Today we celebrate tales: tall tales, tales of the Wild West, and tales of an iconic (and totally badass!) photographer. And, in our typical fashion, we bring all three together for you in a piece of art. So sit back and listen to a yarn about Crystal Palace Saloon by Dorothea Lange...
Everyone can appreciate the good things in life: relaxation, good friends, and a strong drink. This was the purpose of the Crystal Palace Saloon when it was built in 1882, soon after a mining boom created the town of Tombstone, Arizona. While the saloon had a strict no-gambling policy (a surprise in that day), it had its fair share of rough-n-tough drama—locals call its corner “one of the bloodiest intersections in American history.” And who could deny it, when characters like Wyatt and Virgil Earp were the gun-slinging justice keepers around town, fending off the Clanton brothers and the two McLaurys in one of the most famous gunfights of all time?
Fast forward just over half a century later. Prohibition had come and gone, hitting Tombstone hard. The Crystal Palace Saloon shifted identities during this time, becoming a warehouse and then a theatre before returning to its original purpose. With the country suffering from severe drought, the cowboys of lore didn't feel like the heroes anymore. Enter Dorothea Lange. Camera in hand, Lange was devoted to capturing images to bring about change. As a woman in the 1930s, this took courage and drive beyond belief—but she did it. Her images of migrant families in the Dust Bowl brought to light the seriousness of the times.
So why bring this particular Lange image into the fold? In many ways, it’s different from her previous editions: this image captures a rare moment of leisure, of indoors entertainment and relaxation, instead of the idyllic American countryside or attentive school children at work. Yet the air of camaraderie so often evoked by Lange’s images can still be seen in the easy lean of the men over the bar, the casual air of the bartender peering out over their shoulders at Lange as she walked through the doors of the Crystal Palace Saloon in 1938. As we said before, everyone can appreciate the good things in life, and Dorothea Lange captures that relatable humanity beautifully in all her images.
Now that you've heard our tall tale, mosey on down to the Crystal Palace Saloon and pick up your own...
With art for everyone,