Market at Bush and Battery
This sculpture by Douglas Tilden was one of three major art works for the Market Street Beautification Project at the turn of the 20th century. It was funded with a bequest of $25,000 from James Mervyn Donahue, the son of the late Peter Donahue, who in 1850 started the state’s first ironworks and machine shop, established the first gas company for street lighting in the city in 1852, and later initiated the first streetcar line.
Commissioned to create a monument for the Donahues, Tilden had difficulty finding an idea. Taking a walk on Mission Street, he passed an open-air machine shop and spotted a sweat-drenched, muscular man operating a “punch press” machine. Thinking of how Donahue began his empire, he envisioned an oversized version of a punch press in bronze, with five men struggling to operate it. The Donahues were skeptical when seeing his sketches, but Mayor Phelan, who had been a great patron of Tilden, insisted that the sculptor have freedom of expression to create an enduring monument that would be a tribute to all those who had toiled to make the Peter Donahue fortune – it would be a greater tribute.”
The Mechanics, was unveiled in 1901. The immodesty of his design set tongues wagging; fortunately, the lobby to make pants for the sculpture failed.
This photograph was taken after the 1906 earthquake.