Panama-Pacific Expo Postcards

Some of these postcards depict scenes at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. Others mention the exposition on the back. Still others have postmarks from around the time of the expo. But all of them have a similar grayish-and-white frame around the postcard photo, indicating that even the undated ones are from the same era.

Click any image to download a PDF of that postcard.

The Tower of Jewels was the symbol of the fair in the same way that the Space Needle symbolized the 1962 Seattle Fair. More than 100,000 multifaceted pieces of glass were embedded in the tower causing it to sparkle day and night.

The Palace of Education included a variety of exhibits including models of modern elementary schools and information about universities. Many states and countries that had their own buildings elsewhere at the fair also had booths in this building showing off their educational systems. This card was mailed from Oakland to Brooklyn and the postmark even mentions the Panama-Pacific Exposition.

Though it doesn’t mention it by name, this postcard shows Saltair, an amusement park intended to imitate Coney Island. The back of the card encourages people to “visit Salt Lake City enroute to the expositions.” Expositions is plural because there was also one in San Diego at the same time.

Yellowstone National Park isn’t exactly on the way to San Francisco from anywhere except maybe Montana. The back of this card says “Union Pacific–Direct Route to Panama-Pacific Expo.”

The old Columbia River Highway was completed in 1917, but Shepperd’s Dell Bridge, shown here, was constructed in 1914, so this postcard might have been issued in the year of the expo. The back doesn’t mention the expo, saying instead, “Joins East and West with a Boulevard of Steel,” so perhaps the card came out a year or two after the expo.

White River Falls is now a state park, and modern photos suggest they haven’t changed much since this postcard was issued. This postcard, which says “200 Miles Along the Scenic Columbia” on the back, was sent from DesMoines to 83 Cypress Street, Brookline, Massachusetts. Brookline was a posh community famous for being the first American suburb to actively resist annexation by the central city, and–from Google Maps–83 Cypress appears to be a very nice foursquare home.

Unlike Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain National Park wouldn’t have required much of a detour for people going to the expo from the east. But this card doesn’t mention the expo, saying instead that “Union Pacific Is the Scenic Big Thompson Canyon Route to Estes-Rocky Mountain National Park.” Perhaps these cards were issued a year or two after the expo.

This one has the same caption on the back as the Continental Divide card.

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