‘San Diego Welcomes the World’ Salutes Centenary of Panama–California Exposition of 1915


Posted On: May 11, 2015

San Diego Welcomes the World, an exhibition of materials from the Library’s Special Collections & Archives, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, which commemorated the opening of the Panama Canal, and launched the City as an international venue. The construction of the Panama Canal was an immense engineering feat, dramatically cutting the distance and cost of international shipping by opening a passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It also proved to be an excellent opportunity for enhancing San Diego’s profile–as it would become the first port north of the Panama Canal on the West Coast of the United States.  The event also provided San Diego leaders with the impetus for transforming Balboa Park from an undeveloped, arid property, into a lush and distinctly Spanish paradise. The 1915 Exposition led to both the greening of Balboa Park as well as the creation of the park’s cultural institutions and stunning Spanish Revival architecture.

The exhibition, which is on display on the main floor in Geisel Library (2nd floor, West Wing) until July 5, 2015, includes images of some of the few permanent structures designed for the fair, including the California Tower and dome, the Cabrillo Bridge, and the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Other items in the exhibit include souvenir books and postcards, newspaper articles, sheet music, a special student admittance pass, maps of the Canal, and more.

One comment for “‘San Diego Welcomes the World’ Salutes Centenary of Panama–California Exposition of 1915”

On June 10, 2015, 11:39 AM Richard said:

In August 1914 the Panama Canal was completed and the Great War commenced. San Francisco’s Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915 and San Diego’s Panama-California Exposition of 1915-1916 celebrated the opening of the canal and endured the war. Motion pictures (see the poster in the exhibit advertizing a 45-minute motion picture and newsreels were in widespread use at both California fairs. Movie newsreels advertised both Expos in theaters nationwide. Keystone Motion Pictures Corporation has organized the images from its collection into sets of 100 stereographs. Exploratorium’s website has one set titled “The Panama Pacific International Exposition.” While the original photographs are public domain (although some are made to appear copyrighted by the San Diego History Museum), Exploratorium thanked the Museum of Photography, University of California, Riverside, the current custodians of the Keystone-Mast Collection. I have looked through their stereographs. And at the photographs of the 1915 Santa Fe Station, among others, available through the Library of Congress. The largest collection of materials on World Fairs may be found at the Fresno State University Library. This exhibit is merely adequate; the at the Marston House was superb. The important thing is to take the 90-minute tour Courtyards, tiles & Fountains: The Romance of the Expo/Balboa Park.

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