Market Street Carnival: Vaudeville Panel


"Market Street Carnival" by Mike Mosher is a three-panel cycle of highlights from entertainment, politics and labor organizing history 1880 to 1930, for much activity in these realms took place not far from the Grant Building, 1095 Market Street on the Seventh Street corner. As in his murals "The City's Music" (1990) at Laguna Honda Hospital or the "Mission Reds at Woodward's Gardens" (1982), the artist freely mixes motifs and personages from various eras in the roiling, many-centered jumble that is San Francisco history.

"Vaudevillians & Pugilists" asserts how this has long been a rich entertainment district. Dr. Greth's sluglike balloon passes over Gallagher and Sheen and beside a wire-walker, with a ball game going on below at Central Park, Eighth and Market. Theaters like the Fox, the Granada (later the Paramount), the Orpheum, the Golden Gate and Loew's Warfield are visible behind the big tent Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show set up on Market at 11th Street in 1908. Silent movie comedian Fatty Arbuckle's film career plummets from his wildest Saint Francis Hotel party, amidst showgirls and plaster cherubs that beautified the Fox theater. A bomb exploded during the 1880s melodrama "The Octoroon" at McGuire's Opera House, but Tom McGuire and his Stage Manager Edwin Booth seem more interested in the Vadis Sisters or their copy of local humor magazine The Wasp.

A family of 1880s entertainers watch--and 1930s kids at the Crystal Market's free "Watermelon Day" ignore--the heavyweight bout between Gentleman Jim Corbett and Joe Choynski. Many turn-of-the-century fights were held at the third Mechanics' Pavillion, Market at Hayes. Among pugilists "Fat Willie" Meehan spars, John L. Sullivan brandishes the cane with which he crippled Oofty Goofty, and Jack Johnson faces Jim Jeffries under Jess Willard's watchful eye. Professor E.M. Rosner led his Royal Hungarian Orchestra at the Orpheum Theatre playing the organ with a cloth draped over the keyboard, on a stage where Al Jolson and young George M. Cohan entertained. The wirewalker, Buffalo Bill, Rosner and Cohan are inspired by Albert Tolf's excellent cartoons in the San Francisco News 1956-58. Mae Irwin--star of Edison's 1897 movie "The Kiss"--played in San Francisco frequently, though the man many call vaudeville's greatest entertainer, Bert Williams, found only crummy and demeaning opportunities on local stages.