Decorating the Walls of Saloons
In almost every saloon, one could depend on seeing the long paneled bar, usually made of oak or mahogany, and polished to a splendid shine. Encircling the bar’s base would be a gleaming brass foot rail with a row of spittoons spaced along the floor next to the bar. Along the ledge, the saloon patron would find towels hanging so that they might wipe the beer suds from their mustaches. Most saloons included gambling, including such games as Chuck-A-Luck, Three-Card-Monte, Faro, and usually an on-going game of poker.
Decorations at these many saloons varied from place to place but most often reflected the customers’ ideals. In the cowtowns of the prairies, one might see steer horns, spurs, and saddles adorning the walls, while in the mountains, a customer would be met by the glazing eyes of taxidermied deer or elk.
Like today’s drinking establishments, the walls of Old West saloons were covered with advertising prints from beer, liquor, and tobacco distributors. But, those historic walls also catered to their patrons’ fantasies, often displaying scantily dressed women for the viewing pleasure of the many men who frequented these countless saloons. These might include prints of dance-hall girls, to actresses, singers, and concubines of the harem. Often, there was the infamous nude painting of a woman hanging behind the bar.