Use of the word Crib in 1888 and Prostitutes

I was reading some very old copies of the Chicago Tribune archives from the 1880s and they had a couple of stories about prostitutes being murdered or murdering others.

And they kept referring to the prostitute’s crib. Or “She brought him back to the crib where her accomplice killed him.”

Or “Her crib had a seedy reputation among the Levee District” (a red light district)

OK so it seems the paper is using the word “crib” to mean place of residence, but then I saw photo of a sign out side of a place where a prostitute was murdered and it said

CRIBS 25¢ and it didn’t look like that was a store for baby cribs

Is the use of the word “Crib” in this context to mean, “place of residence,” like young people will use crib to mean their apartment now-a-days? Or does it have some other meaning in the world of prostitution.

Remember these stories I read were in like 1888 and 1889

From the OED


Not really a “place of residence,” but just a basic room or shack where a prostitute would ply her trade. It probably had just a bed and maybe a few sticks of furniture. It was not an “apartment” as we would think of one.

From Merriam Webster:


I think the baby Jesus is to blame for this one - that is, the now-accepted sense of the word ‘crib’ to mean bed or cradle. (The meaning of ‘crib’ in that context is supposed to be a shack or cattle stall, but I think ‘the baby Jesus in his crib’ has been confounded with ‘the baby Jesus in the manger’, or something like that)

Here’s a replica of a prostitute’s crib in Tombstone, Arizona.

Here’s a story about efforts to clean up “cribtown” in Los Angeles in 1904. The ladies tried to disguise their places of business as cigar stores or dress shops (massage parlors not yet having been invented).

Here’s a photo of a “crib row” in the town of Goldfield, Nevada.

In many towns, there were two levels of prostitution: the upscale brothel or bordello, often located above a saloon, and the cheaper cribs, where girls worked individually.

So when did crib start becoming like, “place”? As in MTV Cribs and all that?

Actually, quite early amongst the lower class(thieves, etc)

I think the modern re-use of it to mean a house is rather recent, perhaps 30 years.