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The following is an excerpt from a blog written by University Archivist David Null. To view the full blog, visit the UW-Madison Archives’ blog page!

UW Band tour train, trip itinerary and performance in Lewiston, Montana. UW-Madison Archives images #S16441.
UW Band tour train, trip itinerary and performance in Lewiston, Montana. UW-Madison Archives images #S16443.

From February 20-December 4, 1915, San Francisco played host to the Panama Pacific International Exposition, held to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, officially opened on August 15, 1914, and to commemorate Vasco Núñez de Balboa’s crossing of the Panama isthmus to the Pacific Ocean in 1513.

President William Howard Taft chose San Francisco as the site of the exposition in 1911, and the fair would help spur the recovery from the 1906 earthquake and showcase the bay area.

As early as December of 1912, the Wisconsin Alumni Association for Northern California passed resolutions asking the State of Wisconsin and the University to plan for a building and exhibits at the upcoming exposition.  Governor McGovern responded that a bill was being prepared, and the legislature ended up appropriating $75,000 for the exposition, including $15,000 for the building.

The site for the building was dedicated in October, 1913, and the Wisconsin building itself was dedicated on March 8, 1915.

By 1914 the University First Regimental Band was planning for a western tour in 1915, to include the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, the competing Panama California Exposition in San Diego, and stops in many other towns in the West.

The band was to be “made up from fifty to sixty men, chosen from the hundred or more regular men taking band work for credit” plus some faculty members and alumni. The tour was purposely planned for the summer “in order not to interfere with the scholastic duties of the members.” At that time, the band was a part of the military department on campus.