Back River Amusement Parks Hotbed of Prostitution and Venereal Diseases, 1920s

Report of the United States Interdepartmental Social Hygiene Board
for The Fiscal Year Ended June 30 1922

Baltimore, Md. — “Back River” has been a by-word in Maryland for 20 years. Navy medical officers and the surgeons at Camp Holabird, Edgewood Arsenal, and Fort Howard, and perhaps those at the Veterans’ Hospital at Perryville, know it as a source of venereal diseases. “Back River” stood for “Goeller’s Place” and “Bob’s Locust Grove.”

Joe Goeller, with a large investment in an “amusement park,” had so entrenched himself with the local forces of law and order that he had nothing to fear except (he said to a board’s agent) the prohibition officers.

Federal inspectors in September, 1921, found upwards of 40 prostitutes operating with soldiers and sailors at Back River. Prostitution and bootlegging were the head liners on the “amusement” program.

Bob Mundon, on a smaller scale, imitated “Goeller’s Place” with “Bob’s Locust Grove.”

With the assistance of State authority the board brought the evidence before the courts. The proprietors were sentenced to six months in jail and fined $500 each. Their places are boarded up, and they are serving their sentences, having failed in their attempts at pardon.

The county police force that failed in enforcing the law was found to have been corrupted and a part of Goeller’s “Machine.” They were tried and dismissed in disgrace.

Investigations by the agent of the board in the city of Baltimore showed that houses of prostitution are on the increase. These were placed in the hands of the police commissioner. No action has been noted. The police commissioner claims that when houses are watched, raided and the cases brought to court for trial, the cases are indefinitely postponed, and it is hard to secure a conviction. One well-informed authority who has to deal with venereal diseases resulting from the situation, stated that Baltimore was one of the worst cities he had ever known.

This entry was posted in 1920s, Essex / Middle River, Sex, Vices and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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