Did you know it is illegal to spit on a sidewalk in Dodge City? Over the decades Dodge City has adopted many ordinances, some which are still enforced and some that have gone by the wayside.
In the early days, all of Dodge City had laws against carrying firearms, gambling and prostitution. These laws were enforced - sort of. But south of the tracks, or deadline, anything went. There, women, singing and dancing were allowed in saloons. South of the deadline no one cared if people were packing heat. Law enforcement stepped in only if someone had a complaint.
North of the tracks things were stricter. Women weren't allowed in saloons. And patrons of drinking establishments could not enjoy singing or dancing.
The Long Branch Variety Show, though a great show, is not historically correct because the Long Branch was north of the deadline. The TV show "Gunsmoke" popularized the notion of the Long Branch being the place to go for that sort of entertainment.
North of the tracks, lawmen strictly enforced the firearms ordinance with a $125 fine - that's nearly $3,000 in today's money.
People gambled openly on both sides of the tracks. The authorities made rounds to gaming establishments and houses of ill-repute to collect fines which were not high enough to force anyone out of business. These fines helped pay lawmen's salaries and were considered merely a business expense.
During the 1880s, these ordinances were selectively enforced, which caused the Saloon War of 1883 when those in power singled out their rival and Long Branch owner, Luke Short, for enforcement of laws against having women in a saloon.
In 1881, State lawmakers passed a Statewide prohibition against alcohol, but Dodge Citizens ignored it for over four years. In 1885, about the same time the cattle drives ended, the State of Kansas began enforcing it in Dodge City. Suddenly, saloons became "drugstores" and "restaurants" and closed their doors at night.
This led to disaster in Dodge as nobody was awake to put out fires that started in the wee small hours. As a result, much of downtown Dodge City burned in a series of fires during the winter of 1885 - 1886.
Despite the law, people still got alcohol legally through medical doctors' prescriptions. Some of the "illnesses" they claimed were dubious. Often physicians prescribed it for colds. One doctor wrote a scrip for alcohol as syrup for cigars and another for a man's wife for bathing. It was even a treatment for diarrhea.
The anti-alcohol laws continued in Kansas through the U.S. prohibition, which was from 1920 to 1933. Kansas remained a "dry state" until 1948. It wasn't until 1987 that people in the State could go into a public bar or restaurant and purchase alcohol by the drink.
Prohibition, State and National, was a great equalizer. It didn't matter if a person was north or south of the tracks, male or female; drinking beer, wine and spirits was equally illegal for everyone.
Today, women frequent drinking establishments all over Dodge City and people carry firearms Statewide. Gambling through the Kansas Lottery with tickets and at the Casino is legal. Prostitution is a major vice from early Dodge City that is still very much against the law.