October 6, 2014
PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“ ‘No Peeking’ - Exhibit on Prostitution to open in Southold”
SOUTHOLD, NY. The Southold Historical Society is pleased to announce it is hosting the exhibition “No Peeking: A History of Prostitution on the North Fork,” which documents a small portion of the history of prostitution in Southold Town. The exhibit will be held in the Society’s Reichert Family Center’s Cosden Price Gallery. It will be on display from October 18 through December 13, 2014 in the gallery, which is located at 54127 Main Road, Southold, NY.
In Southold, the first trace of professional prostitution starts appearing during the 1890s, and while it may have existed prior to that date, it left behind little evidence. Life in the rural countryside was no protection from the darker side of life for young and older men alike, since rare letters exist discussing the subject. The occupation hit a peak during prohibition and tapered off in the 1960s, when New York State law changed to allow authorities to arrest the customers as well as the workers.
The exhibit includes a number of panels discussing the various madams who operated brothels in Greenport as well as the streetwalkers who were known to ply their trade there. It also discusses the life and career of Dr. J. Mott Heath, who not only provided much needed health care for the women involved but who also served as the long-time county coroner, as well as being the chief of staff and president of the board for Eastern Long Island Hospital.
The exhibit was at times challenging to research due to the sensitive nature of the subject involved. “Gathering the history of a profession that is both secretive, yet well-known has been difficult. Some feel that while they can reminisce about some aspects of the impact of the profession on our area, that the details should be allowed to disappear as the witnesses to the time-period pass away,” stated Amy Folk, the Collections Manager at the Society and curator of the exhibit.
Among other objects on display are a rare saloon sign, warning “working girls” that they need to be healthy to ply their trade amongst the bar’s patrons or face the anger of the owner. “Warning signs like this were once extremely common, though today are a rare find,” stated Geoffrey K. Fleming, Director of the Society. This example – which was discovered on Long Island – was loaned to the exhibit by a private collector.
The exhibit will be on display at the Society’s Reichert Family Center’s Cosden Price Gallery from October 18 through December 13, 2014, Thursday-Saturdays, 1-4pm. The gallery is located at 54127 Main Road, Southold, NY. For more information on this exhibit or other Society programs, please contact the Southold Historical Society at (631) 765-5500.