John C. PutmanDec 23, 2021
Boosting a New West
Pacific Coast Expositions, 1905-1916
Washington State University Press 2020
Inspired by Chicago’s successful 1893 World Columbian Exposition, the cities of Portland, Seattle, San Diego, and San Francisco all held fairs between 1905 and 1915. From the start of the Lewis and Clark Exposition to the close of the Panama-California Exposition a decade later, millions of Americans visited exhibits, watched live demonstrations and performances, and wandered amusement zones. Millions more thumbed through brochures or read news articles. Fair publicity directors embraced the emerging science of consumer marketing. Conceived to attract new citizens, showcase communities, and highlight farming and industrial opportunities, the four expositions’ promotional campaigns and vendor and exhibit choices offer a unique opportunity to examine western leaders’ perceptions of their city and region, as well as their future goals and how they both fed and tried to mitigate misconceptions of a wild, wooly West. They also expose biased attitudes toward Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Filipinos, and others.
Boosting a New West: Pacific Coast Expositions, 1905–1916 (Washington State University Press, 2020) explores the fairs’ cultural and social meaning by focusing on and comparing the promotions that surrounded them. It details their origins and describes why each city chose to host, conveying the expected economic, social, and cultural benefits. It also shows how organizers articulated their significance to urban, regional, and national audiences, and how they attempted to shape a new western identity.
John C. Putman is a Professor of History at San Diego State University
Troy A. Hallsell is the 341st Missile Wing Historian at Malmstrom AFB, MT. The ideas expressed in this podcast do not represent the 341st Missile Wing, United States Air Force, or the Department of Defense.