1894, San Francisco US – California Midwinter International Exposition

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1894 San Francisco

Name:California Midwinter International Exposition
Dates:27 Jan – 5 Jul 1894
Days:c 159 days
Venue:Piedmont Park (later Golden Gate Park)
– 64 ha (160 acres)
Theme:to promote California as a land of endless opportunities, with good weather, arable land…
Exhibitors:38 countries and colonies, 5 states and 36 counties (from California)
Awards:No data
Visitors:1,315,022, with staff and employees 2,219,440
50c for adults, 25c for children – reduced for aftr 5pm and Saturdays and special days
Legacy:Costs of $1,193,260.70 and a profit of $66,851.49, The Fine Arts building remained in the park until 1929, becoming SF’s first municipal museum, though today it is substantially rebuilt.
By the end of the 1890s SF’s population grew from 300,000 to 400,000

This was the first major exhibition held in San Francisco.

1894 de Young and his paper

Michael Henry de Young, had with his brother, founded the San Francisco Chronicle. He was the VP of the National Commission at the Columbia Exposition and Commissioner for the California exhibits. As he attended the 1893 Chicago event he saw that an exhibition in San Francisco could bring wealth and interest to the city. San Francisco had grown to a population of 300,000 but in 1893 was suffering from a depression, along with much of the USA.

de Young gathered San Francisco participants at Chicago and revealed his plan for a Jan 1894 exhibition in their city, they pledaged $40,000. He telegraphed the Governor of California, the San Francisco mayor and other business contacts to expand support for it.

1894 Montage of buildings

The venue, controversially located in Pedmont Park adjacent to the subsequent site of Golden Gate Bridge, became known as the ‘Midwinter Fair’.

It consisted of the 16,444 sq m (177,000 sq ft) Manufactures & Liberal Arts building 140.8 x 68.6m (462 x 225 ft), the Mechanical Arts Building 100.6 x 48.8m (330 x 160 ft), a California-mission style Horticultural & Agricultural Building 121.9 x 61.0m (400 x 200 ft), plus the pseuod-Egyptian Fine Arts Builidng and an Administration Building (with a 41.1m [135 ft] tall dome). There were also country and state pavilions, corporate buildings, a Japanese Tea Garden – a total of 120 buildings.

de Young insisted that their architecture should not be ‘classical’, fearing they would compare poorly with other exhibitions use of that genre, and instead suggested the theme was San Francisco as a ‘Sunset City’.

A mailing campaign achieved articles appearing in c2,500 publications worldwide, an effective free alternative to paid advertising. Offering free entry to press members who would report on the show added to this campaign.

1894 general views featuring the Bonet Tower

The Bonet Tower, was Frenchman Leopold Bonet’s version of the Eiffel Tower, at 82.9m (272 ft) it was a third of the size of the Paris tower, yet dominated the site. Elevator rides to the top cost $0.25, and rides to the first level cost $0.10. He used steel to build his tower (not iron), the first such usage in the USA. He, like the Eiffel, illuminated the tower with over 3,000 incandescent ights, but added a disc ‘programmer’ to create lighting effects. He also placed a powerful searchlight at its top, reportedly permitting someone to read a newspaper at ten miles distance, Eiffel’s claimed only one mile.

There were 38 countries and colonies that formally exhibited, including Austro-Hungary, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Dahomey, Egypt, France, Great Britain, Hawaii, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, Ottoman Empire, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Siam, Spain, Switzerland and the United States.

Many exhibits were brought across country from 1893 Chicago’s World’s Columbia Exposition, gaining a further six month’s currency for their exhibits.

1894 Mian building

Features included a 49-ers Gold Rush mining camp named ‘Pan City’; a display by the astronomical department of the Lick Observatory, the world’s first permanently occupied mountain-top observatory; A gilded globe representing California’s total reported yield of gold to date [2,000 tons worth “$1.3 bn, at today’s values $32 bn; Daniel Boone’s Wild Animal Show; The Ferris Wheel (from 1893 Chicago); a ‘Midway Plaisance’, a straight lift from Chicago with a mirror maze, Dante’s Inferno, a camera obscura…; the ‘Haunted Swing’ where in fact the visitors were stationary while the room around them swung back and forth, this still created giddiness…

One controversial feature was the ‘gum girls’, who walked around selling chewing gum to the attendees. They wore blue dresses, black stockings, coordinating caps, and, for the time, their dresses were considered too short, revealing their ankles. Worse, for their critics, they flirted with men to sell their gum.

The other controversial feature was ethnological exhibits (aka human zoos), the Dahomey Village, the Eskimaux (sic) village (see more below), the Hawaiian village, and the Japanese Village and Tea Garden (see more below)

1894 Souvenirs – an antique French Ormolou jewel case with view of the show
and an Aluminium Token produced to promote new forms of production of the metal

A strong programme of debating congresses were held during the Exposition.

1894 Medal

One unusual aspect of the show was that all selling exhibitors should remit a percentage of sales to the Exposition organisation, predictably there were concerns that many did not honestly report their takings.

This innocuous picture of a jinrikisha at the event created a storm. When the organisers suggested the would have local Japanese pull these around the site, a member of the japanese exhibition committee said he would kill any Japanese who would dishonour their nation in such a way, But bizarrely they settled down when the fait hired German to do it, who painted their faces to look Oriental. How did that improve matters.

The event’s nine entrances had automatic turnstiles that showed a total of 1,315,022 visitors, and with staff and employees added the total entries were 2,219,440.

For the first six weeks EJohn Phillip Sousa’s concert band performed at the event, There was also a military band and a Mexican band.

The event sought no federal, state or city support, yet created an income of $1,260,112.18 and a profit of $66,851.49. Another legacy was that the city’s population grew from 300,000 in 1890 to 400,000 in 1900, some commentators suggesting that the exposition was influential in drawing people to the city. This prompted a building boom in the city.

1894 Eskimaux (sic) village
[Editor’s comment: I ran an event where, during the show, we married a couple on the event’s stage. But this exposition had a burial! The Eskimaux Village depicted life in the north, but perhaps more revealing was that an eskimo child died uring the event (of an hereditary form of syphillis). The eskimo elders then buried the child in the park without obtaining park or exposition approval.]
Can anyone provide details of a birth at a show to complete a hatch, match and despatch?

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