The Fox – Our Art Deco Gem

Tucson’s Fox Theatre opened on April 11, 1930. Opening night proved to be the biggest party Tucson had ever seen. Congress Street was closed and waxed for dancing (!) There were live bands, a live radio broadcast and free trolley rides into downtown. This party was not to be missed. 

An early postcard

1960s rodeo parade

Welcome to the Fox

The Fox served as Tucson’s premier movie palace. There were films on the big screen in addition to community events. There were vaudeville performances and the Tucson Chapter of the Mickey Mouse Club met there. Economic forces closed the Fox in 1974. It would fall into horrible disrepair and remain empty for 25 years. 


A group called the Fox Tucson Theatre Foundation began negotiating with the owners in 1997, and in 1999, they were able to buy the Fox for $250,000. Restoration efforts began immediately. After a six year, $14 million rehabilitation, the Fox reopened on New Year’s Eve of 2005.  


In 1930, at the original opening, the décor of the Fox was described as “Spanish Modernistic” by the city’s newspaper. This is now known as Southwestern Art Deco and the Fox Tucson Theatre is the only known theater that exemplifies this style.

A cool drink at the Fox

Even the pigeons are happy

Word is that Art Deco is back. Over the years it’s been up. It’s been down. But the look is timeless and distinctive and Tucson is fortunate to have the Fox and other smaller examples that we can enjoy every day. And there are always vintage pieces of deco popping up in the Midtown Mercantile Mall like this fantastic Art Deco skyscraper lamp pictured here. It’s in booth 830 and it’s only $25! Come on in the mall and check it out.

Art Deco skyscraper lamp in the mall

Fox detail

Carol Fenn 8-2017




The Coyote in Myth and Art

The trickster, mankind’s older brother, the creator, the desert fox, the prairie wolf, child of the moon. Today most know him as the coyote. When the moon is full, he cries to his mother, the moon. Raising his voice in a howl. Mysterious and full of sadness.  

Howling at the moon

Perhaps it is this mysterious plaintive wail that has inspired humans to incorporate the coyote into so many legends and works of art. A Tohono O’odham myth has the coyote helping their heroic god, Montezuma, survive a global deluge that destroys humanity. After humanity is restored, the coyote and Montezuma teach people how to live. In Navajo mythology, the coyote was present in the First World with First Man and First Woman. This Navajo coyote brings death into the world, explaining that without death, too many people would exist and there would be no room to plant corn. In Aztec mythology, the “old coyote,” the god of dance and music, is depicted as a man with a coyote’s head. 

The Trickster

Audubon’s prairie wolf

Mexican folk art

You can find the coyote in paintings, vintage advertising pieces, figurines, tiles, jewelry, yard art, etc. In the 19th century, John James Audubon recorded his image of the coyote, calling him the “prairie wolf.” And of course, we can’t forget about the poor hapless Wile E. Coyote! Will he ever catch that darn Road Runner!

The coyote in advertising

“Surrealist” coyote wondering why he’s wearing these clothes!

Yard art

Wile E. Coyote in another “uh oh” situation

If you want to build or add to your coyote collection, come on into The Mercantile. We have so many interesting treasures. There’s bound to be a coyote or two. And if you’re very quiet you might even hear him howling at the moon.  

Carol Fenn 8-2017

Gil Elvgren’s COWGIRL Pin-Ups

Gil Elvgren (March 15, 1914 – February 29, 1980) was an American painter of pin-up girls. He was best known for his pin-up paintings for Brown & Bigelow who produced commercial advertising, calendars, etc. 

An original Elvgren calendar

During World War II much of the nose art on military aircraft was inspired by Elvgren’s work.  

Nose art

Elvgren was associated with Brown & Bigelow from 1945 to 1972. He produced an average of twenty pin-ups a year. The women are in various costumes and in various humorous, or slightly risqué, poses. I think the cowgirls are some of his best!

But, you might ask, what exactly is a pin-up? A pin-up model is a model whose mass-produced pictures see wide appeal in popular culture. Pin-ups are intended for informal display, i.e. meant to be “pinned-up” on a wall. Pin-up models may be fashion models, or actors, or literally the girl next door. These pictures are also sometimes known as “cheesecake.” … And guess where this usage of the word cheesecake came from? It is reported that in 1912 James Kane, a photographer, was working for “The New York Journal.” One day Kane was taking photos of an attractive young woman when a breeze blew her skirt up. When more leg than usual came on display, Mr. Kane (who reputedly loved cheesecake) exclaimed, “Wow! This is better than cheesecake!”

Since we’re in Tucson, where cowgirls are “home on the range,” I thought it would be fun to feature some of Elvgren’s “cheesecake” cowgirls.   Saddle up!

Carol Fenn 4-2017

Collecting Old TUCSON Postcards

Collecting postcards is the third largest hobby after collecting stamps and money (collectible coins and bills – not just “money” lol … although some members of our society seem to be doing just that!) This can be a very rewarding pastime that can be undertaken absolutely anywhere in the world. Even Queen Victoria is thought to have had her own postcard collection, so it’s certainly a hobby that has an excellent pedigree behind it.

The old train station in downtown Tucson

Downtown Tucson in the old days

Older days

Much older days

And downtown Tucson in the really really old days

Today I’m going to focus on collecting “Tucson” postcards. It’s so interesting to collect local ephemera like this. You can learn history. You might be amused. And you will learn about interesting local sites that may or may not exist anymore. I know, when I come across an interesting old card it sends me to Google to find out more!  

Some cards can be funny and or risqué

Don’t forget about the Tucson rodeo postcards!

And the crazy cactus postcards

The Spanish Trail Motel

When you come in the Midtown Mercantile Merchants mall (4443 E. Speedway) there are almost 100 dealers. Makes for a fun afternoon, looking through each space, hunting for that elusive Tucson postcard. When you find one, it feels great! (And here’s an insider tip: booth #115 might just have quite a few postcards to look through.)

Booth #115 on the showroom floor. These would be a lot of fun to search through

Who knew that Tucson had a famous root beer place?

Who knew that Steinfeld’s was this big!

I always wanted to see the famous diving girl’s pool. Here it is!

Once you have your postcards, don’t just keep them in a drawer. Display them as art. This way you and your friends can enjoy them every day.

A great way to display your postcards

Enjoy your search!

Carol Fenn 4-2017

Arizona’s Buffalo Soldiers in Art and Photos

“Buffalo Soldier” is the nickname given to the first African-American members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Buffalo Soldiers, usually mounted on horses, were common figures in Arizona near the U.S./Mexico border at the turn of the twentieth century. Henry Flipper, the first African-American graduate of the U.S. Military Academy was stationed at the barely tamed outpost of Fort Huachuca in Arizona.

Buffalo soldiers, Arizona c. 1890

Buffalo soldier in the ninth cavalry, 1890

Buffalo soldiers, Tombstone, AZ

Buffalo soldier

The ONLY World War I battle fought on American soil involved the Buffalo Soldiers! In August of 1918, armed Mexican troops were seen in Nogales, Sonora with several men thought to be advisors to the German military. It appeared that the Germans were planning an attack on Nogales, Arizona! On August 27, 1918, Buffalo soldiers briefly exchanged sniper fire across the international border. Yes, a skirmish, but this is considered to be the only World War I battle fought on American soil!

Fortunately there are a few old photographs of Buffalo soldiers and they have ALSO been dramatically and beautifully depicted in paintings, most notably by the famous American artist, Frederick Remington.  

For more information you can visit The Buffalo Soldier Museum, Fort Huachuca, Arizona

Carol Fenn 5-2017