Charles Allen and His Ring of Painted Ladies


Soiled Dove

One of the many “ladies of the line.”

Charles Allen, aka: Big Time Charlie ran one of the most illicit prostitution rings in Denver, Colorado in the early 20th century.

Shortly after Charles Allen arrived in Denver, Colorado in 1916, he began to build one of the largest rings of “painted ladies” that the city had ever seen. Boasting of an adventurous life in the Alaskan gold strikes and riding with Pancho Villa in Mexico, he continued his exploits in the mile-high city in an entirely different manner. Utilizing a variety of underhanded tactics to entice women into the business and often used heroin and opium to addict his young girls before placing them in the many cribs and bordellos that he owned. Rarely were they even paid, except for in the form of dope.

Within four years of his arrival, he had made more than a million dollars, half of which was paid to the Denver authorities to keep them off his back. Though the prostitution racket was overlooked, when Allen began the wholesale distribution of drugs in the mile-high city, the law no longer turned a blind eye. His home was raided in 1919 and significant quantities of heroin and opium were seized. Big Time Charlie was then sent to the penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas to serve five years for illegal drug trafficking and his empire fell. What became of him after his release from prison is unknown.

By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated January 2020.

Also See:

The Argonauts and the Founding of Denver

Colorado Photo Galleries

Painted Ladies of the Old West

Who’s Who in American History