The Red Onion Saloon in Skagway was built in 1897 and opened for business in 1898. It was once known as the finest bordello in town during the Klondike Gold Rush.
Unfortunately, the gold rush turned out to be pretty much exaggerated and the stampeders sadly realised that potato-size gold nuggets were only found on the pages of newspapers…However, one person made fortune in Skagway and left the premises, arms, fingers and teeth laden with diamonds
“Diamond Lil” Davenport, Red Onion’s most famous madam !
A guide in period costume led us on a tour of the now museum and explained the practical side of the “business” :there were 10 dolls behind the bar, a doll representing each of the 10 working girls upstairs. When one was busy, the bartender would lay her corresponding doll on its back until he hears the $5 coin rolling down a copper pipe from a hole in the the girl’s floor connected to his cash register : she was paid and available again.
From the $5 – a working man’s weekly wage back then- the madam would take half, the bartender a quarter as “protection fees” and the WORKING girl was left with $1.25. However, it wasn’t the $2.50 that filled the madam’s coffers and made her wealth… she accepted customers for no less than $100…provided the client declared his line of work and handed out a health certificate and his bank account.