A Fair to Remember and Relive

Panorama_Jacket_JULY23_frontcoveronly (1)How many times have you rolled your eyes and sighed when someone starts telling you about his great grandfather? When you ask Lee Bruno about his, he is surprisingly circumspect – perhaps too much so.

Lee Bruno’s gorgeous volume Panorama: Tales from San Francisco’s 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition is a testament to “the City that knows how”, the Exposition, and the remarkable vision of Ruben Brooks Hale, the author’s great grandfather.

Hale was a far sighted entrepreneur, president of the Merchants’ Association, who planted the idea of hosting a grand Exposition – timed with the opening of the Panama Canal – in the minds of San Francisco’s civic leaders in 1904. Unfortunately, the earthquake and fire of 1906 naturally put plans on hold. As the city and residents struggled in the aftermath of the disaster, Hale pushed his idea – presenting it at a “reconstruction dinner” held at the Saint Francis Hotel on July 25, 1906 for the San Francisco Merchants’ Association. In a speech, “calculated to rally each and every businessman in the audience and challenge their collective entrepreneurial can-do spirit” Hale noted that, “San Franciscans have the reputation of being big men, working out big problems, in a big way.”

The City would prove Hale correct. The resulting Exposition, which opened February 20, 1915 and lasted for ten months, would be hugely successful – “the largest public gathering in the United States to date” and proof that San Francisco was not only reborn, but a center of culture and inspiration.

Bruno’s book is not designed to be a “history of the Fair” but rather a compendium of Fair experiences. In thirty-four pithy essays, Panorama shares the stories of the visionaries, builders, innovators, performers, artists, and visitors of the Exposition. The essays, coupled with the lush images of scenery, people, and ephemera enable the reader to glean a holistic understanding of the Exposition and an appreciation of how it transformed San Francisco into the amazing place it is today. PPIE was more than a fair – it was a beautiful and rollicking dream, a glimpse of the future and an extraordinary time of optimism, wonder, and camaraderie. Lee Bruno’s book conveys those sentiments and more. I hope you enjoy it and I’m sure you will agree that Ruben Brooks Hale would be proud of Panorama.

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