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Behind The Scenes In St. Louis
by [?]

The St. Louis police force is demoralized by politics. Robberies and burglaries multiply. Purse-snatching from women by white and black ruffians is sunk to a mere commonplace in the daily newspaper reports. Thieves flourish, and are protected by petty politicians. Real estate dealers work the police department about once a year to chase the prostitutes out of one section of town into another. It’s all a job. The prostitutes pay big rents, $60 per month for a house that would rent to decent people for $25. One crowd of agents gets the upper hand and starts an agitation to get the “girls” out of the district they occupy into another, in which the agents interested have a great many empty houses. After a time another real estate combination is made, and the poor bawds have to move again. Result of this? Many of the women open assignation houses in the West End, or go “living decent” under some man’s care in that quarter, make the acquaintance of good women, and innocent girls, and collect a “maiden tribute” from among the latter for numerous old rakes who prefer the sexually initiative to the referendum in the case of women in the territory known as “tamale town.” Kept women, the mistresses of men driven from downtown, have been known to ingratiate themselves, in the West End, with women moving in the very best society. And all this to enable a few real estate men to rent at exorbitant figures a few ramshackle houses to the women who must stay “on the town.”

St. Louis society is not so bad and vulgar as society in some other cities. The city is so much like a village that no opportunity is afforded for intrigue or depravity among the swell set. Every one in St. Louis knows the business of every one else. A woman cannot “go wrong” without being discovered. Most of the details that you hear about the corruption of St. Louis society are imagination wholly. There is a great deal of excessive drinking at functions among women, but it is said that this is notable rather because of the amount the girls can stand without showing it than because of its prompting them to ribald Terpsichorean evolutions. The world outside the swell set hears occasionally of some girl who patronizes the punch bowl until she falls into hysterics, but as a rule the up-to-date St. Louis girl can “carry a load” with much dignity and grace.

St. Louis society is cheap and garish in spots. Some of the newly rich are unbearably snobbish. The Granite Mountain set carries its nose in the air most heinously and its chief female representative is celebrated for her absurd malapropisms. There is but one “fast” set in the town and that “fast” set is looked down upon quite generally and quite sincerely. It is composed of gay young married women who affect the Bohemian by drinking cocktails in public and cutting up at the Jockey Club. One of the members of this last set is the daughter-in-law of a Missouri senator and a very pretty woman. Another of this set is the woman who was voted the best dressed woman at the horse show in a newspaper scheme. Her father is a millionaire doctor and her husband is a thoroughbred. It cannot be said even of this set, however, that it is fast in the immoral sense in which that word usually is employed. It is gay and the women are only unfortunate in having nothing to do and in dispelling weariness by silly and flashy pranks in a social way.

There are some awfully funny society people in St. Louis. For instance, I am told that one of the women who has recently blossomed into the society columns is the wife of a millionaire lumber man who lives in a swell place and whose stinginess is peculiar in that it applies to everything but the feeing of the reporters who write up his wife and daughter. There is another woman whose burst into society has occasioned a great deal of comment of late. She is the wife of a cattleman and certainly not well trained in the graces, but she has her name in the papers continually by virtue of presents of such things as bolts of silk to society editresses. The wife of one of the police commissioners, who used to be the widow of a former mayor, is a fearful and wonderful matron in her methods of attaining distinction. She dresses gorgeously at all public occasions and has more color than a spectacular show at the theater. St. Louis society is dull and unintellectual. As a rule, however, it does not mask any corruption. There are not enough men in society to give opportunity for corruption. Nowhere in the country are there so many pretty girls without admirers. They have to go to the theaters with their own fathers and brothers. The few men in society are a lot of “cheap skates” who can not repay their social obligations in the fashion supposed to prevail among them. The St. Louis society belle has no good time of it. She doesn’t get rushed to any great extent at any time, and this is the more remarkable because the wealthy girls are as much neglected as the poor but pretty ones. St. Louis is the finest field in the world for a man with nothing who wants to marry money. St. Louis society doesn’t patronize the theaters extensively. It is not appreciative of music. It doesn’t care for art. It is hopelessly unaesthetical as a whole. The picture dealers, music dealers and book sellers declare that their patrons come mostly from the people who are not in the swell set. A peculiarity of St. Louis society is that its members are as a rule procreative. There is no suppression of increase and multiplication such as prevail in the swell mob in other cities. A woman in St. Louis is not disgraced by having three or four babies. As a rule also St. Louis society women are not disposed to set up a rigid standard of exclusiveness. They have taken up recently the wife of a young man who was a singer with the Bostonians and it is the fad at present to rave over her. The whole world knows, of course, that a St. Louis girl insulted the Prince of Wales by refusing to meet him, when he never had asked to have her presented. That, however, was the most glaring effort ever made by a St. Louis girl to get a lot of newspaper notoriety and at a cheap rate. To the credit of the local high society it must be said that it does not cultivate the newspaper habit of exploitation. It tolerates the journalistic abuses of papers and write-ups. To be perfectly just to society in St. Louis, about all that can be said of it is that it is dull, principally, because it is decent. A man who is an authority upon such matters tells me that there is not in real society in St. Louis one woman of whom there has ever been any scandal. The very highest society in St. Louis–the old families are all Catholics, and very strict Catholics at that, and so there is not the taint of animalism about it that you find else where in the realm of the high flyers.