Gustav Walter was a German impresario who emigrated to the USA in 1865. He moved to San Francisco in 1874 where he opened a concert saloon called The Fountain on Kearny Street. He managed the Vienna Gardens on Stockton Street and then opened the Wigwam Variety Hall on the same street. In 1886, he then built a grand theatre on O'Farrell Street which would seat 3500. This was the Orpheum Opera House which staged performances of opera, plays and vaudeville. The prices started at 10 cents for the balcony or children up to 50 cents for a box. This was low for the time and the theatre soon became the most popular in San Francisco. Following this success he opened another Orpheum in Los Angeles and then another in Sacramento. This was the start of the successful Orpheum Circuit which became a major chain of theatres but a solvency crisis then required Walter to sell his interest in the chain in 1897 and it was the new ownership, Morris Meyerfeld, Jr. and his manager Martin Beck, who took this to new heights.