1915 Exposition

Past exhibit: California Invites the World: 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition

1915 Panama Pacific Exposition exhibit posterThe late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were the golden age for the great world’s fair expositions. The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) was no exception. Before there was Disneyland, there was an earlier “magic kingdom.” The San Francisco exposition was known by many names: “The Dream City,” “The City of Domes,” and “The Jewel City.” It celebrated not only the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914, but the rebirth of San Francisco after the devastating 1906 earthquake.

Between February 20 and December 4, 1915, over 19 million people flocked from all over the world to the marvels it contained. The 650-acre world’s fair was constructed to stand for less than a year, and today, all that remains is the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District.

Visitors to the State Capitol Museum had the opportunity to view rarely displayed items from the fair that come from the special collections of the California State Library.

These included hundreds of never-before-seen photographs. A copy of a sculpture that graced the Exposition, Adolph Weinman’s “Night Descending” will also be on display, courtesy of Hearst Castle. There was numerous charming and delightful pieces on loan from private collections as well. One of the three exhibit rooms at the State Capitol Museum featured seldom seen period films and photographic slide shows. For more information, call (916) 324-2088.

1915 Panama Pacific Exposition display


Pietro Mezzara, California's first major sculptor, created the statuary for the Capitol's rooftop and the pediment. Thirty figures, urns, and emblems adorned the Capitol in 1873.

Today, only the statuary on the west front pediment tympanum (the recessed space enclosed by the triangular pediment) is original. These statues reflect the Capitol's roots in Greek architecture. In Grecian times, statuary was considered part of the building, not as mere decoration. It was a way to visually communicate and transmit epics and mythology in a largely illiterate society.

A large statuary group titled Columbus’ Last Appeal to Queen Isabella (detail at right) has occupied a prominent position at the center of the first floor rotunda since 1883 when Darius Ogden Mills gifted it to the State of California.

During the restoration of the statues in the 1970s, Native American and Latino groups, critical of Columbus’s legacy in ushering in an era of genocide and colonialism for the Native Peoples of the Western Hemisphere, advocated that the statue not be returned to its former location after its temporary removal during the restoration. Despite such criticism, the statue was returned to the Capitol Rotunda.

Read more about the statues >>


The Capitol is home to two stunning murals. The Mathews Mural (detail at left), a 1914 depiction of California's past, present, and future, was created for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition.

The Mathews Murals are an excellent example of a regional artistic style known as "California Decorative." Arthur F. Mathews, a prominent San Francisco artist, and his wife, Lucia Kleinhans Mathews, combined a romantic classicism and idealism with a Renaissance color palette and California imagery to create this distinctive style.

The other, The Origin and Development of the Name of the State of California (detail at right), depicts the origin of the state's naming.

Painted by Lucile Lloyd and funded by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, the three panels tell the history of the name of California. The two side panels portray important flags that have flown over the state. The central panel shows the history and development of the state through the Spanish, Mexican, and American eras. Realistic figures trace the state’s history and vivid images illustrate the state’s unique natural beauty and resources.

Learn more about the murals >>


Portraits of two of our nation's most respected leaders grace the Senate and Assembly Chambers. President George Washington's portrait resides in the Senate Chambers, while President Abraham Lincoln's portrait resides in the Assembly Chambers.

The tradition of commissioning California's gubernatorial portraits began in 1879, when the State Legislature selected artist William Cogswell to paint portraits of several former governors.

Learn more about the portraits >>

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California State Capitol Museum
10th and L Streets
State Capitol
Room B-27
1315 10th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 324-0333
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