Victorian Era Opiate Use at the Vanoli Red Light District of Ouray, Colorado

Author(s): Virginia Clifton

Year: 2016


By 1875 Ouray, Colorado was a booming mining town with a prosperous red light district (Vanoli Site 5OR30) after rich silver veins were discovered in the surrounding mountains. As the town rapidly expanded and prospectors flooded into the mines, the red light district flourished, entertaining the thousands of miners in the area. In 1977, excavations led by Steve Baker investigated the lives of patrons and prostitutes who frequented the Vanoli red light district. As a result, thousands of artifacts were unearthed. Of primary interest to the current investigation are those associated with recreational drug use, which are suggestive prostitution culture at the end of the Victorian era. This paper researches the assemblage of over 300 complete medicine bottles recovered from three privies located in close proximity to the Gold Belt Theater, the 220 Dance Hall, and the prostitutes cribs. The Vanoli sample, compared against other collections and publications, determined which bottles once contained heroin. The cultural and biological significance of heroin use at the time are important elements to this conclusion. From this evidence, it is likely that the prostitutes and their clients were engaging in recreational heroin use.

Cite this Record

Victorian Era Opiate Use at the Vanoli Red Light District of Ouray, Colorado. Virginia Clifton. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404571)

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