Zeno Mauvais Music Store

Selling sheet music, band instruments, pianos, and music boxes, the Zeno Mauvais Music Store and Publisher was located at 769 Market Street in San Francisco, but the enterprise originally began in Oakland, where Mauvais lived most of his life. Having come to the Bay Area from Watertown, NY at the age of eighteen, Mauvais established himself as a music store operator and sheet music seller in Oakland and later, in San Francisco. References to the Mauvais piano selling business appear as early as 1879 and by 1880 several issues of The Oakland Tribune reveal an ad by Mauvais, stating: “I am now prepared to lend money on pianos at reasonable rates. Zeno Mauvais, 420 12th Street, Oakland.”


The business settled in San Francisco (at the Market Street location) more firmly after Mauvais died in 1890 and his widow sold the shares to the Zeno Mauvais Music Co. The publishing side of the music store took off but by 1896, legal troubles familiar to scholars of Tin Pan Alley era music publishing began as well. That year, two simultaneous song copyright infringement suits were brought against the music store and publisher. One by Broder & Schlam of San Francisco and the other by White-Smith Music Company of Boston. Both music publishers alleged that Zeno Mauvais had taken popular Vaudeville songs and re-published them under a different name. The case brought by Broder & Schlam targeted “Ma Angeline,” published by Zeno Mauvais, is particularly interesting. It was dismissed because the court ruled that the plaintiff’s “indelicate and vulgar” use of the word “hottest” made it ineligible for copyright protection. For more on this case and to compare the lyrics, check out the Music Copyright Infringement Resource, sponsored by Columbia Law School and the USC Gould School of Law.


And here is the cover of one of Zeno Mauvais’s less contested pieces: “Sobre Las Olas: Valse” (Over the Waves, or Dancing Waves) by Juventino Rosas, published 1889/1890. The full sheet music is available at the San Francisco Public Library, in the Sheet Music Collection.