The Use of Whores in the 1790s

Since we do not have confessions from any of the whores, we know little about the particulars of the use of whores. There was no motive for men of repute to record, let alone boast, of their visits to whores. Evidently frank letters and diaries about this activity have been destroyed by heirs. As we shall see accusations against men using whores do pop up. And we have at least one diary of a young man who came close to succumbing. Of all the books written about members of the Adams Family, the best is one of the thinnest and least pretentious, John Quincy Adams: The Critical Years, by Robert A. East. How refreshing to find in the index the listing of "Mt. Whoredom in Boston!" I hope Professor East will forgive a generous quote:

The almost daily walks that he took in the evening or at night, sometimes after his club and as late as one or two A.M., also brought experiences that seem to have heightened his growing tension. These walks were a form of the exercise so necessary to maintain his health and were invariably taken on the Boston "Mall," usually with a friend but sometimes alone. The great mall ran the length of the Boston Common from the old Burying Ground to the Public Granary, then into the little mall, or "Paddock's Walk," or into a path behind the granary which crossed obliquely to Beacon Street and ran westward up that side of the Common, terminating in the region facetiously called "Mt. Whoredom."

For some strange reason beginning in August, 1792, these nightly walks on the mall developed reactions of repugnance and even danger in young John Quincy Adams. Perhaps in referring to extraordinary experiences he may have been overly fond, as was Dr. Watson, of words such as "adventure." When he lamented "dissipation," for example, it invariably meant no more than his having drunk too much wine. Yet some of his experiences in the mall were admittedly odd. On August 27 following his walk he noted, "N B & avoid!" A week later, "Walking in the Mall all the Eve[nin]g. Fortunately unsuccessful." Four days after this he went walking with Daniel Sargent but "parted accidently, and I got fortunately home." A month later he recorded another sort of titillating experience, "Disconcerted madame in walk in the Mall." This was after he and some of his rakish friends had dined and perhaps wined together too well. No doubt such cryptic utterances - they were to be even more frequently recorded the next year - are capable of various interpretations....

by Bob Arnebeck

Go to Introduction: Swamp1800