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The Birdcage Theater opened in 1881 and quickly became one of the booming city's leading destinations for entertainment-both legal and illicit. The theater operated between 1881 and 1889, and is today operated as a leading tourist destination.


The town of Tombstone was founded in 1879 and quickly became a boom town in what is now coined the Wild West. By 1881 the population had boomed to 1,000 citizens and by 1882, it had a population between 5,000 and 15,000. In that year, the city became the seat of the newly established Conchise County.

Silver mines are what first drove people to Tombstone, but capitalists continued to move there as industry developed. The city had running water, telegraphs, some telephone service, and refrigeration, which allowed for things such as ice cream and ice skating. There were still those people who were considered shady characters and caused trouble for the law. When the Birdcage Theater opened on December 25, 1881, it became a hot spot for such fugitives, as well as ordinary drinkers, gamblers, and prostitutes. It is said that the women would hang cribs in the gambling hall for their babies to sleep in as they pleasured their clients. Today there are 14 cribs hanging along the sides of the gambling hall.

Besides drinking, gambling, and prostitution, other inappropriate behavior was known to take place at the Birdcage Theater. It is rumored that 26 people were killed within the walls of that establishment. Over 126 bullet holes still remain in the walls.

Lack of water led to problems in Tombstone. Two major fires, one in June of 1881, and the other in May of 1882, devastated the city.

There were no railways going into Tombstone, so it was isolated from the rest of the country. By 1890 the US Census says that Tombstones population had dwindled down to 1900. Then by 1900 there were only 700 residents left. It was truly becoming a ghost town.