One hundred and eleven years ago today, at 5:12 am local time, the great San Francisco earthquake struck. It lasted for 45 seconds, had an estimated magnitude of 7.8, and caused a great deal of damage, not only in San Francisco but up and down the California coast. In San Francisco, however, fire was greater evil. Several small fires, burning uncontrollably due to ruptured water mains, gradually merged, and over the course of three days destroyed about 80% of the city. Almost everything east of Van Ness Avenue was lost. San Francisco had suffered many fires in its history, but this was the Great Calamity, the dividing line between Old San Francisco and New San Francisco.
The earthquake and fire was one of the first large-scale disasters covered thoroughly by photographers, and a large number of books were rushed to print soon afterwards. Paul Elder published only two: The Vanished Ruin Era, and Charles Keeler’s San Francisco Through Earthquake and Fire (1906). Keeler writes in his usual florid style, including a moving dedication that dreams of a quick renaissance: “Hail, city of yesterday and tomorrow! I salute thee reborn, rejuvenated, casting the slough that unworthily envisaged thee, rising out of thy burned self to a more fair, more glorious realization of thy promise and thy destiny!” By 1909, the downtown area was mostly rebuilt, and Paul Elder had reopened a bookstore around the corner from his original location.
The book was published in brown wraps with an uncredited illustration of downtown San Francisco. The viewer is looking south on Kearny towards the intersection of Market Street. The Call Building (which survived, and is now called the Central Tower) is in white, at the corner of Market and Third.
In the 19th century, mathematicians such as Lagrange and Hamilton began exploring fourth dimensional space. In his 1888 book A New Era of Thought, mathematician and science fiction author Charles Howard Hinton coined the term tesseract for the fourth-dimensional analog of a three-dimensional cube. (The term was famously borrowed in 1963 by Madeleine L’Engle in A Wrinkle In Time.) Soon literary authors, including such luminaries as Marcel Proust, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Joseph Conrad, Oscar Wilde and H. G. Wells began writing about the fourth dimension: sometimes evoking geometry, but often equating it with “time.”
In The Fourth-Dimensional Reaches of the Exposition (1915), Cora Williams takes her stab at the mysteries of the fourth dimension, broadly invoking the monumental scale of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition’s fairgrounds.
The human mind has so long followed its early cow-paths through the wilderness of sense that great hardihood is required even to suggest that there may be other and better ways of traversing the empirical common. So it is that the fear of being proclaimed a Brazenhead has restrained me until this eleventh hour from telling of my discoveries concerning the fourth-dimensional reaches of our Exposition.
This is indeed an odd little book. Williams writes with a florid mysticism:
While many books have been written descriptive of the Exposition, none has succeeded in accounting completely for the joy we have in yonder miracle of beauty. … There is still a subtle something not spatialized for consciousness. Length, breadth, and height do not suffice to set forth the ways of our delight in it. … Obviously to give it extension we shall have to ascribe to reality other dimensions than those of our present sense-realm. … Although the scientist has found it useful on occasion to postulate the fourth dimension, he has not thought necessary as yet to put it in the category of reality; much less has the layman.
Later, Williams muses about the beginning of life on Earth:
All we need in order to come to a fourth-dimensional consciousness, said Henri Poincaré, is a new table of distribution … a breaking up of old associations of ideas and the forming of new relations. … Lester Ward speculates that life remained aquatic for the vast periods that paleontology would indicate; Cambrian, Silurian, Devonian and Carboniferous—a duration greater than all subsequent time. Life was not able to maintain itself on land until it had overcome this one-dimensional limitation. … A venturesome Pterodactyl was who first essayed to make his way among the many obstructions to be found ashore! By what intuition was he impelled?
In the title chapter, she discusses the Fair itself, undoubtedly becoming the only Elder author to use the word “hyperspace”:
The Panama-Pacific International Exposition is best seen in its fourth-dimensional aspect when approached through the Gateway of Memory. This is what one might expect, for that entrance alone has the requisite geometrical structure. You will recall having head, I am sure, how in the fourth dimension a person may go in and out of a locked room at his pleasure with bolts and bars untouched. Broad and open as is this Gate of Memory, when you pass its portals the wall closes behind you; there is no visible opening to mark the spot of your entry. A feeling of detachment comes over you. This is augmented by the burst of light and color that flashes across the field of your vision, and for the first time you understand the purport of those ‘banners yellow, glorious, golden’ which ‘do float and flow.’ They seem to bear you on breezes of their own creating to the freedom of outer spaces. What you had taken for the flauntings of festivity are become the heralds of hyperspace.
During her lifetime, Cora Lenore Williams (1865-1937) was known primarily as an educator. In 1917 she acquired the John Hopkins Spring mansion in Berkeley, which she turned into the Institute for Creative Development (later Cora Williams Institute), a fancy school specializing in languages, poetry, music, and literature. Williams also wrote one other book for Paul Elder, As If (1914).
Gertrude Partington Albright (1874-1959) was born in Heysham, England and received artistic training from her father, the artist John H.E. Partington. Her family moved to San Francisco, California in 1880. She returned to Europe to study at the Academie Delecluse, and later opened a studio at 220 Post Street where she did her painting and printmaking. She married artist Herman Oiver Albright in 1917 and joined the faculty at the California School of Fine Arts where she taught until her retirement in 1946. She exhibited at the Salon International des Beaux Arts, Carnegie Institute, Corcoran Gallery and the 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition where she was awarded a bronze medal for painting.
Ormeida Curtis Harrison (1875–1947) was a poet and assistant principal at the A-to-Zed school in Berkeley. She was second wife of author and naturalist Charles Keeler. Her poem “Time Is” appears on the tissue guard between the title page and frontispiece.
In Little Bronze Playfellows (1915), author Stella Perry creates fanciful children’s stories based on several of the bronze statues of children scattered about the grounds of the Palace of Fine Arts. It is one of a dozen books issued by Paul Elder during 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
The bronze boys and girls are all gamboling about while perfectly naked. For a statue that was not unusual, as a great deal of the of Fair’s sculptures featured naked adults. But notwithstanding the anachronism of classical statuary in modern times, one senses that statues of naked children wouldn’t be so well received in our politically sensitive age.
The book was issued in gold-colored wraps, with a dozen photographic plates (not tipped-in, as in many other Elder publications). The cover illustration, as well as the plate opposite page 10, is the statue “Wild Flower, by Edward Berge. (The statue also appears on page 140 of Perry’s The Sculpture and Mural Decorations of the Exposition.) Unusually for Elder, the book does not have a colophon.
Stella George Stern Perry (1877-1956) was an American author, suffragist, and social reformer. She graduated from Barnard College, where she was one of four co-founders of the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. She also wrote another children’s book for Paul Elder, The Clever Mouse (1916).
As with the other three books in Paul Elder’s quartet of formal books on the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, The Sculpture and Mural Decorations of the Exposition (1915) consists primarily of tipped-in photographs with accompanying descriptive text. A. Stirling Calder, the “Acting Chief of Sculpture of the Exposition,” has name is on the cover, but his contribution consists of a ten-page Introduction. All of the other text is by author Stella Perry.
Alexander Stirling Calder (1870-1945) was an American sculptor and educator. He was the son of sculptor Alexander Milne Calder, known for his sculptures in Philadelphia City Hall, and the father of Alexander Calder, inventor of the mobile. Calder created many pieces for the Fair, including the well-known “Star Maiden,” which curiously does not appear in this book. The model for Star Maiden was Audrey Munson, who was then at the height of her fame; it has been claimed that she posed for as many as three-quarters of the Fair’s statues. (In 1915, Munson also became the first woman to appear nude in a non-pornographic film.)
Visitors to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition could not help but be awestruck by the monumental scale of the buildings. It was a Fair of Superlatives: the grounds covered 635 acres, the Palace of Horticulture was the largest dome then in existence (larger than St. Peter’s in Rome), the Tower of Jewels rose 435 feet high–forty-three stories!
The Architecture and Landscape Gardening of the Exposition (1915), the third in the quartet of Paul Elder’s survey of the PPIE, is a photographic survey of the buildings and gardens.
Louis Christian Mullgardt (1866-1942) was an American architect associated with the San Francisco Bay Area’s Arts & Crafts period, often called the First Bay Tradition. He designed the Court of the Ages at the PPIE, and lobbied hard to save the Fair after it was over. He told the Commonwealth Club that “when the Exposition buildings are torn down, then we will have destroyed one of the greatest architectural units which has ever been created in the history of the world.” Based partly on his work at the Fair, he was chosen to design the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.
Mullgardt is listed as the author, though his content is limited to the dedication, and a half-page “reflection” and a ten-page introduction. The bulk of the book consists of 95 tipped-in photographs with descriptive texts by Maud Raymond and John Hamlin, who are credited only in the colophon.
Maud Mary Wotring was born in Ohio in 1867. She graduated from Hastings College in Hastings, Nebraska in 1890 and taught Greek and Latin at Longmont, Colorado. In 1895 she married Paul Raymond. She was active in Christian missionary work, and in 1913 published The King’s Business: A Study of Increased Efficiency for Women’s Missionary Societies. In 1928 she was still living in San Francisco.
John Harold Hamlin (1880-1951) was an author active from the 1920s into the 1940s. He wrote fiction, usually with a Western theme, for both juveniles and adults.