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Mattie Silks

(b. Terre Haute, Indiana or Buffalo, N.Y. 1846 -d. Denver 1929 ; b. Fairmount Cemetery under a headstone reading "Martha Ready")

Colorados most notable madame franchised her popular girls. Mattie ran brothels in Georgetown, Leadville, Dawson City, Alaska and at least three different cat houses in Denver, including 1916 and 2009 Market Street (the later is preserved as a designated Denver Landmark).

Matties House of Mirrors at 1942 Market Street, the most elegant and famous of Colorado brothels, was restored in 1998 as an elegant restaurant with an upstairs bar and museum to the worlds oldest profession. This "maison de joie" resounded with nocturnal revelry and the strong odor of perfume.

Mattie ran away from home in her early teens. At age 19, she ran a brothel in Springfield, Illinois. Mattie boasted that she never worked as a "girl" but started out as a madame.

Short, blonde and attractive, she was well-upholstered and always carried a pistol, convinced that she was a crack shot. Her lover, Cort Thomson, wondered about that. He was hit in the neck by her bullet in Matties famed April 21, 1877 duel, supposedly topless, with rival madame Katie Fulton on the banks of the South Platte in what is now Commons Park.

The 1900 census lists Mattie as a "land lady" renting to "female borders" age 19 to 25. Mattie went east each year to recruit fresh young talent, which she paraded through the streets of Denver upon her returnhighly effective advertising which attracted new customers and re-energized old ones. She treated her girls well, letting them keep half the high prices she charged for their favors. She served her girls two fine meals daily, breakfast at 11:30 a.m. and dinner at 5 p.m.

Unlike most of helles belles, Mattie retired to respectability after marrying Jack Ready, a Wray, Colorado, rancher, and lived to a ripe old agebecoming a plump, grandmotherly soul who never lost her wink.


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Silks photo credit: DPL Western History Department