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April 1915 at the PPIE

by Gloria Lenhart

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Aviator Art Smith’s flying stunts lit up the sky over the fair, to the delight of the crowd. Courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library

New Aviator Replaces Beachey. On the Saturday night before Easter Sunday, in front of a crowd of 70,000, the largest since opening day, Chicago aviator Art Smith made his San Francisco debut. Smith was brought in to replace Lincoln Beachey, who plunged to his death before thousands of fairgoers in March. Smith performed in a biplane, instead of the monoplane that led the Beachey tragedy. Smith performed dozens of aerial loops as he dropped several thousand tickets to Joy Zone attractions down on to the crowd. The he wowed the crowd by appearing to tumble uncontrollably and shooting off fireworks that simulated flames before righting his plan. After the performance the crowd mobbed around him and carried the aviator on their shoulders around the fairgrounds.

1906 Quake Remembered. A parade kicked off the city’s Nine Years After celebration. Then thousands gathered in the Courtof the Universe for a non-denominational service, which included speeches, and the singing of religious hymns and patriotic songs. After dark, visitors were thrilled by a pyrotechnic spectacle that included a simulation of the Tower of Jewels wreathed in smoke and flames. A ship docked just offshore was doused in oil and burned, much to the delight of the crowd. As the city’s fireboats demonstrated their abilities, onlookers watched the ships masts topple and the hull explode inflames.

Helen Keller Visits. Helen Keller visited the PPIE with her teacher Anne. Sullivan Macy. They went up in the aeroscope with brought them 275 feet above the fairgrounds and saw a demonstration by Captain the educated horse. “He can do everything except talk with his fingers” Ms. Keller remarked. Keller’s lecture at Festival Hall proved so popular that she had to be lifted out a back window afterward to escape the admiring crowd.

Pigeons at the Fair. Pigeon breeders supplied hundreds of birds which were placed in the Court of the Universe to add life and animation to the otherwise “classic coldness” of the Roman columns. With visions ofSt. Mark’s Square in Venice, the breeders installed pigeon cotes around the Court and restrained the pigeons until they became attached to their new homes. By April, the original hundreds of pigeons had become thousands and were starting to become a nuisance. Still, feeding time became a popular attraction as the tame pigeons ate grain of visitors’ hands.

Giant Typewriter On Display. The world’s largest typewriter was on display at the PPIIE. The working model was 21 feet high and 15 feet wide and was able to print 3-inch high letters on paper that’s nine feet wide. It reportedly cost over $100,000.

Wonderland opens on Market. Wonderland, an amusement show, opened on Market Street at Grant to record-breaking crowds. Its attractions include Siamese twins, Chief Whiteface and his wrestling bears, Mexican knife and tomahawk throwers, and Sally the educated chimpanzee.

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