Arlington was born Mary Deubler in New Orleans to German parents. Although shrewd, Arlington was known to be short-tempered and violent. She began working as a prostitute in 1881, supporting her family on her earnings, and opened a brothel at 172 Customhouse Street prior to the murder of her brother Peter Deubler in November 1890.  At that point, Miss Mary Deubler was also using the surname of Mrs. Phillip Lobrano for professional purposes. She had been with Lobrano since the age of 16 when he had offered her protection. Mr. Lobrano and Peter Deubler had a drunken verbal altercation, and Peter had followed Lobrano from a bar to the Custom street premises. While the witness accounts were disputed for years, Phillip Lobrano claims he shot Peter Deubler in the face in front of his sister Josie in self-defense. Peter died December 9, 1890 ten days after being shot. Phillip Lobrano was acquitted after a second trial on March 31, 1892. In the meantime Josie had cut all business and romantic dealings with Lobrano, and had sought to become more respectable.
Josie's decisions helped her business-wise. In the four or five years from her brother's death, she had shed her former reputation. She had taken a new paramour, John Thomas "Tom" Brady who was a clerk in the City Treasurers office. She and Brady had visited the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas and she witnessed first hand a luxurious lifestyle and resolved to emulate it back at her brothel. She changed the name to the "Chateau Lobrano d'Arlington" and began to hire foreign girls to increase the appeal to upscale customers. At this point, she began making business deals with Tom Anderson who operated a nearby restaurant which he renamed the Arlington.
Anderson caught wind of Alderman Story's ordinance to create a regulated prostitution district before most did, and he and Josie acquired choice properties on Basin Street near the entrance to the future Storyville area.
In 1898, when Storyville was established, Arlington moved her operations to a four-story frame mansion at 225 North Basin Street. The house, now demolished, can be easily identified by its distinctive onion-domed cupola. Its renovation reportedly cost $5,000.
The establishment, formally named Chateau Lobrano d'Arlington but locally known as The Arlington, was known for its opulence. As an expensive "$5.00 House", it offered about ten or twelve girls at any time, as well as a live sex 'circus' that could be viewed for an extra fee. Though it had a reputation for depravity, Josie claimed that no virgin was ever defiled or exploited by her business.
The Arlington was damaged in a fire in 1905. The madam and her girls were taken in temporarily by Tom Anderson, a saloon keeper and friend/lover of Arlington. Anderson's establishment gained the nickname 'The Arlington Annex' as a result. Arlington closed the business in 1909 and retired. Many of her assets were bought by Tom Anderson.
Death and burial
Arlington died in 1914 and was buried at Metairie Cemetery, in a tomb designed by Albert Weiblen. The grave features a bronze female figure which has been said to leave its post at the door of the monument and walk around the other graves. The mausoleum quickly became a tourist attraction, which left Arlington's family mortified. The body was later moved to another location within the same cemetery.
The monument still stands, and deceased members of the Morales family are now held within it. The bronze female figure is thought to symbolize a virginal girl being turned away from the Arlington door, following Arlington's claim in life that no woman's innocence was taken on the grounds of her establishment.
In popular culture
- Trivia on Prostitution Biography of Madam Josie Arlington. Trivia Library (February 14, 1914). Retrieved May 4, 2012.
- Rosen; 'Lost Sisterhood: Prostitution in America 1900 – 1918, The'; JHU Press; p. 89
- Krist, Gary. Empire of Sin, A A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans. Thorndike Press. ISBN 978-1-4104-7487-2.
- A Flea in Her Ear Archived March 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Turgingsomedrama.com. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
- storyville madams, history, the district, cheap, "cribs", rooms, low-priced, prostitutes, tricks, expensive houses, elegant mansions, Basin Street, Storyville, city alderman, Sidney Story, city alderman Sidney Story. Storyvilledistrict.tripod.com (February 14, 1914). Retrieved May 4, 2012.
- The New Orleans Way Of Death. Prairieghosts.com. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
- "Madam by Cari Lynn, Kellie Martin - PenguinRandomHouse.com". PenguinRandomhouse.com.
Krist, Gary. Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans. Print.