Biography of Louis Mundwyler

Louis Mundwyler was born in Basel, Switzerland, and emigrated with his parents to San Francisco immediately after the Gold Rush. He grew up in his father's house at 708 Bush in San Francisco, which was lost in the Great Fire of 1906. His father, a band leader in Switzerland, sold and repaired band instruments in his new country. Louis and his two brothers became distinguished band musicians, performing as soloists on both coasts.

Louis went further. In San Francisco, Louis became famous as one of the premier musicians in the Bay Area music world during the Victorian era. He was a member of the San Francisco's Tivoli Theater orchestra for over a quarter of a century, and a regular with the Golden Gate Park Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony.

Contemporary clippings refer to him as "the leading saxophonist in that city," "one of the best saxophone players in this country," "He is one of the finest soloists on the oboe and saxophone in the city." At one outdoor concert in which rain began to fall at the beginning of his solo, the crowd stayed through the rain and gave him a standing ovation when he finished, of which the writer said, "No higher compliment could be paid to a soloist."

Patrick Gilmore was a famed band leader and composer of the 19th century, a rival to John Philip Sousa (today Mr. Gilmore is best remembered as the composer of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home"). Like Sousa, he traveled with his band, Gilmore's One Hundred, throughout the United States and Canada. Louis Mundwyler traveled with them as their featured oboist and saxophonist during the season.

He moved across the bay to Alameda in the 1890's with his wife and child to a Victorian cottage at 1125 Buena Vista Ave. In later years, after one of his brothers died, he and his other brother donated the enormous family collection of chamber music to the University of California at Berkeley, which newspaper accounts in the Chronicle and Tribune called "a rich gift," "a valuable collection." When Louis passed away in 1920, his fellow musicians escorted the coffin from his home in Alameda to his burial place in the Oakland hills.

He left his daughter Nuna a wonderful collection for her own: his lifetime's collection of dance cards and performance programs, postcards from the Tivoli Café in San Francisco, and memorabilia from his time with Gilmore's band. Nuna also inherited the cast-iron urn from the formal garden of their home in Alameda; her parents' fine china; and unique collection of Victorian Christmas tree ornaments.

One of the family treasures was a huge American flag, a thirty-three star banner purchased by Jacob Mundwyler in 1861, to fly over the family home at 708 Bush. In 1861 Secessionists in San Francisco wanted California and Oregon to join the Confederacy; Jacob bought the biggest flag he could find to show his support for the Union, and he and "the boys" sat for several nights on the front porch with loaded rifles just in case somebody wanted to take it down.

All this Nuna gave to her only child, John Louis, in 1949. He, in turn left it all to his only child, daughter Katherine, in 1990. None of the Mundwyler inheritance being offered today has ever been out of family hands since new.