FAKES & FANTASIES
French Indochina Participation in the Golden Gate Exposition
by Ron Bentley
Sixty years ago, on 18 February 1939, the Golden Gate International Exposition opened in San Francisco. The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opened on 12 November 1936 and the Golden Gate Bridge opened on 28 May 1937. To celebrate its pride, San Francisco brought into being a world's fair called the Golden Gate International Exposition.
The event was held on Treasure Island, an artificial 400-acre island constructed from the sand of San Francisco Bay during 1936-37. Along the shores of the Lakes of the Nations on Treasure Island was the Pacific Area - a group of buildings representing 20 nations around the Pacific Rim. The pavilions presented culture, history and customs of their peoples. The Pacific Area was a focus for visitors as the theme of the exhibition was "Pageant of the Pacific."
French Indochina was one of the lands represented by its own pavilion. To mark the event, Indochina issued a set of 4 commemorative stamps on 12 June 1939.
The denominations satisfied contemporary postal needs:
Based on the stamp's design, one might conclude that the temple design common to all four values had a direct relationship to the exposition. However, the Mot Cot Pagoda was located in Hanoi and was simply symbolic of Indochina.
The text in the brochure provides a contemporary overview of Indochina and goes on to give a description of the contents of each room and the relevance to Indochina.
For instance, Room Number 7 was devoted to big game hunting. Today, probably most people probably associate big game hunting exclusively with Africa. Yet, sixty years ago, hunting was significant enough to warrant one of the pavilion's seven rooms.
The Golden Gate International Exposition closed on 29 September 1940. From then on, successive wars over three decades were to change French Indochina into entirely new nations. Many of the characteristics of the French colony disappeared along with the simpler times of sixty years ago.
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