An Introduction to the

Panama Pacific International Exposition


The Gilded Age was a time of great wealth, extravagance, and corruption. The Civil War and its aftermath bred "waste, extravagance, speculation, and graft." (Bailey 513) There were unscrupulous stock-market manipulators, and too many judges and legislators put their power up for hire (Bailey 14). The Tweed Ring in New York City employed graft, bribery, and fraudulent elections to "milk as much as $200 million from the city." (Bailey 514) This last quarter of the 19th century is often called the age of invention because of the technological advances made. This led to mass production, which caused the economy to grow at a tremendous rate. The Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 came at the peak of the Gilded Age, and the extravagance of the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 showed the tremendous effects of the Gilded Age in the lives of the American people.

The beginning of the Exposition exhibited the normality of extravagance of the time period. San Francisco hosted the Exposition in 1915-1916 in honor of the completion of the Panama Canal (Rydell 230), and large amounts of money were spent on preparations for the Exposition. At a mass meeting in 1910, "four million dollars were pledged by the participants towards the Exposition." (Cherney and Issel 167). Two more mass meetings and door-to-door solicitation brought the total amount to over six million dollars, andproduced a resolution from the city to endorse five million dollars (Cherney and Issel 167). The buildings and exhibitions of the Exposition cost an enormous amount of money and space. "A city hall, a library, an opera house, an auditorium, and a state house were built for the Exposition." (Cherney and Issel 171). Fifty million dollars were spent on the construction of the different buildings, and fifty million more in the exhibitions (Panama-Pacific International Exposition: San Francisco, 1915). The palaces spanned over six hundred and twenty-five acres, with sixty-five acres of amusement concessions (Panama-Pacific International Exposition: San
Francisco, 1915). On the opening day of the Exposition, everyone was invited to walk down Van Ness Avenue to the Exposition grounds, led by the mayor (Cherney and Issel 169). The Catholic bishop, a leading rabbi, and the Episcopalian bishop all offered prayer, and Governor Johnson, Mayor Wolf, and various other people made short speeches (Cherney and Issel 169). President Woodrow Wilson in Washington used a wireless to activate the machinery of the Exposition grounds, and the Exposition officially opened (Cherney and Issel 169).





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