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Career Overview

Jewett Walter Bubar was born in October, 1883 in Linneus, Maine. The 11th child of the town's Baptist minister, he migrated to California with his mother and several brothers and sisters sometime after his father's death in 1895.

The family settled in Salinas, California around the turn of the 20th Century. It was there that Jewett met and married Nell McKellips in nearby Pacific Grove in 1907. The previous year he had served in the California National Guard, and had done duty in San Francisco, keeping civil order after the Earthquake and Fire.

Jewett and Nell eventually moved to Berkeley, California, sometime around 1910. At that time, Bubar began painting commercial art - in the form of small signs and "cards" -the work often solicited from small business owners by his wife. He also is known to have done larger accounts - such as his part in creating the artwork (and possibly the slogan) for the famous "M.J.B. - Why?" coffee ad campaign in the 'teens. An original rendering of one of his M.J.B. billboards exists today on the side of an old commercial building in Oakland's restored commercial district, near its present-day convention center.



Photo of Jewett Bubar

Jewett Bubar ca. 1907

Photo of California Theatre, San Francisco ca. 1917

Bubar's first office was an open,
workshop-like affair on the street level
behind the California Theatre,
4th and Market Streets, San Francisco


Newspaper ad for opening night of California Theatre

Opening Night ad for the
new California Theatre,
November 1, 1917


Bubar was offered a job working for Paramount Pictures as a commercial artist by local stage show producer, Jack L. Partingon. For years afterward, Bubar regarded Partington as the savior of his career. The exact time must have been around November 1917, since that was when the new California Theatre at 4th and Market Streets in San Francisco - Bubar's official studio was in the adjacent offices - first opened its doors on November 1st of that year. Additionally, Bubar's daughter recalls that he was already "established" in his job at the California when the great Armistice Parade ending World War I marched up Market Street (one of her earliest memories).

It was a time of great hope and optimism - both politically, and from the standpoint of those who sought profit in the burgeoning movie industry. From his California Theatre studio (on the street level facing Fourth Street), Jewett Bubar began to turn out a remarkable body of movie-based artwork unique to the era.

The California Theatre had been built by attorney Herbert Rothschild for whom Partington was working when he tapped Bubar to work for them in 1917.

After four very successful years with the new California, Rothschild built an even grander theatre palace, the Granada, three blocks up Market, to the west. At 2,656 saets, the Granada had 256 more seats than the California; both had 4-manual, 32-rank Wurlitzer pipe organs, and both were at the heart of the thriving movie exhibition industry in San Francisco.

It was here that Bubar moved into his first formal office, upstairs, behind the theatre itself. Bubar was still working at the Granada when all of Rothschild's theatres were sold to the Paramount-Publix chain in the early 1920's. Bubar also stayed with his employer through another buy-out, when Paramount was bought by William Fox in 1928. In the largest theatre transaction up to that time, Fox acquired California, Granada, Warfield, and St.Francis theatres. The new company, Fox West Coast, remained Bubar's principal employer for the rest of his career.

Bubar began his relationship with his new employer in 1928, and was able to maintain his offices in San Francisco for a time. But, soon the effects of the October 1929 stock market crash and the widening great Depression that followed, came to Bubar's doorstep. In 1933, he was encouraged by his Fox employers to take advantage of president Roosevelt's new National Recovery Act (NRA) by forming his own company with a fellow artist, Barrington Smith, in Oakland, across the Bay from San Francisco (but nearer his home in Alameda). The company would then utilize him as an outside contractor.

The new enterprise, Smith and Bubar, had its offices above and behind the new Fox Oakland Theatre on Telegraph avenue in downtown Oakland.


Photo of Jewett Bubar in artist's smock

Jewett in his artist's smock on the roof
of the Granada Theatre, San Francisco