“S” is for San Francisco Public Library

A definitive source for materials and photographs, the San Francisco Public Library offers this excellent online collection from the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Here, are the image headings they offer with working links to take you there.

San Francisco Public Library PPIE Subject Headings:

“Q” is for Quaker Oats

By 1915, the typical American breakfast was changing. The traditional fare of sausage, bacon, biscuits, and eggs was changing to a focus on lighter meals such as fruit, cereal, and pancakes.

At the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, four large Kewpie dolls big enough to fill a room poured cream in a huge bowl of Albers Brothers porridge. Shredded wheat was offered to the public as was Quaker Oats which offered (as many did) free samples of their product.

Quaker Oats won the Grand Prize for breakfast cereals at the PPIE, a fact they were happy to proclaim in the years to come. For more on the history of Quaker Oats, visit them here.

Literary Digest, May 1916.

Literary Digest, May 1916.

“O” is for Ohio Building

My favorite story about the Panama-Pacific International Exposition involves the aftermath of the exposition. I know I am not alone in my fascination with this topic and at the time, it was newsworthy enough to capture the public’s attention.

When the PPIE ended on December 4th, 1915, all the leased land which had been borrowed for purposes of the exposition needed to be cleared and released to its owners. This was accomplished in a number of ways from sale of items (including huge buildings) to demolition.

One of the most fascinating disposals was of the Ohio Building. It was purchased for use for use as a private club. The building was put on barges and towed south to Belmont, California, where it remained until the fifties—acting as a speakeasy, a storage room, and finally, as a spectacle once again when it was razed by it’s owner in the early 1950s.

The Ohio Building of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition en route to a new home, 1916.

“N” is for Novagems

Novagems are one of the most recognizable artifacts from the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and for good reason: they look like huge jewels. The nickname for the PPIE was Jewel City and was based on a reference to Novagems.

Novagems are not precious in any way other than in the imagination. Made from something called Sumatra Stonewhich was described to me by a local collector, Jay Stevens, aka The Novagem King, as similar in many ways to a glass doorknob of the same period.

According to William D’Arcy Ryan, who not only conceived the idea for the Tower of Jewels and the Novagems which would hang from it and blow gently in the wind, the gems were made to exacting standards to maximize their light refraction.

Original prototypes did not reflect enough light and, ultimately, he had them manufactured in Germany to meet particular standards. More than one hundred thousand of these gems were brought to the exposition and hung on the Tower of Jewels, where they played in the breezes and reflected a twinkling light. Numerous additional Novagems were manufactured and sold as souvenirs both during and after the exposition, and some have been located, dug up in backyards and discovered in other strange places.

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Oakland Tribune, December 2, 1915.

They were made in eight colors: white, jonquil, ruby, rose, amethyst, topaz, emerald, and aquamarine.

To know more about the sizes, colors, and other details, here is an excellent reference chart from Jay Stevens.

“M” is for Munch

…not munch, but Edvard Munch who exhibited at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition a series of his etchings and illustrations.

Munch was widely regarded in his time as accomplished and talented. His now-popular image series, The Scream, which we tend to think of as a single image, was first created in 1893. There are actually four versions of The Scream, two pastels created in 1893 and 1895, and two paintings created in 1893 and 1910.

Through his willingness to explore complex psychological themes, Munch exerted considerable influence on the Symbolism movement, and later on early twentieth century Expressionism.

Noted Munch scholar Robert Rosenblum has suggested that the strange, sexless creature in the foreground of The Scream might have been a mummy seen at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Recently, a version of The Scream sold for $119,922,600 at Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art auction on May 2nd, 2012, to financier Leon Black, making it one of the most expensive pieces of art ever sold.

At the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Munch exhibited numerous art works. They included:

  • Death Scene
  • Adieus
  • Henrik Ibsen in Grand Cafe
  • The Sea of Love
  • Woman with Loose Hair
  • Heige Rode
  • Man Praying
  • Young Girl
  • Loving Woman
  • By the Seashore
  • Two People
  • The Liberation
  • Woman with Red Hair
  • The Beggar
  • Moonlight
  • Self Portrait
  • The Dead Mother
  • Lubeck
  • August Strindberg
  • Jealousy
  • Vampire
  • Eva

Many of these images were exhibited at the Norwegian House at the exposition. Munch was awarded a gold medal for excellence by the PPIE.

Throughout his lifetime, he struggled with loss, substance abuse, and anger. When Hitler came to power, Munch’s once popular works were deemed degenerate and removed from some museums. He spent the last years of his life in his home with most of his works gathered in the second floor of his house. Fortunately, there they remained safe until his death in 1944.

Munch bequeathed all of his work to the city of Oslo, where most of it can be seen today at the Munchmuseet.

Recently, this tribute to Munch appeared on Twitter. Quoting the words he himself used in describing the inspiration for The Scream, it captures something about the spirit and the influence of the artist.