Guidebooks to Sin: the Blue Books of Storyville, New Orleans

In 1897, New Orleans leaders created Storyville, the infamous red light district of New Orleans. For the next twenty years, Storyville was the legal center of prostitution in the Crescent City.

The blue books were small guides that listed the 'finer' bordellos and even the individual prostitutes. The idea was likely cribbed from various other blue books which noted places and people of distinction.

My guest this week is Pamela Arceneaux, an author, senior librarian, and rare books curator at the Historic New Orleans Collection. Pamela has written a wonderful book, called the Guidebooks to Sin: the Blue Books of Storyville.

In this first of two episodes about the infamous New Orleans red light district, we discuss the creation of Storyville and the role of the blue books. We learn about the surprising contents and how they helped cement New Orleans’ reputation as an entertainment and tourist destination. We talk about the jazz and ragtime musicians who provided the musical entertainment and often began their collaboration with others.

All this and more in this episode of Beyond Bourbon Street!


You can find Pamela’s book at local booksellers, including Octavia BooksGarden District Book Shop and Maple Street Book Shop, as well as at The Historic New Orleans Collection. You can also find Guidebooks to Sin on Amazon.

Explore the Historic New Orleans Collection online and in person. They are located at 533 Royal Street, in the heart of the French Quarter.

Links and show notes for today's episode can be found at

Thank You

Thank you to Pamela Arceneaux for sharing her enthusiasm and knowledge about Storyville and the blue books that serve as the bibliogrpahy to the sex trade during the Storyville period.

Thanks to Eli Haddow at the Historic New Orleans Collection for arranging the interview.

A special word of thanks to Sally Asher for connecting me to Pamela. Sally was a guest on episode #22, the Cemeteries of New Orleans. This is one of our most popular shows, so be sure to check it out! Sally also wrote a wonderful book that tells the stories of the people buried in The St. Louis Cemeteries of New Orleans. Find it at the local booksellers mentioned above and on Amazon.

Thanks to Kate McCreary for helping with the research into Storyville and this fascinating social experiment in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century!

Finally, thanks to you for allowing me into your ears every other week. I truly enjoy sharing this city we both love!

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