From the history of world EXPO: San-Francisco -1915
Dec 05. Kazpravda
By foreign media
The Panama Pacific International Exposition was held in San Francisco, California from 20 February to 4 December of 1915. Taking over three years to construct, the fair had great economic implications for the city that had been almost destroyed by the great earthquake and fire of 1906. The exposition was a tremendous success, and did much to boost the morale of the entire Bay Area and to help get San Francisco back up on its feet.
Officially, the exposition was a celebration of the completion of the Panama Canal, and also commemorated the 400th anniversary of the discovering of the Pacific Ocean by the explorer, Balboa. San Francisco was only one of many cities hoping to host the PPIE. New Orleans was its primary rival, but in 1911 after a long competition of advertising and campaigning, President Taft proclaimed San Francisco to be the official host city.
There was some initial uncertainty about where exactly to hold the fair (Golden Gate Park had been the main contender), but it was later decided to fill in the mud flats at the northern end of the city, and to build in the location currently known as the Marina. The 635 acre fair was located between Van Ness and the Presidio – its southern border was Chestnut Street and its northern edge bordered the Bay.
The tallest well-recognized building of the PPIE was the Tower of Jewels. Standing 43 stories tall, the building was covered by more than a hundred thousand colored glass «jewels» that dangled individually to shimmer and reflect light as the Pacific breezes moved them. There were many other palaces, courts, state and foreign buildings to see at the fair – however most of them were made of a temporary plaster-like material, designed to only last for the duration of the fair. Luckily, one of the primary exposition buildings, the Palace of Fine Arts, was not torn down with the rest of the buildings, and was completely reconstructed in the 1960?s.
Architects and designers went all-out for the design of the fair’s buildings. There never before had been a fair who’s architectural focus had been so all-encompassing. 76 city blocks had been cleared or filled to set the stage for the exposition, and its final size was 635 acres, which allowed for the hundreds of buildings that were built.
Many of the buildings were constructed with a wood base (in total, one hundred million feet of lumber were used for the fair), and then covered in a temporary material called «staff» — a combination of plaster and a burlap-type fiber, which had an easily molded and sculpted texture. Although designed to only last for the year, the material was able to retain good detail.
The buildings had a very strict eight color pastel theme that had to be adhered to, so that the overall effect was one of complete unity between the buildings. A similar style in the 1500 sculptures and murals also enhanced the fair’s theme, as well as the 30,000 imported plants, trees, bushes and flowers, including 70,000 rhododendrons. Landscape architect John McLaren (also the designer of Golden Gate Park) was in charge of the exposition’s landscaping, and worked closely with the many different architects involved in the project to ensure a harmonious appearance.
A tremendous amount of effort also went into the fair’s lighting. GE designed the overall illumination scheme, which involved thousands of carefully hidden colored spotlights, giving the buildings a magical glowing look in the evenings. Previous fairs had used a standard more old-fashioned lighting effect where thousands of tiny lights bordered the perimeters of building walls, similar to Christmas lights on houses today. The PPIE was revolutionary in changing the way that future fairs were lit.
Another lighting strategy used at this fair was the «Scintillator» — a barge that floated out in the San Francisco Bay, packed with 48 beaming searchlights, that projected seven colors of light up into sky. This backdrop was made even more amazing by a locomotive positioned on a platform on the Bay, generating steam for the lights to reflect from. On many days, however, the locomotive wasn’t necessary, due to San Francisco’s natural fog that served the same purpose.
The exposition was sometimes referred to as The Domed City, because of the many buildings with curved-dome tops, including the Palace of Fine arts, Festival Hall, the Manufacturers Palace, Liberal Arts Palace, the Palace of Horticulture and the Palace of Varied Industries
The Palace of Machinery was the largest palace on the grounds, with an enormous for demonstrating various mechanical techniques. Hearst ran a giant color press here where they demonstrated printing the Examiner newspaper. There was a very popular exhibit of submarine mines and torpedoes. All sorts of exhibits were in place showing modern America’s heavy machinery, machine tools, steam, gas and oil engines, passenger elevators and hoisting apparatuses. There were also many electrical exhibits by Westinghouse and Edison.
Every state in the Union had a building representing them at the exposition. Some states designed traditional conservative buildings, while some tried to use more of a flair for the original by designing buildings that conveyed a sense of what their state represented. For example, Oregon’s state building was a replica of the Parthenon — but instead of Greek marble pillars, they substituted 48 huge redwood trunks, one representing each state in the Union. Virginia’s building was a reproduction of George Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon, and included many pieces of furniture used by President Washington. Ohio Building was an exact reproduction of the State House in Columbus, minus its dome.
And even though there was a World War in progress, almost every major nation in the world was able to construct a representative building for their country, many which were quite exotic looking.
There were many attractions to entertain visitors of the fair. The “Zone” was a 65-acre amusement/concession area, with days’ worth of entertainment. People could also visit the actual Liberty Bell (on loan from Philadelphia), have their fortune told by a gypsy palm-reader, take a ride in a biplane over the Bay , and see the day’s news headlines typed out on a giant Underwood typewriter.
There were thousands of exhibitors at the fair, from state and country exhibits, to manufacturing and production exhibits, to scientific and medical exhibits. Here is a bit of information on a few exhibits in the Palace of Varied Industries and photos showing the Hills Brothers and Sperry Flour exhibits.
And at the end of the evening, visitors could enjoy one of the spectacular nightly fireworks presentations, while sampling foods from several countries around the world (foreign cuisines being much harder to come by than it is in San Francisco today).
There was so much to do at the PPIE, that it’s not surprising how many people would return repeatedly during the course of the year to absorb as much as they could from the fair.
During the PPIE amazing 25,527 awards were given out, including 20,344 medals and 25,527 certificates.