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California Midwinter International Exposition


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The Chicago World's Columbian Exposition was so successful that San Francisco Chronicle publisher and Columbian Exposition director, Michael de Young, sought to bring the exposition west. His goal was to showcase the city and improve the local economy. Funded solely by donations, they broke ground on August 24, 1893 and opened 26 days late on January 27, 1894.

 

1894 Aluminum

Bird's Eye View So-Called Dollar

Hibler & Kappen 259

44.5 mm BU

 

915660.jpg

 

Obverse: Bird’s eye view of fair, MIDWINTER FAIR / 1894.

Reverse: MALLEABLE / DUCTILE / TASTELESS / SONOROUS / UNTARNISHABLE / STRONG / ALUMINUM / CUBIC FOOT OF GOLD 1204 LBS. ‘/ ALUMINUM 179 / THIS IS THE LIGHTEST / METAL THE WORLD / HAS PRODUCED / NOBLE CHICAGO

 

The central courtyard of the fair remains today in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park as the home of its museums. The Japanese Tea Garden built for the fair (upper left corner of the grounds below the bear's tail) still stands as a park attraction. I suppose the bear is standing on an exagerated Strawberry Hill in this stylized bird's eye view.

 

This 1892 view of the park from SF archives shows the general state park development prior to the fair.

 

GG-park.jpg

 

The view is looking west. The medal's view of the exposition grounds is looking northwest towards the Golden Gate. The grounds were situated just before Strawberry Hill (the peak in the park view) and the central courtyard ran to the northeast.

 

This particular medal is rare and rarely encountered in this state of preservation. It was struck by Noble of Chicago. The novelty and promotion of aluminum was still in full swing.

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1894 Aluminum

Administration Building So-Called Dollar

Hibler & Kappen 258

44 mm EF

 

906872.jpg

 

Obverse: Building, ADMINISTRATION BUILDING above. Inscription: CALIFORNIA MIDWINTERINTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION / 1894

Reverse: ALUMINUM across the center, above: MALLEABLE / DUCTILE / TASTELESS / SONOROUS / UNTARNISHABLE / STRONG, below: CUBIC FOOT OF GOLD 1204 LBS / ALUMINUM 179. / THIS IS THE LIGHTEST / METAL THE WORLD / HAS PRODUCED / NOBLE CHICAGO

 

Another Noble product sharing the same reverse design as the Bird's Eye View piece. The wedding cake architecture of the Administration Building combined styles from Siam and India, over the top even for San Francisco. It was built for $32,000 dollars and featured a 50 foot diameter gold-leaf dome.

 

An official fair photograph from the University of California's Online Archive of California can be seen at:

 

http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf1n39p1tm/hi-res

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1894 Aluminum

Electric Tower So-Called Dollar

Hibler & Kappen 246

40 mm EF

 

915706.jpg

 

Obverse: Building facade, CALIFORNIA MIDWINTER INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION / 1894 / ADMINISTRATION BUILDING / A HYLEN CHI. / BLUMENFELD S.F.C.

Reverse: Light tower, SOUVENIR OF SAN FRANCISCO / 1894.

 

I'm assuming this piece was designed by Blumenfeld of the San Francisco Chronicle, hence the name and letters in the field. I need to do more research to confirm this assumption. It is also signed A Hylen, Chicago along the ground line of the central design. I have another early aluminum medal from Chicago with the same A. Hylen Chicago mark. I'm assuming SFC stands for the Chronicle give the publisher's involvement in creating the exposition.

 

12/31/06 - Blumenfeld also designed medals for the World's Columbian Exposition and they are signed Blumenfeld P.O.C., so does anyone know what the initials might mean?

 

The electric tower stood at the center of the courtyard (the Court of Honor) and was San Francisco's la petite Tour Eiffel. The Belvista Cafe was on the first landing and one could ride an electric elevator to that 91 foot landing or two others at 147 and 210 feet. At the top, 272 feet, was a powerful electric search light that could be seen for miles. A novelty in a city where few had even seen an electric light bulb let alone contemplate having electricity in their homes.

 

The Online Archives of California have several interesting photographs of the tower by day and night:

 

http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf8z09p6r4/hi-res

 

http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf9x0nc0nr/hi-res

 

http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf1s2007zw/hi-res

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1894 Aluminum

Electric Tower - State Seal So-Called Dollar

Hibler & Kappen 249

38 mm AU

 

916301.jpg

 

Obverse: View of the Electrical Tower and exposition buildings with the inscription: CALIFORNIA MIDWINTER INERNATIONAL EXPOSITION / SAN FRANCISCO 1894.

Reverse: California state seal with the sun setting in the Golden Gate in the background. A working miner is to the left of Minerva's feet. The signature HANSON CHI runs along the base of the seal on the right.

 

Hibler and Kappen note the medal is common holed for suspension, but rare without a hole. The piece pictured here was the second, and the nicer, of two unholed medals offered on Ebay at the same time.

 

The piece seems to have been designed from artist's preliminary sketches of the fair plans or a fanciful sketch as the details of the tower do not match the actual structure (see the other medals listed in this topic). The buildings, although somewhat related to the actual buildings, do not match any actual views of the fair. The seal has also been adapted to match the location of the exposition. Instead of the Sierra Nevadas in the distance, the Golden Gate and setting sun form the background of the medal's version of the seal. I'm assuming this medal was produced in Chicago with minimal knowledge of the local environment.

 

The 1849 version of the California State Seal:

 

seal_ca1849l.jpg

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1894 Aluminum

Electric Tower - Mechanics Art Building So-Called Dollar

Hibler & Kappen 252

38.5 mm EF

 

916316.jpg

 

Obverse: Electric Tower, CALIFORNIA MIDWINTER INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION / 1894. Inner inscription, ELECTRIC TOWER.

Reverse: Wreath, ALUMINUM / SOUVENIR / STAMPED / IN / MECHANICS BLD. / SAN FRANCISCO, CAL.

 

The version of the Electric Tower on this medal is the same as that on Hibler & Kappen 246 pictured above. Compare it to the previous post and you can see the differences. What is interesting are the doo-dads hanging off the various platforms. They do not show in actual pictures of the Electric Tower. Of addition interest on this medal is a small person on top of the tower seemingly planting a flag. I have no idea what it might represent.

 

Hibler and Kappen indicate that most of the medals sold at the exposition were struck in the Mechanics Art Building. This is one of two medals indicating that it was struck in the building.

 

The medal is a good example of the frustration of collecting aluminum. The surfaces exhibit near uncirculated luster, yet it has so many dings and marks that it has clearly been manhandled over the years, perhaps bouncing around in a drawer.

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  • 3 months later...

1894 Aluminum

Bird's Eye View - Facts about San Francisco So-Called Dollar

Hibler & Kappen 255

43.7 mm Unc

 

918994.jpg

 

Obverse: Bird’s eye view, MIDWINTER EXPOSITION / 1894 / SAN FRANCISCO, CAL. Signed SCHWAAB S.&S. CO. MILWAUKEE.

Reverse: SOUVENIR OF SAN FRANCISCO / METROPOLIS OF THE WESTERN COAST. Inside, the inscription: THE PRINCIPAL / SEAPORT OF THE WESTERN / COAST OF AMERICA, / AND THE CHIEF CITY OF CALIFORNIA. / ESTABLISHED IN 1776 AS MISSION DELORES. / WAS TAKEN BY THE U.S. IN 1847. / POPULATION THEN 450, POPULATION NOW IS 350,000. / HAS ONE OF THE BEST HARBORS IN THE WORLD. / MILES OF FINE STREETS, FINE PUBLIC BUILDINGS, U.S. MINT. / 37 BANKS, FINEST CABLE CAR SYSTEM IN THE COUNTRY. / IMPROVED ELECTRIC LIGHT PLANTS, GAS AND WATER WORKS. / THE LARGE OFFICE AND BUSINESS BUILDINGS, / HOTELS AND CHURCHES ARE NUMEROUS AND MAGNIFICENT. / HAS FOURTEEN DAILY NEWSPAPERS / AND OVER / FIFTY OTHER WEEKLY AND MONTHLY PUBLICATIONS. / HAS LARGE MANUFACTURING ESTABLISHMENTS. / POPULATION IS THOROUGHLY COSMOPOLITAN. / GOLDEN GATE PARK, / COVERING 1,050 ACRES, IS ONE OF / THE GREATEST IN / THE WORLD.

 

That certainly fills up the medal, but the point of the fair was to promote San Francisco as an economic center. Fairs had brought business to many cities, but none had been west of Chicago before 1894.

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1894 Aluminum

State Seal - Five Edifaces

Hibler & Kappen 260

34.8 mm Unc

 

918995.jpg

 

Obverse: Modified state seal CALIFORNIA MIDWINTER INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION / 1894.

Reverse:Five bilding is rings, Administration Building in center. Clockwise from the top, Palace of Horticulture, Palace of Manufacturers and Liberal Arts, Palace of Fine Arts, and Palace of Mechanics Art.

 

Not much to add except to note again the modified state seal. Instead of the Sierra, the seal looks west towards the setting sun. The fair emphasized the ideal climate in the dead of the eastern winter!

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I sure wish I could trade 170 lbs of aluminium for 1204 lbs of aurum.

 

You have to get in line. I cornered the aluminum market first!

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1894 Aluminum

Bird's Eye View - Golden Gate

Hibler & Kappen 250

38 mm Unc

 

918996.jpg

 

Obverse: Bird’s eye view, CALIFORNIA MIDWINTER INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION / SAN FRANCISCO 1894.

Reverse:View looking west through the Golden Gate, GOLDEN GATE / SAN FRANCISCO, CAL.

 

My favorite piece from the fair. I love the view of the Golden Gate. The building on the left is Fort Point, the point from which the Golden Gate Bridge begins its crossing of the entrance to the bay. I missed several opportunities to acquire one of these only to be rewarded by a near flawless example. Sometimes it pays to wait (and I had to pay for the opportunity!). Note the Ferris Wheel (Firth Wheel at the fair) in the lower right corner of the bird's eye view. The Japanese Tea Garden, still present in Golden Gate Park, are in the lower left of the view.

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1894 Aluminum

Sun-Set City - Mechanics Art Building So-Called Dollar

Hibler & Kappen 253

38.5 mm EF

 

919583.jpg

 

Obverse: Mechanics Art Building. Outer ring reads, SOUVENIR / OF THE SUN-SET CITY.

Reverse: Wreath, ALUMINUM / SOUVENIR / STAMPED / IN / MECHANICS BLD. / SAN FRANCISCO, CAL.

 

This particular medal is interesting since it has been counterstamped JAN 27 1894 in the overly large space between the words STAMPED and IN. The space appears suited to adding a date and Jan 27, 1894 was opening day for the exposition. I guess you could consider this a first day of issue piece.

 

The exposition grounds in Chicago were known as the White City for the fair's classical architecture. In San Francisco, the exposition grounds were located next to a property development known as the Sunset City. The color scheme selected for the exposition architecture, however, led to the local nickname, the Opal City.

 

The Mechanics Art Building and Electric Tower designs from the two "Stamped In" medals pictured here and above were adapted from water color promotional artist's renderings painted by Charles Graham.

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1894 Brass

Official Medal Type I So-Called Dollar

Hibler & Kappen 245

34 mm VF

 

919580.jpg

 

1894 Brass

Official Medal Type II So-Called Dollar

Hibler & Kappen 245A

34 mm AU

 

919581.jpg

 

Okay, they are not aluminium. I've focused a part of my collection on this exposition and am looking for one rare so-called dollar struck in white medal. Nearly everything else is aluminum (there are sone other non so-called dollar exceptions).

 

The obverse is the California state seal. Type I is a fairly accurate rendering with the exception of fruit and flowers at the feet of Minerva (read the reverse inscription). Type II adds arising sun at the crest of the Sierra Nevadas (again, read the reverse inscription). The maker's mark, MOISE S.F. appears at the base of the image.

 

The reverse of both reads, THE LAND OF SUNSHINE FRUIT AND FLOWERS / SOUVENIR / CALIFORNIA / MIDWINTER / EXPOSITION / SAN FRANCISCO / 1894. The reverses are not identical. The words are the same, but different letter punches were used and the sizes and placements are slightly different. The lettering placement, spacing, etc. feels more "professional" on Type I.

 

I believe these medals were commissioned by the exposition planners and that Type I was ordered and struck by the exposition's publicity office in Chicago. The San Francisco office opened second and I believe they ordered matching medals in San Francisco for use in the west. Moise added the sun on the obverse as well as their hallmark.

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1894 Aluminum

State Seal - Administration Building

51 mm, Unc

 

919837.jpg

 

A large souvenir medal from the exposition. At 51 mm, it is too large to count as a so-called dollar. Since there are no catalogs for the Midwinter pieces, this naturally counts as "unlisted" although I've encountered an auction record for one other piece so far. If my collection progresses at the current pace, I write something one of these days.

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1894 Aluminum

Mexican Souvenir California Exposition

about 2 inches square, Unc

 

919845.jpg

 

I know nothing about this piece except I have a matching one from the Columbian Exposition, 1893 (here).

 

The obverse features a bust of Columbus at the top, the Aztec calendar in the middle, and navigational instruments at the bottom. To the left is a ship, a steam train to the right. The dates 1492 and 1892.

 

The reverse features an allegorical scene with a male adorned for blacksmith work, a female with grains, and Hermes (or Mercury) the messenger of the gods known for his helpfulness to mankind. Behind them is the American flag and an eagle. The banner above reads, MEXICAN SOUVENIR EXPOSITION CALIFORNIA. 1894 below.

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  • 2 months later...

1894 Bronze

Labor and Liberty Badge

32 mm, EF-AU

 

922490.jpg

 

Obverse: Bird’s eye view, CALIFORNIA MIDWINTER INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION / SAN FRANCISCO 1894. Initials S.J. in exergue.

Reverse: State seal with LABOR AND LIBERTY above.

 

I like the bird's eye view images and have submitted a proposed article on the topic to the ANA Journal. Its being reviewed now. I'll let everyone know if it is accepted. I can't say much more about this piece except that San Francisco has long been a labor city. Construction work on the fair was restricted to the unionized trades. I suspect this piece was issued for a Labor sponsored day at the exposition.

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1894 Aluminum

Lauer Exposition View So-Called Dollar

Hibler & Kappen 262

35.6 mm EF

 

922491.jpg

 

Obverse: State seal, signed LAUER at bottom.

 

Reverse: Idealized view of the exposition grounds, CALIFORNIA / SAN FRANCISCO above, MIDWINTER / INTERNATIONAL / EXPOSITION / 1894 in exergue. LAUER NÜRNBERG in small letters below central image.

 

Lauer of Nürnberg, Germany won a gold medal at the exposition for their medal manufacturing exhibit. Six differerent medals were issued.

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Would just like to thank you guy's for posting these I love them, I have a few UK bits in my own collection but to date no US ones :ninja: These have inspired me to start looking.

 

De Orc ;)

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1894 Brass and Cloth

Souvenir Badge

35 mm wide, EF

 

922992.jpg

 

Exonumia covers a wide range of items including badges. The badge pictured here features the five primary buildings located around the central court of honor. Minerva from the state seal (at the bottom of the badge) faces forward. I'll post another souvenir with the same Minerva pose. Perhaps the two were made by the same company although neither is marked. The pin is missing from this badge.

 

Badges are an interesting clue to the reason so many early medals are holed. They were attached to things or to ribbons for wearing. I've been scanning early photographs to try to spot people wearing badges. No luck yet, but one day....

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1894 Brass

State Seal and Exposition Motto

27.7 mm, EF

 

922923.jpg

 

Obverse: Modified state seal, CALIFORNIA / MIDWINTER INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION.

Reverse: THE LAND / OF / SUNSHINE / FRUIT AND / FLOWERS.

 

The scruffy looking bear leaves something to be desired and Minerva is facing forward as opposed to being shown in a side view as on the state seal. Minerva looks much like the image on the preceding badge. Perhaps they are from the same company or the same die engraver. This piece seems to be a cheap version of the so-called official medal posted above.

 

I have two of these, so I can definitely say the holes were added after the piece was struck. The second piece shows the same two die breaks visible on the reverse, plus a third dire break. It was obviously a later strike and it appears that the die may have been approaching the end of its useful life.

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1894 Gilt Brass

Columbus Landing

Eglit 463

28.4 mm, F

 

922993.jpg

 

Well worn, but the best I've managed to win at auction so far.

 

Obverse: Spread eagle with E PLURIBUS UNUM banner in beak. Above CALIFORNIA MIDWINTER / INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION, below SAN FRANCISCO / 1894.

Reverse: Landing of Columbus, 1892 below.

 

I've seen this piece listed as a mule of a Columbian Exposition and San Francisco Exposition medals. The piece is listed in Eglit and he notes this same design was used for a Columbian medal. In this instance, the legend was changed to reflect the San Francisco Exposition. I suspect pieces such as this were commissioned or produced in Chicago while the California exposition was being promoted in the summer of 1893.

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1894 Base Metal, Paint

Electric Tower

21.2 mm, VF

 

922994.jpg

 

I don't really know what to say about this small piece. I bought it on Ebay, an item from a large collection of exposition memorabilia. It is definitely the Electric Tower on the obverse and the term, Midwinter Fair was used only in June, 1893 although it would be a quick and dirty way to refer to the exposition.

 

The medal is dirty, it reminds me of a penny that laid in a tool drawer in the service station for years. The accumulation of dirt, grease, general grime, and things rubbing against it creates an ugly, corroded mess. This piece, however, appears to have had the highlights painted red, or maybe it rubbed across something red that left a paint-like residue on the high spots. The reverse appears to have been run through a counter or other toothed wheel device that left two intersecting tracks. Maybe it was a button or glued to something else. I willing to entertain ideas at this point.

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  • 3 months later...

I need to bring this set up to date, but in the mean time you can read about some of the collection in the new issue of the ANA Journal (Vol 2, No. 1, Spring 2007), Midwinter Bird's-Eye View: So-called dollars document the development of the California Midwinter International Exposition.

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  • 4 months later...

1894 Aluminum

Firth Wheel So-Called Dollar

Hibler & Kappen 247

40 mm EF

 

929999.jpg

 

Companion piece to the Electric Tower piece (H&K 246) discussed above. Ferris wheels were still relatively new and novel. The fair's wheel was smaller than that in Chicago and obviously built by Firth!

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