by Frank Dunnigan
San Franciscans — children as well as adults — have a long history of dressing up in costume, whether to celebrate a film premiere, a street party, a parade, a charity event, the dedication of a new bridge, or simply the annual arrival of Halloween or New Year’s Eve. Looking back through the OpenSFHistory archive, there are a number of interesting examples of costumed residents across many San Francisco neighborhoods.
1926 — San Francisco’s Armistice Day Parade of 1926 saw these costumed locals in the then-grassy Civic Center Plaza, with the 1917 main branch of the public library (now the Asian Art Museum) in the background.
1938 — The Parilia Ball, a costumed event, was for the benefit of the San Francisco Art Association in 1927 and then annually from 1934 to 1939. The event took its name from ancient Rome’s spring pagan festival, with attendees dressed in a variety of “exotic” wardrobes, accompanied by considerable eating, drinking, and merry-making. Some of the early events were held at the Art Association’s headquarters at Jones and Chestnut Streets, with later events, such as this one in 1938, at the Palace Hotel. The theme of the 1938 ball was Pre-Hellenic Crete.
1940s — These children were eager to show off a variety of Halloween costumes at Margaret Hayward Playground in the Western Addition neighborhood prior to World War II.
1947 — These two young ladies were part of the Fisherman Fiesta of 1947, an industry-sponsored event held at Fisherman’s Wharf on September 27th and 28th that year.
1948 — Costumed Shriners on parade are always a colorful spectacle, as shown here on Market Street in the post-World War II era.
1950 — In the hey-day of big-budget films, movie theater employees were sometimes costumed to match the theme of the film, such as the staff at Market Street’s Warfield Theatre for Annie Get Your Gun in 1950.
1951 — The Warfield also screened Show Boat and once again, the well-costumed staff was on hand to greet patrons.
1976 — Polk Street was home to many celebratory Halloween events each year, as shown here in the Bicentennial year of 1976.
1981 — By the early 1980s, large crowds of Halloween revelers had shifted to the Castro-Market area.
1983 — Carnaval became an annual event that attracted much attention by the early 1980s, as shown here near the corner of 14th and Valencia Streets.