1915 Panama Expositions

In celebration of the opening of the Panama Canal, San Francisco and San Diego both decided to hold international expositions. San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific Exposition lasted almost ten months, while San Diego’s Panama-California Exposition was open the entire year. The Palace of Fine Arts is the main surviving building from the San Francisco fair, while several buildings from the San Diego fair remain in Balboa Park.

Click image to download a 47.4-MB PDF of this 68-page booklet.

This booklet describes both fairs, but gives most attention to the San Francisco expo, where Union Pacific had an unforgettable exhibit advertising Yellowstone National Park. Covering four acres and built at a cost of half a million dollars (about $10 million in today’s money), the exhibit took visitors through a canyon to a 230-foot-diameter relief map of Yellowstone, a model of Old Faithful Geyser that erupted every 65 minutes, an 80-foot high Yellowstone Falls over which flowed 10,000 gallons of water per minute, and a full-size replica of Old Faithful Inn that housed a restaurant for 2,000 people entertained by an 80-piece orchestra. Not to be outdone, Santa Fe had a six-acre replica of the Grand Canyon which people viewed during a 30-minute train ride while Southern Pacific showed Yosemite Valley and giant sequoias and Great Northern had real Blackfeet Indians representing Glacier National Park.


This replica of Old Faithful Inn at the Panama-Pacific Exposition used 2 million board feet of wood–enough to build 150 2,000-square-foot homes. Click image for a larger view.


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