Myths of the Birdcage Theater

The original painting of Fatima who was an Oriental Belly Dancer, she played the Bird Cage in 1881. According to the theater, this was a gift from her to the Bird Cage to hang in the bar. It has hung in this spot since 1882.

However archival photographs show that the painting has been in at least two other locations during its history.

This photograph is from the Library of Congress. Dated to the early 1940s, it places the painting back stage.


The 1940s photograph also lacks the damage that is now claimed to be repaired bullet holes. The second photo is actually a postcard that was sold at the theater in the 1950s. It has the painting in a different location, directly opposite the stage.


The next myth claims that the theatre was sealed and boarded up with all of its fixtures and furnishings still intact. For almost 50 years the building remained closed, with its contents only touched by the passing of time. Here is a photograph of what the interior looked like when it was opened in the 1920s. Most of the artifacts now in the theater were stored in another location. Many were from a private collection. It was refurbished and cleaned up some, opening up for the first Helldorado Celebration in 1929.


Another common myth is that the Birdcage Theater was so unsavory, that women refused to walk on the same side of the street. But according to Tombstone author, William Breckenridge, “no one had been killed there, and Hutchinson ran it in an orderly manner.”(1)

Published in Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star Friday, December 29, 1882



(1) Breckenridge, W.M. (1928, 1956, 1982, 1992). Helldorado. [Brown, R.M., Editor]. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.

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