Case Study: Spokane Jail Register (1898-1900)

After examining a few Spokane County jail register documents from the turn of the 20th century, I have come to the conclusion that Spokane was a haven for drunk, rowdy folks. For example, in 1898 drunkenness was a very common crime in Spokane. From December 21st to December 31rd there were 30 different people charged with drunkenness, and that was just on the one page I examined. The punishments varied from fines of $6 or $7 to spending 1-4 days in jail. I also noticed that there were very complete descriptions of the nationality, occupation, age, and gender of the perpetrators. All of them were male, except for Millie Buford, a twenty-year-old prostitute. The age of the culprits ranged from twenty to late sixties. Many of the convicted were from Italy or Norway. Occupations included farmer, tramp, upholsterer, and most frequently—laborer.

Prostitution was also a common occurrence in Spokane according to the jail register of 1900. There were 36 different women listed as being arrested for prostitution on January 3, 1900 alone. Something worth noting is that hardly any information was gathered about prostitutes compared to drunks. The age, marital status, arresting officer, and more was not recorded on the form about prostitues. Also, the prostitutes didn’t spend any time in jail, but rather paid a fine, usually $10. Could it be that all of the prostitutes just came in to the station, paid their fine, and went on with business as usual?


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