Official Birds-Eye View of the California Midwinter International Exposition - San Francisco, CA

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$ 15,000.00
Official Birds-Eye View of the California Midwinter International Exposition - San Francisco, CA

Charles S. Graham (1852-1911)
Official Birds-Eye View of the California Midwinter International Exposition - San Francisco, CA
Chicago, The Winters Art Litho. Co.: 1894
Chromolithograph, 32” x 38” framed

The California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894, held in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, wasthe first world’s fair held west of the Mississippi. Michael H. de Young, the publisher of the San FranciscoChronicle, organized the fair to give a much needed economic boost to the city, to showcase the culturalrenaissance happening in San Francisco at the time, and to present the city in a more positive light, as the storiesof Barbary coast had given the city a bad image.Thirty-six California counties, five American states, the Arizona Territory and 38 nations participated in the fairand were represented by a building or exhibit. “Products” were displayed in five major categories: agriculture/horticulture, manufactures, liberal arts, ethnology and invention, and fine arts. In total, the fair contained 180buildings, ranging from ticket kiosks to a splendid reproduction of the Vienna Prater with its theater, restaurant,and concert hall.

Local exhibits played up the advantages of California life and it’s history. Reenactments of the lives of theCalifornia Gold Minors were performed daily. A Viticultural exhibit introduced California wines to the world.California’s abundance in farming was demonstrated through food sculptures; an elephant made of walnuts, anobelisk of oranges, a knight and horse of prunes. The very timing of the fair itself was meant to showcaseCalifornia’s mild winter climate.

At the very center of the exposition was a tower built in the style of the Eiffel Tower. Designed by FrenchmanLeopold Bonet, this steel tower, referred to as “Bonet’s Tower” and one-third the size of the Eiffel tower, includedspectacular lighting effects. Thomas Edison had recently invented the electrical light bulb, and the light shows ofthe tower were a big hit with fair goers.

Many of the structures from the fair still exist today. The fair had been a success, the organizers had made a profit,and business from the fair sparked an economic recovery in San Francisco. However, after the fair, theSuperintendent of Golden Gate park, John McLaren, whom had been an outspoken critic of the fair, found thegrounds of new and fragile park trampled, newly planted areas had been cleared for power and water lines, andbuildings had been built in areas meant as a woodland retreat from urban life.

McLaren got his revenge when the fair organizers failed to remove the buildings in a timely matter by dynamitingalmost all remaining structures of the fair. He spared the Japanese Tea Garden, established by wealthy landscapedesigner Makoto Hagiwara. The Fine Arts building was also spared, and became the former site of the de Youngmuseum, San Francisco’s first museum. The music concourse and several statues from the fair still exist in GoldenGate Park as well.

This bird’s-eye view by Charles Graham shows an overall plan of the exposition, with the major expositionbuildings surrounding Bonet’s electrical tower in the center. The San Francisco bay and the Marin Headlands canbe viewed in the distance. Charles Graham was a self-taught painter and cartographer. He joined the staff ofHarper’s Weekly magazine in 1877, and traveled throughout the country on assignment. Graham left Harper’s in1893 to become the official artist of the Chicago World Columbian Exposition of 1893, and later the CaliforniaMidwinter International Exposition in 1894.

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