January 27-July 4, 1894.

Midwinter Fair

California Midwinter International Exposition

While in Chicago as National Commissioner at large to the Columbian Exposition of 1893, Michael H. de Young, publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle, conceived the idea of a similar exposition for San Francisco. It was San Francisco's first World's Fair.

During the month of June citizen meetings were held, presided over by the mayor. The State Board of Trade took favorable action, committees were appointed, and a plan of organization adopted. M.H. de Young was appointed President and Director-General; Irwin C. Stump, Vice President; and R. Cornely, Associate Director-General in charge of Foreign Affairs.

On July 10, 1893, Concert Valley, in the heart of Golden Gate Park, was selected as the site of the California Midwinter International Exposition. Grown was broken August 24, 1893, at the spot where the bronze statue "Roman Gladiator" now stands in front of the de Young Museum.

After the task of grading and leveling had been completed, construction began on five large buildings for the exposition. They were situated on the four sides of a quadrangle, called the Grand Court, in the center of which was the Electric Tower, which rose 266 feet above the park. Within the quadrangle the grounds were laid out in terraces, and planted with palms and other semitropical plants. Outside the exhibition builds were located the various concessions and county buildings.

From: San Francisco Almanac ©1995 Gladys Cox Hansen

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California Midwinter Fair Overview, Golden Gate Park, 1894

The City's first Fair was based on the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893, promoted by Michael H. de Young, and James Phelan, both San Franciscan businessmen. It was held in Golden Gate Park covering an area of sixty acres, principally on the site of the current Music Concourse.


Grand Court and Electric Tower, California Midwinter Fair, 1894

The five main exposition buildings were grouped around a terraced central concert valley, in the center of which was the 260 foot Electric Tower. These buildings housed the Manufactures and Liberal Arts, the Mechanical Arts, the Fine Arts, Agriculture and Horticulture, and Administration.


Egyptian Temple, California Midwinter Fair, 1894

The Fair's principal attractions included the fine art display in the Egyptian Temple building, right, which later became the de Young Museum. The Japanese Tea Garden, far left, was also popular, and remains a key exhibit in the Park today. Themed areas, such as Cairo Street, a Chinese theater, an Eskimo habitat and a buffalo paddock added diversity to the Fair.



'49 Mining Camp, California Midwinter International Exposition, 1894

San Francisco used the Fair to promote the City's culture and the benefits of the mild California winter climate to increase tourism and attract new business. It also provided employment in a period of economic depression. During its 6 months of operation 2.5 million visitors attended the Fair.


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