tv 1915 San Francisco Worlds Fair CSPAN January 10, 2015 9:10pm-9:50pm EST
>> ♪ >> unskilled laborers, the forgotten man of past generations, now works deadly of decent wages. they are building and repairing schools, public buildings, community centers, and airports to meet the changing needs of our modern world. >> the 1915 world's fair officially known as the panama-pacific international exposition was held a century ago in san francisco. the fair was a solid ration -- celebration of the panama canal completion anyway for the city to showcase his recovery from the deadly earthquake. laura ackley discusses the fair and illustrate some of the inventions exhibited that year.
this 40-minute event was hosted by the california historical society. >> welcome to a whirlwind tour of the panama-pacific international exposition. thank you so much to the california historical society for hosting tonight's event and especially ada jasonm, and the director and to lillian for putting together this lovely event. also thanks to chs for co-publishing my book. you can see why i felt the book had found its home when i spoke to malcolm. if you like to hear about other events you can sign up on my mailing list which i will have after the show.
also, we are going to publish them on the site. if you want to hear about other topics, please sign up. tonight i will be pretty -- presenting a brief introduction to the great world fair held in 1915 also known as the ppie. i hope you will enjoy the stories i selected tonight. first, i will give you background on the fair, why and how he came to be built, and we will take a short tour of the grounds before peering into a few of the exhibits and finishing off with a jotted down the midway. afterwards, i will be happy to take questions. here we have driven brooks hale brothers department stores. he first suggested san francisco host 1915 worlds fair in january of 1904. he wrote the occasion could be
advertised as the opening of san francisco as the center of trade to the pacific ocean or in commemoration of the completion of the panama canal. this was a highly optimistic addiction considering -- prediction considering the french government has been 23 years trying to build the canal and failed. for the next two years after 1904, planning for the fair proceeded slowly because there was plenty of time. then this happened. on april 18, 1906, fate threw a huge wrench into the works. it is calculated at 7.8. percent support fires raged for three days. it is estimated 3000 people died
and $500 million of property was lost. this would be about $12.3 billion today the great men of the city saw the exposition as a possible and plan of the recovery effort -- linchpin of the recovery effort. as reconstruction commenced they revived the idea for the fare less than nine months after the cataclysm. as rebuilding progressed through 1910 san francisco engaged in new orleans in an intense congressional battle for federal endorsement for a world's fair. after defeating new orleans in early 1911, san francisco had to decide where to place the exposition. everyone in the city had his favorite site. all of the local fraternal organizations, clubs, and improvement districts weighed in. as the official historian of the
fair wrote "the curious fact developed that each organization seemed in favor of the site nearest it." [laughter] one editorial cartoon suggested building the exposition on a giant truck and moving it around the city to each site on a different day of the week. the three most popular suggested sites were lake merced, the western portion of golden gate part, and harborview, which is known as the marina today. after a number of proposals including this one, which encompassed 1800 acres spread over harborview, the district, and golden gate park, harborview alone was finally selected. the heart review site -- harborview site was a natural amphitheater of 600 acres.
the site posed unique challenges. about 70 acres were waterlogged. all this area here had been partitioned and sold years previous under the assumption they would one day be filled. the lots were protected by a seawall. but at high tide, they as much as 20 feet underwater. the first step for the site was to clear structures off the site in preparation for the dredging and filling operation. owners of the land could keep their structures and move or demolish them or sell them to the exposition company. the exposition company bought only the building and leased the land. on april 13, 1912, the exposition president fired up john mcmillan and the filling of
the water lots began. next came the design of the fair. the exposition company hired city planning expert edward bennett to prepare a block plan for the exposition. the layout of the exhibit palaces differed significantly from previous american worlds fairs. while the expositions at chicago, buffalo, and st. louis had striven for a unified parents -- appearance, they still consisted of individual buildings set within a plan. in san francisco, a system of palaces and courts was devised in which eight central palaces were similar in plan and differed only in the side detail -- for side detail. they were separated by grand courts each designed by a different architect. lewis polk said in general outline, they are to blend together. it is to be one grand palace as
the orientals build them spreading over the area at harbour view colonnade after colonnade, dome after doan, arch after arch penetrated by avenues, flanked by gardens, and aladdin's alice facing the harbor and mountains beyond. this compact scheme had advantages because as we all know, the mild california climate can be not so mild. this walled citadel provided shelter from wind and fog. had previous large worlds fairs visitors have become exhausted by the great distances between the buildings which were as much as 400 feet apart. here they were more closely spaced at about 150 feet. all of the structures were timber framed with the exception of the tower of jules, the
gallery portion of the palace of fine arts, and the dome of the house supported culture -- horticulture. most of the lumber arrived by ship to the exposition. horses dragged planks to the building sites. here you can see a horse pulling lumber in the lower left-hand side of the slide. you can see the scale with which they were building in timber. in addition to the architecture, the ppie featured a number of notable new design elements including the landscaping, color plan and illumination. the color plan was novel. it was popularly termed the
white city. subsequent fares largely confirmed to its present. the ppie's director of color, a well-known illustrator envisioned a city of ivory and one orientals use -- hughes -- hues. in addition to ivory, his color scheme included great, orange, oxidized copper green, cerulean blue, and tones of pompeii in red. every area was required to conform to his palette by going to the guards uniform straight the bottoms of the pools were painted blue. the murals reflected his choices. even the road surfaces were treated with roasted each sand to create a pinkish color. john mclaren superintendent of
golden gate part, was enlisted as chief of landscape early in the planning process. he worked closely with the architects to achieve stunning landscape effects. two years prior to the exposition, he built six greenhouses in the presidio and cultivated the plants that would adorn the grounds. more than one million bolts were planted. the flowers were changed three times over the course of the exposition so they were always in berlin -- in bloom and coordinated with the color scheme. this is two postcards of the same view of the tower of jewels showing entirely different types of plantings. another notable feature of the grounds was the immense hedge fence that ran for four city blocks from the fillmore street gate to the scott street main entrance seen here.
it was grown in boxes and then affixed to a vertical framework. the hedge was eight feet thick and 20 feet high. it runs in 36-foot arches of the main entrance of the fair. this beautiful color picture is from donna huggins. walter darcy ryan was appointed chief of illumination. his spectacular lighting effects included the tower of jewels and the mosquito fleet of spotlights on the tops of palaces each focused on individual flat or piece of sculpture. ryan popularized this idea of indirect lighting which changed the standard for architectural illumination permanently.
the exclamation point was the tower of jewels. at 43 stories, it dominated the skyline. described by one writer as italian renaissance with byzantine modifications designed to suggest an aztec tower. it is no wonder critics were and will do less ambivalent about the tower of jewels. the building had seven tears culminating in a sphere and was framed in more than 1400 tons of structural steel. most memorable were the cornices. he ordered 200,000 of these two-inch diameter austrian glass
jewels to be hung on the building. they came in colors, diamond ruby, aquamarine, and john quote -- jonquil. they had easy play in the air currents causing them to glimmer and sent late -- since late -- in the day and shine at night. we will visit some representative structures in each area. at the far western end about 287 acres of the presidio were used. to the east lay the palace of fine arts. the eight main central palaces were similar in structure. in the south gardens were the palace of horticulture and the festival hall. clanking the eastern end of the palace walk was the gigantic palace of machinery.
towards the southern end, the midway started extending seven blocks east and terminating at venice avenue -- van ness avenue. the presidio -- extended west of the racetrack which we can see here. structures included the livestock exhibits and athletic fields. part of the palace of fine arts and the state and international pavilions. 27 states and territories and 21 foreign nations constructed buildings for the fair. fortunately for you, i'm only going to discuss three. [laughter] first of all, the oregon building, which was a rustic billet -- version of the parthenon. 's outer colony consisted of 48 huge douglass for columns the same number as the outer colonnade of the parthenon in
athens and the same as the number of u.s. states in 1915. the five-acre california building was the largest state pavilion ever built for next position. its west housed administrative offices while the eastern wing showcased five acres of exhibits from all 58 california counties. of the 21 foreign pavilions example i will use today is the pavilion of the netherlands. the netherlands pavilion was not meant to evoke historical dutch buildings, as many of the foreign pavilions to, the rather modern -- but rather modern architectural concepts. i think it is a strong portend of art deco in its lines even though it was yet a decade away. the sole ppie building is
beloved but has interesting stories to tell. in august of 1912, the architectural commission reviewed early plans for all of the palaces. they were especially impressed with a lovely charcoal sketches of the palace of fine arts and congratulated architect willis polk on the design. was polk said the drawings were by his friend bernard maybeck and maybeck got to be engaged to finish the design. the commission agreed wholeheartedly. the palace cost about $630,000 to build. the character was said to have been inspired by the painting "the island the dead." on its site was an existing lagoon regarded as a nuisance until made that transmuted it into an asset.
the current gallery was one of the few structures built of steel. this was not because of structural necessity but because of the fire insurance requirements for the palace. the eight main palaces were designed by william sample -- sev saville. this was the palace of food arts, the palace of education, architecture, transportation manufacturing, lines, and liberal arts. on the western line were two of the concave half domes and these faced the lagoon of the palace of fine arts. you can imagine now you're not going to be looking at a row of very lucky homeowners, with this the side -- facade.
in the south gardens on the west side, stood the extravagant palace of horticulture. gets glasgow was larger than that of either the pantheon or -- its glass dome was larger than that of the pantheon. it was likened to an opel. the other building in the south garden was the festival hall. the 4000-foot auditorium housed a new organ and many prominent organists of the day entertained throughout 1915. the central court of the universe was inspired the massive oval piazza at st. peter's basilica in rome. this piazza measured more than 700 feet long and 520 feet wide. looking down from its current cornice were 90 star maiden sculptures by stroman calder. paul petit -- while pettitte in
appearance, each with six feet tall the vast nine-acre capacity east of the palaces. it provides an excellent summary of the enormity. this is the view looking south along one of the three great knaves of the palace of machinery. these reached 75 feet wide and 101 feet high through the entire length of the building which is 968 feet. this building is nearly 1000 feet long. the structure is the largest wooden building in the world containing more than 38 million cubical feet of space. the midway of the ppie step the joys zon it comprised about 65 acrese. .
it was 100 feet wide. the division of concessions to create the facades express what was offered inside, ideally a person could identify the type of attraction without reading any signage. this resulted in a quirky, chaotic, and fantastical mix of sculpted building fronts. historian todd said it was the great amusement street with its golden buddha, tall suffragette and twin soldiers, its chinese pagoda the giant holding back the waters of the dayton flood is cliff -- its cliffs and crags of the grand canyon, and neptune and his seahorses. the whole thing had a grand and imposing aspect in spite of its
necessary garrison us. -- gerrarishn i will point out how quickly it was builtess. here it was with almost nothing constructed. a celebration was held for the groundbreaking of the palace of machinery. by may, the main vaults were rising. on december 30, lincoln bg flew his airplane through the palace in the world's first indoor airplane flight. about a year before opening day you can see the palace of machinery is almost complete while the forms of the other palaces are coming along. here is the view from the west. there are no visible signs of festival hall or tower of jewels. the palace of fine arts is a muddy pit. you can see the form of the lagoon taking shape.
here is a series of panoramas that illustrates the evolution of the exposition. wants these palaces were completed, it was left only to fill them. palaces were filled with the latest in technological achievements he something stressed by management was only gave awards for articles developed over the prior 10 spread let's take a look at a few of the thousands of exciting new developments illustrated at the ppie. first of all, airplanes. as we know, the wright brothers first successful flight at kitty hawk was in december 1903 so airplanes were not a factor at the 1904 saint louis exposition. the ppie was the first
international exposition with airplanes as a major component. tragically, lincoln beachy was killed at the fair on march 14 when he attempted and under -- upside down flight sharing off the wings sending them i -- him into the bay. art smith dazzled crowds with his start flying including death spirals and night flights. this is closing night. the original sun maid raisin girl who posed for the famous picture on the box was lorraine collect -- lorraine collette.
she went up in a plane and tossed raises to the crowd. ordinary citizens could enjoy their first right in a plane. for $10, you could take a 10-minute flight from the harbor over the presidio, sausalito, and alcatraz before lending. the correct pronunciation is something like lockheed. oh. the two brothers used the $4000 profit they made it fair to refound the lockheed corporation. even sooner portraits you could have involved airplanes -- souvenir portraits you can have involved airplanes. before 1915, you could not telephone the east coast. the first transcontinental phone call took place between phone company offices in new york and san francisco. in new york was alexander graham
bell. in san francisco was thomas watson, received bell's very first telephone transmission 38 years earlier. the related transcontinental telephone call theater became one of the most popular exhibits at the fair. when description read, "here you enter a little theater and sit for half an hour. for the first 10 minutes to hear a lecture on the development of the telephone. for the next 15 minutes, you watch motion pictures of the building of the transcontinental telephone line. then you take a pair of receivers from the back of the seat in front of you and put them to your ears and new york is switched on the line. a boy in the new york office reads the headlines from the afternoon papers, describes the weather conditions, and switches on the phonograph and you hear canned music by telephone over a wire 3400 miles long." it is a thrilling sensation
especially to anyone who has just traveled from the atlantic coast to be carried back in an instant to a place from which he has traveled five days and nights by train to san francisco." i think we can all contemplate how much telephone technology has changed in the span of our own lives and understand how visitors to this exhibit felt. another display that your big crowds was the 14 time giant typewriter -- 14 ton giant typewriter. it moved slowly but fascinated onlookers. daily news was typed on the typewriter. the bulletin shown in this picture reads "liverpool, may 7 the lusitania with a heavy passenger list of americans was torpedoed and sunk off the irish
coast this afternoon." the star of the show in the palace of transportation was a working board model assembly-line -- fort assembly-line. the signaled a sea change in the mode of personal travel. automobiles had increased hugely and easily line concept was also developing rapidly. the first finished model t rolled off the line within four minutes of the opening of the exposition. cars moved down the line at about 15 inches a minute. each car started as an empty chassis pulled by a chain. everything including wheels, engine, transmission interior were attached. gas was added and the car drove off the line under its own power. here is a day's consignment of
18 cars completed each day. the finished cars drove the local for distributor and were shipped all over the country. the model line attracted more than 4 million visitors during the exposition. that is a little than one in four people who came to the fair that saw the exhibit. passengers stepped into an elevator cage and were told they were going to descend a few hundred feet. the cage would shake, air would rush up, the rock walls would pass by. but this was illusory. they would exit at the same level. after witnessing demonstrations of current mining technology, visitors entered "a darkened room at which you may look at real specimens of radium." because that is a good idea. [laughter] and see the palpitating maze of this most marvelous of recent physical discoveries, the infinitely energetic element
that perpetually imitates power without loss of its capacity. in 1915, radium was a wonder material with tremendous potential. now we know radium is incredibly dangerous. it is treated as calcium by the body and can mutate bone cells and cause cancer. handling has been blamed for madame curie's premature death. another captivating exhibit in the palace of mines was a complete 11,000 square foot model post office. a visitor standing on the elevated gallery could drop a piece of mail into a shoot and watch a travel all the way to the outbound mail pouch were general delivery window. they received a special cancellation as seen on this postcard. a card mailed at the station was
readied at the general delivery window within three minutes with an appointment to meet friends to be made. when mailed himself a picnic lunch by parcel post in the evening and pick it up at the exposition by new and the next day. after examining all of these exhibits, i think we deserve to have a little fun. ppie planned an extensive entertainment program to keep the fair fresh and interesting for locals and draw far away visitors to see the marquee acts. two of the most famous work john phillips is the -- john philip sousa and the composer. the piece was a mielange performed by an orchestra of 80,
[laughter] other stars of the ppie included the dancer and her troupe. she received top billing over saint-saens. she is a fascinating character and influenced san francisco history. she started as marie louise fuller from illinois but became an important figure in dance and stage lighting. her first innovation was a voluminous garment of white silk which she moved using long wands. . here is a short video of her in her heyday. she had stopped dancing by the ppie. this was colorized later.
she is considered a pioneer of the aesthetic dance. later, she pioneered special stages where she would dance on a glass platelet -- glass plate lit by lights. it was that she included the art of an actress, in writer, and electrician. the sculptor said her creation would live forever. after she retired from dancing she and her troupe travel the world. this is who performed at the ppie. i think they are not dancing. maybe they are taking a nap. she encouraged the rich society matron to start collecting sculpture which led to the creation of the palace of the legion of honor. the dancer influenced the fabric
of san francisco. let's finish our tour with fun on the joys and -- joy zone. the working model of the panama could accommodate 1200 visitors at a time. it consisted of 144 cars that circled a track. one magazine described it as we see ourselves on a moving platform on the model of the canal which lies in a depression 20 feet lowest. a telephone receiver is hanging on a hook in front of our chair. we place it over our ear so that we may hear the lecture that describes the points of interest along the canal. miniature ships travel, trains run along the tracks bordering the canal. steamers drop. to lines are magically attached -- to lines are magically
attached and engine's tow them. the secret lies in the application of electromagnets moved about on tracks placed beneath the model on the route of the working model above. the panama canal model took in $338,000 but it cost about $500,000 to build. despite its use success -- it's huge success, it still lost money. the aeroscope operated like a counter weighted bridge. the concrete counterweight tipped the scales at 380 tons. the whole apparatus weighed 700 tons. the passenger car could carry 120 people on two levels.
the differences in weight for each carload were balanced by water tanks. it was so perfectly balanced it only took 211-horsepower motors to lift the arm into the air. the entire machine was mounted on a turntable enabling the arm to describe a great helix as it descended. each trip was about 10 minutes long about 3.5 spent in the ascent. from the top, visitors could see seven counties. i'm sure we know what else joseph b strauss might have designed. [laughter] you work there. that is not fair. he was the chief engineer for the golden gate bridge. i hope you have enjoyed your whirlwind tour of the ppie. [applause]
thank you. i will have my mailing list if you're interested in further lectures. you can go to the ppie 100 website. jason assures me will put the other appearances up there. thank you so much to california historical for hosting. [applause] >> with live coverage of the house on c-span and the senate on c-span2 on cspan3 the compliment that coverage by showing you the most relevant public hearings and events. on weekends, it is home to american history tv with programs that tell our nation's story including six unique
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