Find of the Month

July 2022 - Music at the market

Pike Place Market

This 1925 petition’s first line recently caught our eye:

We the undersigned tenants of the Public Markets request that the Wonderphones be put back in their former locations.

…which of course led us to want to know what a Wonderphone was. It turned out to be a type of microphone (which incidentally was used in KJR’s first foray into radio) but also a type of amplification/loudspeaker, which seems to be what was being referred to in the petition. The Wonderphones had apparently been used to amplify musicians in the market. The text continued:

A recent City Ordinance known as the Hawkers ordinance has been employed in stopping our music.

This likely refers to Ordinance 45452, which regulated “peddling and hawking” and prohibited the sale of anything but newspapers, magazines, bread, milk, and ice downtown between Denny and Dearborn. It seems that buskers were also covered by the ordinance as they might solicit funds.

The 76 petitioners argued for the return of music to the market:

We find it has hurt our business to such an extent that it will not be long before a good many of us merchants are out of business.

We have never received any complaints, as to its being a nuisance from the public or adjoining merchants.

Each and every one of us enjoyed the music.

The issue of music at the market came to the fore again in the 1970s. Street musicians were outlawed until a 1974 ordinance created a path for licensing and regulating them. A meeting of the Public Safety and Health Committee the next year specifically addressed musicians at Pike Place Market, and not everyone was as enthusiastic about them as the 1925 petitioners had been. One market vendor complained that “somebody mashing guitar, screaming at the top of his voice” hurt his business and asked for more regulations.