“The Great Chums” on the Joy Zone, 1915 California Historical Society, PC-PA 190_001

“Bravely Useful Part”: Five Women and San Francisco’s 1915 World’s Fair

In the foreword to her book Problems Women Solved, Anna Pratt Simpson credited the “bravely useful part California’s women have played in the dreaming and the making of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.”

On December 3, we recognize the birthday anniversary of one such woman: Phoebe Apperson Hearst, one of California’s and the nation’s most prominent philanthropists. In addition to her wide-ranging support of education across the state, we recall her contributions—and those of four other women—to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Their participation in the fair—Hearst, twelve-year-old African American student Virginia Stephens, artist model Audrey Munson, fairgoer Alice Sue Fun, and African American journalist Delilah Beasley—and the issues they faced are the subject of a presentation by Erin Garcia, curator of CHS’s exhibition “City Rising: San Francisco and the 1915 World’s Fair,” on December 3, 2015, at the California Historical Society. We offer this preview: ... Read More >

Visualizing History: Mapping the 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair

Last week, The Bancroft Library, in partnership with Historypin, held a “pinathon” at UC Berkeley’s lovely 1920’s Morrison Library, to help improve the information associated with the Bancroft’s recently uploaded PPIE albums to Historypin’s online project. The event, at which PPIE author Laura Ackley lent her expertise, also gave participants the opportunity to add new information to a portion of the Bancroft’s Jesse Brown Cook collection, in preparation for their upload to Historypin. ... Read More >

“The California Sandwich,” 1915 San Diego History Center

On this day: November 20, 1915 – Los Angeles Day

Thousands of Angelenos poured into San Francisco for Los Angeles Day at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition (PPIE) on November 20, 1915. Special trains ran between Los Angeles and San Francisco, including one trip organized by the Los Angeles Times with General Harrison Grey Otis, the paper’s publisher, on board. Though it was located in San Francisco, the PPIE had been a ten-month boost to Los Angeles as people and exhibitions flowed between the two cities. With fourteen days of the fair remaining, Angelenos were eager for one final “boost” for the Southland.

Los Angeles Day started at 11:00am at the Court of the Universe with customary welcome remarks by San Francisco Mayor James Rolph Jr. and Los Angeles Mayor Charles Sebastian that included the exchange of a commemorative bronze medal. In his exposition address, L.A.’s General F. C. Prescott announced:

As the great exposition draws to a close, we of Los Angeles come to you with our vision. It is that the triumph of art here exhibited shall in replica and in miniature furnish inspiration in every school and household, and every improvement in science be adapted to our daily wants. That the high tide of human endeavor here shown ... Read More >

On this day – November 18, 1903: The United States Signs a Treaty to Build the Panama Canal

As early as the sixteenth century, nations sought passage by water through the Isthmus of Panama, a slim stretch of land bridging the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. But it was not until 1881 that a French company headed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, who had built the Suez Canal, began to dig a canal of similar construction across Panama. Plagued by engineering problems, tropical diseases, and scandal, in 1889 de Lessep’s company went bankrupt. ... Read More >

Subframe #03 – S1 Ep3 – Oakland Sunshine

In this episode we learn how the PPIE’s “Jewel City” was named by a young African American girl named Virginia Stephens. This story is brought to light by the work of journalist and historian Delilah Beasley, who was writing at the time of the PPIE. We were inspired to tell this story because it demonstrates the power of naming, as it highlights Beasley’s larger efforts to insert Black history into early California narratives. Anecdotally, We begin with the naming of California, a story that Beasley connects to a larger history of Black Californians. ... Read More >

Helen Keller seated at right with mother, Kate Adams Keller, and Annie Sullivan (standing), 1914 Library of Congress

On this day: Helen Keller Day at the PPIE

Nearly 19 million people from all walks of life thronged through the turnstiles of San Francisco’s 1915 World’s Fair—young and old, men and women, ordinary and famous.

Among the celebrated fairgoers were the author Laura Ingalls Wilder, the horticulturist Luther Burbank, the inventors Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, former president Theodore Roosevelt, the escape artist Harry Houdini, and the educator/activist Helen Keller.

“Helen Keller is the eighth wonder of the world,” wrote her friend and the literary giant Mark Twain in his January 1901 journal entry. The social reformer Upton Sinclair called Keller “America’s most famous blind girl . . . who has come to see more than most people with normal eyes.” The planners of the fair surely agreed, for they designated November 6, 1915, Helen Keller Day. ... Read More >

The Jewish Community’s Important Role in the 1915 World’s Fair

The 1915 World’s Fair came together through the hard work of many different groups of people throughout the city, working together to relaunch San Francisco just nine years after the earthquake and fires that nearly destroyed the city. Among these groups, the City’s Jewish community (particularly its German-Jewish population) played a special role.
As preparation for a panel discussion next week on the role of the Jewish community in the preparation and success of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the J Weekly explores this topic in depth.
... Read More >

On this day – A Day for San Francisco at the 1915 World’s Fair

Organizers of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE)—nicknamed the Jewel City—designated November 2, 1915 as San Francisco Day. The following account was written by fair historian Laura A. Ackley and is excerpted from her book San Francisco’s Jewel City: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 (Berkeley/San Francisco: Heyday/California Historical Society, 2014), the companion publication to the California Historical Society’s exhibition City Rising: San Francisco and the 1915 World’s Fair and winner of the California Book Award, Gold Medal for Californiana. The accompanying photographs are from the San Francisco History Room, San Francisco Public Library.

Special Days

Panama-Pacific International Exposition management packed the Fair’s calendar with parades, pageants, sporting events, drills, demonstrations, and “special days.” No day was without something extra—a speech, a parade, a competition, or a ceremony.

Organizers wanted to maintain interest, especially among locals, by offering fresh experiences throughout the Fair. “Not only must there be ‘something doing every minute,’ but something doing in a hundred different places,” said Sunset magazine. Each of the 288 days of the Fair was designated a “special day” in recognition of something—in fact, usually several somethings. To accommodate the requisite honors and activities, every day had to do double, triple, quadruple duty or ... Read More >

Did This Year’s World’s Fair Change the Future of Food?

As the Expo 2015 Milano​ (aka the World’s Fair of 2015) closes in Italy, Eater​ looks at what impact, if any, the event had on the world’s view of food. The piece (which includes a reference to San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts) notes that it was a missed opportunity:

Expo organizers are quick to point out the impressive array of events and conferences throughout Milan and Italy to correspond with the fair, which could plant seeds for innovations in the future. But nearly 20 million people visited the Expo from around the world. Though it’s easy to think that maybe if everyone learned one thing that’s better than nothing — the “spoonful of sugar” brand of activism — the Expo also feels like a huge missed opportunity to bring about real change. More than that, it could be a sign for what armchair activists we’ve all become: We come, we gawk, we conclude that hunger is a big problem in the world, and we move on with our lives with the mistaken idea that awareness is the same as action.

Read more from this interesting piece here: http://www.eater.com/2015/10/29/9622956/milan-expo-2015-worlds-fair

To learn more about food at the Panama-Pacific International ... Read More >

(Left to right) The Self-Proclaimed Vagabonds: Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone, 1918; The Henry Ford Collection

Adventures of the “Vagabonds”

A “vagabond,” according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is “a person without a permanent home who moves from place to place: wanderer. A tramp, vagrant.” This is hardly the word to describe three of the early twentieth-century’s titans of industry:  Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone, but it’s the name the three adopted, along with naturalist John Burroughs, as they toured the United States by automobile between 1914 and 1924.

With the invention of Ford’s Model T, cars became increasingly affordable to Americans who took to the highways for leisure. The road trip we take for granted today was completely new then—an adventure on rough roads in often unchartered territory. Despite the hardships involved, it captured the American spirit and offered middle class people free and open access to the kind of travel only the wealthy had known. ... Read More >