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Diddlin Dora’s / Madam DuFran, Historic Brothel Sign / The Old West, South Dakota Cathouse
Colored & Chinese / White Women / $3.50 & $5.00
Belle Fourche, South Dakota
Date/Period: Late 19th to Early 20th Century - SOLD

Diddlin Dora’s / Madam DuFran, Historic Brothel Sign / The Old West, South Dakota Cathouse, entire view 1

Measurement: Frame: 16.25" x 14.25"; sign: 12.5" x 8.125"

Material: Heavy sheet brass, includes a walnut frame having a Hotel Cody back mark.

Condition: Excellent.

Madam Dora DuFran or Dora Bolshaw (née Amy Helen Dorothy Bolshaw) (November 16, 1868 - August 5,
1934) was one of the leading and most successful madams in the Old West days of South Dakota.
More than a few inhabitants of early Fargo sought economic opportunities in the local sex trade, and the
intersectionality of class, gender, sexuality, and race was central to their varying degrees of success. Early
day Belle Fourche was a cow town, catering to the needs and wishes of the cattlemen and cowboys. One
street, now 5th Avenue, is still called Saloon Street by old-timers.
Dora was born in Liverpool, England and immigrated to the United States with her parents Joseph John
(November 14, 1842 - March 26, 1911) and Isabella Neal (Cummings) Bolshaw (November 12, 1844 - April
12, 1911) sometime around 1869. The family settled first at Bloomfield, New Jersey, then moved to Lincoln,
Nebraska in 1876 or 1877. Dora was an extremely good-looking woman in her youth and became involved
in prostitution around the age of 13 or 14. She then became a dance hall girl, calling herself Amy Helen
Bolshaw. The gold rush hit Deadwood, South Dakota when she was around 15…the enterprising Dora
promoted herself to Madam and began operating a brothel; she is widely credited with coining the term
cathouse” for a house of prostitution. Madam Dora DuFran one of the most successful businesswomen in
South Dakota operating several brothels. The most popular was called "Diddlin' Dora's", located on Fifth
Avenue in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. "Diddlin' Dora's” advertised itself as 'Three D's - Dining, Drinking,
and Dancing - a place where you can bring your mother.
' That may have been true of the lower level,
perhaps, but the upstairs was reserved for her girls and their clients. Dora’s occupation was
commemorated with little devils depicted dancing on the urns that decorated her eventual grave. She
donated a huge amount of money to those in need, often offering up her rooms to the sick and the
struggling. She was known for her surprisingly good relationship with her husband, Joseph, who is buried
beside her and her pet parrot in a family plot.



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