The Everleigh Club (1900-1911)
The Everleigh Club experienced 11 years of success, acting as a prestigious gentleman's club that catered to the most elite of clientele.
Ada Everleigh was the eldest of the two sisters, taking on the role of scouting the 'talent' for their club. She also took on the task of making sure that the club was running smoothly and up to their standards.
Minna Everleigh was the more vivacious and outgoing of the sisters, often acting as the main hostess of their club.
The dining room of the Everleigh Club had been specifically designed to resemble a Pullman Car. It was but one of the themed rooms created by Minna and Ada.
The Scarlet Sisters Everleigh! An article from 1930 discussing the fight against corruption in Chicago and the original efforts taken by the Chicago Vice Council to eradicate it in 1910.
Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna was a First Ward Alderman alongside "Bathhouse" John Coughlin. They presided over what became known as the "Levee District", which was a haven for taverns and brothels, including the Everleigh Club.
"Bathhouse" John Coughlin served as a First Ward Alderman alongside Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna. Together they accepted bribes and gifts, promising protection to the taverns and brothels in their district despite the growing ire of society.
Backstory and Context
Resourceful and clever, however, they worked their way up the ranks from prostitutes to madams. Together they toured the country, looking for a suitable location that had many wealthy a wealthy man but no superior houses to act as competition. Like many entertainers, the sisters changed their name from Simms to Everleigh, a creation based upon their Grandmother's habit of signing all of her letters "Everly Yours". This was the name that they would give to the establishment they bought from former madam Effie Hankins in Chicago, Illinois. The Everleigh Club first opened its doors on February 1, 1900.
"The Everleigh Club might be the only brothel in American history that enhanced, rather than diminished, a man's reputation. Clients reportedly boasted, "I'm going to get Everleighed tonight," which helped to popularize the phrase "get laid."
The 'Scarlet Sisters', as they came to be called, spared no expense on the brothel, creating a lavish fantasy world for those that ventured through their doorsteps. It boasted '50 different rooms, including 12 soundproof reception parlors where three orchestras played, 30 bedrooms, a library, an art gallery, a dining room, and a Turkish Ballroom complete with a huge fountain and a parquet floor.' It was their idea to create an exclusive environment that drew in clientele seeking prestige and status, even going so far as to require that new patrons bring with them a letter of recommendation from an existing patron. Those who spent only the bare minimum entrance fee of $50 were asked not to return.
This money was put back into their business and those ladies in their employment. In a time when prostitution was a last resort for women and their protection was not assured, the 'butterflies' at the Everleigh club were given all the comforts in the world and paid anywhere from $100 to $400 per week. They were even given lessons on literature and theater, particularly the works of Honoré de Balzac. Minna and Ada's requirements for the women in their employ were as follows:
- Be well read.
- Look good in an evening gown.
- Be polite.
- Be there of their own free will.
- Be at least 18 years of age.
- Visit the doctor kept on retainer at least once a month.
- No drug or alcohol usage.
"The orders for closing were received by Ed McWeeny, General Superintendent of police, and the news spread to the club and many of its patrons immediately. No action was taken on the order, however, until 2:45 a.m. on Oct. 25. During the last night, many of the old regulars and, especially reporters flocked to the club. Attempts were made to contact Mayor Harrison, but he could not be reached: he was supposedly asleep. While many of the people were sad and melancholy, the sisters, clad in many diamonds, refused to be morbid. Minna reputedly said, "If the ship sinks, we're going down with a cheer and a good drink under our belts anyway." By 1 a.m., cabs were lined up, and gentlemen in silk hats marched out. None of the patrons nor the girls were arrested. At 2:45 a.m., the club was officially closed."
Not that this was too great a blow for the sisters who made out with $1,000,000 in cash, $200,00 in jewelry, and $150,000 in furnishing. Even the girls that they had employed were offered jobs from clubs all around the country, hoping to cash in themselves.
Abbot, Karen. Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul. New York, New York. Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2008.
Fulton, William. "Everleigh Sisters - Symbol of Commercialized Vice." Chicago Sunday Tribute(Chicago), January 19, 1936, Vol. XCV No. 3 ed, 8 sec, 1-8.