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Guide to the California First Theater Collection
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Collection Overview
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The California First Theater Collection consists of records, artifacts, and memorabilia connected with the oldest theatrical performance house in California. The bulk of the documentation is related to the theater's last major period of activity, from 1937-1999. In addition, the collection contains significant documentation of contemporary theatrical performance in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City.
The building in which the first paid public dramatic entertainment in California was staged is located in Old Monterey. John Alfred (Jack) Swan, a sailor of Scottish descent, arrived in Monterey in 1843 as a crew member on the Soledad, a Mexican brig engaged in the coast trade between Mexico and Alta California. Upon arriving in Monterey, Swan likes the small city and decides to stay. A lack of immediate employment forces him to sea again, this time as a cook on the Mexican schooner California, captained by John B.R. Cooper, another American destined to historical importance in Monterey. After a pair of successful trade voyages between Monterey and the Mexican port of Mazatlan, Swan's culinary skills lose their luster with Captain Cooper and he loses his post. Whether he was fired or jumped ship is unknown, but he arrives in Monterey at the end of 1844, once again with no work. This time, enterprising Swan decides to make a name for himself as a baker and manages to set up a small shop. The American influx to California has begun in earnest by this time and Swan's Yankee patrons soon make Swan's pies a favored concoction. By 1846, with money acquired from the business, he purchases some land on the old Calle Estrada, now the southwest corner of Pacific and Scott Streets. In the summer of the following year he begins construction on an adobe structure, a small house already having been built, with the idea of turning it into a boarding house for itinerant sailors such as he was just a few years prior.
12.49 cubic ft. (19 boxes)
Property rights reside with the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permission to reproduce or to publish, please contact the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Monterey State Historic Park.
Legal Status Public