San Francisco Tour Tales

Road Trip to San Francisco’s Panama Pacific International Exposition

Young Edsel Ford took a historic road trip over one hundred years ago. In the summer of 1915, 21-year-old Edsel Ford, the only son of Henry Ford, and six friends were among the thousands of Americans who took to the road to visit the west and the world’s fair exposition in San Francisco. At the Pan Pacific International Exposition, the Ford Motor Company had one of the most popular exhibits at the fair—a working Model T assembly line that produced about 18 cars each afternoon and more than 4,000 Model T’s during the course of the fair. Unfortunately, the whereabouts of the original car Mr. Ford drove is not known.

The Panama Pacific International Exposition was widely promoted and provided the impetus for many automobile owners to make adventurous cross country tours using early national highway systems from east to west.

Edsel Ford’s trip was extremely well chronicled with nearly 200 photographs and daily journal entries. He traveled through developing roads that were deemed “drivable”, although drivers at the time may not have agreed on that. However, for the first time, people could consider a cross-country trip using the automobile. The Historic Vehicle Association considers it one of the most well documented early American road trips done purely for pleasure.

Edsel Ford’s road trip is one example of the lure of the PPIE that was seen and felt across the country and around the world,” said Dr. Anthea Hartig, Executive Director, California Historical Society. “In 1915, America was at the dawn of a new age of connectivity and the automobile was at the forefront of this shift in society.



Editors note: This article originally appeared in the August, 2018 issue of Guidelines, a publication of SF City Guides.