It’s Exposition mania in the Archives right now. The exhibit Exceptional Expositions is designed and everyone is busy mounting pieces of it and preparing text. It will soon be hung in the cases with care in hopes that on opening viewers appear. The Exhibit celebrating the centennial of the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) and the publication of a new book, Into the Void Pacific, on the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) opens on Tuesday September 8th.
International expositions served as entertainment, education, mass media, and industrial marketing. The 1876 Centennial Exposition was followed by numerous fairs in the U.S. including Chicago’s Columbian Exposition (1893), Buffalo’s (1901), St. Louis’ (1904), and Seattle’s Alaska Yukon Pacific (1909); as well as the depression era Chicago Fair (1932) and New York’s World’s Fair in 1939. Ironically, both the New York and Chicago Fairs promoted themselves as a vision of the future, while the GGIE placed itself in a Pacific Region that, in fact, turned out to be the future.
The PPIE and GGIE promoted San Francisco as the hub of the Pacific encompassing both Latin America and Asia. The architecture of the PPIE presented a Beaux Arts confection while the buildings of the GGIE presented a sometimes uneasy transition from a Beaux Arts to a modern design aesthetic.