Quotes: History

(something written by people who were not there at the time; the art of reconciling fact with fiction or making guesses about things that can not be verified.)

history (s) (noun), histories (pl)
1. The study of the past through written records which are compared, judged for truth, placed in chronological sequence, and interpreted in light of preceding, contemporary, and subsequent events.
2. A systematically written account comprising a chronological record of events (as affecting a city, state, nation, institution, science, art, etc.) and usually including a philosophical explanation of the causes and origins of such events.
3. A continuous, systematic narrative of past events relating to a particular people, country, period, person, etc.; usually written as a chronological account.
4. Acts, ideas, or events that will or can shape the course of the future; immediate but significant happenings: "Firsthand observers of our space program see history in the making."
5. A drama representing historical events: "Shakespeare's comedies, histories, and tragedies."
11. Etymology: Greek historein, "learning by inquiry, knowledge obtained by inquiry; account of one's inquiries; narrative, historical narrative; history" through Latin historia, "narrative story, narration, account" through Old French and Middle English histoire, "past events, past knowledge".

History is an ambiguous word. It refers both to what happened and to the process of telling what happened. In both cases the central problem is that the subject at hand is at best only partially recoverable. Even the deepest research and the highest imagination cannot bring the past fully back to life. Yet that is the ideal that historians find themselves pursuing.

—From I Wish I'd Been There, Book Two;
Edited by Byron Hollinshead and Theodore K. Rabb;
Doubleday; New York; 2008; page ix (Introduction).
Red-Light District
1. Relating to the part of a town or city where brothels and other commercial sex-based activities are concentrated.

From the red lights traditionally displayed in the doors and windows of brothels. Note: there is no explanation in the dictionary as to why they "displayed" the "red lights".

Encarta World English Dictionary.

2. An area or district in a city in which many houses of prostitution are located [1890-95; allegedly so called because brothels displayed red lights].

At least in the U.S., some say the origin of the red light comes from the red lanterns carried by railway workers, which were left outside brothels when the workers entered, so that they could be quickly located when the trains were ready to leave.


Red-Light District

This term is said to have started in the early days of railroading. Layovers for stacking up on wood and water were usually very long and most of the train crews had to spend many of their days on the “line” away from their homes.

Crew members placed their red lanterns on a hook beside the door where they were at any particular time (usually at a bar or where one or more prostitutes were located) so they could be found when the train was ready to “roll”; and so, that is the reason why these drinking and sex areas came to be known as “red-light districts”.

In the early west, there were three types of prostitutes: Hurdy Gurdy Girls; Crib Girls, and Courtesans. Hurdy Gurdy Girls worked in dance halls for a madam. Crib Girls worked on the “line”, generally a row of shacks called “cribs”, owned or operated by a madam. Courtesans worked strictly on their own in a place that was rated as plush or down to nothing more than a “crude shack”.

Many of the girls were transients in the early days, their places of operations were of Spartan simplicity: a bed, chair, stove, dresser, maybe a table, and little else.

—From the Virginia City Times Bonanza
which had articles from old issues (1860’s and 1870’s)
of newspapers that were reproduced in recent times for tourists.

A search on the internet provided information for the following summary:

The phrase red-light district refers to houses or places of prostitution; such as, in Amsterdam, where they do in fact have red lights in the windows.

The term originated around 1900 and seems to have come from visiting railroaders who left their lanterns on the porches of the cat houses while conducting business inside.

Red lanterns were required equipment for all railroad crew members, with the possible exception of the engineer. Prior to 1900, a train would have an engineer, conductor, fireman, and two or more brakemen (brakes being manually applied on a car by car basis). They were used for signaling as well as providing light to find their way around at night.

The question is why did the railroaders leave the lanterns on the porches? Apparently to indicate to other prospective visitors that the venues were in use.

Since there does not appear to be any other verification, it is more reasonable to believe that the red lanterns were placed outside the bars or houses/shacks of prostitutes so the train crew could be found when the train was ready to move on (as stated at the begiinning of this entry).

Other Historical Quotations

History is a vast early-warning system.
—Norman Cousins

Historians never let the past rest.

History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passions of former days.
—Wlinston Churchill Speech in the House of Commons,
the lower house of Parliament in Great Britain; November 12, 1940.

Links to quotations units. Other Quotes, Quotation Units.