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The World's Fair and Exposition
Information and Reference Guide

1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition




  • 228 facts and trivia nuggets plus 44 links to external resources.

  • The World's Fair and Exposition Information and Reference Guide is now on CD.
    11,216 facts and 1,362 web links covering 24 World's Fairs and Expositions.
    Further information can be found here.

  • To Convert Dollar Amounts to the Year 2003: divide the amount by .076



The following categories are on CD
High Resolution Images (11)
more Statistics (11) Owl Drugstore (5)
more Facts and Trivia (20) Pacific Basin Area (37)
Cavalcades (13) Pacific House (10)
Courts and Gardens (46) Palace of Electricity
and Communications
Ford Building (11) Palace of Fine
and Decorative Arts
Gayway (30) Palace of Food and Beverages (3)
Hall of Air Transportation (11) Palace of Homes and Gardens (4)
Hall of Science (9) Postage Stamps (14)
Hall of Western States (12) Recreation Building (6)
Livestock Pavilion (3) Tower of the Sun (7)
Mines, Metals
and Machinery Building
Treasure Island (35)
Night Lighting (19) Vacationland (18)
Norwegian Ski Lodge (6) Admissions, Fares, Fees (25)
Official Key (7) San Francisco-Oakland Bridge (11)
One Thousand Pound Fruitcake (9) Golden Gate Bridge (24)
Bonus: 1939-40 Timeline (105)






  • Title: 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition.

  • Theme: Pageant of the Pacific.

  • Theme Girl: Zoë Del Lantis.

  • Location: Treasure Island, San Francisco, California.

  • Category: Universal Exhibition.

  • Symbol: Tower of the Sun.

  • Exposition President: Al Smith.

  • Dates: February 19, 1939 - October 29, 1939.
               May 25, 1940 - September 29, 1940.

  • Area: .403 acres

  • Cost: $57,500,000.

  • Losses (1939): $4,189,213.84.

  • Area Revenue Generated: $100,000,000 (estimated).

  • Hours: 10:00 AM - 10:00 PM daily. Gayway: 10:00 AM - 2:00 AM.

  • Daily Admission: 50¢ for adults, 25¢ for children 5-12 years old.

  • Children's Day: 10¢.

  • Record Daily Attendance: 187,730 (October 8th).

  • Closing Day Attendance (1939): 147,674.

  • Closing Day Attendance (1940): over 200,000.

  • Architecture: Eastern, European and Latin American.

  • Chairman Architecture Committee: George W. Kelham, Arthur Brown, Jr.

  • Architectural Committee (5): Arthur Brown, Jr., Lewis Hobart, William G Merchant, Timothy L Pflueger, Ernest E Weihe.

  • Cultural Influences: Cambodian, Incas, Malaysians and Mayan.

  • Horticulture Program: $1,500,000.

  • Horticulture Director: Julius L Girod.

  • Exposition Colors: California Ecru, China Clipper Blue, Death Valley Mauve, Del Monte Blue, Evening Star Blue, Exposition Ivory, Hawaiian Emerald Green, Imperial Dragon Red, Ming Jade Green (light and dark), Old Mission Fawn, Pacific Blue, Pagoda Yellow, Pebble Beach Coral, Polynesian Brown, Santa Barbara Taupe, Santa Clara Apricot, Southern Cross Blue, Sun of Dawn Yellow and Treasure island Gold.

  • Participating Nations (20): Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, French Indo-China, Guatemala, Holland, Italy, Johore, Japan, Java, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands East Indies, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Switzerland, Uruguay. I found references to 26 countries.

  • Participating States (11): Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington.

  • Participating US Territories: Hawaii, Alaska.

  • Outdoor Stadium: 11,000 seats.

  • Special Events: 3,000+.

  • Official Guide Book: 25¢.

  • Official Daily Program: Today at the Fair, 5¢.

  • Official Photographer: Gabriel Moulin (Moulin Studios).

  • Guides: 275.

  • Benches: 5,700.

  • Massage Stands: 4.

  • Police: 75 officers.

  • Fruit Stands: 3.

  • Phone Number: FAIrgrounds 1939.

  • Parking Lot: 12,000 cars (1939). 22,000 cars (1940).

  • Parking Fee (1939): 50¢ for up to 5 people, 5¢ for each additional.

  • Parking Fee (1940): 25¢.

  • Three Ferry Slips and a Passenger Terminal Building: $500,000.

  • Ferry Service Traffic: 50,000 per hour (estimated).

  • US Population (1939): 130,879,718.


Facts and Trivia



  • 1934 - San Francisco Bay Exposition is Incorported.

  • Construction: February 1936 - January 1939.

  • Six other sites were considered including: Golden Gate Park, Presidio of San Francisco and the China Basin.

  • The name "Treasure Island" is a reference to the "gold-laden fill dirt" that washed down from the Sierras into the Bay from which it was dredged to create the island.

  • Treasure Island was built on marsh land known as Yerba Buena Shoal. 

  • Yerba Buena Island was named by the Spanish because of the abundance of wild mint on the Island. Yerba Buena means "Good Herb" in Spanish. It was also known as: Wood Island, Bird Island, and Goat Island.

  • Franklin Roosevelt opened the Exposition on February 19, 1939 in a message from Washington, DC.

  • Approximately 2/3 of all visitors were from out-of-town and were visiting California for the first time.

  • Rail traffic to San Francisco increased 166%.

  • After the fair, Treasure Island was supposed to be used as an airport for trans-Pacific clipper ships.

  • Captain Edwin C. Musick made the first transpacific airmail flight from San Francisco on November 11, 1935 aboard a Pan-American Martin M-130 flying boat.

  • A trip aboard a Clipper Ship would set you back $700+.

  • Charlie Chan regularly flew on "Clipper Ships".

  • Architect Arthur Brown, Jr. also designed San Francisco's City Hall and the Court of Horticulture at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

  • General Motors exhibit “Highways of Tomorrow” was in New York for the 1939 NYWF.

  • IBM installed all the clocks at the Exposition with the master clock being in their building.

  • IBM also demonstrated their latest data processing equipment using 3" by 7 1/2" cards with holes punched in them.

  • Herman Hollerith invented the "keypunch card" and first used them for compiling the 1890 census. His company became IBM in 1924.



  • The 30 foot long and 20 foot wide Official Model took twelve men six months to complete.

  • Model Scale: 16:1.

  • San Francisco leased the Hall of Transportation to to Pan American Airways for the next 10 years. As well as office space in the Administration Building and docking privileges in the lagoon.

  • Dioramas in the San Francisco Building detailed San Francisco history including the 1893 Midway Fair, the 1906 earthquake and the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition.

  • The entire US Naval Fleet was in the bay from July 1st through July 17th.

  • You had to get on the island by plane, ferry or automobile. You couldn't walk.

  • You couldn't take your dog. But you could leave it in the car.

  • The Recreation Building was a first for a World's Fair.

  • Festival Hall was not an exhibition building. The 2,000 person capacity hall was used only for special events and occassions.

  • The Press Building was decorated with cartoon and illustrations from newspapers.

  • The over-sized NCR Cash Register keep attendance every hour-hour in 2 foot, 4 inch numbers. Inside were displays of cash registers. This exhibit was a duplicate of their exhibit featured at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

  • The oldest plane in California was on display at the Oakland Airport.

  • The Biblical Garden of the Temple of Religion contained 200 varieties of flowers mentioned in the Bible.

  • The Ghirardelli Chocolate Building sold hot and cold chocolate malted beverages in a 100 seat cafeteria.

  • Chinatown has approximately 25,000 inhabitants.

  • General Motors displayed a working transparent (plexiglass) car.



  • A scale model relief map of Chicago was on display in the Illinois Building. It contained 488,721 buildings.

  • The Danish actress Bodil Rosing gave scheduled readings in Denamrk's Building. Jack Wiboldt painted the murals for the Hans Christain Anderson readings.

  • You could read the works of Mary Baker Eddy at the Christain Science Building.

  • The $60,000 45 foot by 110 foot Bank of America Building on Treasure Island was windowless. The bank was open from 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM daily and was billed as "The Bank of Tomorrow".

  • Threlkeld Scones were for sale in the restaraunt across from the NCR Cash Register. The restaraunt sold only scones, Hill's Brothers Coffee and milk.

  • Scones were sold by JH Threlkeld at the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition.

  • Tunaburgers were sold at the White Star Tuna Restaraunt.

  • Only Pan-American Clipper Ships could land on the island.

  • Camille Salon, Franz Bergmann, Jose Moya del Pino and Peter Ilyin painted murals for the Temple of Religion.

  • The initial closing date for 1939 was December 2nd.

  • Permanent Buildings: Administration Building, Hall of Air Transportation, Palace of Fine and Liberal Arts.


Treasure Island after the Exposition

  • February 28, 1941 - the Island is leased to the United States Government.

  • April 1st, 1941 - Treasure Island becomes "Naval Station Treasure Island" headquarters for the 12th Naval District.

  • 1993 - Naval Station is closed by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

  • Today - The US Coast Guard Installation is still active on the southern half of the island.

  • Treasure Island Development Authority.


Administration Building


  • Cost: $900,000 (guidebook).

  • Height: 4 stories.

  • Cafeteria: 125 people.

  • Dining Room: 250 seats.

  • Parking Garage (basement): 100 cars.

  • Parking in Front: 250 cars.

  • Houses: cafeteria, check room, cocktail lounge, emergency hospital, executive offices, public telephones, Postal Telegraph, restrooms, Western Union.

  • A lookout tower was on top of the building.

  • One of three permanent buildings.

  • Becomes the administration building for the Treasure Island Airport with 5 underground passageways after the Exposition closes.


Agriculture Hall


  • Main Exhibits (3): Cyclorama, Illuminated Globe, Theatre.

  • Cyclorama: A 3-D "tableaux" divided into 2 halves.

  • Illuminated Globe: base divided into 12 sections.

  • Theatre: 126 seats.

  • Exhibitors included: National Livestock and Meat Board, Silk Worm Industry, State Department of Agriculture, and Numerous California Agricultural Associations and Cooperatives.


Arch of Triumph


  • Architect: Lewis P Hobart.

  • Height: 105 feet high.

  • Arch: 90 foot.

  • Sculptor (Two Eagles on Arch): Jacques Schnier.

  • Murals (2): 45 feet each (inside the Archway).

  • Mural Theme: The Winds.

  • Muralist: Hugo Ballin.


Billy Roses Aquacade (1940)


  • Aquabelle #1: Esther Williams.

  • Aquadonis #1: Johnny Weissmuller.

  • Esther Williams was a member of the 1940 Olympic Team.

  • Rose's wife, Eleanor Holm, was Aquabelle #1 at the 1939 New York World's Fair.


California Buildings


  • Total Buildings: 18.

  • Cost: $6,000,000+.

  • Supervising Architect: Timothy L Pflueger.


California Auditorium

  • Architect: Timothy L Pflueger.

  • Cost: $400,000.

  • Studios: 4.

  • Radio Programs: 8,000+.

  • Shows per Week: 30 per named artist.

  • Admissions: 25¢, 50¢ and 75¢.

  • Remote Pick-ups: 15-24.

  • Housed the three Radio Studios.

  • The master control room could monitor 12 broadcasts at a time.

  • The largest studio could hold 3,500 people.

  • Entertainers included Al Jolson, Burns and Allen, Fibber McGee and Kate Smith.


California Coliseum

  • Designer: Timothy L Pflueger.

  • Size: 230 foot long, 10o foot wide oval.

  • Track: 12 feet wide.

  • Seating: 9,476 people.

  • Activities: animal shows, athletic events, concerts.



California State Building

  • Architects: Timothy L Pflueger, Clarence A Tantau.

  • Location: Court of Nations.

  • Mural Title: California Industries.

  • Mural (facade): "The Art and Industries of California" by Lucien Labaudt (1880-1943).

  • Mural Size: 200 feet by 50 feet (10,000 square feet).

  • Murals (walls) (4): "The Importance of Recreation in Society" by Millard Sheets.

  • Mural (ballroom): "Spanish Fiesta" by Jose Moya del Pino (1891-1969).

  • Size: 30 feet by 130 feet.

  • Mural Maps (State room): Robert Boardman Howard (1896-1983).

  • Auditorium: 216 seats.

  • The Governor's Room was furnished in Yuba wood and the Conference Room in Redwood. Overall, 12 different types of western woods were used throughout the building.

  • The ballroom had a black floor, rose walls and a celloglass ceiling.

  • Robert Hall designed the two mural maps in the State Hall.


Alameda-Contra Costa Building

  • Architect: Irving F Morrow.

  • Cost: $210,000 ($70,000 for the building, $140,000 for exhibits).

  • Size: 243 feet long, 50 feet wide.

  • Garden Court: 30,000+ plants.

  • Statues: "Agriculture", "Home Life, Industry" by Claude Sargent Johnson (1887-1967).

  • Murals: Marian Simpson.


Alta California

  • Architect: HC Chambers.

  • Area: 1/5 acre.

  • Participating Counties: 14 Northern California Counties.


Hall of Flowers

  • Landscape Architect: Mark Daniels.

  • Construction: celloglass.

  • Size: 196 feet long, 60 feet wide.

  • Area: 6,000 square feet.

  • Housed the largest continuous bench flower show.


Mission Trails Building

  • Architects: Harold A Edmondson, Robert Stanton.

  • Cost: $100,000.

  • Spanish Tile Fountain: $3,000.

  • World's Largest Moving Panorama: 165 feet long, 18 feet high.

  • Contained architectural designs of 7 California Missions.


Recreation Building and Sports Field

  • Architect: William G Merchant.

  • Admission: Free.

  • This building was a first for an International Exposition.


Redwood Empire Building

  • Architect: William G Merchant, Bernard R Maybeck.

  • Entrance: 400 foot high, 20 foot diameter Redwood tree.

  • Participating Counties: Del Norte, Humboldt, Josephine (Oregon), Lake, Mendocino, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, Sonoma.


Sacramento-Tahoe Region

  • Architect: Henry T Howard.

  • Noted Exhibit: $100,000 worth of gold nuggets.

  • Participating Counties: El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Solano, Yolo.


San Joaquin Valley Building

  • Architect: Timothy L Pflueger, Ernest Born.

  • Centerpiece: 20 foot by 40 foot relief map of the San Joaquin Valley.

  • Participating Counties: Fresno, Kern, Madera, Merced.


San Francisco Building

  • Interior Designer: Clarence A Tantau.

  • Main Room: "Court of Whales" by Robert Boardman Howard (1896-1983) and Cecilia Graham.

  • Mural: "The Industries of San Francisco" by Ernest Alexander Born.

  • Standing Figures (5): Raymond Puccinelli (1904-1986).

  • Dioramas: 10.

  • Housed the Treasure Island offices of the Mayor of San Francisco and reception rooms.

  • One of the dioramas illustrated how San Francisco would look at the turn of the century (1999).

  • The original "golden spike" was on display by the Wells Fargo Historical Museum.

  • Golden Spike National Historic Site - NPS.


Shasta Cascade Building

  • Architect: OA Deichman.

  • Campfire Circle (1): could hold 500 people.

  • Dioramas: 6.

  • Wood Carvings on Doors: Dudley Carter.

  • Participating Counties (California): Lassen, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity.

  • Participating Counties (Oregon): Jackson, Klamath, Lake.


Southern Counties Building

  • Architect: Harold C Chambers.

  • Height: 70 feet.

  • Foyer: 60 feet long, 56 feet wide, 50 feet high.

  • Landscaping: Mark Daniels.

  • Mural (panel): "Horn of Plenty" by Millard Sheets.

  • Was the largest County Building.

  • Contained the largest mural at the Exposition.


Special Buildings

  • Coast Guard Pavilion.

  • Dairy Products Display.

  • Press Building.

  • Livestock Barns.


Federal Building


  • Architect: Timothy L Pflueger.

  • Exhibit Area: 7 acres.

  • Theme: Pageant of America.

  • Cost: $1,500,000.

  • Subject Areas (10): American Indian, conservation, coast guard, economic affairs, Federal 
    theatre, housing, National defense, social affairs, WPA art, WPA recreation.

  • Facade Murals: "Conquering of the West by Water"" and "Conquering of the West by Land" by Herman Roderick Volz (1904-1990) and WPA artists.

  • The north wing contained a theatre and the 11 hall Indian Exhibit.

  • In the center area was the Colonnade of States.

  • The south court housed the reminder of the exhibits.

  • Exhibits included: a B-17 Flying Fortress, the Link Trainer, a submarine, a $30,000 working model of Boulder Dam, a Mayan culture exhibit, Incan gold, a playroom, and recreation room.

  • Fort Hunter Liggett - Historic California Posts.


Colonnade of States

  • Size: 265 feet long, 104 feet high.

  • Columns: 48 (one for each State).

  • Aisles (3): Executive, Judicial and Legislative Branches of Government.


Foreign Participation



 International Hall

  • Czechoslovakian exhibit included: cosmetics, glassware, leather goods, musical instruments, jewelry, pottery, textiles and toys.

  • Denmark's exhibit contained glassware, Copenhagen porcelain and Wicker Furniture displayed on a "non-inflammable cork" floor.

  • Portugal's exhibit included: embroideries, murals, silver, sardines and wine.

  • Sweden exhibited art glass and ceramics in an 1,800 square foot area.

  • Jules Charbeneau displayed 250,000 miniature hand-carved items.

  • Participating Nations (all European): Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Greece, Holland, Portugal, Sweden.



  • Theme: Fine Arts, Fashion and Tourism in France.

  • Statues (Fine Arts section): "The Shadow" and "Carplaux".

  • Statue Sculpture (Fine Arts section): Bourdelle.

  • Theatre: 150 seats.

  • Exhibits: antiquities, ladies dresses from the 18th Century to present day, maps, 30 paintings by French masters, tapestries and tourist information.



  • Designer (building): Dr Alfio Susini from the Italian Royal Academy.

  • Designer (diorama): Signor Prampolini (pupil of Marinetti).

  • Tower: 115 feet high.

  • Major towns and cities were listed in one foot letters on the Tower.


  • see also Pacific Basin Area (on CD).


Links, Resources, Sources




Resources, Sources - Books


  • A Trip to the San Francisco Exposition with Bobby and Betty by Joseph Henry Jackson. Robert M. McBride & Company, New York, 1939. 96 pages.

  • Golden Gate: The Story of San Francisco Harbor by Felix Riesenberg Jr. 1940.

  • Magazine of Art, Golden Gate International Exposition Issue. March, 1939. 64 pages.

  • Official Art Catalog. San Francisco, 1940. 176 pages.

  • Official Catalog Miniature Rooms by Mrs. James Ward Thorne. San Francisco, 1940.

  • Official Guide Book, Golden Gate International Exposition on San Francisco Bay. San Francisco. The Crocker Company, 1939.



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