RON HENGGELER

February 27, 2018
Rare photos by Marcello Camarri, of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco

Last month I received a phone call from a woman who had a collection of photographs that her grandfather had taken back in the 1930's.

A friend had recommended my name to her as someone who would be interested in the photos and might know the best place for them to end up.

The woman, Shirley, lives with her husband Dan in Roseville, northeast of Sacramento.

On Monday, February 12th, Dave and I took a roadtrip to Roseville to meet Shirley and Dan.

Shirley entrusted the photos to me, and since our meeting, I have been busy scanning, repairing, and reformatting the 8x11 printed images.

Most of these photos by her grandfather Marcello Camarri, were of WPA work in San Francisco taken in the early to mid 30s during the Great Depression.

A number of them though, as shown in this post, are of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island.

None of these photos have been seen before outside of Shirley and Dan's family and friends.

Shirley

Granddaughter of photographer Marcello Camarri

Dan

Shirley holding her baby pictures

Marcello Camarri and his bride

Court of Honor and the Tower of the Sun during construction.

Photo by Marcello Camarri

Construction of, Hall of Air Transportation, Treasure Garden, and Pool of Nations, viewed from the Tower of the Sun

Photo by Marcello Camarri

In 1939, the city of San Francisco hosted an international exhibition, named the Golden Gate Fair in honor of the construction by the city of the world's two largest suspension bridges, the Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland, which spanned the San Francisco Bay. With all the skill that could be mustered by American engineers, an island was constructed amidst the Pacific waters, becoming the largest ever manmade island. Christened Treasure Island, this would be the location of the 1939 Exhibition.

Anna Burrows

Portasls of the Pacific and the Tower of the Sun

Photo by Marcello Camarri

The visions of a fair surrounded by the glory of the Pacific Ocean had finally materialized. However, this captivating scene took place as Europe verged on the edge of disaster. Germany had already begun its annexation of neighboring countries and threatened to unleash conflict on a global level. In only two short years the United States would be fully involved in this catastrophe. Furthermore, at the time of the fair the United States had just emerged from the Great Depression, which had affected the country in many ways. This fair seemed to provide a brief interlude between these two very difficult times in American history. For this event the U.S. decided to turn attention away from the international climate and focus on the beauty of the Pacific, which ironically is named for peace.

Anna Burrows

TREASURE ISLAND

Named after the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, Treasure Island was created to serve as the site of the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939-40. The fair was a celebration of the city’s simultaneous completion of the Oakland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. It was attended by 17 million. There were 13 states and 37 nations participating in the fair, including Italy and Japan. Less than 14 months after the close of the festivities, the United States was at war with both nations.The event is commemorated in the Treasure Island Museum, located in the Administration Building, one of three buildings from the exposition to survive. The island was partially constructed with stone removed from the Bay Bridge tunnel on adjacent Yerba Buena Island. It was scheduled to become San Francisco’s airport, but was too small for air traffic and to close to the bridges. Only Pan American Airways China Clipper seaplanes to Asia and the Pacific flew from the island. When it was completed in 1937, 400 acre Treasure Island was the largest man-made island in the world.

From SAN FRANCISCO SECRETS by John Snyder © Chronicle Books 1999

A model of the man-made Treasure Island and the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition fairgrounds

Photo by Marcello Camarri

Photo by Marcello Camarri

Treasure Island, an island built just for the occasion, juts out in the middle of the San Francisco Bay between the City and Oakland. With the Bay Area’s two famous bridges just completed, the GGIE and Treasure Island proclaimed to the world that San Francisco was resilient enough to create a Disneyland-like wonderland in the midst of the Great Depression. As with many of the famous world fairs of yesteryear, the GGIE of 1939 featured many peculiar attractions, such as an automobile racetrack for monkeys, a Western town with little people in cowboy costumes, and Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch. Elaborate architectural buildings, corny historical pageants, technological innovations, and plenty of good old-fashioned amusement-park fun and games were also what you could expect to enjoy at the exhibition. Today, with most of the exhibition buildings gone, Treasure Island is an unassuming flat piece of land jutting out from Yerba Buena Island in the Bay and it is easy to drive by without noticing it. But at the time of the exhibition, it was a grand fairground and world destination.

Court of the Moon and the Tower of the Sun

Photo by Marcello Camarri

Court of the Moon and the Tower of the Sun

Photo by Marcello Camarri

1939 Golden Gate International Exposition as seen from Telegraph Hill in San Francisco

Photo by Marcello Camarri

1939 Golden Gate International Exposition as seen from Telegraph Hill in San Francisco

Photo by Marcello Camarri

Throughout the run of the Fair, multi-colored searchlights shot up for one mile in the nighttime sky, and were visible for 100 miles around. The official program described the lighting effects as “chromotherapy.” The 80-foot statue of Pacifica personified the theme of the Fair, emphasizing unity between Pacific nations. But the dominating feature of the Island was the 400-foot Tower of the Sun, which competed in stature with the towers of the Bay Bridge nearby.

Court of the Moon and the Tower of the Sun

Photo by Marcello Camarri

The Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) (1939 and 1940), held at San Francisco's Treasure Island was a World's Fair celebrating, among other things, the city's two newly built bridges. The San Francisco-Oakland bay bridge opened in 1936 and the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937. The exposition opened from February 18, 1939, through October 29, 1939, and from May 25, 1940, through September 29, 1940.

Court of Reflections and the Tower of the Sun

Photo by Marcello Camarri

Court of Reflections as seen from the top of the Tower of the Sun

Photo by Marcello Camarri

1939 Golden Gate International Exposition as seen from Telegraph Hill in San Francisco

Photo by Marcello Camarri

1939 Golden Gate International Exposition as seen from the top of Yerba Buena Island

Photo by Marcello Camarri

At midnight on the very last night of the Fair, each of multi-colored lights was dimmed slowly, one by one, so that nothing remained but the street lamps and the illumination for the Tower of the Sun – which stayed lit until dawn the following day, so that it could never be said that the Sun went out over San Francisco Bay.

1939 Golden Gate International Exposition as seen from Telegraph Hill in San Francisco

Photo by Marcello Camarri

Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill and the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, as seen from Russian Hill

Photo by Marcello Camarri

Construction of, Hall of Air Transportation, Treasure Garden, and Pool of Nations, viewed from the Tower of the Sun

Photo by Marcello Camarri

Court of the Seven Seas with Court of Pacifica in the distance

Photo by Marcello Camarri

Tower of the Sun, Home and Gardens Building, Pool of the Nations

Photo by Marcello Camarri

Treasure Island, a flat, geometrically-shaped, artificial island attached to Yerba Buena Island, was built for the Exposition near where the Oakland span and the San Francisco span of the Bay Bridge join. Built by the federal government, Treasure Island was to be an airport for Pan America's transpacific flying boats, like the China Clipper. Due to wartime needs, it was turned into a naval base used by the US Navy from 1941 to 1997.

Details of Hall of Science Building

Photo by Marcello Camarri

Court of Flowers

Photo by Marcello Camarri

The theme of the exposition was "Pageant of the Pacific", as it showcased the goods of nations bordering the Pacific Ocean. The theme was physically symbolized by "The Tower of the Sun" and a giant 80 ft statue of Pacifica, goddess of the Pacific Ocean.

Court of the Moon

Photo by Marcello Camarri

 

Court of the Moon

Photo by Marcello Camarri

As the boundaries of human intercourse are widened by giant strides of trade and travel, it is of vital import that the bonds of human understanding be maintained, enlarged and strengthened rapidly. Unity of the Pacific nations is America's concern and responsibility; their onward progress deserves now a recognition that will be a stimulus as well.Washington is remote from the Pacific. San Francisco stands at the doorway to the sea that roars upon the shores of all these nations, and so to the Golden Gate International Exposition I gladly entrust a solemn duty. May this, America's World's Fair on the Pacific in 1939, truly serve all nations in symbolizing their destinies, one with every other, through the ages to come.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, via radio, during the opening ceremonies.

San Francisco's Market Street and distant illumination of the 1939 Treasure Island Exposition seen from Twin Peaks

Photo by Marcello Camarri

San Francisco and the distant illumination of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, seen from Twin Peaks

Photo by Marcello Camarri

In 1939, with the completion of the two bridges, San Francisco Downtown Association created the 49-Mile Scenic Drive to promote the exposition and the city. The drive started at San Francisco City Hall and ended on Treasure Island after winding around the picturesque "City by the Bay".

Shirley

Granddaughter of photographer Marcello Camarri

 

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