1939 3¢ Golden Gate International Exposition
Issue Date: February 18, 1939
First City: San Francisco, California
Quantity Issued: 114,439,600
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforation: 10 ½ x 11
Color: Bright Purple
The Post Office Department issued U.S. #852 in conjunction with the Golden Gate International Exposition – and on the same day it opened. The Exposition was a World’s Fair, celebrating two new bridges – the Golden Gate Bridge (opened in 1937) and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (opened in 1935). The stamp shows the “Tower of the Sun,” which symbolized the “Pageant of the Pacific” theme. The tower rose 400 feet high and was surrounded by four statues representing Science, Agriculture, Industry, and Art.
Golden Gate International Exposition
On February 18, 1939, the Golden Gate International Exposition opened in San Francisco, California.
The idea for the exposition dates back to 1933, when a letter to The San Francisco News suggested the city hold a World’s Fair to honor the completion of the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. Construction on both bridges had begun in 1933 and was completed in 1936 and 1937.
The idea proved popular and architects were hired to consider potential sites around the city. By 1934 they had two recommendations – the Presidio, which had been used for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, or yet-to-be-built man-made island. In the end, the island, which would be named Treasure Island (after the Robert Louis Stevenson novel) was selected. The following year, President Franklin Roosevelt announced that the Works Progress Administration would provide $3 million to help fund the cost of building the island.
Dredging on Treasure Island began on February 11, 1936. The project, overseen by the US Army Corps of Engineers, involved the dumping of 287,000 tons of boulders and 25 million cubic yards of mud and sand surrounded by a three-mile long seawall. When completed, the island wasn’t entirely stable on the north end, which would slowly sink over time. After the exposition, the island would be used as a municipal airport.
While the island was being built, the Treasure Island Theme Girl Zoe Dell Lantis traveled the country promoting the exposition. Treasure Island was touted as the largest man-made island on Earth, though that was an exaggeration. Back in San Francisco, preparations for the expo provided much-needed work for architects, engineers, craftsmen, and artists in the wake of the Depression.
The exposition officially opened on February 18, 1939. While the original intent was to honor the bridges, as planning progressed, it was decided that the expo would honor all the countries and continents surrounding the Pacific, with San Francisco serving as the gateway. This led to the theme, A Pageant of the Pacific. The expo included historical pageants, technological innovations, and early examples of corporate branding. Among the attractions was Forty Acres of Fun, which included an automobile racetrack for monkeys. The expo also had a $40 million art exhibition with works borrowed from European museums.
One of the most noted features of the expo was its eclectic architecture. While the main architectural theme was inspired by Mayan, Incan, Malayan, and Cambodian locations, the buildings featured a wide variety of influences. Most notable was the 400-foot Tower of the Sun. Lit by 10,000 lights, the island looked magical at night and could be see for over 100 miles in every direction.
The expo ended its first season on October 29, 1939. Because it was so popular, the expo ran a second season from May 25 through September 29, 1940. During the second season, the organizers created the Art in Action Program. Held in the Hall of Fine and Decorative Arts, it invited artists from a wide variety of media to create their art on premises while the public watched. Among those who participated were Frederick Law Olmsted and Diego Rivera.
After the fair ended, the island didn’t get used as a municipal airport as original planned. Instead, it was taken over by the US Navy to support the war effort.
FDR’s Stamp Collection – A Constant Companion
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said he owed his life to his hobbies – “especially stamp collecting.” Roosevelt began collecting stamps at the age of 8. The Roosevelt family had many business dealings in countries around the world. Young Franklin begged his relatives to send him mail and bring him stamps from those countries.
Paralyzed by polio at the age of 39, FDR spent countless therapeutic hours with his stamp collection as he recovered. Even while he campaigned for the highest public office in the land, Roosevelt turned to his stamp collection to relax and unwind.
Roosevelt took his large wooden stamp box everywhere – except on his final journey. Minnie Astor, a family friend, had borrowed the stamp box so a replica could be made in leather – meant for a Christmas present. Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12, 1945.