Headlines in June called Montreal the “sex tourism capital of North America,” but the Canadian province has always been famous for its brothels. The Quebec city became a destination for boozy good times after the First World War when prohibition swept the United States. By the 1940s, Montreal was Canada’s Sin City — a place where gangsters, gamblers, and prostitutes mingled without worry. Police presence was eventually increased to appease morality groups, but small fines and lack of jail time reflected a corrupt system. Most lawbreakers had their operations back in business shortly after being raided.
Archives de la Ville de Montréal unearthed a collection of mug shots from that time period (spotted on Dangerous Minds), featuring the madams and prostitutes who were arrested. Their grinning, vampy lips and cocked, pencil-thin brows tell us all we really need to know. As one of the descriptions reveals, many of the police officers making the busts were the same men who frequented the brothels.
“Mary Shepperd, arrested as part of an investigation in connection with prostitution.”