Empress San Francisco


Empress San Francisco

The Pacific Rim, the Great West, and California at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition

Abigail M. Markwyn

390 pages
91 illustrations, index


March 2021


$30.00 Add to Cart

October 2014


$35.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

October 2014


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

October 2014


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

When the more than eighteen million visitors poured into the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, they encountered a vision of the world born out of San Francisco’s particular local political and social climate. By seeking to please various constituent groups ranging from the government of Japan to local labor unions and neighborhood associations, fair organizers generated heated debate and conflict about who and what represented San Francisco, California, and the United States at the world’s fair. The Panama-Pacific International Exposition encapsulated the social and political tensions and conflicts of pre–World War I California and presaged the emergence of San Francisco as a cosmopolitan cultural and economic center of the Pacific Rim.

Empress San Francisco offers a fresh examination of this, one of the largest and most influential world’s fairs, by considering the local social and political climate of Progressive Era San Francisco. Focusing on the influence exerted by women, Asians and Asian Americans, and working-class labor unions, among others, Abigail M. Markwyn offers a unique analysis both of this world’s fair and the social construction of pre–World War I America and the West.

Author Bio

Abigail M. Markwyn is a professor of history at Carroll University. She is the coeditor of Gendering the Fair: Histories of Women and Gender at World’s Fairs.


"Empress San Francisco is an excellent work, and it will be of interest to students and scholars of world's fairs, American western settlement, urban development, and Progressive Era racial, ethnic, and gender relations, reform movements, and foreign relations."Elaine Naylor, American Historical Review

"By emphasizing the Pacific Rim and paying attention to Chinese, Japanese, and Latin American voices, Markwyn offers new insight into the limitations to the exercise of American power abroad and implicitly challenges accounts of fairs that are overly comfortable within the safe historiographical confines of the nation-state."Colin Fisher, Journal of American History

"The beautifully illustrated Empress San Francisco is much more than a social and cultural history of the PPIE; it will be of great interest to students and scholars in the fields of urban history, U.S. imperialism and foreign policy, women’s history, labor history, and the study of race, ethnicity, and nationality in Progressive-era America."Bonnie M. Miller, Western Historical Quarterly

"This close study of a fleeting but significant event underscores the diversity, vitality, and complexity of not only a city on the cusp of the continent and the century, but also the foundation upon which it, and the nation itself, continues to wrestle with fundamental questions of the meaning of "America" and its place in the world today."Sherry L. Smith, American Studies

"Markwyn's nuanced reading of many different historical and cultural "texts" under the umbrella of the 1915 World's Fair is a fine example of the author's scholarly alacrity and breadth of knowledge as well as the foundation of a well-told story."Sarah J. Moore, Historian

"Empress San Francisco provides an impressive, little-known account of this important fair."Charles Fracchia, Panorama

"This book offers a fresh consideration that focuses on the social and political climate of the Fair, and is essential to any study of early San Francisco in general and the PPIE in particular."—Midwest Book Review

“San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 was a signal event for imagining the Pacific Rim in the early years of the twentieth century. Markwyn’s wonderful book makes clear that the fair was also a defining moment for the political culture of San Francisco. Hers is a finely crafted analysis and a well-told story of a city-state in the making.”—Robert Rydell, author of All the World’s a Fair and World of Fairs

“By taking a new look at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, Abigail Markwyn provides an important addition to the existing literature on world’s fairs in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her major contribution is to explore the ways in which San Francisco’s ethnic, class, and gender groups developed their own counternarratives and, sometimes just by their presence, posed a challenge to the dominant views.”—Robert W. Cherny, author of American Politics in the Gilded Age, 1868–1900

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. The Spectacle of the Fair
2. Uniting San Francisco
3. Claiming Their Place
4. Economic Partner, Exotic Other
5. Sex and Other Vices at the Fair
6. Performing Work
7. Women Take the Political Stage

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