Celebrating self-expression as a basic human right essential for the
healthy growth of youth, individuals and communities
COMMUNITY ARTS ADVOCATES, INC.
Stephen H. Baird, Founder and Executive Director
39 Robeson Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
Web site: http://www.communityartsadvocates.org
The History and Cultural Impact
of Street Performing in America
by Stephen Baird © Stephen Baird 2000-2021
The following little historical references are just a glimpse of the depth and breadth of the creative spirit of the human race that blossoms on the street corners, market places, subway platforms and other public places people gather.
Phototgraph from Boston West End 1955
Photo by Kevin Cole
Marino Persechini farewell party on November 19, 1974 Photo by Stephen Baird
There were only two organ grinders left in Boston at the time. The banning of street music in New York City in 1935, curtailed hurdy gurdy players all over the country since most instruments were bought and repaired there.
Boston Police Rule 75 actually required the instruments to be inspected every April.
Boston Common "Pete and the Monkey"
Page from my scrap book which is circulated during my street performances.
This article and picture appeared in the Boston Globe March 10, 1935. The Boston Globe also wrote an editorial opposing Mayor LaGuadia ban of street music on the same day which was published in the New York Times. Also sent another editorial a year latter on April 21, 1936.
Mayor LaGuadia started ban in 1935 and the total ban went into effect on January 1, 1936. The New York Times had many articles on the public out cry over the ban. NBC Radio did a live broadcast in support of street performers. Judges dismissed cases, but the ban remained in effect until 1970, when Mayor Lindsey lifted the street performance ban.
References are from New York Times. Included are a few earlier references back to 1915. I am writing a book on the history of street performances. The web site has lots of information and this information and other information on Hurdy Gurdy and Street Organs will be posted soon. Please give me credit and a link to: http://www.CommunityArtsAdvocates.org/StreetArts.html
New York Times:
3/8/1935 -- Only 14 issued, no more will be licensed (51 issued previous year). Organ grinders licenses abolished, welfare department issued.
3/9 -- licenses, ban issued
3/10, VII, pg 201:12 -- Globe editorial and picture
4/14, VII, pg 201:12 -- Swan song of hurdy gurdies
4/16, 23:7 -- lost popularity musicians talk
4/28 -- Limited licenses so S. Lupicon can get one (Previously arrested), played at city hall and turned away
9/23, 19:7 -- freed by court for singing
11/27, 10:3 -- Greece -- organ grinder ban lifted.
1/1/36 34:2 -- Ban and arrest of street performers by Mayor LaGuadia, NBC radio broadcast to support street performers. LaGuardia says "He will not license begging on the streets" $8ooo collected for fees, 5000 sign petition to keep music on street.
1/3, 21:8 --German band leader arrested
1/4, 17:4 -- released
1/11, 17:3 -- organ grinders on radio to appeal
1/17, 21:3 -- Mayor will continue ban
1/23, 25:5 -- Opera singers send letter to Mayor
1/24, 18:7 -- Letters plead
1/25, 14:4 -- Editorial
1/26, 3:5 -- NBC makes Mayor's ban letter public
4/16, 20:4 -- Editorial against ban, loved by children
4/20, 12:7 -- Letter deplores disappearance
4/21, IV, 8:6 -- Boston Globe sent editorial opposing abolishing street musicians
5/9, 17:7 -- 4 freed despite ban
5/11, 18:4 -- Editorial
5/17, 38:1 -- suspended sentence of 2
8/11 -- Arrested, Suspended sentence, judge likes music, $1 fine.
8/12, 8:5 -- hand organist arrested and freed
4/15/1939, 18:7 -- Letter on ban
3/13/1942, 18:4 -- Editorial urging return of street players
Few more references to street organs:
12/11/1915, 22:3 -- Street organ grinders and vendors have to move 250 feet when complaints issued.
4/4/1926 -- II, pg 3 -- "ExSoldiers Grind Organs"
Only a few Italians play in London now, due to Facist's ban--
Unemployed exservicemen have supplemented Italian organ grinders in the streets of London. A Fascist edict withholds passports because such means of livelihoods derogates from the prestige of fascist Italy.
"There were nearly 1000 Italians cranking organs in London before the war. Now there are only three or four says Luigi Pesaresi who made instruments for 50 years --still 400 played. Ex Officers would wear black mask while wife and children collect pennies.
1/26/1930, V, 17:4 -- organ grinders
Street Arts and Buskers Advocates
Copyright © 1999-2021 by Stephen Baird