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2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE), San Francisco’s 1915 World’s Fair. celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal and showcasing San Francisco—its recovery from the ashes of the 1906 earthquake and fire and its world trade potential. Throughout 2015, the PPIE100, a citywide consortium of cultural, civic, and historical organizations, conducted centennial programs to commemorate the PPIE’s historical significance and to reflect on its legacy. ... Read More >

Thank you for helping us celebrate the PPIE at 100

Dear Friends,

The Centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE100) is coming to an end this weekend with the closing of two major exhibitions in San Francisco: Jewel City: Art from San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition at the de Young Museum, and the California Historical Society’s free exhibition City Rising: San Francisco and the 1915 World’s Fair at the Innovation Hangar/Palace of Fine Arts.  ... Read More >

PPIE drinks to ring in the New Year

The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition brought the world’s products to San Francisco. The Palace of Food Products was a veritable showcase of “the nibbling arts”, with producers of Spanish Madiera, California Wine, and Chinese liquor vying for the attention of visitors. ... Read More >

Subframe Episode 4: Birth of a Dark Art

Images from the past often remind us of challenging histories. In particular, popular depictions from a hundred years ago show us grotesque depictions of non-white culture. The PPIE brings forth many such difficult images, including a feature length film.  Released in 1915, D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation enveloped audiences in a heroic narrative of white supremacy. Often heralded for its epic production techniques and dramatic editing, the story shocks contemporary viewers with its candid assumptions of white racial superiority. Nonetheless, it remains one of a few depictions of a difficult period in American history, namely the history of Black Americans immediately after the Civil War, or the era of Reconstruction. The film’s popularity, however, belies the efforts of Black American entertainers such as Bert Williams vying for control of their visual representation in popular culture. ... Read More >

Overfair Railway Inventor Louis M. MacDermot

Louis MacDermot with his Switching Engine at the incomplete Tower of Jewels

Louis MacDermot with his Switching Engine at the incomplete Tower of Jewels

The Overfair Railway, a one-of-a-kind miniature railroad, ran between Fort Mason and The Presidio in 1915 San Francisco. It had been designed and built by Oakland inventor Louis M. MacDermot to provide transportation within the 635-acre Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE). MacDermot’s life is a riches-to-rags story of a man obsessed by all things mechanical. His steam locomotives continue to operate today at the volunteer-run Swanton Pacific Railroad in Davenport, near Santa Cruz, California. ... Read More >

Erin-go-Blah: The Shamrock Isle at the Panama Pacific International Exposition and the end of the Irish Village.

On March 28, 1914, a story appeared in the Monitor, the newspaper and  “official organ” of the San Francisco archdiocese, which alerted subscribers to the groundbreaking that month of the only Irish-themed concession, the Shamrock Isle, at the upcoming Panama Pacific International Exposition. “For the first time in the history of this county,” the editors exclaimed, “the real Ireland is to be properly represented.” This was a big commitment: there had already been three Irish Villages at two previous world’s fairs that promised the same thing. The real Ireland, at that moment, was skirmishing with itself over labor issues and against England in pursuit of independence. It wasn’t clear in Ireland what the “real” Ireland was—colonial dependent or contender for small nation status—and if it wasn’t clear there, how could the exposition organizers be so sure of themselves? ... Read More >

March Song, 1914 Words and Music by S. and P.I. Jacoby | Published by P.I. Jacoby | California Historical Society

The Performing Arts at San Francisco’s 1915 World’s Fair

The fair brought the performing arts to millions of people. Every day was packed with music, song, and dance. Live music was heard throughout the fairgrounds—from symphonies to marches. Many visitors had their first taste of foreign culture observing dances from Norway, Ireland, Japan, China, Mexico, Hawai‘i, and many other countries. At the fair, the old met the new—from ethnic and folk dances to ballet and modern dance.

This photo essay gives a hint of the daily and special attractions that excited and enthralled more than 19 million visitors to San Francisco’s 1915 World’s Fair.

(Left) Festival Hall, 1915 Cardinell-Vincent Company | Collection of the Seligman Family Foundation (Right) Organist Playing the Great Exposition Organ, 1915 Photographer unknown | Collection of Edward A. Rogers

(Left) Festival Hall, 1915
Cardinell-Vincent Company | Collection of the Seligman Family Foundation
(Right) Organist Playing the Great Exposition Organ, 1915
Photographer unknown | Collection of Edward A. Rogers

The Festival Hall was located in the South Gardens amidst gardens, fountains, pools, and paths. The hall’s main auditorium was home to the 7,000-pipe, 40-ton Exposition Organ, the most advanced pipe organ in the world, which was built especially for the fair. There were a total of 368 organ recitals during the nine months of the fair. ... Read More >

As it happened – December 4, 2015

December 4, 2015 marked the 100th anniversary of closing day at the  Panama-Pacific International Exposition. To mark this momentous occasion, Donna Huggins, the official Spokesperson for the Centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition arranged for a final ceremony at the San Francisco Ferry Building, which has been adorned with “1915 lights” to mark the Centennial. Read more about this event in the San Francisco Chronicle, and view a slideshow of photos from the event online.

Photo by Stuart Locklear

Emperor Norton and Lola Montez. Photo by Stuart Locklear.

Photo by Stuart Locklear

Donna Huggins, Mayor Edwin M. Lee’s Spokesperson for the Centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Photo by Stuart Locklear

... Read More >

Ferry Building Tower “Lights Out” Event to Mark Centennial of Closing Day of 1915 World’s Fair

The Ferry Building Tower lights are going out. As part of the centennial celebration of the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE100) the illuminated “1915” lights on top of San Francisco’s iconic Ferry Building Tower will be extinguished to mark the exact date of the closing of the 1915 World’s Fair.

On Friday, December 4th beginning at 4:15 p.m. several hundred World’s Fair admirers, dignitaries and historians, many dressed in period attire, will be entertained by San Francisco ragtime singers as the lights atop the Ferry Building Tower are turned off, just as they were at the conclusion of the World’s Fair one hundred years ago. ... Read More >

December 4, 1915 – Closing Day at the PPIE

Closing Day at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915 Collection of Donna Ewald Huggins

Closing Day at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915
Collection of Donna Ewald Huggins

The festivities concluded with spectacular illuminations, a salvo of hundreds of fireworks, and pilot Art Smith trailing loops of flame across the sky over the Jewel City.

Nearly a half million people attended Closing Day of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition—the most fairgoers recorded for a single day of the fair’s nine months.

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: Heyday/California Historical Society, 2014). San Francisco’s Jewel City is a 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. ... Read More >