0306 Gender and World’s Fairs at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

A Case Study in Panama and San Francisco

  • Sarah J. Moore (Author)

    Sarah J. Moore is Professor of American Art History at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA. Her research areas are the shifting terrains of identities and geographies in art of the United States within interdisciplinary arenas of world’s fair studies and ecocriticism. From 2021 to 2022, she was the Terra Foundation for American Art Visiting Professor at Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan. Recent publications include: "The Panama Canal Zone as a Hybrid Landscape: A Case Study", in: Ecocriticism and the Anthropocene in Nineteenth-Century Art and Visual Culture, eds. Maura Coughlin and Emily Gephart, New York 2020, 61-76; "The Great American Desert is No More", in: The Trans-Mississippi and International Expositions of 1898–1899, ed. Wendy Jean Katz, University of Nebraska Press 2017, 23-58; "Mosquitoes, Malaria, and Cold Butter: Discourses of Hygiene and Health in the Panama Canal Zone in the Early Twentieth Century", in: Panorama. Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art 3 (2017), no. 2, https://doi.org/10.24926/24716839.1603; and Empire on Display: San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, University of Oklahoma Press 2013.

Identifiers (Article)


This paper explores the intersections between gender, display, and empire at turn-of-the-century world’s fairs in the United States. The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition serves as a case study.  Designed to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, the 1915 fair was hinged on contemporary notions of manliness and used gender ideology to articulate prevailing ideas and assumptions about the American nation, its new empire, and its influence on the entire world. Indeed, gendered rhetoric found its way into numerous contemporary published tracts, articles, paintings, and popular culture that take on the enormity of the Panama Canal and its implications. Manliness and its mechanical prosthetic, technology, became the arenas through which the United States refashioned its national body and confidently assumed its new role as imperialist on the world stage.


imperialism, masculinity, gender, progress, civilization