17/08/2022

1857 San Francisco US – Industrial Exhibition of the Mechanics’ Institute (1st)

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1857 San Francisco

Name:Industrial Exhibition of the Mechanics’ Institute (1st)
Dates:7 Sep 1857 for c. four weeks
Days:c 28 days
Venue:Wood-frame, canvas-roofed pavilion erected on Montgomery Street between Post and Sutter (today it is the site of Crocker Galleria) – this offered 1,672 sq m (18,000 sq ft) of exhibition space – then largest in CA
Theme:Fund-raising for the Institute
Exhibitors:650 – of these 25% were women (extremely skewed against the general SF population), and three African Americans
Awards:Awards were won y Ghirardelli Chocolate, Goodyear Tire, Levi Strauss Singer Sewing Machines…
Visitors:10,000 (25% of the then SF population numbers)
Legacy:This ran on 31 occasions between 1857 and 1899

Mechanics’ Institutes began in Scotland in the 1820s to present classes and lectures on science, technology and the humanities. At their pinnacle there were 700 of them in England alone, the notion soon spread throughout the world. Gold was discovered in the San Francisco area in 1848, people arrived from all over the world to exploit it. Much of it was exhausted by 1853 pushing the city into decline, its people ex-miners with no other skills or work. California had no colleges, universities or public libraries.

The San Francisco Mechanics’ Institute was founded in 1848 to offer a vocational school and library – with just four books. It offered courses in applied maths, electricity. industrial design, ironwork, mechanical drawing, woodworking.

The Institute had run a mechanical department of an 1856 State Fair and decided they should run their own event. A prominent land-owner, James Lick, donated the Institute some land where they could promote industry by running exhibitions of inventions, products and art. Advertisements were placed across the state in post offices, labour exchanges and in newspapers.

The San Francisco Mechanics’ Institute organised its own show to increase its income. Its series of fairs helped to fund the Institute’s library (today with 165,000 books growing at 300/year)
and its calendar of courses and lectures.

San Francisco pavilion, 1857

It appointed Henry F Williams as the fair manager, he was a 26- year-old building contractor. He helped erect a wood-framed, canvas-roofed pavilion on Montgomery Street.

Beneath the dome was a fountain and above it a huge flying eagle. Exhibits included the State’s minerals, a full-size windmill, a fire engine and four billiard tables, plus arts and crafts.

1857 exhibits

Awards were presented to many organisations still in business – Ghirardelli Chocolate, Goodyear Tire, Levi Strauss and Singer Sewing Machines. There were musical concerts each night.

The Institute ran 31 fairs between 1857 and 1899 greatly assisting the San Francisco Bay development. In
1864 a larger permanent building 5,110 sqm (55,000 sq ft) was constructed on Union Square. In 1868 its
President became heavily involved in the establishment of the University of California.

Forward to 1857, Warsaw PL – All-Russian industrial (manufactory) exhibitions
Back to 1857, Manchester UK – Art Treasures Exhibition
Back to Getting Noticed – Back to bobdenton.com home

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