Original Tombstone brothel licence could top $10,000 at Heritage

Heritage Auctions' sale of Old West memorabilia will include an original brothel licence from the notorious town of Tombstone.

The Arizona town was the site of the famous Gunfight at the OK Corral in 1881, and was home to a cast of gamblers, gunfighters, outlaws and lawmen including Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday.

Tombstone brothel licence
Tombstone was founded in 1881; brothels quickly followed

Today the town holds a fascination for historians and collectors alike, and original artefacts such as the brothel licence are highly prized.

Tombstone was founded in 1879, and quickly became a mining boom town due to the discovery of silver ore nearby. As thousands of prospectors flocked to the town, local businesses sprang up to meet demand, including numerous saloons and brothels.

The licence offered at Heritage was issued on September 14, 1881 to Madam Emma Parker, but by September 20 it had evidently been cancelled due to non-payment of the $4.30 fee.

A note in the local newspaper, The Tombstone Epitaph, stated that Parker would be prosecuted for "keeping a house of ill repute", and a few days later she went on a drunken rampage at the town's Occidental Saloon.

Parker was dragged from the bar in the early hours of the morning, having woken half the town with her screams. She was later booked for being drunk and disorderly by the town's police.

What makes the licence even more special is the signature on the reverse. The man who cancelled it was none other than Virgil Earp, the famous marshal who brought law to the lawless town with his brothers Wyatt and Morgan.

Earp's signatures are considered highly rare, and the document dates from less than a month before the famous OK Corral gunfight. As an artefact signed by one of the Old West's most famous figures, the licence is expected to sell for more than $10,000 when it goes up for sale at Heritage on June 11.

Please sign up to our free newsletter to receive exciting news about Old West auctions.


Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock