The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1995, Volume 41, Number 3
Richard W. Crawford, Editor



Twenty years after the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, San Diego hosted a second fair. Plans for this ambitious project began during one of the bleakest periods in U. S. history — The Great Depression. Despite economic hardships and the inability of business to underwrite costs for the fair as had been done for the 1915 Exposition, promoters remained optimistic about the long-term benefits a fair would bring to the city. Encouraged by the fact that San Diego could borrow exhibits from the successful “Century of Progress” exposition in Chicago, and that sufficient funds could be raised, the Chamber of Commerce approved the formation of a committee to begin work on the California Pacific International Exposition.

The 1935 Exposition gave San Diegans another opportunity to showcase the city. Balboa Park again provided the backdrop for the fair’s exhibitions. A Spanish theme focusing on San Diego’s romantic past utilized pre-existing 1915 Exposition buildings, and a new series of structures which reflected architectural styles found throughout the Americas, including Mayan and Aztec influences representative of Native American and prehistoric cultures of the American Southwest, Mexico and Central America.

When the California Pacific International Exposition opened on May 29, 1935, sixty thousand enthusiastic visitors attended the opening festivities. A morale booster for the city during hard times, the success of San Diego’s first world’s fair lifted San Diegans’ spirits and renewed their vision of better days ahead and a prosperous future.