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Scanned 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition booklets

Back in 2015 I became a little obsessed with the Panama-Pacific International Exposition centennial events and exhibits in San Francisco and wrote about it here. As I wrote then, I’d been fascinated with the World’s Fair since I was a kid. I didn’t mention it then, but I also think part of what I loved about the historic World’s Fairs was that it brought the world to your doorstep. My family was not wealthy and my eclectic interests as a youth didn’t seem like they’d raise me up at all, so travel seemed beyond my reach.

Now that I’ve joined the ranks of nerds taking over the world, and have traveled a respectable chunk of it, I found myself in a position in 2015 to visit these exhibits, and even invest in some real pieces of them. In January of 2016 I purchased a trio of 100 year old books from the PPIE off of eBay for about $20 each.

They’re all in remarkable condition for being 100 years old. No doubt they’ve been carefully tucked away for much of their lifespan. It’s now 2017, they’ve been sitting on my shelf, kept out of the light, in their archival plastic bags. Last week I needed something to do that would make me feel accomplished but wouldn’t be intellectually draining, I should finally scan them all and share them!

So I did. It probably took me about 6 hours to scan, crop, and create the web pages where the 164 images now reside, but it has been completed. You can view, and download, regular and high resolution scans of all three of the books here: http://princessleia.com/ppie/

Some of my favorites from the collection are either beautiful, bring up memories or are simply amusing to me.

From the Official Miniature View Book I was amused by the Detail Figures of Fountain of Energy. In particular, the men riding a walrus and an elephant seal. I’ve since picked up post cards of these two and will be getting them framed for my office.

Also from this view booklet was a reminder of how much we accomplished in the 20th century, Art Smith’s Aviation Flights. In 1915 flight was a brand new technology, and only an exceptional breed of risk-takers were flying planes, some for the entertainment of the public. Indeed, Art Smith took the place as the official stunt flyer at the PPIE when the previous one, Lincoln J. Beachey, tragically died at the fair after losing control of his monoplane and plunging into the bay. Smith himself died when his plane crashed in 1926 while in the service of the US Post Office doing overnight mail service between New York City and Chicago. It continues to be astonishing to me that today flying by air is not only routine (particularly for me!), it’s the safest way to travel.

From the PPIE: Beautiful booklet, my favorite image lived up to the title. The showcase building of the event was the 433 foot Tower of Jewels, and helped give the fair the nickname of “Jewel City.”

The last photo in that booklet also holds a special place in my heart, The Liberty Bell. From my adopted hometown of Philadelphia, this was the first time the Liberty Bell came to San Francisco. I recently hit eBay again to snag a well-worn souvenir plate from the PPIE with the Liberty Bell on it.

From the Colortypes booklet we again have colored images, this time including one from the Tower of Jewels Illuminated at night. They’d did a light show in the evenings, which showed off the array of glass jewels that covered the tower and I hear played very well with the bay fog.

Finally, a colortype of the Palace of Fine Arts. This is the building that was preserved when the rest of the fair was torn down, though it was completely re-created in 1964-65 when the original, meant-to-be-temporary structure was demolished and replaced with an identical one made of poured concrete.

It’s so close to the original so the view from today (or, 2015 when I took this photo) is very similar to what they would have seen in 1915.

It was nice to finally get these all digitized so I can now tuck the originals back in a safe place, where they can hopefully remain intact for another 100 years.


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