Protecting the Right Sort of Traveler: Locations of Hotel Licenses and Sailors Boardinghouses in Boston, 1868-1869

Kathleen Sullivan, Ohio University

This paper uses to GIS to plot addresses of hotels and boardinghouses on a historic map of Boston. This mapping shows the city’s use of licensing authority to demarcate residents by status and spatially regulate a city. In 1868, Boston temporarily lifted its prohibitory ban on alcohol. In 1868-1869, hotels and other establishments applied to the licensing commission. Hotels could apply for an innholder license, allowing them to serve intoxicating liquors. Under the common law, the privilege of doing business as an innkeeper warranted an obligation to serve all travelers and to not take advantage of the vulnerable stranger. Boardinghouses also served travelers, but, classed as houses, they were not obligated to protect the vulnerable traveler. Sailors boardinghousekeepers, notoriously, took advantage of sailors. This phenomenon was widely known, yet they were not required to obtain a license, with its requisite obligations. This paper will map the hotels that applied for innholder licenses in 1868 and boardinghouses listed in the city directory for the same period. The spatial distribution of establishments indicates that hotels were concentrated in business districts of the city, while boardinghouses were clustered around the waterfront, as well as railroad terminals and residential areas. The paper will combine mapping with historical materials on the development of Boston policing, showing that the city had a policy of largely ignoring the rowdy waterfront area. Licensing allowed the city to contain boardinghouses to their neighborhoods, with the implicit understanding that the police would not interfere in their goings on. This paper will pose questions about the method of GIS mapping of historical addresses as a tool of political inquiry. Likewise, it interrogates the use of regulatory authority to ignore and reinforce social disparities.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 88. Segregation and Inequality