly Format

In 1861, John Pinnell (or Pennell, in some sources), the proprietor of several lucrative brothels in San Francisco, arrives in Seattle, Washington Territory, and establishes a brothel. He builds it just south of present-day (2014) Yesler Way. Seattle is a rough logging town with few women among the non-Indian population, and Pinnell's first prostitutes are Indian women. This marks a significant moment in Seattle's becoming an "open town" -- open, that is, to saloons, brothels, and gambling -- which will define local controversies and politics for many years to come.

In Those Naughty Ladies of the Old Northwest, Gary Meier and Gloria Meier write:

"Soon after his arrival, John built a large rectangular building of rough boards, housing a dance floor, a long bar, and a number of small private rooms where the primary business would be conducted."

Pinnell called the bordello Illahee, a Chinook Jargon word meaning "Home Place." The 1870 U.S. Census of King County designated the 11 inmates of John Pinnell's establishment in the following way: "Occupied by Indian women kept by one John Pinnell as Hurdy-Gurdies" (Rhodes).

A few years later he imported a dozen filles de joie from San Francisco. They stepped off the boat and headed for the Illahee, rather a shadow version of Asa Mercer's "Mercer's Belles," who were marriageable young schoolteachers brought by ship from New England in 1864.

Gary Meier and Gloria Meier, Those Naughty Ladies of the Old Northwest, (Bend, Oregon: Maverick Publications, 1990), 107-108; Murray Morgan, Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle (New York: The Viking Press, 1951), 59-61; King County Censuses: 1870 U.S. Census and 1871 Territorial Census for King County, Washington Territory ed. by Marjorie Rhodes (Seattle: Marjorie Rhodes, 1993), p. 33.
Note: This essay was corrected on February 9, 2014.

Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Related Topics: Women's History | Society | Firsts |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You

Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org