Books commemorate 1915 Panama–Pacific expo

COURTESY  PHOTO

COURTESY PHOTO

The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal and showcased San Francisco’s emergence from the ashes of the 1906 earthquake and fire as a center of beauty, progress and innovation. PPIE100, a yearlong celebration of the exposition, includes special events, exhibits, and multiple publications.

Two handsome books – “San Francisco’s Jewel City: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition” and “Panorama: Tales from San Francisco’s 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition,” both by local authors – capture the excitement of planning for and attending the world’s fair, which spread across 635 acres in what are now 76 city blocks in the Marina district.

Filled with reproductions of maps, photographs, posters, postcards (many hand-tinted), promotional materials, souvenirs and other ephemera, the volumes bring the expo’s miniature city to life. Dominated by a 43-story Tower of Jewels, it included courtyards, formal gardens and palaces, each filled with exhibits and events showcasing turn-of-the-century achievements and possibilities.

Visitors – nearly 19 million – rode around a 5-acre reproduction of the Panama Canal on a moving platform. The Scintillator beamed 48 lights in seven colors across fog banks, and a steam locomotive was available to generate artificial fog.

Performers included opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini, Wild West legend Buffalo Bill Cody, and ace aviators Eddie Rickenbacker and Art Smith. French composer Camille Saint-Saens composed “Hail, California” for a 300-voice chorus, and pioneering female composer Amy Beach wrote “Panama Hymn.” John Philip Sousa led the band. Celebrity visitors included film stars Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin. Anne Sullivan spoke in honor of Helen Keller Day, and Laura Ingalls Wilder came with her mother.

Today, apart from Bernard Maybeck’s iconic Palace of Fine Arts, nothing remains of the fair.

“Panorama,” written by Bruno Lee, grandson of Reuben Brooks Hale, a visionary businessman who spearheaded organizing the fair, offers full-page images and succinct informational essays.

In twice as many pages, “Jewel City” – by architectural historian Laura Ackley – offers a more detailed account of the fair’s history and more than 200 images. Remarkably, there is negligible overlap in the reproductions, so these volumes complement each other nicely.

If your PPIE fever isn’t quelled by these publications, two more academic offerings accentuate the exposition’s expression of empire: “Empress San Francisco: The Pacific Rim, the Great West and California at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition” by Abigail M. Markwyn (University of Nebraska Press, 2014) and “Empire on Display: San Francisco's Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915” by Sarah J. Moore (University of Oklahoma Press, 2013).

BOOK NOTES

San Francisco’s Jewel City: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915

By: Laura A. Ackley

Published by” Heyday Press and the California Historical Society

Pages: 390

Price: $40

Panorama: Tales from San Francisco’s 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition

By: Lee Bruno

Published by: Cameron + Company

Pages: 192

Price: $29.95

artsbooksLaura A. AckleyPanorama: Tales from San Francisco’s 1915 Pan-Pacific International ExpositionSan Francisco’s Jewel City: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Folks wave from the side of a Muni cable car as it heads down Powell Street after cable car service returns from a 16-month COVID absence on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco’s cable cars return after 16-month absence

San Francisco’s cable cars are back, and they’re free for passengers to… Continue reading

Blue California often is the target of criticism by conservative media, but now is receiving critical attention from liberal writers. Pictured: The State Capitol. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)
Why is California now being criticized from the left?

California being what it is – a very large state with a… Continue reading

Tiffany Carter, owner of Boug Cali West Coast Creole Shack in San Francisco’s La Cocina Marketplace, was dismayed by gentrification she found when she returned to her hometown to start a business. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF Black Wallstreet: Helping residents build wealth, reclaim spaces they’ve had to leave

Tiffany Carter moved back to her hometown of San Francisco five years… Continue reading

Steven Buss, left, and Sachin Agarwal co-founded Grow SF, which plans to produce election voter guides offering a moderate agenda. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Grow SF: New tech group aims to promote moderate ideals to political newcomers

Sachin Agarwal has lived in San Francisco for 15 years. But the… Continue reading

Most Read