The 1894 Midwinter Exposition

There were hundreds of attractions theat Midwinter Fair. Here are just a few to start:


The Japanese Tea Garden
According to The Official History of the Midwinter International Exposition, "The location of the Japanese Garden was particularly advantageous. The irregular nature of the ground within this inclosure lent itself readily to the formation of a series of grassy slopes and of rocky hillsides, and lying between them was a placid lakelet. Among these landscape features wound pretty paths, and over the water were stretched the dainty bridges so familiar to lovers of Japanese pictures. On one side of the lake was a summer-house hung with Japanese lanterns; a little further along was a more pretentious pagoda in which tea was served by pretty musmees in Japanese garb, and still further from the entrance was a Japanese dwelling-house with its screen partitions., its highly polished floors, its handsomely decorated ceilings and its comfortable rugs for lounging. As an adjunct to this concession there was a Japanese Theater, where regular performances were given afternoon and evening, and there was still another theater of the same sort, also under Japanese auspices, in quite a different quarter of the Exposition grounds."

The Japanese Tea Garden was operated by George Turner Marsh during the fair, and when it ended, the commissioners of Golden Gate Park decided to leave this up as a permanent feature for the park-- you can still visit it today!

The Firth Wheel
Modeled after the highly-successful Ferris Wheel that had debuted in Chicago's 1893 world's fair, San Francisco needed to have it's own giant wheel ride! According to The Official History of the Midwinter International Exposition, "The Firth Wheel had a diameter of one hundred feet, and the foundation added to this another twenty feet, while the advantage accruing from a natural rise of ground greatly enhanced the effect of the flight. The visitor was swung out into space 385 feet above the level of the ocean. The Ferris Wheel afforded its highest line of vision at 258 feet above Lake Michigan. The Firth Wheel had sixteen cars at a capacity of ten passengers each. The united weight of the wheel and its full complement of passenters was about 216,0000 pounds. The mechanical problems in connection with its construction were so carefully worked out , and the parts os nicely balanced, that it only required forty horse-power to propel the wheel, though a two hundred horse-power engine was made use of with the idea of being prepared for any emergency. Great care was taken to have the wheel absolutely safe. Wind pressure, friction and weight were all carefully calculated, and the structure was then built with a strength and stability of ten times that which was absolutely necessary.... From the top of the Firth Wheel a natural panorama of unparalleled beauty was unrolled. The Pacific, the Golden Gate, the ampitheater of wooded hills in the middle distance, and the picturesque Exposition itself on every hand, presented a picture which hundreds of thousands of visitors availed themselves of an opportunity to see. The wheel was entirely constructed from material secured on the Pacific Coast, and all the work was done in San Francisco."

"An element of romance was developed during the Exposition in the form of a marriage, on Sunday, April 1st, in one of the cars of the Firth Wheel. The contracting parties were Alexander fon Gunther and Ernestine Schneider. The interesting part of the story in connection with this marriage is that this was not the first time that this same couple had been united in matrimony. Years ago they took each other for better or for worse, and each decided that it was worse than better. At any rate they drifted apart, and the next time they met was on the platform of the Firth Wheel, where both had come to see the sights of the Exposition. The meeting was so strange and the pleasure was so mutual that they at once forgot past differences and agreed to kiss and make up. What more natural than that they should decide to be married on the very wheel whos turning brought them face to face after so long a separation? And where ws the sense of being married a second time without some novel feature being connected with it? Hence it came to pass that this couple were married in the Firth Wheel. The chimes of the tower of the Liberal Arts Building pealed forth the wedding bells at the moment the preacher pronounced them man and wife. All the other cars of the wheel were full of wedding guests, and the wedding journey consisted of a trip twice around."

The very strange, "Dante's Interno"
As described by the fair's official guide:
"Situated on the south drive near the Firth Wheel. The entrance to this exhibition is through a Dragon's Head. The interior is arranged in a series of startling and illusory scenes, such as burning lakes filled with dancing skeletons, bottomless pits and other ingenious mechanical contrivances to harrow up the soul, but without the objectionable chamber of horrors. Admission 25 cents."

The Scenic Railway
Open air cars that went along rolling wooden tracks, similar to a rollorcoaster, at varying speeds along one side of the fairgrounds, and then doubling back to the starting point (the whole ride: 2/3 mile). Descriptions of the attraction talk extensively about how safe it was, and how nobody got hurt during the entire fair's run. (Evidently other such rides were not so safe?)