The Way California Could Be: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition
Exhibit Items

Exhibit Home | Acknowledgements | Introduction
Paths to Empire | The Way California Could Be | Hard Times, High Visions | Coming of Age

Playing host to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which ran from February 20 to December 4, 1915, San Francisco held one of the most extravagant and memorable world's fairs on record. Many had described this fair as culmination of what world's fairs had hoped to achieve. Honoring the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Vasco Nuñez de Balboa and the completion of the Panama Canal, this exposition was of special significance to San Franciscans in particular and to Californians in general. It illustrated to the world San Francisco's amazing resurrection after the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906.

In 1911 after a long competition in advertising and campaigning, President Taft proclaimed San Francisco to be the official host city over New Orleans. Californians rose to the occasion, funding much of the extravaganza themselves. Architects and designers went all out in designing the fair's buildings. There never before had been a fair whose architectural focus had been so all encompassing. After the devastating setback of the 1906, this was San Francisco's opportunity to shine -- to present itself as a modern, efficient palace of commerce. The fair exemplified to the world that San Francisco was a place of economic stability, social refinement and sophistication, and intellectual and technological modernity.

Among the themes to be examined in this exhibition are the entrepreneurial efforts of Charles Moore, who spearheaded the campaign to have the exposition come to San Francisco and served as the PPIE President. The exposition grounds became an ideal mini-metropolis where folks could come together in peace -- an architectural utopia, a wondrous combination of large scale, competent design (with contributions from major local and international architects including Ernest Coxhead; Bernard Maybeck; McKim, Mead and White; Thomas Hastings; Bakewell and Brown). Further unifying the efforts were the contributions of Jules Guerin who conceptualized the harmonious pastel color theme and John McLaren who worked on the exposition's landscaping design. In addition fantastic nighttime illumination of the fair, designed by General Electric, added to the dramatic effects.

The women of the state also had a prominent role at the fair. Operating from the California Building, a massive structure covering five acres, the Women's Board of the Panama Pacific International Ex-position contributed economic as well as social commitment to the project. They supervised many of the special events and social occasions held throughout the fair. In addition, they actively promoted peace and universal suffrage. In the wake of World War I, women at the fair, in general, advocated for peace and unity, sponsoring special days set aside to recognize these goals.

"'Burnham' Plan for a new San Francisco"
American Builders Review, February 1906

Report of D.H. Burnham on a Plan for San Francisco
A facsimile reprint of the 1906 plan
Urban Books: Berkeley, 1971

Map of the City and County of San Francisco, September 1905
From the Report on a plan for San Francisco, by Daniel H. Burnham, assisted by Edward H. Bennett
[San Francisco, Sunset Press, 1905]

A View of the Ruins of the City Hall after the Earthquake and Fire, San Francisco RIDER CARDINELL COMPANY
A View of the Ruins of the City Hall after the Earthquake and Fire
San Francisco, April 18-20, 1906
Hand-tinted photograph

In 1904, James D. Phelan, President of The Association for the Improvement and Adornment of San Francisco, and the Association's members were determined to make San Francisco a world-class city. These men approached Daniel Burnham, an architect who received great praise as Director of Works for the Chicago World's Fair and for his grand city plans for Washington D.C. Burnham had also designed San Francisco's Chronicle Building and Merchant's Exchange and he possessed an esthetic vision that was grounded in sound commercialism. "Beauty in the public work of a city," he said in 1902, "has always paid."

Burnham confidently articulated his plan for San Francisco. He envisioned a new Pacific capital, designed with social and spiritual order, harmony, obedience and grandeur, for men of empire. In his dream-city, a civic center with nine boulevards radiated outwards, ringed by intersecting concentric arteries and sweeping parks, greenbelts, esplanades and public squares; atop Twin Peaks shimmered an acropolis, and water cascaded down the hills from staggering heights to a system of inner-city lakes and fountains; community gardens and roadways blended in harmony with the landscape, skirting the waterfront and following the coast down to the peninsula.

Presented to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in September 1905, the Burnham Plan was endorsed by Rudolph Spreckles; architects John Galen Howard and Willis Polk; Benjamin Ide Wheeler, president of the University of California, and John McClaren, developer of Golden Gate Park. Hopes were high on the 17th of April 1906, when the plan, fresh from the printer, was deposited in City Hall for distribution. However, the elevations and sketches of streets, parks, civic buildings and monuments were burned to cinders the next morning when a mighty tremor shook San Francisco and City Hall went up in flames.

In the aftermath, the city took on dimensions of atonement, followed by an invigorated enthusiasm for rebuilding a city greater and more beautiful than ever. This occasion seemed the perfect time to realize the Burnham plan, although it was not to be. In the rush to economic recovery, idealism faded. M. H. deYoung led the opposition, editorializing in the Chronicle that the plan for the City Beautiful was, "socially unrealistic, a paper renovation without context or muscle." Within three and a half years downtown San Francisco was rebuilt along pre-earthquake lines.

"The Great White Fleet, 1908"
From the album The Exposition Site: San Francisco, 1915
Silver gelatin photograph

In 1911, The Golden Gate Valley Improvement Association began to publish pamphlets and booster cards of this "Harbor View Site" to garner support for the eventual home of the Exposition. This vista of the Golden Gate, unobstructed by the bridge and following the ridges rising to the peak of Mt. Tamalpias, with people viewing the Atlantic Fleet as it enters San Francisco Bay, easily recommends the natural beauty and vantage points of the site.

"Charlie" Moore: For the Portola Festival, n.d.

"Charlie" Moore: For the Portola Festival, n.d.
Cartoon, pen and ink with watercolor wash on board
From the Panama-Pacific International Exposition Records

Though the city was far from rebuilt in 1909, the civic pageantry of the old city was re-kindled. San Franciscans welcomed the Portola Festival as a victory celebration over the 1906 earthquake and resulting damages. As part of the celebration, an estimated 480,000 visitors came to see the flotilla of foreign warships parade majestically through the Golden Gate in tribute to the energy and courage of San Francisco. The naval entourage was attributed to Charles Moore, who convinced foreign admiralties and ministers to give international recognition to humanity's achievement in rebuilding the city. Moore was elected President of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition Company in 1911.

Plaque honoring Charles C. Moore, President of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Presented January 5, 1916

According to historian Kevin Starr, Moore was the perfect example of a progressive public official -- "a democratic man and a vitalizing personality, honoring work, and doing loads of it himself every day." Moore received this plaque of appreciation by the directors and sub-directors after the closing of the wildly successful PPIE.

Senate Report to 61st Congress on the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, submitted by Mr. Jones February 9, 1911 ( joint resolution H.J. Res. 213)
Washington: Govt. Print Off., 1911

S. J. Res. 43 Joint Resolution for the appointment of a commission to be known as the Panama-Pacific International Exposition Commission, July 28, 1911
Washington: Govt. Print Off., 1911

Departure of the Exposition Delegation to Washington, 1911
From the Charles C. Moore albums of Panama-Pacific International Exposition Views, vol. 1, ca. 1910-1915

On January 31, 1911, in a feverishly debated House vote of 188 to 159, San Fran-cisco prevailed over the favored New Orleans to host the 1915 International Exposition, celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal. The delegation (Charles Moore, standing center, on the caboose) was joined by R. B. Hale, M. H. deYoung, James McNab, W.C. Ralston, William Crocker, William R. Hearst, Julius Kahn, and Governor Gilette among others who waged a brilliant strategic campaign. In the end, California's willingness and ability to accept total financial responsibility for the Exposition, asking only for national recognition from the government, was the determining factor. Californians showed Congress, "a united West, an aroused West, and a West that knew what it wanted."

Phoebe Apperson Hearst breaking ground for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, c. 1911
Silver gelatin photograph

Captured in a moment of unabashed exuberance, the crowd, including Governor Hiram Johnson, revels in Mrs. Hearst's groundbreaking moment.

The Panama-Pacific International Exposition Celebrating the Opening of the Panama Canal at San Francisco in 1915
[San Francisco]: Panama-Pacific International Exposition Co., 1913
From the Panama-Pacific International Exposition Records

In this ornamented letterpress pamphlet, California, San Francisco and the Exposition Company, radiant with pride, pledge to accept the collective task and responsibility for the success of the Exposition.

[Charles Moore's souvenir memorial certificate from the Exposition, 1915]

[Charles Moore's souvenir memorial certificate from the Exposition, 1915]
From the Panama-Pacific International Exposition Records

"Telegram to Hon. Joseph Daniels, Secretary of the Navy from C. H. Moore, June 15, 1915 San Francisco"
From the Panama-Pacific International Exposition Records

Originally, an international navy of thirty warships from thirteen countries accepted an invitation to assemble a fleet. The ships would proceed through the newly opened canal, swing up the coast and make stately progress through the Golden Gate to anchorage in the Exposition Marina. Both World War I and delays in completion of the Canal Zone led officials to abandon the project. As Moore comments in this telegram, the decision was "one of the bitterest disappointments of the Exposition." In spite of these misfortunes, gunboats, battle cruisers, and torpedo boats in the Pacific Fleet sailed into port during the year. Moore's concern that the practice cruise of midshipmen from Annapolis would be deterred proved unnecessary, as the men arrived in August aboard the battleships Wisconsin, Ohio, and Missouri. The ships were great crowd favorites during their stay.

The Blue Book: A Comprehensive Official Souvenir View Book Illustrating the Panama- Pacific International Exposition at San Francisco 1915
San Francisco: Published by Robert A. Reid, 1915

Phoebe Apperson Hearst, Honorary President, and Mrs. Frederick G. Sanborn, President of the Woman’s Board, presided over the contributions of the Woman's Board. On their recommendation the President appointed women assistants to the directors. Women made major contributions in the development and operations of the Departments of Fine Art, Exploitation, Livestock, Mines and Metallurgy, Manufactures, Education and Social Economy, Pageantry, and Architecture. The Woman's Board provided significant and continuous contributions to the success of the enter-prise. Anna Pratt Simpson narrated a 250-page book entitled Problems Women Solved, a wonderful showing of women's contributions to the Fair, and an example of, "what vision, enthusiasm, work, and co-operation accomplished."

Dedication of the California Building under the auspices of the Woman's Auxiliary Board of the PPIE, November 21, 1914
From the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Papers

The California Building: Panama-Pacific International Exposition
Colored reproduction
From the Frank and Hannah Schwabacher Collection of California Views, ca. 1915

Women presided over the social functions and "the dispensing of hospitality" in the California State building, the official host building of the Exposition. In a departure from the Beaux Arts style of the Fair's major architecture, the California Building embodied the distinctive features of the California Mission style. The Woman's Board presided over six hundred and fifteen festivities in the building including balls, conferences, banquets, tea dances, and concerts.

Inscribed: Presented to envoy to the President and Congress of the US, Sara Bard Field on Sept. 16, 1915 on behalf of the First Woman Voters Convention and the Women of California

Inside the Palace of Education, the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage created the first exhibit by suffragists at an exposition. Participants decorated the booth with flags and a banner bearing the words of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, along with a large portrait of the "mother of suffrage." Most importantly, the booth contained every argument that could be presented visually for the extension of the vote in the United States, including a petition to Congress seeking to pass the amendment. Supporters secured half a million signatures during the Exposition.

Woman's Board of the PPIE, Exposition Day October 29, 1915
Photographic Panorama

International Conference of Women Workers to Promote Permanent Peace. July 7, 1915
Photographic panorama

International Conference of Women Workers to Promote Permanent Peace, 1915
From the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Papers

The Mother's Peace Song
"Postcard announcing the International Congress of Women Workers to Promote Peace , 1915"
From the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Papers

WAR. Notice from Exposition Letter Day, Dec. 15, 1915
PPIE Miscellany, Bancroft Collection

The number of women's gatherings at the Exposition reflects the growing consciousness of the importance of the work of women in the twentieth century. Some of the most eminent women in the world attended the 114 state, national, and international women's conventions. Although the meetings covered a wide range of topics, the onset of World War I in Europe brought the work of peace to center stage and women embraced the cause wholeheartedly. At times the tension and conflict abroad seemed to threaten the existence of the Fair. However, both Germany and Austria maintained their buildings and exhibits without incident in the utopian environment of the Fair.

Niagra Silk Mills, Souvenir postcard of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition

Souvenir postcard of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition

Advertisements in the PPIE daily program, and at the Exposition's vendor booths, often targeted women's products and new household inventions.

Mullgard's Tower and the Court of Abundance, illuminated night scene
From the Charles C. Moore albums of Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Views ca. 1910-1915, v 2

The Jewel City, San Francisco, 1915/Souvenir Views of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition
San Francisco: Pacific Novelty Co., n.d.

The Tower of Jewels and the Great South Gardens, Colortypes of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition Main Entrance, Court of the Four Seasons, Illuminated, Colortypes of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition

Colortypes of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition at San Francisco, 1915: Official Publication
San Francisco: R.A. Reid, ca. 1915

The creative impulse of the Fair expressed the desire of California to show the world it had come of age. This landmark event pointed backwards with sentiment to the ancient world and revived American frontier rhetoric through architecture and sculpture. The Exposition also marked the transition between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, as the future shone brightly in the Palaces of Machinery and Transportation, with its nightly electric illumination. The San Francisco Fair was a symbolic turning-point, poised to bring turn-of-the century aspirations into the new era of industrialization, and world commerce to California's shores.

Palace of Fine Arts and Lagoon, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915
San Francisco, P. Elder and Company, ca. 1915

Bernard Maybeck, 1852-1957
Silver gelatin photograph

Berkeley architect Bernard Maybeck had long been telling the world that architecture in California, to be beautiful, needed only to be an effective background for landscape. The plants and trees surrounding his Palace of Fine Arts exemplify his theory, as he placed the Palace -- one of California's most hauntingly romantic buildings -- at the edge of a lagoon, extending a detached colonnade to the central rotunda.

The Palace of Fine Arts and the surrounding lagoon with swans, 1915

The Palace of Fine Arts and the surrounding lagoon with swans, 1915
Hand-tinted photograph

The mythic dimensions of the Palace of Fine Arts articulated a mood that pervaded post-earthquake San Francisco: a sense of vanished possibilities, lost romance, and conquest by time. The structure expressed to San Franciscans something deep and fundamental about what they lost with the destruction of the city. Maybeck, noting that "physical forms reflect a mental condition" masterfully captured the nostalgic, time-drenched, evocative yearning for lost loveliness and glory in the Palace. This monument is the only building preserved by citizens of San Francisco, as all other Exposition structures were created only for the duration of the Fair.

The plan for the preservation of the Palace of Fine Arts and Lagoon
From the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Papers

Phoebe Hearst, Charles Crocker and other members of the Citizen's Committee appealed to PPIE stockholders to make an assignment of their Exposition stock to maintain the Palace of Fine Arts. The pitch for funding stressed the importance of maintaining the Palace's Great Gallery full of "rare and priceless paint-ings and sculpture" on indefinite loan and for providing a distinguished venue for new works by California artists.

Panama-Pacific International Exposition official program, Closing Day
December 4, 1915
San Francisco: The Wahlgreen Company, 1915

Two letters regarding the Exposition
Published in The Legacy of the Exposition
From the Panama-Pacific International Exposition Records

The Legacy of the Exposition; Interpretation of the Intellectual and Moral Heritage Left to Mankind by the World Celebration at San Francisco in 1915
San Francisco: Printed for the Exposition by John Henry Nash, 1916

This publication is a compilation of letters of appreciation. "Prepared by James A. Barr and Joseph M. Cumming, and edited by Oscar H. Fernbach, of the Exposition staff, under the personal direction of Charles C. Moore." At midnight, under a balmy winter sky, some 150,000 people bid goodbye to the Exposition with the final words of President Moore, "Friends, the exposition is finished. The lights are going out." It was not a sad audience but a satisfied and euphoric one, content that the work to which the city aspired was complete. Nothing that could have contributed to the value and beauty of the result had been left undone. There was neither financial nor moral debt, but a vast gratification to be remembered, a permanent reinforcement of community pride.

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