The Jenny Lind Theatre, Monterey

The Jenny Lind Theatre pc1The Jenny Lind Theatre pc2

Continuing with our short Central Coast, CA theme, here’s a Real Photo Postcard of the Jenny Lind Theatre in Monterey; recognized as the first building in California to offer dramatic entertainment for the public.

It was built in 1846 – 1847 by Jack Swan, a sailor of Scottish descent. Swan had first arrived in 1843 on the Mexican brig Soledad, but did not settle yet due to lack of work. He went back to sea, this time on the Mexican schooner, California, and was employed as a cook, but things apparently worked out for the best (historically speaking) when Jack either left or was asked to vacate his cook position, and ended up again in Monterey. He then enterprisingly set up a small bakery, with his pies becoming a favorite item, and timing playing a part, with an influx of new people coming to the area. With his bakery sales he purchased land, (located present-day at the southwest corner of Pacific and Scott Streets) having first built a small house, and adding to it an adobe structure, to be used as a boarding house for itinerant sailors. In 1850, the location began it’s life as a theater, when U. S. Army officers from Colonel Stevenson’s 1st New York Volunteers began putting on plays, in order to make money. (Can’t you just picture this idea forming with the guys over a few pints of ale?) Jack built a small stage with candles for stage lights, and whale oil lamps for lighting. Benches were provided for seating, and red and blue curtains were fashioned from blankets. Tickets sold for $5.00, with receipts totaling $500.00 for the first night. The theater later was used as a lodging house for whalers, but unfortunately fell into disrepair after Jack Swan’s death in 1896. See California Dept. of Parks and Recreation for the building’s current status.

As to the date of the postcard:  The AZO stamp box with two triangles up and two down, can be generally estimated from 1910 – 1930, but I’m guessing this postcard to be from the 1910s. It was found along with the prior postcard which is postmarked 1908. And it’s always possible the original photo could have been taken earlier. The black spot in the center seems to have been something that happened in the original or when the postcard was printed, as the surface of the card is smooth. Note the two people sitting at the entrance to the door.

Real Photo Postcard, unused. AZO stamp box. Circa 1910s.

Price:  $10.00

Sources:  Guide to the California First Theatre Collection. Online Archive of California. Web accessed April 4, 2015. []

California’s First Theatre. California Department of Parks and Recreation. Web accessed April 4, 2015. []