San Francisco: City of the World

Bay Bridge, San Francisco  c. 1940s  Jake Lee (1911–91) Courtesy of Nick Johnson, California Watercolor

Terminal 2

Departures Level 2, Gallery 2A
Sep 28, 2024 - Jul 06, 2025

San Francisco: City of the World

California’s legendary Gold Rush transformed San Francisco into a bustling city of approximately twenty-five thousand inhabitants. By the late nineteenth century, the city boomed. Plans for Golden Gate Park commenced in 1870, today one of the nation’s largest and most visited urban parks. Andrew Smith Hallidie (1836–1900) tested San Francisco’s first cable car in 1873 on San Francisco’s Clay Street and public service began soon after. By the turn of the twentieth century, San Francisco was known as the “Paris of the West”—until a devastating earthquake in April of 1906 and its proceeding fires leveled the city. San Francisco, however, quickly rebuilt. During the early twentieth century, numerous San Francisco landmarks, such as Coit Tower (1933) were built. An engineering marvel, the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge—the most photographed bridge in the world—was completed in 1937.

San Francisco has long served as a meeting ground for diverse communities and countercultures. Established in the nineteenth century, the city’s Chinatown remains the oldest in the country, while its Japantown is one of only three nationwide. The Fillmore district, once dubbed the “Harlem of the West” was the home of a large Black population and vibrant jazz community in the late 1940s and ’50s. Meanwhile, literary Beatniks flocked to North Beach’s City Light Books. San Francisco ushered in the “Summer of Love” in 1967 and became known for its thriving rock scene. 1969 witnessed the occupation of Alcatraz Island by Native American students, awakening the American public to the plight of the United States’ Indigenous peoples. The city also began welcoming a thriving LGBQT community during these decades. San Francisco: City of the World will explore the uniquely cosmopolitan city’s colorful history.

Bay Bridge, San Francisco  c. 1940s
Jake Lee (1911–91)
Courtesy of Nick Johnson, California Watercolor