What is the meaning of dollar hotels in the following sentence:

After a couple of days in dollar hotels and one night in the pokey, I finally landed on my mother’s doorstep.

Source: The Vicious Cycle by Jim B.

  • What's the source of this sentence?
    – stangdon
    Jan 29, 2016 at 16:55
  • @stangdon The source was added to the question.
    – Ali Erfani
    Jan 29, 2016 at 17:05

1 Answer 1


If you follow your link, but select "Preface", you'll see that the book was originally published in 1939. It is apparent that, at that time, very cheap hotels could be found which charged one dollar per night. From that comes the phrase "dollar hotel".

  • Is there any reference which confirms this?
    – Ali Erfani
    Jan 29, 2016 at 18:21
  • 1
    +1. Only 50 years earlier, $2 would have gotten you far nicer accommodations. books.google.com/… Jan 29, 2016 at 20:10
  • 2
    The Lyceum Magazine, Volume 24 Ralph Albert Parlette - 1914 - Vaudeville people who make the same towns do get rates from the two dollar hotels, usually of a dollar and a quarter a day, and often less. They expect rates, insist upon them, and are out to make money. They don't care who knows it... Jan 29, 2016 at 20:16
  • In 1939, I don't think we're meant to take "dollar hotel" literally. I think the phrase had come to mean "cheap,seedy hotel". Jan 29, 2016 at 20:19
  • 1
    @LucianSava A 1939 paper reports 1938 household income in the U.S. at $2,116, or a little over $40/week. A $1 hotel might be expensive for a poor person, but if you read the story, the author of this quote has some university education and a tenuous middle class existence as a salesman. In 2014, annual U.S. household income was around $52,000, so a room of proportional cost would charge around $25/night, certainly flophouse territory— not even hostels can be found so cheap.
    – choster
    Jan 30, 2016 at 3:00

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