The 1915 Pan-Pacific Expo wasn’t all rose petals and gold medals, however. Included in a world’s fair devoted to the “spirit of mankind” were exhibits denigrating a Pan-Pacific population that was an integral part of San Francisco: Chinese-Americans. Already marginalized by continued enforcement of the Chinese Exclusion Act (see San Francisco Chronicle, 7/3/15), the stereotyping of Chinese-Americans at the 1915 Expo as indolent, opium-smoking, do-nothings is curiously missing from official commemorations of the event today.
That is, by everyone except by the Chinese Historical Society of America, which features an exhibit at their San Francisco museum called “Underground Chinatown: Racism at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.” The exhibit focuses on an attraction at the 1915 Expo called the “Joy Zone,” which lured visitors with false and sensational portrayals of the Chinese community – and African-Americans too. With this presentation, the Chinese Historical Society of America explores persistent racial myths and stereotypes and their complex impact on Chinese communities in California. The exhibition will be on view April 2, 2015 through December 19, 2015 at the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum at 965 Clay St., in San Francisco. Check it out: http://chsa.org/2015/04/underground-chinatown-racism-at-the-fair-ppie100/. It's yet another chapter in the largely forgotten history of exclusion and discrimination against one of America's first immigrant groups.