The Scintillator, Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Courtesy Ron Plain.

Jewel City Rebus (Subframe #01)

In this guest post, we introduce Tony Gannon of Subframe and the first episode of a podcast exploring the Panama Pacific International Exposition and its place in the history of San Francisco and the country.

Subframe is cinematically-driven storytelling, drawing on elements and themes from history, literature, science, technology, as well as the world around us. We like to think of ourselves as time traveling documentarians bringing stories from afar, packaged with a stylish bow. At our best, we’re both entertaining audiences while also giving them something to think about. Our partnership with the California Historical Society has provided us with a unique platform to delve into California’s rich history, something we are really excited about and that we want to share with as many people as possible.

We begin each episode with research – mostly reading whatever we can get our hands on. With the help of experts in the field, we hope to weave together a unique perspective through cinematic storytelling, appealing to the novice as well as the expert. The cinematic component is a great challenge: making history come alive implementing what we’ve learned as audio/visual storytellers in an audio-only format. With backgrounds in film editing, this approach is very natural to us, but each episode is nonetheless a bit of a journey. At the end of this season we hope listeners will feel they went on a time-traveling adventure of sorts.

This season we will be focusing entirely on topics relating to the Panama Pacific International Exposition and the cultural zeitgeist of the time. In our first episode, we talk with Laura Ackley, author of San Francisco’s Jewel City: The Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915, who takes us on a stroll through the fair. Her detailed descriptions start to paint a vivid portrait of the fair, and we begin to get a sense of the scale of it.

We also speak with Professor of Landscape Architecture at UC Berkeley, Walter Hood, whose perspective on the fair as a practicing landscape artist is both nuanced and elegantly simple. More than anything, Walter provides us a way of understanding landscape architecture and its relationship to storytelling.

We look forward to releasing our second episode of Subframe, featuring Abigail Markwyn, author of Empress San Francisco, and Sarah J. Moore, author of Empire on Display, which will investigate the role of gender at the fair. To follow along and to learn more about Subframe, visit our website, www.Subframe.FM.

Tony Gannon is a documentary filmmaker and audio producer living in Oakland, California. Find out more about him and his work by checking out or www.Subframe.FM.

Listen to the first episode below or at

If you have comments or thoughts about the Series, please email