MS 263 Panama-California Exposition Administrative Collection

Summary Information

San Diego History Center Document Collection
Panama-California Exposition (1915 : San Diego, Calif.).
Panama-California International Exposition (1916 : San Diego, Calif.).
San Diego Museum of Man.
Panama-California Exposition Administrative Collection
MS 263
Date [inclusive]
1.25 Linear feet (3 boxes)
This collection contains materials related to the planning and execution of the Panama-California Exposition held in San Diego in 1915-1916.

Preferred Citation

Panama-California Exposition Administrative Collection, MS 263, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

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Biographical / Historical Notes

The Panama–California Exposition was a world’s fair held in San Diego from March 1915 through December 1916 to commemorate the completion of the Panama Canal in South America. The Exposition was meant to promote San Diego as the first American port of call north of the Canal. The fair drew a large amount of attention and tourism to San Diego, helping re-establish the city’s economy that had remained weak after the Wall Street Panic of 1907. The idea was originally conceived by G. Aubrey Davidson, the founder of the Southern Trust and Commerce Bank, who was also the president of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. Davidson and the San Diego Chamber of Commerce chose real-estate developer David Collier to help guide the planning of the Exposition as the director-general of the Exposition’s Executive Committee. Collier was responsible for dictating both the selection of Balboa Park as the Exposition site and the combination of the Pueblo Revival and Mission Revival architectural styles that were used for the Exposition buildings.

The buildings, originally meant to be temporary, were designed and constructed by Bertram Goodhue, Frank Allen, and Carleton Winslow. Construction began in 1911 and lasted for 3 years. Exposition exhibitions showcased San Diego’s culture, history, port, and economy. The Exposition hosted several anthropological exhibits leant to them by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., as well as cultural exhibitions hosted by other states and countries. The Exposition was so successful that it was prolonged through 1916.

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Scope and Content

The collection contains administrative documents, including by-laws, meeting minutes, and correspondence. The bulk of the collection is comprised of three volumes of meeting minutes from the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for the Exposition, responsible for overseeing all aspects of the Exposition’s planning and execution. The first volume of meeting minutes begins in 1909 and is related to the planning of the Exposition, while the second volume is primarily related to its execution. The third volume covers the last few months of the Exposition through the final reconciliation of accounts in 1919. Additional documents include minutes and correspondence of other Exposition committees, such as the Women’s Board, Subscription Campaign Committee, and Committee for the Preservation of Fair Buildings. An Exposition guest book, copies of the Exposition’s daily earnings and expenses, as well as shareholder’s stock certificates are also present.

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Collection materials are arranged by subject. Original covers have been separated and are located in Box 3.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

San Diego History Center Document Collection May 30, 2012

1649 El Prado, Suite 3
San Diego, CA, 92101

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number 950217.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Lauren Rasmussen on May 30, 2012.

Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Panama-California Exposition (1915 : San Diego, Calif.).
  • Panama-California International Exposition (1916 : San Diego, Calif.).
  • San Diego Chamber of Commerce.
  • San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
  • United States. Marine Corps.

Geographic Name(s)

  • Balboa Park (San Diego, Calif.)
  • Panama Canal (Panama)
  • San Diego (Calif.)
  • San Francisco (Calif.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Allen, Frank Phillips, Jr.
  • Collier, David Charles
  • Davis, H. O.
  • Gill, Irving, 1870-1936
  • Goodhue, Bertram Grosvenor, 1869-1924
  • Grant, Ulysses S., 1852-1929
  • Hewett, Edgar L. (Edgar Lee), 1865-1946
  • Hogaboom, Winfield
  • Marston, George White, 1850-1946
  • McLure, Lewis Steenrod
  • Sefton, Joseph W., 1882-1966
  • Spreckels, John Diedrich, b. 1853
  • Winslow, Carleton Monroe, 1876-1946


  • Committees
  • Exhibition buildings
  • Tourism

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Original covers for three volumes of Executive Committee meeting minutes (Box 1, folders 2-4) and one Subscription Campaign Committee ledger (Box 2, folder 2) have been separated and moved to Box 3.

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Collection Inventory

Articles of incorporation and by-laws, 1909 1:1
“Minute Book of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Panama-California Exposition, Vol. I,” 1909 October 27– 1912 December 28

Entries of Interest:

Brief conversation regarding hiring a man from Kansas who has proposed to ride his burro around the Southern United States in order to promote the Exposition. (page 7)

Committee discusses agreements with the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum to lend collections to San Diego for the Exposition’s anthropological exhibitions. (page 98)

Committee has an in-depth discussion regarding the construction of a pedestrian bridge (what is now the Cabrillo Bridge) leading to the Exposition grounds. (page 143)

“Minute Book of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Panama-California Exposition, Vol. I” (original cover), undated 3:1
“Minute Book of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Panama-California Exposition, Vol. II,” 1913 January 7–1915 May 18

Entries of Interest:

First of many discussions regarding promotion of the Exposition and encouragement of support from other states. (page 233)

Committee comes to the conclusion that they will sell alcohol (“intoxicants”) at the Exposition in spite of some minor controversy regarding the matter. (page 255)

Proposal for a “Panama-California Transcontinental Exposition Aviation Race.” The race did not take place, but was discussed in-depth by the committee. (page 256)

Applications for concessions and exhibits are considered by the Committee. (page 262)

Discussion regarding the groundbreaking and beginning of construction of the Botanical Building. (page 264)

Transcript of a meeting between the Executive Committee and the San Diego Federated Trades and Labor Council regarding employment of union workers for the construction of Exposition buildings. Director-General Collier, with the committee’s support, declines the Council’s demands to make construction work strictly a union endeavor. (page 290)

Discussion of the possibility of hiring Spanish dancers to add “Spanish flair” to the Exposition. (page 326)

Initial discussion of J.D. Spreckels’ proposal to construct an organ pavilion for the Exposition. (page 330)

Committee outlines the rules and regulations for Exposition passes. (page 451)

“Minute Book of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Panama-California Exposition, Vol. II” (original cover), 3:2
“Minute Book of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Panama-California Exposition”, Vol. III, 1915 June 1–1919 January 9

Entries of Interest:

Pre-Exposition financial accounts summary. (page 566)

Discussion of Theodore Roosevelt’s Exposition speaking engagement. (page 597)

Discussion of a “considerable disturbance” among the Spanish dancers hired for the Exposition. No further details are provided, but the committee agrees unanimously to fire all Spanish dance entertainers. (page 630)

Discussion of the Marine Corps Ball to be held in the Organ Pavilion plaza. (page 632)

Discussion of the transfer of power to the City of San Diego Board of Park Commissioners. (page 666)

Discussion regarding transferring Exposition exhibitions to the permanent care of the San Diego Museum Association. (page 668)

Discussion of correspondence received by the Smithsonian indicating that they have been unable to procure several planned exhibits on “the War” (World War I). (page 672)

Committee drafts a resolution to the California Governor and State Legislature requesting ongoing use of Balboa Park to continue after the Exposition into 1916. (page 684)

“Minute Book of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Panama-California Exposition”, Vol. III (original cover), undated 3:3
“Panama-California Exposition: Report on Pre-Exposition Operations from Nov. 1909 to Dec. 31, 1914” ledger, 1909 November–1914 December 1:5
“Report on Exposition Operations,” 1915 January 1-December 31 1:6
“Minutes of the Women’s Board,” 1914 December 4–1915 December 28


“Meeting Minutes of the Fine Art Committee,” a Women’s Board sub-committee

“Meeting Minutes of the Furnishings Committee,” a Women’s Board sub-committee

“Preservation of Fair Buildings Committee” (ledger), 1916 July 24–1917 January 22 1:8
Daily receipts, expenses, and earnings, 1915 August 31–December 31 2:1
“Panama-California Exposition Subscription Campaign Committee” (ledger), undated

Scope and Content:

List of shareholder subscribers for the Exposition. Columns are divided by name, address, amount subscribed, and amount paid.

“Panama-California Subscription Campaign Committee” (original cover), undated 3:4
Exposition guest book, 1915-1916   Measures 27 inches x 20 inches x 13 inches. SDHC Auditorium
Stock certificates, 1910 March 9–1917 February 27 2:3
Correspondence, 1913 January 14–1916 December 29 2:4
Art exhibits and awards, 1916 2:5
Miscellanea, 1916


“Exposition Friends” souvenir booklet

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