Josie Arlington:

Real-Life Brothel Madam & Business Woman

The Josie Arlington of STEAMY STORYVILLE is a fictitional version of the historical figure. In New Orleans 1899, Josie was a Storyville brothel owner and business woman, a mover and shaker in New Orleans business and politics. She and her business partner found out early on about the exception that was being made for prostitution to be legal in Storyville, and acted quickly to secure real estate that she then sold to the highest bidder.

This was how she secured the land for The Arlington - the brothel she owned that spanned a city block in each direction where customers could partake of their debauch of choice - from private sex with a hired prostitute in one of the plentiful rooms that The Arlington provided, to the sex show that was designed to get even the most difficult patron in the mood.

Josie had herself been a prostitute. While she was dedicated to making money in the world's oldest profession, she was passionate in claiming that no woman's virginity was sullied at The Arlington while she was its madam.

Josie Arlington (1864 – February 14, 1914) was a brothel madam in the Storyville district of New Orleans, Louisiana. She was born Mary Deubler, and became a prostitute in 1881 to support her family on her earnings at the world’s oldest profession. She opened her first brothel in 1890, and was then known as Mrs. Phillip Lobrano.

She had been with Lobrano since she was 16, when he offered her protection. According to his own statements, Phillip Lobrano killed Mary’s own brother in front of her face in self defense. Mary then cut all business and personal dealings with Lobrano and set out to become more respectable.

Her new paramour, Tom Brady, was a clerk in the City Treasurer’s office. The two visited the Arlington hotel in Hot Springs, Ark., and there she witnessed the opulent lifestyle she hoped to emulate. At her brothel back in New Orleans, she hired exotic, foreign girls, and changed the name to the “Chateau Lobrano d’Arlington”.


At this time, her business dealings with Tom Anderson, who operated a nearby restaurant that he also rebranded as “The Arlington”. Anderson was a valuable business partner – he found out about the city ordinance to create a regulated prostitution district before most others, and he and Josie partnered to purchase choice property on Basin Street near the entrance of what would become Storyville.

When Storyville was established, Arlington moved her operations to a four-story frame mansion at 225 North Basin Street. The house, formally named Chateau Lobrano d’Arlington but locally known as The Arlington, was known for its opulence.

As an expensive “$5.00 House”, it offered about ten or twelve girls at any time, as well as a live sex ‘circus’ that could be viewed for an extra fee. Though it had a reputation for depravity, Josie claimed that no virgin was ever defiled or exploited by her business.

Josie died in 1914 and was buried at Metairie Cemetery. The grave features a bronze female figure which has been said to leave its post at the door of the monument and walk around the other graves. The mausoleum quickly became a tourist attraction, which mortified Josie’s family. Josie’s body was moved to another location within the same cemetery.

The monument still stands, and deceased members of the Morales family are now held within it. The bronze female figure is thought to symbolize a virginal girl being turned away from the Arlington door, following Arlington’s claim in life that no woman’s innocence was taken on the grounds of her establishment.

Inspired by Laborde, E. and Scott-Laborde, P., editors, (2018). New Orleans: The First 300 Years. Pelican Publishing Company.

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