Fact #4

The photograph above is of a melodeon located in San Francisco. The photo was taken in 1854 and can be found in the San Francisco Public Library collection.

In nineteenth-century San Francisco, a melodeon was an establishment resembling a dance-hall or concert saloon, but without the dance floor. Patrons visited melodeons for liquor and theatrical diversion. No women were permitted to enter melodeons unless they were performers or waitresses. The entertainment included bawdy songs, skits, and dances. The cancan was a particularly popular dance at the time.

The name, melodeon, was derived from the instruments which were commonly employed in the original melodeon establishments of San Francisco. The instrument, also called a melodeon, was “a small read organ worked by treadles which acted upon a suction bellows, the air being drawn in through the reeds.” (Asbury, Herbert. The Barbary Coast. Basic Books, 2008.)


Since my novel, Harmony on the Horizon, involves San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, melodeons are mentioned in the story.


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