“The Great Chums” on the Joy Zone, 1915 California Historical Society, PC-PA 190_001

“Bravely Useful Part”: Five Women and San Francisco’s 1915 World’s Fair

In the foreword to her book Problems Women Solved, Anna Pratt Simpson credited the “bravely useful part California’s women have played in the dreaming and the making of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.”

On December 3, we recognize the birthday anniversary of one such woman: Phoebe Apperson Hearst, one of California’s and the nation’s most prominent philanthropists. In addition to her wide-ranging support of education across the state, we recall her contributions—and those of four other women—to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Their participation in the fair—Hearst, twelve-year-old African American student Virginia Stephens, artist model Audrey Munson, fairgoer Alice Sue Fun, and African American journalist Delilah Beasley—and the issues they faced are the subject of a presentation by Erin Garcia, curator of CHS’s exhibition “City Rising: San Francisco and the 1915 World’s Fair,” on December 3, 2015, at the California Historical Society. We offer this preview: ... Read More >


On July 17, the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) kicked off an event commemorating the centennial of a significant cross-country road trip by several young men including Edsel Ford, the son of Henry Ford, in 1915. The men traveled from Detroit to San Francisco to visit the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The roadtrip helped popularize automobile travel for recreation and symbolized the country’s growing fascination with cars. This summer the HVA is recreating this trip with a Ford Model T from 1915, a 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible, and an EcoBoost powered F-150 pickup truck, and documenting their experience at drivehistory.org... Read More >

The Pacific in California

by Suzanne Fischer

From Boom Spring 2015, Vol 5, No 1

“Facing West from California’s shores, / Inquiring, tireless, seeking what is yet unfound, / I, a child, very old, over waves, towards the house of maternity, the land of migrations, look afar, / Look off the shore of my Western Sea—the circle almost circled…”

Walt Whitman’s searching verses on the Pacific gaze were made concrete at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. The words, inscribed on a piece of monumental didactic sculpture, the Arch of the Setting Sun, in the spectacular Court of the Universe, in the fantastic sudden city, proclaimed that San Francisco, and America, had risen, and was rising. ... Read More >

City Hall and Civic Center Plaza, circa 1915, courtesy, California Historical Society, CHS2015.2010

Reflecting on the Amazing Year 1915

By James W. Haas

San Francisco is celebrating the centennial of the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) but there are other dimensions to the amazing year of 1915 which are worth considering. In particular, the Exposition had a profound effect on the politics, built environment and architectural style of San Francisco. ... Read More >

Phoebe Hearst at the PPIE

By Eva Ulz, curator of the History Center of San Luis Obispo County. Ulz is co-curator of a new exhibition, Phoebe Apperson Hearst: California’s Grande Dame, on display at the History Center’s museum through October 2015.

Phoebe Apperson Hearst, honorary president of the Woman’s Board, exerted a quiet yet pervasive influence on the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Widow of Senator George Hearst and mother of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Phoebe was one of the wealthiest women in America, an internationally renowned philanthropist, and honored by her fellow Woman’s Board members as “the most distinguished woman of California and second to none in the country.”1 Her work for the exposition encompassed everything from entertaining visiting dignitaries at her hacienda in Pleasanton to decorating the California Building and organizing—and substantially funding—the Traveler’s Aid Society. ... Read More >