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Earliest known photos of life in a 19th Century American brothel: Intimate pictures show prostitutes in 1890s Pennsylvania factory town posing for the private collection of a photographer who was also a client

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  • Earliest known photos of life in a 19th Century American brothel: Intimate pictures show prostitutes in 1890s Pennsylvania factory town posing for the private collection of a photographer who was also a client

    hey pose jauntily before the camera, some draped only in a shawl, some wearing only fancy hosiery, others looking pensive and clad in nothing at all. The women are surrounded by curtains and lace, pictured doing everything from bathing and reading to preening in preparation for male customers. Their barely-dressed ease in front of the lens is remarkable, their calm faces framed either by opulent 1890s hairstyles or left to tumble seductively over their bare shoulders.

    This is life inside an 1890s American brothel, an intimate portrait of a segment of society so frequently kept behind closed doors, discussed only in hushed tones. And this extraordinary set of photographs – shot for the private collection of a commercial photographer named William Goldman in Reading, Pennsylvania at the end of the 19th century – was almost lost to history, as well.

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