Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, May 7, 2015

News of the Lusitania Arrives at the World's Fair

Fair Grounds in What Is Now San Francisco's Marina District
(Golden Gate sans Bridge to Far Left)

There was a World's Fair held during the Great War. Known formally as the Panama-Pacific Exposition, it was held in San Francisco to celebrate both the opening of the Panama Canal and the rebuilding of San Francisco after the earthquake and fire of 1906.  Despite being at war, a number of the combatants had major pavilions and exhibits, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand from the Allied side. Only Turkey, however, had a Central Powers presence.

One of the most popular exhibits was the 15-foot-tall Underwood typewriter that printed out the day's news in as close to real time as was possible in 1915. On Friday morning, 7 May 1915, the crowd in the Palace of the Liberal Arts gathered around as the typewriter started producing a bulletin — "Liverpool, May 7, the Lusitania with heavy passenger list of Americans was torpedoed and sunk off the Irish coast this afternoon."

RMS Lusitania Arriving in New York on an Earlier Voyage

Afterward, the fair, which — despite the death of aviation daredevil and local lad Lincoln Beachey and the war in Europe — had been something of a joy fest, shifted in tone almost immediately. More military displays, a model of a trench, and an exhibit of the latest news from the battlefields appeared. America, without yet realizing it yet, had started on the road to war.

For a virtual tour and photos of the fair:

For information on the International Exhibits:

1 comment:

  1. As a native San Franciscan I find this to be a very interesting story. It makes me ask how SF's sentiments were compared with the rest of the country?