DEL MAR — Now there’s entertainment everywhere at the fair. Not so when money to put on the event was limited and it went primarily for community exhibits, agriculture displays and commercial booths.
But there was the organ grinder and his little monkey of the Capuchin species stationed near the entrance to the ground. The monkey was outfitted in a colorful suit, tie, hat and wore an apron with a big pocket. As the grinder played music that sounded like a calliope from a box like instrument the monkey would work the crowd, sit on a kid’s lap, doff his hat, and stick out his tiny hand and collect pennies and other coins. He squealed with delight when he received paper money and would stuff the money into the pocket until it sagged.
The organ grinder was known to enjoy a nip or two of the grape and when he had too many nips the monkey could sense it and refuse to work.
In the 1800s organ grinders were common on street corners of New York and were also popular at fairs. Now they have disappeared almost completely. In some areas they wouldn’t be able to perform because of animal rights laws.
Organ grinders migrated to this country primarily from Italy.
Filed Under: EyeWitness