Diamond Jubilee: A Closer Look

by Arnold Woods

California became a state on September 9, 1850. Thereafter, September 9th was celebrated as Admission Day. In 1925, California was commemorating the 75th anniversary of it joining the union. San Francisco was not about to let a diamond jubilee go by without a party. So party the City did.
 

Conservatory floral arrangement for California Diamond Jubilee, 1925.Conservatory floral arrangement for California Diamond Jubilee, 1925. (wnp14.10599; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

San Francisco’s Diamond Jubilee festivities began on Saturday, September 5, 1925, with an automobile parade on Market Street that included famous race car drivers such as Barney Oldfield. That afternoon, an area on the Embarcardero was dedicated as the “Joy Zone,” which featured games, circus-style acts, bands, bathing beauty revues, and water exhibitions of speed boats, fire boats, seaplanes, and fishing boats.1 A grand ball was held at the Civic Auditorium that evening where Agnes Pottage was crowned as “Queen California.”
 

View of Arco de Brillantes, illuminated decorative archway, and City Hall, September 1925.View of Arco de Brillantes, illuminated decorative archway, and City Hall, September 1925. (wnp27.4239.jpg; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

The decorative centerpiece for the Diamond Jubilee was a great, “jewel”-encrusted archway in Civic Center Plaza that was illuminated at night. Dubbed the “Arco de Brilliantes,” it dazzled spectators as rainbows of color reflected off of its “diamonds” when the spotlights were turned on it.
 

Carpenters Union float passing City Hall during Labor Day Parade, September 7, 1925.Carpenters Union float passing City Hall during Labor Day Parade, September 7, 1925. (wnp36.03249; DPW Horace Chaffee – SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

Auto racing fans headed to the Tanforan Racetrack on Sunday, September 6, 1925, for a series of races and events. Frank Lockhart set a new track record by completing a mile in 47.6 seconds, breaking the old record by two seconds.2 That evening a fashion show was held at the Civic Auditorium. The following day, the grand 1925 Labor Day Parade and celebration that we took a closer look at last week was held.
 

Japanese troops marching toward City Hall during Diamond Jubilee Military Parade, September 8, 1925.Japanese troops marching toward City Hall during Diamond Jubilee Military Parade, September 8, 1925. (wnp27.7349.jpg; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

The military joined the proceedings with a parade on Tuesday, September 8, 1925 for Army and Navy Day. Chief Dan O’Brien led a mounted squad of police as escorts at the head of the military parade.3 Next were Mayor James Rolph and Grand Marshal Brigadier-General Thornwell C. Mullaly in a squadron of cars that included visiting British and Japanese Naval officers and Army, Navy and Marine Corps chiefs. Finally, the troops came marching. First, British sailors and marines, then Japanese sailors and their band, and followed by “San Francisco’s Own” 30th Army Regiment and other military regiments. At the end of the parade was a Red Cross float and a busload of Civil War veterans, who drew the biggest applause.
 

Native Sons of the Golden West float during Diamond Jubilee Parade, September 9, 1925.Native Sons of the Golden West float during Diamond Jubilee Parade, September 9, 1925. (wnp36.03251; DPW Horace Chaffee – SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

Admission Day was greeted with the arrival of some dignitaries, notably Vice President Charles G. Dawes. Dawes led the Admission Day parade–once again down Market Street to the Civic Center–and was universally greeted with thunderous applause and shouts.4 The Vice President was humbled by the greeting, stating that he had never seen such a crowd in his life. 650,000 people lined the parade route to see floats and marchers representing the different eras of California history.5 Cities, counties, and industries from around the state contributed floats, spear-headed by various local chapters of the Native Sons of the Golden West. A few original “forty-niners” in automobiles were showered with cheers.
 

Diamond Jubilee fireworks, September 9, 1925.wnp27.4237.jpg (wnp27.4237; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

After the parade, celebrants could attend any of a number of concerts being held in Golden Gate Park, the Civic Auditorium, and Union Square. A banquet to honor Vice President Dawes was held at the Fairmont Hotel that evening. A big fireworks program in the Civic Center was held at 8:00 p.m. and a ball closed out the night at the Civic Auditorium, during which prizes were announced for the best floats in the parade.
 

City Hall and fountain lit up at night for Diamond Jubilee, September 1925.City Hall and fountain lit up at night for Diamond Jubilee, September 1925. (wnp27.4238; Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

Although the Admission Day festivities were the highlight of the week, the celebrations were not done. On Thursday, September 10, 1925, there was a girls swimming competition at Fleishhacker Pool, another concert in Union Square, and more fireworks. Friday, September 11, 1925, saw golf and senior swimming competitions, an auto parade on Market Street, yet another Union Square concert, and a performance Haydn’s “Creation” by the San Francisco Municipal Chorus at the Civic Auditorium in the evening.
 

Chinese Dragon in Illuminated Diamond Jubilee Parade, September 12, 1925.Chinese Dragon in Illuminated Diamond Jubilee Parade, September 12, 1925. (wnp37.02565; Marilyn Blaisdell Collection / Courtesy of a Private Collector)
 

More auto races, swimming championships, and band concerts were held on the final day of the Diamond Jubilee commemoration, Saturday, September 12, 1925. The highlight of the day though was a stunning, night-time electrical parade on Market Street. Fraternal and other organizations from around California constructed more than 50 elaborate floats for the light spectacle deemed the “crowning achievement” of the Diamond Jubilee.6 In the end, the Diamond Jubilee was a spectacular celebration.
 

Notes:

1. “King Mirth Will Rule On Embarcadero,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 5, 1925, p. 2.

2. “Thousands At Tanforan For Auto Racing,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 7, 1925, p. 2.

3. “Big Parade To Show History Of California,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 9, 1925, p. 1.

4. “Record Crowd Greets Dawes’ Entry To City,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 10, 1925, p. 1.

5. “California’s Sons and Daughters in Pageant That Dazzles Watchers,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 10, 1925, p. 1.

6. “Civic Bodies In Brilliant Array Tonight,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 12, 1925, p. 5.