California Midwinter Fair of 1894: Depression and Poverty

Historical Essay

by Barbara Berglund

Electric Tower at night Bonet wnp15.088.jpg

The Bonet Electric Tower at night at the Midwinter Fair, 1894.

Photo: Private collector, via, wnp15.088

The same confluence of economic conditions that paved the way for Jennie Johnson’s plight and sent women flocking to the fair to find work also affected men. The financial panic of 1893 and the economic upheaval that followed had made it clear that the economy of ruggedly masculine small producers idealized in the ’49 Mining Camp was truly a thing of the past. The rampant economic ruin, unemployment, and class conflict that ravaged the city and the nation presented an ironic, mocking contrast to the celebrations of capitalist progress and imperial grandiosity at the center of both the Columbian Exposition and the Midwinter Fair. Cognizant of this the Examiner had noted that “starvation would not be an agreeable Midwinter Fair exhibit.” Yet at the same time, the economic crisis emphasized the centrality of manufacturing, finance capitalism, and business consolidation to the American economy. These developments—part of the transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy—had far-reaching consequences for the growing number of Americans—male and female—who made a living working for wages. By the end of the nineteenth century, the United States may have been the world’s leading industrial power as well as its richest, but it was also a place where a few benefited from the labor of many. As corporate strength grew through consolidation and novel managerial techniques, not only did worker control over production decrease but workers, buffeted along by the ebb and flow of the industrial business cycle, found themselves in increasingly insecure economic straits. The panic’s impact in San Francisco signaled the city’s ties to the national economy. Its effects forced residents to confront conditions at home. While the Midwinter Fair put forth a carefully constructed image of San Francisco suitable for outside consumption, the fair itself had been launched, in part, to generate jobs and revenue for a city in economic trouble.(66)

Organizers heralded San Francisco’s Midwinter Fair as an event that would revive the local economy by creating jobs and heal growing class divisions by providing a unifying civic project for all of the city’s residents. “These were hard times,” W.H.L. Barnes told the crowd that packed Metropolitan Hall at a “monster mass-meeting” held to promote the fair on July 27, 1893. “We shall build no souphouses,” he declared, “no beggars shall be driven from house to house. But out on the silver sands fringing the Pacific will be built at a cost, I believe, of over a million dollars, buildings that will be the depositories of the hope of the world.” The fair did provide work for some, although as was the case for many women, the number of male applicants quickly overran the available jobs. Promoters were faced with the fact that the migration of the unemployed from other areas would only aggravate the condition of the thousands of workingmen looking for employment in San Francisco. Many unemployed men did flock to Golden Gate Park but not always in search of work at the fair. Not far from the Midwinter Fair, a coalition of workingmen, merchants, ministers, and rabbis—known as the Citizens’ Executive Committee for the Relief of the Unemployed—had launched a huge, city-wide relief project that raised money to pay out-of-work men to labor in the park. Just as this visible reminder of economic upheaval existed in the same geographic space as the Midwinter Fair’s celebration of economic progress, coverage of this story in the press was often placed adjacent to coverage of the fair. Moreover, while the community support necessary for both of these efforts—the Midwinter Fair and the Citizens’ Executive Committee— was the result of cross-class alliances, at the same time these projects actually made class divisions more visible. Coverage in local newspapers of how the fair and the relief committee fared in face of the social fallout of the economic crisis provided a vehicle for the representation of class identities that stood in stark contrast to the images of independent, self-made men depicted at the ’49 Mining Camp and served to highlight how far the nation had moved from that ideal by presenting images that graphically showcased the conditions of everyday life in the nation’s new industrial economy.(67)

One of the ways both the Midwinter Fair and The Citizens’ Executive Committee for the Relief of the Unemployed generated representations of the working classes was by requiring the registration and enumeration of local unemployed. These people, dependent upon employers and wages, were the antithesis of Jacksonian producers. At the Midwinter Fair, this deployment of scrutinizing practices—akin to those associated with new scientific management techniques used by employers to keep a watchful eye over employees— was ostensibly instituted to insure that unemployed residents of the city were given work before outsiders.(68) It is likely that it was also used as a way to exert some control over large numbers of disgruntled and desperate men. “For the protection of the unemployed among the inhabitants of San Francisco, their names are being registered in the order in which they make application for work,” the Call announced. “Only those mechanics and laborers who now reside here will be given employment in connection with the exposition.” But press coverage of the numbers and characteristics of the unemployed seeking work at the Midwinter Fair that reporters garnered from registration rosters also disclosed information about the composition and condition of the working classes to a city-wide readership. By August 2, 1893, the press reported that from 300 to 400 employment applications were being received daily at the Midwinter Fair’s headquarters and the total had already reached 4,000. “About 10 per cent are carpenters,” the Call informed its readers, “as many more are other mechanics, including engineers, gardeners, teamsters, painters, watchmen and timekeepers. The majority are laborers, although a number are clerks and salesmen out of work and willing to take a pick and shovel and commence grading for the buildings.” By August 9, 1893, the registration of applicants for work at the Midwinter Fair grounds was closed. Within five weeks, 5,000 men had registered their applications for employment. “The committee will not be able to use the services of half that number,” the same paper disclosed, “and it was decided that it would be unfair to the applicants to still further increase their number.” Press coverage of the registration process at the Midwinter Fair had made it unquestionably clear to city residents that ordinary men, many from respectable trades, were out of work in staggering numbers.(69)

The Citizens’ Executive Committee for the Relief of the Unemployed engaged in similar registration practices when it began putting men to work in Golden Gate Park on January 4, 1894. At a meeting held in the rooms of the Merchants’ Club on January 2, “It was unanimously agreed that the funds raised by the citizens for the aid of the unemployed should be used to improve and beautify Golden Gate Park.” “While trees will be put out, plants placed in beds, lawns spaded up and sown, no experience in gardening will be needed by the unemployed,” an article in the Examiner informed its readers, “as most of them will be given work in grading and preparing new grounds.” Although Park Commissioner Stow initially assured the committee that “there was virtually no limit to the work to be done in the Park and that he would put to work all the men the committee would send to him” by the end of the month the number of men had to be pared back from a high of 2,800 to between 1,200 and 1,400. In part this was due to the rapid depletion of funds needed to pay so many workers, but it was also motivated by the concern that the park was becoming crowded with “more men than could be made useful by the Park Commission.” Each employed man was assigned a ticket that entitled him to ten days of work for which he was paid one dollar per day. Throughout the period of relief, men who had worked more than ten days were often required to relinquish their jobs so that other unemployed men could work.(70) Registration of the unemployed for park work was systematic and involved careful examination and evaluation of the men who applied. The relief committee scrutinized men to screen out “the bum element” and to make sure employment was given “only to those considered worthy.” Married men with wives and families were also generally given preference over single men without dependents. As was the case with workers at the Midwinter Fair, San Francisco residents were given priority over the unemployed from outside the city. In fact, enough people in search of work were arriving in the city that after January 10, work tickets were only given to men who presented “letters from former employers or from business men stating that the applicant is known to be deserving and has resided in this city for some time.” On January 4, 1894, the Examiner described the registration process for the 1,100 unemployed men who had gathered on Leidesdorff Street on the morning of the previous day. In groups they were “escorted by a special policeman through the side entrance of the Merchants’ Exchange to be examined as to their eligibility for employment.” “Detachments of fourteen men each were brought up the stairs and one by one examined by the selecting committee, consisting of Father Montgomery and M. P. Jones, while a third member of the executive committee kept a list and a fourth made out the employment cards.” The recipient of the first work ticket was Jerry Sullivan, a San Francisco resident for twenty-one years who “had a wife and six children” and was described as “utterly without means and hungry.”(71)

The press, in its coverage of the Citizens’ Executive Committee’s activities, also described and ran stories about the unemployed men. Most often, it represented the unemployed as ordinary but hardworking and dutiful men facing poverty despite their best efforts. Reports also tended to stress the diversity of the workforce in the park—showing, like the Midwinter Fair coverage, that economic hard times did not discriminate when it can to age, ethnicity, or the respectability or skill level of one’s occupation. “Jewelers, piano-makers, cooks, drug clerks, book canvassers and sewing machine agents work side by side with the commonest of laborers glad to get an opportunity to earn $1 a day,” one account in the Chronicle reported. “The men were of all nationalities, ages and physical conditions. Some were mere youths, while others were gray and bent with age,” informed another.(72)

Some newspaper accounts profiled individual members of the unemployed. One of these related the story of a man “who asked that his name be withheld” because he did not “want all his friends to know that he has become one of the great army of unemployed.” The abstract for the story read: “A man who had been standing in Pauper alley all night waiting for a chance for a work ticket wrote his story for the Examiner yesterday. He is an American, sober and industrious, born and brought up in San Francisco, and yet he has slept out of doors for weeks, and for weeks he has been on the verge of starvation.” The man related that while he was “working on a building on sixteenth street last May” he “fell from the second story to the ground floor.” This fall resulted in an injury to his left foot that rendered him unable to work for thirteen weeks. After he recovered he was unable to find work as a plasterer, his usual trade, or much of anything else. Between the bills for the doctor and living expenses for himself and his mother, he was soon insolvent without his regular wage of $3 a day. He sold all the furniture he owned to buy his mother a ticket to Oregon where his sister lived. Then, he disclosed, “I went to a cheap lodging house, but I soon had to take to the streets. I managed to earn a few cents here and there by cleaning up yards and such like. I was treated well in some places and called a lazy brute in others.” Another article delineated for its readers what a wage of one dollar a day would buy by telling the stories of three park workers and providing examples of their household budgets. “One is the provider for a family of four—himself, his wife and two small children. The second is the sole supporter of his aged mother and his little brother. A third can spend all his dollar on himself, for no others are dependent on him, although he has a family in the East.”(73)

Midway Bird Trainer wnp15.073.jpg

Midway Bird Trainer at the Fair.

Photo: Private collector, via, wnp15.073

Press coverage not only described the poor, it also disclosed notions about poverty and the deserving and undeserving poor, and thus formed the basis for the development of a civic discourse about class identity and economic inequality. In its favorable reports of the park relief project and its calls for increased charitable generosity, the press often emphasized the structural causes of poverty, challenging common attitudes that held that poverty was a result of personal moral failings. The Chronicle featured the partial text of a sermon given by Rev. Thomas Filben, pastor of the California Street Methodist Episcopal Church, which “took the present condition of the laboring classes in this city” as its subject. “Ordinarily poverty presupposes improvidence or vice,” Filben explained, “and misfortune is usually the minor cause. The poverty among us now is unlike this. . . . Many of the best workmen in town are out of employment and utterly unable to find it . . . this city has a veritable army that must be provided for or else be compelled to great suffering and want.”(74)

Even with the turn away from moral explanations to structural causes of poverty, a key element in the press’s portrayal was the representation of the unemployed men as worthy poor—hardworking, victims of circumstance, well-mannered, temperate, and appropriately grateful for charity. The process of registering the unemployed was, in part, designed to separate the worthy from the unworthy poor and to assure donors to both the Midwinter Fair and park relief that aid was only going to the right sort of men. “There is plenty of work to be done and there are plenty of honest, sober men to do it, as the line before the door witnesses,” intoned William M. Bunker, Chairman of the Citizen’s Executive Committee. “I say honest, sober men, because each one of them bears a good recommendation from a reliable firm in this city.” In the early stages of the park relief project, the Chronicle praised the men’s industry: “This vast army of workingmen are literally making the dust fly at the Park . . . They are a conscientious lot of toilers and do not seem inclined to take it easy because they are working for less than it usually costs to have such work performed.” The men’s appropriate gratitude for relief was also lauded. Newspapers even reprinted their thank-you letters. William E. Lippert, of 748 Brannan Street wrote: “The men in my gang who were discharged on Wednesday requested me to tender their sincere thanks to the Executive Committee, churches, and schools for their assistance when a helping hand was much needed in the families of many of my gang.” Similarly, the park workers were also represented as men of honesty and integrity. “The workingmen thus far have shown remarkably good faith in more ways than one,” the Chronicle reported. “Four men yesterday returned their tickets for work with the explanation that they had found other employment, and requesting that the tickets be given to somebody out of a job.”(75)

The press, in its coverage of the fundraising drives for both the Midwinter Fair and the Citizen’s Executive Committee’s enterprises, enthusiastically remarked upon the general climate of generosity in the city. “Subscriptions continue to come in freely,” reported the Chronicle. “The cheerfulness with which the public are contributing to the fund makes the committee hopeful that work may be provided for San Francisco’s suffering laborers long enough to enable them to get in better circumstances.”(76) However, in its reportage of charitable participation, the press constructed an image of the upper classes that contrasted sharply with the image it presented of the working and middle classes. On March 1, 1894, the Chronicle published a resolution that had been adopted the day before by the Citizens’ Executive Committee urging “banks, insurance companies and other wealthy corporations and the capitalists of the city to duplicate their original subscriptions to the relief fund.” The pace of donations from these groups had slowed, the relief fund for the unemployed was being “rapidly exhausted,” and the committee’s resolution suggested that they did not believe it would quicken without considerable prodding.(77) Ferdinand Haber, head of the Viticulture Department at the Midwinter Fair, told the Call that “the real supports of the exhibition are the middle classes—retail merchants, mechanics, and laboring classes.” “The capitalists and large real estate owners have done comparatively nothing. Some of these big men don’t look beyond the threshold of their own doors.”(78)

Within this context of economic crisis and disparate donation, the charitable acts of the poorest members of society were deemed especially impressive. The generosity of newsboys—working children often described as “ragged urchins”—received particular attention. On February 3, the Chronicle reported that Jimmy Collins, a newsboy, had paid a visit to treasurer Daniel Meyer’s office shortly before two o’clock. He “sauntered into the place” and shouted, “Hey, dere, there’s dat dime.” Ever since the Citizen’s Executive Committee had begun collecting subscriptions, Jimmy Collins had made it a practice to contribute ten cents a day, and usually he was accompanied by three other newsboys who did the same. He’d confided to one of the clerks who worked in the office that the reason he made this donation was that “when he was a few years younger his father was out of work for a long time and consequently he knew just what it was to be hard up.” Also newsworthy were the charitable efforts of the city’s newsboys on behalf of the Midwinter Fair. Abe Bienkowski—“a plain everyday newsboy, cast upon the world alone”—put out a call to “every newsboy in San Francisco” that several fundraising meetings for the Midwinter Fair were to be held at the Irish-American Hall. He was also “furnished with a subscription paper and authorized to collect from all newsboys who desired to contribute.” Donations ranged from five to fifty cents. By August 9, the contribution of the newsboys was nearly $12 and on August 10 the subscription list published in the Call indicated “newsboys subscribed (additional) $3.70.” One explanation offered for the charitable acts of the poor was that they gave because they knew what it was like to be in want while the elite and the middle classes needed to be educated about the poor in order to be motivated to generosity.(79)

In fact, as a form of exposé journalism, the press coverage of these two fundraising efforts did a considerable amount of public education and service in a time of crisis. In its routine chastisement of capitalists for their stinginess, it not only presented a stark contrast to the virtue of capitalist entrepreneurs lauded at the ’49 Mining Camp, but also safely channeled and gave voice to local anger at growing social inequities. Its depictions of the worthy poor may very well have been a way to mollify readers who could identify with such a plight at the same time that they served to educate the middle and upper classes about the less fortunate. Through its coverage, local newspapers allowed middle-class readers to “know” the poor. The press also reported stories of middle-class “discovery” of the poor. While these generally occurred in “real life” and were reported in the pages of the press, they mirrored the kind of experiences and charitable actions such stories were designed to inspire in their readers.

The Examiner generated this kind of tale in its coverage of the Lincoln School boys who provided lunches for over 2,300 men in the park in mid-January. “A lady who noticed the scene from a carriage beckoned to one of the boys. ‘I’ll make up a box of lunches for to-morrow,’ she said. ‘I never dreamed such things could exist here in San Francisco. . . . I have been driving around after these wagons all morning, and I have seen these men eating like starving animals. To-morrow I shall do what little I can to help.” The idea of having the children from various schools rotate the responsibility for providing lunches to the men in the park actually originated with one middle-class fifteen-year-old girl from Golden Gate Avenue, Lillie Meyer, in a moment of middle-class “discovery” of the poor. Upon their return from a buggy ride in Golden Gate Park, Lillie’s older sister and little brother related that in the course of their ride they had came upon some of the park workers toiling on the roadways. It was lunch time but the men had nothing to eat. Well-stocked with cookies, the two Meyer children offered them to the men and they were gratefully received. After hearing this story, Lillie Meyer had an idea that “solved a question that had puzzled a lot of older heads.” She said, “I’ll speak to Miss Strauss, our teacher, and ask her to speak to all the scholars, and we’ll each one of us bring a lunch and send them out to the poor men in the Park.” While this episode conveniently conformed to images of children that stressed their innocence and viewed them as especially appropriate vehicles of charity, it also launched a huge community effort to help the less fortunate. The Chronicle even went so far as to encourage its readers to go out to the park and see the work of the unemployed men first hand, “If the hundreds who drive out to the Park to-day, before or after visiting the Midwinter Fair, will continue their journey a few yards beyond the fenced enclosure either on the north or the south, they will obtain some idea of the extent and value of the work which the dollar-a-day men are doing.”(80)

But even as the depictions of the poor in the press made them visible and constructed them as worthy, hardworking, appropriately grateful, and honorable, this ostensibly favorable image designed to provoke charity also contained within it less savory elements. The poor did not represent themselves and stepping outside the image constructed for them meant risking being labeled unworthy and therefore undeserving of charity. Throughout the fundraising effort, concerns were raised about “bummers” and “loafers” receiving aid, that the poor would become dependent upon relief, and that the wage of one dollar a day was too much of a luxury for some. Moreover, a flyer circulated by the United Brotherhood of Labor in early September 1893 titled “Facts Concerning the Midwinter Fair” urged the public to refuse to fund the Midwinter Fair because it had failed to uphold its promise to give work to the unemployed. This flyer also made reference to the fact that the unemployed had “camped upon the Postoffice site nearly two months, and have had numerous street parades” yet were still waiting for their situation to be openly discussed in the Chronicle, Michael de Young’s newspaper. These rumblings of discontent suggest that the city’s widespread efforts to aid the unemployed emerged, in part, from the need for some gesture of appeasement to keep an increasingly volatile situation under control.(81) Through the provision of work and a little direct aid, combined with press coverage that channeled working-class anger and taught middle-class San Franciscans about the less fortunate in their midst at the same time that it moved them to charity, elites successfully weathered a crisis that had the potential to disrupt order not only at the fair, but in the city at large.

In July 1893, when the Midwinter Fair was still just a sparkle in de Young’s eye, Clara S. Feliz had told a crowd assembled at a mass meeting to generate enthusiasm for the exposition that it would “attract the attention of the civilized world.” After such a display, she explained “people elsewhere” would “not look at you as if you carried a pistol in your belt and a bowie-knife in your boot when you tell them you come from California.”(82) For its six-month duration, the Midwinter Fair served as a cultural frontier on which San Francisco elites presented an image of the city to “the civilized world” that revealed a carefully ordered vision. Fair organizers packaged many of the these things that made San Francisco its own unique place—its gold rush history, its disorderly Wild West legacy, its diversity, and its position on the Pacific Rim—within an overarching framework that stressed the containment of class, race, and gender-based disorder in the city and the ascendance of locally inflected forms of nationally dominant social hierarchies. Sunset City offered to the world a picture of San Francisco as a civilized, conquered, and thus fully American place. Claiming this mantle reflected the city’s position as a farwestern urban center that, having gotten its own house in order, was not only ready for incorporation into the fabric of the nation, but was poised to be instrumental in furthering the nation’s growing imperial goals.


66. Historian David Montgomery has identified the period from 1873 to 1897 as one of an ongoing deflationary crisis with “endemic conflicts over wages and the costs of production.” Two key strikes of the 1890s framed the financial panic of 1893—the Homestead Strike of 1892 and the Pullman Strike of 1894. Both were viewed by many Americans fearful of the ways society was changing as profound manifestations of social disorder. In San Francisco, while the depression and an employer-led city-wide open-shop drive of the early 1890s squelched many of the gains labor had made in the 1880s, by the late 1890s labor activism and union membership was at an unprecedented high. See David Montgomery, The Fall of the House of Labor: The Workplace, the State, and American Labor Activism, 1865–1925 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 5, and Issel and Cherny, San Francisco, 1865–1932: Politics, Power, and Urban Development (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), 80 –82.
67. Call, July 27, 1893. See also Call, July 27, 1893; Call, August 10, 1893. See Call, July 13, 1893, and Call, July 30, 1893, for the deluge of unemployed that besieged the offices of the Midwinter Fair’s secretary, Alexander Badlam. This name was used in the Examiner, January 24, 1893. The relief effort was also referred to as “The Unemployed Movement” and “the Relief Committee.” Adjacent coverage was especially true in the Examiner.
68. Alan Trachtenberg, in The Incorporation of America, has shown that at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition, the laborers who built the fairgrounds were both carefully controlled and concealed. Workers at the Midwinter Fair were undoubtedly subject to various controls. For example, the Callrather cryptically reported on July 18, 1893 that “At the regular meeting of the executive committee a complete set of bylaws and rules were adopted for the government of the committee, and giving the director-general full power over the operations and employees of the exposition ‘to assume and employ all such executive powers as shall be necessary to secure promptness, efficiency, and good faith in every department of the work.’” In early September 1893, a group called the United Brotherhood of Labor circulated a flyer titled, “Facts Concerning the Midwinter Fair” that alleged that Buckman and Warren, a team of contractors, “compel you to board in their camp, work you like a convict, give you food that many dogs would not touch, pay $1 per day at the expiration of 30 days, or discount you ten percent.” However, the large numbers of unemployed made it impossible and undesirable for them to be completely concealed, in part because publicity about employing the unemployed reflected favorably on the fair management.
69. Call, July 30, 1893. For similar sentiments about preferential employment of city residents, see the Call, July 27, 1893, Call, November 26, 1893; Call, August 1, 1893; Call, August 2, 1893; Call, August 10, 1893. It is also worth noting that organized labor was craft-based at this time and more involved with securing work for its skilled membership than aiding the unemployed. For example, the Building Trades Union offered one day’s pay to the fair fund from “every man engaged in building or whose work brings him in contact with builders and who is a member of a labor organization” in exchange for limiting work on fair buildings to local labor, Call, July 17, 1893. Similarly, the Carpenters’ and Joiners’ Union of Stockton submitted a petition to the managers of the Midwinter Fair asking for work on the buildings to be erected, promising to give one day’s labor each month for the benefit of the fair, Call, August 2, 1893.
70. Examiner, January 3, 1894; Examiner, January 1, 1894; Examiner, January 6, 1894; Chronicle, January 30, 1894 and Chronicle, February 3, 1894. These lay-offs were unwelcome news for the men who depended on the dollar-a-day wage provided by work in the park. Chronicle, January 26, 1894.
71. Chronicle, January 1, 1894; Examiner, January 3, 1894. For the practice of requiring letters to confirm, see Examiner, January 4 and 16, 1894, and Chronicle, January 10, 1894.
72. Chronicle, January 6 and January 28, 1894.
73. Examiner, January 13 and 14, 1894.
74. Chronicle, January 1, 1894.
75. Chronicle, February 4, 1894; Examiner, January 26, 1894; Chronicle, January 10, 1894. The Committee for the Relief of the Unemployed limited its relief efforts to aiding unemployed men. In part, this was due to common attitudes that viewed women workers as superfluous because their wages supposedly did not support families. See Alice Kessler Harris, Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982). For similar representations of the worthy poor, see Chronicle, January 17, 1894; Examiner, January 17, 1894; Chronicle, January 2, 22, 26, 27, 1894; and Examiner, January 29, 1894. For other examples of the park workers’ industry, see Examiner, January 27, 1894 and Chronicle, January 27, 1894; Chronicle, March 1, 1894; and Chronicle, March 4, 1894. For other examples of appropriate gratitude, see Chronicle, January 9 and January 15, 1894; Examiner, January 18, 23, 24, 1894, and February 10, 1894.
76. Chronicle, January 10, 1894.
77. Chronicle, Thursday, March 1, 1894.
78. Call, August 2, 1893. The same sentiments were expressed in the Call, July 30, 1893; August 10, 1893; July 27, 1893; July 18, 1893; Call, August 30, 1893; Call, August 6, 1893; and Call, August 9 and 10, 1893; and Chronicle, March 14, 1894.
79. Chronicle, February 3, 1894; Call, August 2, 1893, and August 10, 1893. In return for their generosity, newsboys and other working children were admitted to the fair without charge on Saturday, March 31, 1894—Chronicle Day. A week later, 1,500 newsboys were given an additional day at the fair that was sponsored by the Daily Report and the concessionaires. However, while the executive committee of the Midwinter Exposition was willing to demonstrate its charitable generosity by throwing its doors open to the city’s children, it was less willing to readily make the fair affordable for working adults—admittedly the backbone of the fair’s financial support. After numerous contentious meetings, members of the committee did agree to drop the admission fee from fifty cents to twenty-five cents on the weekends and after five o’clock in the evening on weekdays. Although it took them until mid-May to adopt this plan that was initially proposed in January, it met with great public approval and considerably increased attendance at the fair. See Chronicle, March 16, 1894; Chronicle, March 23, 1894; Chronicle, March 28 and 29, 1894; Chronicle, January 5, 1894; Chronicle, March 6, 1894; Chronicle, April 11, 1894; Call, May 6, 1894; Call, May 13, 1894; and Call, May 14, 1894.
80. Examiner, January 19, 1894; Examiner, January 14 and 15, 1894; and Chronicle, March 4, 1894. For other community-lead relief efforts, see Chronicle, January 9, 1894; Examiner, January 20, 1894; and Chronicle, January 6, 1894.
81. Chronicle, January 22, 1894; United Brotherhood of Labor, “Facts Concerning the Midwinter Fair.”
82. Call, July 27, 1893.

Originally published in chapter 5 “Imagining the City: The California Midwinter International Exposition” in Making San Francisco American: Cultural Frontiers in the Urban West, 1846-1906 by Barbara Berglund (University Press of Kansas: Lawrence KS 2007)

back to beginning of chapter