Golden Gate Exposition, 1939
The Golden Gate Exposition opened in 1939 to celebrate the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, opened in 1937, and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, opened in 1936. It was held on Treasure Island, which was an artificial island constructed for the occasion with landfill in a shallow area of San Francisco Bay, slightly north of Yerba Buena Island. The fair was open from February 18 to October 29, 1939 and May 25 to September 29, 1940. Total attendance was 10,496,203 in 1939 and 6,575,416 in 1940.
The original plan for Treasure Island was that it would serve as San Francisco’s municipal airport after the exposition, as well as berths for the Pan American Clippers which landed on the Bay. However, the Navy took the island over in 1941, and it was known as Naval Station Treasure Island until 1997. The airport was eventually built south of the city.
Sideshow (“The Gayway”) attractions at the Exposition included a village of “little people,”, monkeys driving cars, a magic house, a “headless woman,” Sally Rand’s “Nude Ranch,” and incubator babies.
Little information is available about the promoter, Ed Breckenridge, or about the origins of this exhibit. It was apparently not connected to Martin Couney, who was managing his own exhibit at the New York World’s Fair in 1939-1940, and there is no mention of Couney in the newspaper accounts.
“A ‘$75,000 incubator palace’ was erected at the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco by Mr. Ed Breckenridge, an amusement park promoter. This show cared for 85 babies during the two-year run of the fair. Breckenridge announced, ‘Business is great!’ Dr. Martha James, the medical consultant to this show, was not impressed with the attendance.”
The incubator exhibit received plenty of local press coverage. The article below appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on February 16, 1939.
The note below appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on May 2, 1939.
The article below appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on May 29, 1939.
The article below appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 2, 1940.
Evidently, incubators came into use in the local hospitals about the same time as the Exposition. The article below appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on November 22, 1940.
The advertisement below appeared on multiple occasions in the San Francisco Chronicle during the Exposition. This example is from June 29, 1939.
The advertisement below appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 26, 1939.
And the they were back the next year! The ad below appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 21, 1940.
Two commemorative postal envelopes are shown below.
- Images of the Golden Gate Exposition on Kathryn Ayre’s page
- Gallery of tourist snapshots of the Exposition
- Guidebook Pages for the Exposition
- Golden Gate International Exposition on Wikipedia
- Golden Gate International Exposition on America’s Best History