In the first few months of 1894, San Diego County newspapers ran a number of articles about “the midwinter fair” and the county’s participation in it.
Its official name was the California Midwinter International Exposition, and it ran in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park from January 27 to July 5, 1894.
A San Diego Union reporter, writing from San Francisco on the opening ceremonies, described perfect weather and throngs of people.
The fair covered 130 acres, with a grand court featuring “an electric tower over 250 feet in height,” surrounded by five main exhibition buildings dedicated to the state’s business, agriculture and art. Surrounding this main court were special buildings “erected by the different states, counties and concessions (erected at the cost of the states, counties or individuals) for their exclusive exhibits.”
Here’s a shot of the fair illuminated at night:
San Diego County was one of the prime exhibitors.
The February 3, 1894 Poway Progress, started its “CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND MIDWINTER FAIR BULLETIN” by quoting from the San Francisco Chronicle:
“San Diego County has erected a model warehouse of dried fruits. This is the central figure of its display. Oranges, lemons, limes, raisins, olive oil and every variety of deciduous fruits are contained in this exhibit. The most southern county in the state vies with Siskiyou on the north in the display of apples…”
A miniature model of San Diego’s harbor was also part of the exhibit, according to the Progress, which also stated that a “Los Angeles resident” who’d visited both his city’s exhibit and San Diego’s pronounced San Diego’s “away ahead” of LA’s.
The San Diego Chamber of Commerce was a prime sponsor of San Diego’s exhibit. Chamber president Hosmer P. McKoon was also elected president of the “County Commissioners Club,” representing the various counties exhibiting at the fair.
The March 31 edition of the Poway paper noted that “April 10 will be San Diego day at the midwinter fair. Director Norcross of the chamber of commerce will go up the first week in April to assist Mr. Frisbie in setting up the big triumphal arch and completing other arrangements. President McKoon will deliver an address, there will be band music and several thousand packages of raisins bearing the compliments of San Diego County, will be given away.”
The free produce was obviously meant to accomplish more than satisfying visitors’ sweet tooths.
In early May 1894 a San Francisco newspaper reported that “The number of homeseekers who have studied the resources of the State on the fair grounds is incalculable.” The article went on to say that the fair “has been the means of attracting a great many actual purchasers and will attract a great many more. The best satisfied among those connected with the fair are not those who have come to sell goods, but the representatives of California’s counties, who at a big expense arranged exhibits to attract settlers.”
Some two million people passed through the fair’s gates during its run. That’s a lot of raisins.
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History Happenings-Upcoming Events in the Local History Community
Open house at the Vista Historical Museum, 1-3 on Sept 13. Learn about the history of the museum, the former Rancho Minerva, and a little Greek culture. Hosted by three Girl Scouts earning their Silver Award. This is a community event and anyone can join. $7 donation includes tour, snack, presentation and patch. For further info call 760-630-0444.
Phil Goscienski, MD, the Stone-Age Doctor, will present a lecture on the health benefits of wine and chocolate followed by wine and chocolate tasting at the San Diego Archaeological Center, Saturday, September 13, 11 am – 2 pm. Admission: $25 for members $35 for non-members (21 and over only). Space is limited and you must register in advance. Purchase tickets online at www.sandiegoarchaeology.org. To register for the event or for more information, please contact Cara Ratner at email@example.com or by telephone: (760) 291-0370.
Come help the Poway Historical and Memorial Society celebrate their 50th anniversary Sunday, September 14 from 9 am to 4 pm in Old Poway Park. There’ll be a museum open house, rummage sale, musical entertainment and speakers including yours truly, the San Diego History Seeker. I’ll also have a book table there. For details go to page 2 of the latest edition of the society newsletter, http://www.powayhistoricalsociety.org/newsletter/newsletter_14_fall.pdf .
Join members of the Santee Historical Society for their annual Barn Bar BQ and General Meeting Saturday, September 20 at 11 am at the society’s headquarters, the historic Edgemoor Barn, 9200 Magnolia Avenue. Speaker will be yours truly, the San Diego History Seeker, speaking on the lives of pioneer residents Hosmer and Fannie McKoon. $2.50 a plate for members, $5 a plate for non-members (you can join on the spot). RSVP by calling 619-449-2024.