Sunday, February 7, 2016

Guest Bloggers Leah Virsik and Sarah Heady: Small Press Collaborators


Tatted Insertion (2014)

It started two summers ago, in the sweltering attic of a Nebraskan farmhouse. Poet Sarah Heady was rooting through boxes of yellowed and brittle Comfort magazines from the 1910s and 1920s, transfixed by articles on cooking, crafting, and perfecting the female self.

In some ways, it appeared that nothing much had changed over the past hundred years: 21st century ladies’ magazines still prescribe how one can be alluring yet maternal, youthful yet responsible. But you’d be hard pressed to find one that speaks in the coded language of lace-making instructions:

[...]4 ds., join to last p. in first ring, 3 ds., p., 2 ds., p., 2 ds., p., 3 ds., p., 4 ds., draw, third ring like second[...]

--or one that espouses the pseudoscience of breast enlargement through calisthenics:

Stand erect, heels together, feet apart. Raise arms until on a level with the shoulders, elbows stiff, hands on a line with the chin. Now, without bending elbows, throw arms vigorously back, keeping still on a line with the shoulder, apparently trying to make the hands meet the back of the shoulders. Repeat ten or fifteen times. This adds to the size of the bust.

 

Tatted Insertion (2014), interior

As Sarah later found out, Comfort was published in Augusta, Maine between 1888 and 1942 and aimed at rural housewives across America; its tagline was “The Key to Happiness and Success in Over a Million Farm Homes.” At that moment on the dusty attic floor, however, she just snapped some photos of the magazines’ most intriguing bits, knowing she would later mine them for poetic material.

That fall, in Truong Tran’s MFA poetry workshop at San Francisco State University, Sarah attempted to use the found language from Comfort for a prompt that dictated the following constraints:

1) tell a lie
2) contradict yourself
3) include numbers
4) at least 11 words per line
5) everything has to be inorganic (nothing "natural")


The resulting poem, “Tatted Insertion,” begins with an original contradiction and proceeds to braid together those two sets of female-oriented instructions: how to increase the bust and how to make lace with a particular technique called tatting, in which thread is repeatedly knotted using a shuttle or a needle:



This is not how to make lace: stand erect, heels together,

tie the ends of two colors with ecru, make clover leaf

by 4 doubles (4 ds.), picot (p.), 3 ds., p., 2 ds., slump over,

feet apart, raise arms until on a level with the shoulders,

p., 2 ds., p., 3 ds., p., 4 ds., draw, begin second ring, close up,

elbows stiff, hands on a line with the chin. Now, without bending

elbows, 4 ds., join to last p. in first ring, 3 ds., p., 2 ds., p., 2 ds.,

throw arms vigorously back, keeping still on a line with the shoulder [...]

 

Final forms specified by the tatting instructions.


Each year, San Francisco State’s College of Liberal and Creative Arts invites one MFA poet and one MFA printmaker to collaborate on the production of a letterpress-printed broadside or small book of original writing and images. Now entering its fourth year, the interdisciplinary project is facilitated by the Department of Creative Writing and the Department of Art with the goal of providing a model for successful and vibrant intermedia collaboration. Graduate students gain valuable experience in designing and producing an original letterpress publication, presenting the work to other graduate and undergraduate students, and exhibiting the work at the Artery gallery in SF State’s Fine Arts building.

It was in this way, in the spring of 2014, that Sarah met artist Leah Virsik and the real magic happened. Mario Laplante, professor in printmaking, served as the project’s faculty advisor, providing creative and logistical guidance. A major aspect of the project is teaching emerging artists how to approach the collaborative process itself. In order to shore up the matchmaking that had already taken place, Mario suggested that Leah and Sarah spend some time creatively bonding and getting to know each other’s working style.

Based on their shared interest in time-based constraints and found materials, Leah and Sarah decided to create a series of timed collage experiments. Each had five minutes to “respond” to the other’s work before relinquishing it for further alteration. This was a practice in letting go of one’s individual creative output and trusting that the sum of a collaboration is greater than its parts. The collaging process, which unfolded over the course of the semester, did in fact facilitate a rich creative relationship rooted in trust.

And as it turned out, Sarah and Leah’s creative interests and practices were more aligned than they could have predicted. Sarah’s process of taking found texts and stitching them together into something new closely paralleled Leah’s own visual practice of cutting up found clothing, rendering it nonfunctional, and transforming it into something altogether different. As a fiber artist, Leah was already interested in tatting and would later make the connection between the step-by-step patterns inherent in both tatting and bookbinding.

Like tatting itself, coptic accordion binding is a repetitive procedure with thread.
  
These serendipitous crossovers enabled an exploratory design process for the artist’s book Tatted Insertion. Leah realized that a tight relationship between image and word would generate the most satisfying reading experience. With help from local and far-flung tatting experts, she followed the poem’s step-by-step instructions and created lace pieces which she then ran through the press in a process called pressure printing. The book deciphers the code of the tatting pattern by translating the 3D process into a 2D representation: the instructional text is mirrored by the physical process unfolding (or, more accurately, coming together) before the reader’s eyes.
Final tatted forms as plates for pressure printing, with resulting print.

At two by six inches, the finished book fits into the palm of one’s hand, creating an intimate reading experience. Sarah and Leah chose a horizontal coptic accordion binding and isolated each line of the poem on its own page to suggest the ordered nature of an instruction set. In between, illustrated pages without text encourage the reader to pause and slow down.

 

Pages without text add breathing room to the poem and showcase the tatting process.

Following her collaboration with Sarah, Leah was encouraged to think more about her own creative process, the heart of which entails taking scissors to secondhand clothing. As a constraint, she forces herself to use the entire garment, thereby accepting every part of the whole. In the intimate process of cutting, a type of exposure occurs: clothing that once concealed now reveals its own structure, component parts, flaws, and hidden truths. Her work has expanded to become more participatory--for example, an installation that prompts the viewer to walk through pathways lined with denim strips. She has also uncovered a deep enjoyment of writing and an interest in language itself.  Continuing to work with these metaphors of interiority and exteriority, she feels installation is analogous to the experience of immersing oneself in a book.

One outcome of Sarah’s work on Tatted Insertion is that it helped shape her next major project, a full-length book of poems entitled (what else?) Comfort. Like Tatted Insertion, Comfort draws on found language from the eponymous magazine, but goes further to braid various poetic forms into a single long poem that investigates the meaning of settlement and self for women on the prairie. The book has a feeling of spaciousness that reflects the wide open landscape of the Great Plains, an approach cultivated by working with negative space in Tatted Insertion.

Both artists are deeply grateful for the opportunity to collaborate because the bookmaking process gave them so much more than a finished piece. They continue to share the frustrations and joys of their respective media and find that poetry and visual art have more in common than one might suppose; collaborating with an artist outside of one’s discipline can illuminate the creative process that binds all artists together and deepen one’s understanding of one’s own work.

Even under the “time-based constraint” of life’s busyness, Leah and Sarah still manage to carve out tiny pockets of time to bounce ideas off one another and share inspiration. A sustained collaborative relationship is a deeply satisfying and fortifying ingredient in an artist’s practice, no matter the medium. And sometimes, as with an aesthetic constraint, the richest results arrive in the smallest containers.





Faculty advisor Mario Laplante with Leah Virsik, Sarah Heady, and the finished books.

Tatted Insertion is the second publication to come out of the cross-departmental collaboration at San Francisco State. It was recently added to the Grabhorn Collection in the Book Arts & Special Collections Center at the San Francisco Public Library where you can ask to see the actual item. In 2013, poet Carolyn Ho and artist Nif Hodgson collaborated on Crane which is also in the Grabhorn Collection. 2015’s offering is a book called Found Objects by poet Patricia Creedy and artist Bronwyn Dexter.

You can learn more about Leah Virsik and Sarah Heady at their respective websites. More images of Tatted Insertion are here, and their collage series entitled The Enduring Questions is here.


******

The staff of the Book Arts & Special Collections Center welcomes donations to its collection and congratulates Leah, Sarah, and Mario on their collaboration. 


Thursday, January 14, 2016

5th Annual Valentine Broadside Printing Event



Celebrate Letterpress, Valentines, & the 100th Anniversary of archy & mehitabel

The Book Arts & Special Collections Center presents the 5th Annual Valentine Broadside Printing Event on Saturday, February 6th, 2-4 p.m., in the San Francisco History Center, on the 6th Floor of the Main Library. You are invited to experience letterpress printing on the library’s 1909 Albion handpress and take home a unique keepsake for your sweetheart. 


Book cover, the lives and times of archy and mehitabel, circa 1940

We’ll be printing an image which celebrates both Valentine’s Day and the 100th anniversary of archy and mehitabel’s first appearance in Don Marquis’ Sun Dial column in the New York Evening Sun. If you are wondering just who or what archy and mehitabel are, let us explain. For the uninitiated, and those recently born: archy is a poetry-writing cockroach and mehitabel is Cleopatra, reborn as a cat. They were created in 1916, by the great newspaperman Don Marquis. The drawings of these characters, familiar to many, are by the brilliant cartoonist George Herriman, creator of the Krazy Kat comic strip. You’ll find over sixty volumes of Marquis’s writings, as well as books of Herriman’s comic art, in the library’s Schmulowitz Collection of Wit and Humor (SCOWAH) which was founded in 1947. 

Join us as we celebrate archy and mehitabel’s anniversary,
sixty-nine years of the Schmulowitz Collection, and, of course, Valentine’s Day. Our co-sponsors, the American Printing History Association’s NorCal Chapter, will assist. Here's a peek at last year's event.

Everyone is welcome, but broadsides will be limited to the first 100 people.




Monday, January 4, 2016

Annual Holiday Lecture Celebrates Archy & Mehitabel

Actor Gale McNeeley (below) and archy & mehitabel,illustrated by George Herriman (above)
The Book Arts & Special Collections Center invites you to the Annual Holiday Lecture which will showcase actor and singer Gale McNeeley. His comic performance will bring to life Don Marquis’s characters archy and mehitabel in celebration of the 100th anniversary of their first appearance in print.

In case you are wondering just who or what archy and mehitabel are, let us explain. For the uninitiated, and those recently born: archy is a poetry-writing cockroach and mehitabel is Cleopatra, reborn as a cat. They were created in 1916 by the great newspaperman Don Marquis. The drawings of these characters, familiar to many, are by the brilliant cartoonist George Herriman, creator of the Krazy Kat comic strip. Gale McNeeley loves these characters and brings them to life anytime he has the chance and his timeless one-man show is a fitting tribute to the books. You’ll find over sixty volumes of Marquis’s writings, as well as books of Herriman's comic art, in the library’s Schmulowitz Collection of Wit and Humor (SCOWAH), which was founded in 1947. 

Cover art for The Lives and Times of Archy and Mehitabel, 1940

The Book Arts & Special Collections Center has been celebrating the holiday season with an Annual Holiday Lecture since 1995. The lectures have highlighted a fascinating array of local experts in the book and lettering arts including Jonathan Aaron, Sandro Berra, Alisa Golden, Alastair Johnston, James Keenan, Peter Koch, David Mostardi, Carl Rohrs, Rob Saunders, Patricia Wakida, Kathy Walkup, and Karen Zukor. Last year we hosted Dan Cohen’s talk about the Digital Public Library of America.

This year, we’ve chosen to celebrate both the library’s SCOWAH collection and the 100th anniversary of archy and mehitabel’s debut appearance in the New York Evening Sun. Please join us.



Gale McNeeley on stage

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
6 p.m.
Koret Auditorium, Main Library, Lower Level
San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Over 20 Years of Holiday Cards

 Holiday Card 1994-95
Domenico Maria Manni, Vita di Aldo Pio Manuzio
Venezia, 1759

Norman Clayton, printer
One Heart Press

The Book Arts & Special Collections Center and the San Francisco History Center have been sending holiday card ambassadors to printers, calligraphers, donors, and institutional colleagues for over twenty years. Such an auspicious anniversary seemed an appropriate time to make note of this tradition.

We have always had two priorities in the planning of our cards: feature an element from one of our collections and have them letterpress printed by a local printer. We have not always lived up to this high standard, and we even skipped a year, but mostly we have kept to our ideals.

Printers we have employed include: Zida Borcich, Norman Clayton, Peggy Gotthold and Lawrence Van Velzer, Victoria Heifner, Julie Holcomb, Eric Holub, James and Carolyn Robertson, Richard Seibert, Jack Stauffacher, and John Sullivan. A couple of times we the library's graphic designers created the cards.

We have also featured the work of calligraphers, such as, Marsha Brady, Judy Detrick, Claude Dieterich A., Thomas Ingmire, John Prestianni, Carl Rohrs, and Hermann Zapf.

The cards have always highlighted materials or artists represented in our collections. Artwork from the Robert Grabhorn Collection on the History of Printing and the Development of the Book, the Richard Harrison Collection of Calligraphy and Lettering, the Schmulowitz Collection of Wit and Humor, and the George M. Fox Collection of Early Children's Books, as well as materials from the San Francisco History Center, have inspired quite a few of them.

We hope you will enjoy the gallery of Holiday Cards below. With warm wishes to all in the New Year. 

Holiday Card 1995-96
Albius Tibullus (BC 54 - 19) quote
 John Prestianni, lettering, illlustration, design
Julie Holcomb Printers


Holiday Card 1996-97
La série no. 16 des caractères ordinaires de la Fonderie Deberny & Cie. Paris, 1894
Eric Holub, printer
Hillside Press



Holiday Card 1997-98
Thomas Carlyle quotation, Old Main Library
Dennis Letbetter, photographer
Jack Stauffacher, designer and printer
Greenwood Press


Holiday Card 1998-99
Claude Dieterich A., calligrapher
James and Carolyn Robertson, printers
Yolly Bolly Press 




Holiday Card 2000-01
Traditional Latin maxim, Claude Dieterich A., calligrapher
Peggy Gotthold and Lawrence Van Velzer, printers
Foolscap Press



Holiday Card 2001-02
Hermann Zapf, designer
Linnea Lundquist, typographer
Eric Holub, printer
Hillside Press



Holiday Postcard 2002-03
Arthur Rimbaud quotation, Alchemie du Verbe, Harrison Collection
Thomas Ingmire, calligrapher and illuminator
Kim Urbain, designer



Holiday Card 2003-04
Illustration by Uzelac from Contes Libertins de Pogge, 1956, Schmulowitz Collection
Victoria Heifner, printer

 Milkfed Press



Holiday Postcard 2004-05
Numbers, Harrison Collection
Claude Dieterich A., calligrapher



Holiday Card 2005-06
Dedicated to the memory of Friedrich Neugebauer, 1911-2005
Judy Detrick, calligraphy and typography
Eric Holub, printer
Hillside Press



Holiday Card 2006-07
In memory of Marjorie Gunst Stern, 1915-2006
Judy Detrick, calligraphy and design
Eric Holub, printer
Hillside Press



Holiday Card 2007-08
Emmy Lou Packard, Old Produce Market, 1953
San Francisco History Center
Barbara McMahan, design and typography



Holiday Card 2008-09
In memory of Tillie Olsen, 1912-2007
Marsha Brady, calligrapher
Larry Brady, typographer
Zida Borcich, Printer



Holiday Card 2009-10
Mallette Dean woodcut from Physiologus, Grabhorn Collection
Eric Holub, printer
Hillside Press




Holiday Card 2010-11
Carl Rohrs, calligrapher

Peggy Gotthold and Lawrence Van Velzer, printers
 Foolscap Press




Holiday Card 2011-12
Engraving from Mental Pleasures, 1791, Schmulowitz Collection
Richard Seibert, Printer



Holiday Card 2012-13
From Curly Locks, 1877, Fox Collection
John Sullivan, printer
Logos Graphics



 
Holiday Card 2013-14
Image from Izaak Walton, His Wallet Booke, 1885, Grabhorn Collection
John Sullivan, printer
Logos Graphics



Holiday Card 2014-15
Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the PPIE
Jules Guerin, Arch of the Rising Sun, circa 1913, San Francisco History Center
Ellen Reilly, design


Holiday Card 2015-16
Valenti Angelo: Author, Illustrator, Printer, 1970, Grabhorn Collection
Dependable Letterpress, Inc.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Salvador Dali in San Francisco, 1941 - 1942

Inspired by the Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination exhibition at the Walt Disney Family Museum, we were curious to see what we had in the archives about Dali's visits to San Francisco (since we already know what we have on Walt Disney). We decided a trip to the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin Photo Morgue and the San Francisco Examiner Clipping Morgue would tell the story.

San Francisco Examiner Clipping. Courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
San Francisco Examiner clipping 
on Dali

Salvador Dali and his wife, Gala, visited San Francisco in August 1941 to work on the party planning for "A Surrealistic Night in the Enchanted Forest." The costume party would benefit French and Spanish refugee artists - with Salvador Dali as the guest of honor. The party happened on September 2 in the Bali Room of Del Monte Hotel in Monterey.

Below is a photo of Salvador Dali with his wife in the Hotel St. Francis. The newscopy on the back of the photo states, "With an odd background suggestive of his paintings Salvador Dali and his wife are glimpsed during interview Hotel St. Francis. Behind him is a chair perched on top of a dress model." 

Gala and Salvador Dali, 1941. Courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
Salvador Dali & wife Gala Dali, Hotel St. Francis, August 27, 1941

The Del Monte promised "to be the mecca for a number of localites that evening." 

Salvador Dali and Dorothy Sprekels Dupuy, 1941. Courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
Salvador Dali & Mrs. Mrs. Dorothy Spreckels Dupuy, Hotel Del Monte, August 28, 1941
Newscopy on back for above photograph: "Salvador Dali, the great surrealist discusses plans with Mrs. Dorothy Spreckels Dupuy at Hotel Del Monte for his forthcoming party, 'A Night in an Enchanted Forest' which will be held in the Bali Room Tuesday night, September 2, for the benefit of the Museum of Modern Art's fund for European artists who want to come to America."

The review of the party according to the San Francisco Examiner (below). There are fantastic photographs of the party and the costumed guests in the Disney and Dali exhibition (your teaser to attend the exhibit!). Or here's a fun, short newsreel including shots of one of the guests, Bob Hope.

San Francisco Examiner Clipping. Courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
San Francisco Examiner clipping on Dali's A Night in an Enchanted Forest party, Sept 4, 1941


San Francisco Examiner Clipping. Courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
SF Examiner clipping on Dali, 1942


In January 1942 the Dalis came back to San Francisco Bay Area for Salvador to work on a portrait of Burlingame socialite Mrs. Dorothy Spreckels Dupuy McCarthy (see photo above of Dali with Dorothy). During the same visit the Ballet Russe opened the season at the Memorial Opera House featuring Dali's new ballet "Labyrinth." Below is Dali working on the portrait of Mrs. Dorothy Spreckels. (The Portrait of Dorothy Spreckels Munn was gifted to the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco in 1989.) 

In an interview Dali explains why he placed her on the dolphin (see San Francisco Examiner clipping on the right).
Salvador Dali painting portrait, 1942. Courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
Salvador Dali painting portrait Mrs. Dorothy Spreckels, February 12, 1942


The photographs and clippings from 1942 document numerous events attended - with many at the Palace Hotel. 

Edmund Lymons, Gala and Salvador Dali, 1942. Courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
Edmund Lymons, Salvador Dali and Gala Dali, Palace Hotel, January 22, 1942

San Francisco Examiner Clipping. Courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.
San Francisco Examiner clipping on Salvador Dali, January 29, 1942

This was a two-year peek into Salvador Dali's life linked to San Francisco. There are many more resources at the library for one to explore including biographies, films, exhibition catalogs, art books, and catalogues raisonnes.

________________________________________________________________________

The San Francisco Public Library owns the photo morgue of the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin, a daily newspaper that covered the time period from the 1920s to 1965. Much of the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection comes from the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin Photo Morgue. However, the morgue also includes statewide, national, and international subjects and people that have not been digitized or cataloged. When researchers order scans from the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin Photo Morgue, selections are cataloged and added to the online database.

Looking for a historical photograph of San Francisco? Try our online database first. Not there? Come visit us at the Photo Desk of the San Francisco History Center, located on the sixth floor at the Main Library. The Photo Desk hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. You may also request photographs from the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin Photo Morgue.

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The San Francisco Examiner Clipping Morgue is from 1901 - 1987. The collection was donated by the San Francisco Examiner to the San Francisco Public Library. The clippings are stored off-site and may be requested through the San Francisco History Center reference desk by phone, email or in person.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Company’s Coming: "Texting" and "Posting" from the PPIE

Imagine if San Francisco were to host today’s equivalent of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE). It’s safe to bet that many of us would be there, live-Tweeting, Instagramming, and Facebooking about it. But how did the PPIE’s visitors share their experiences in 1915?

In this blog post, we take a look at some postcards and photographs that could be thought of as early 20th century “social media” from the Fair. These examples not only hint at the differences between communication then and now; they also underscore how the PPIE, with its introduction of technology such as the first transcontinental telephone call, heralded the ways in which we communicate with each other today.

“Posting” about the PPIE

Without cellphones, visitors to the PPIE did not call, text, email or tweet family and friends with quick updates on their day’s activities. Instead, they relied on an easy and affordable form of communication: the postcard.  

Though postcard images were mass-produced (and sometimes unrelated to sender’s messages), the postcards themselves were an individual, personal format for Fairgoers to quickly record and share what they saw and did at the Exposition. We owe our glimpses into everyday people’s memories of the PPIE to gems like this one: 
  
Front and back views of postcard showing Half Dome in the Court of Four Seasons at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915. Back contains a Dear Friend note mentioning a performance by the Exposition Symphony Orchestra.
Front and back, “1950. Half Dome in Court of Four Seasons. Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, 1915.” San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

The postcard reads:

“Dear Friend,

Have just returned from the Exposition. Mr. Eddy played to-day. I like him better than Mr. Dobin[?]. At 3 there was a concert by Exposition Symphony Orchestra. Max Bendix of Boston conductor. It was the finest music I have ever heard. It is a perfect day[…] ”

It’s fun to imagine the emoticons that could punctuate that report!

Take a look at this next postcard, which expresses a hope to visit another exposition in 1925. The writer has obviously taken pains to fit a message into the available space. Perhaps you could use more than 140 or 160 characters in writing a postcard, but you still had to work within a character limit!

Front and back views of an illustrated postcard showing the YWCA Building at the Panama-Pacific Inernational Exposition, 1915. Back side shows handwritten note in blue ink.

Front and back, “Y.W.C.A. Building, Pan.-Pac. Int. Exposition San Francisco, 1915.” San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.


Snapchat

With a short note scribbled on the image, this postcard of the Palace of Horticulture looks a bit like pictures exchanged over the photos-sharing app Snapchat. This social media platform lets users place text on their pictures as captions and send them instantly to friends. The lines on this postcard read: “We were in this Palace yesterday. It was just grand.”

Hand-colored postcard of the Palace of Horticulture, Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915. With handwritten note on front.
“Palace of Horticulture, Pan.-Pac. Int. Exposition San Francisco, 1915.” San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

Yet Snapchat is also unique in that it removes sent images from recipients’ phones within seconds of delivery. Its point is to leave no record of pictures shared—to keep digital photographs truly ephemeral. Contrast that with postcards, which, in addition to serving as a quick way to send messages,  were meant to be keepsakes as well. The difference illustrates  an intriguing point of difference between communication technologies in 1915 and 2015.

What if a similar exposition were held today and the San Francisco History Center hosted an exhibit about it one hundred years from now? We might not even have the technological tools to extract the 21st century digital postcards from the archives.

Instagram

As you might have inferred from the postcards above, the PPIE had no shortage of picturesque views. It’s fair to ask: If Instagram had existed contemporaneously with the PPIE, would images of the Exposition have filled up its feeds?

It’s a hypothetical question, so it can’t be definitively answered; however,  we did find a number of Exposition images that look as though they’ve been run through Instagram. The six postcards in the composite below depict the main façade of the Palace of Machinery. Note that while every pair from top to bottom shows the exact same scene, no two images side by side are exactly alike. The differences in framing, saturation, and color gradation evoke the effects achieved using Instagram’s filter editor.

Images from postcard set of Palace of Machinery at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915.
“Machinery Palace in the Pan.-Pac. Int. Exposition San Francisco, 1915”; “Machinery Palace”;  “Palace of Machinery, Pan.-Pac. Int. Expo, San Francisco.” San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.


Album Sharing

If postcards have parallels with texts, Snapchat, and Instagram, do they resemble Facebook in any way? In terms of album sharing, they just might.

Souvenir-makers at the Fair produced ready-to-mail postcard sets like the one shown here, which contained several different postcard views.  Each piece was attached to another and could be easily folded back into the envelope—hence earning the name “folding postcards.”

folding postcard views
“Folding Post Card Views of the Jewel City.” San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

Although less personal than today’s individually shot-and-shared photographs, these folding postcard sets served as the publicly-shared albums of 1915.

Of course, there were also people who took their own photographs of the Fair. These included members of the California Camera Club, who often shared the images they captured as lantern slides.

Simply put, a lantern slide is a positive print of a photograph on a glass slide, viewed by means of an early kind of projector.  (An introductory blog post on lantern slides and lantern slide technology can be found on the Smithsonian Institution Archive’s website.)

It’s not hard to imagine people gathering in front of projected images, much the same way we nowhuddle around screensboth  large and small to watch slide shows or click through photo streams. It would be apt to think of lantern slides as a distant precursor to Flickr -- not only because of their similar function, but because of the photo sharing website’s name.

Lantern slide from the California Camera Club, showing two people and a camel in "Streets of Cairo" section of the Joy Zone at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition
A lantern slide of a woman in the PPIE Joy Zone’s Streets of Cairo. “Streets of Cairo.” San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

To explore more materials that reveal people’s memories of the Fair, visit Company’s Coming: San Francisco Hosts the Panama-Pacific International Exposition at the Main Library’s Skylight Gallery. The exhibit will be on view until December 31, 2015. Who knows? You might like it so much, you’ll take to Instagram, Snapchat, or Flickr to tell all the world about it.