Despite the pride and enthusiasm which the exposition engendered, the Midwinter Fair was not without its problems. There was, of course, the ongoing resentment of W. W. Stow, John McLaren, and their supporters who felt that the exposition desecrated Golden Gate Park. But there were other difficulties that arose at the fair itself: during one of the animal shows a lion turned on his trainer and mauled him to death.(27) An Eskimo child died from hereditary syphilis in the "Esquimaux" village. To the consternation of citizens who learned of the fact later, the child was buried in Golden Gate Park by the Eskimos, without the knowledge of Park or exposition officials.(28)
The exposition suffered one major scandal during its closing days. The Society for the Suppression of Vice, ever vigilant to keep the exposition wholesome, was scandalized to learn that there was to be a nude dancer at a special event held at the exposition aquarium. The San Francisco Examiner reported the incident with a mixture of gusto and disapprobation:
INDECENCY ON THE MIDWAY
ONE OF THE LEWD EXHIBITIONS AT THE FAIR RAIDED.
TWO MEN WERE ARRESTED.
The indecency of the danse du ventre and the grossness of the hula-hula were eclipsed last evening by an exhibition at the close of the Midwinter Fair which it is not permitted in the columns of a daily newspaper to describe, further than by saying that the dancer was a nude woman. This disgusting performance took place before 300 men at Alexander Badlam's Aquarium on the Midway. A similar exhibition had been given on Saturday evening without interference, but the police were forced to make arrests on the night of the Sabbath, as their attention had been called to what was going on. The performances were given under the patronage of the Executive Committee appointed by the Committee of Fifty to conduct the Fair. Guards were cheering, the whistles blowing and the band playing "Auld Lang Syne," under the windows of the offices occupied by the Executive Committee. The police were attempting to hold a mad crowd that was breaking the doors and windows of the aquarium in a wild endeavor to escape arrest.
The spielers openly announced the event on the Midway, soliciting all who were willing to pay 50 cents, the price of admission, and in consequence the crowd was there. The majority of those on the benches were well-dressed attorneys, merchants and clerks . . . There was no thought of danger. The woman was to dance at the Midwinter Fair after full announcement. This gave rise to the feeling of security so plainly evident . . .
When the place could hold no more a smooth-shaven person stepped to the front, smilingly mounted a chair and shouted, "All is ready." The announcement was followed by a few words of warning to the “gents," who were requested to keep quiet and remove their hats. After this he disappeared.
A DISGUSTING EXHIBITION
The sound of a violin drew attention once more to the curtain which at the same moment was pulled aside revealing a woman seated on a chair enveloped in a dark cloak. At the sound of the music she sprang to her feet revealing herself perfectly nude. She was about twenty years of age. Her head and face were veiled in a thin black scarf. She thus displayed herself for a few moments. Suddenly the sound of the violin ceased and the "dancer" sank into her chair. A moment later some one sprang upon the stage and said: "You are under arrest." There was a deathly stillness. Then the girl said in a matter-of-fact way, "All right."
A RUSH FOR THE DOOR
. . . One mad rush was made for the doors. Chairs cracked and smashed, men fell and were trampled on, blows were struck and the air resounded with curses. In the twinkling of an eye the place was cleared just as a squad of officers of the Society for the Prevention of Vice rushed in . . . . With her were two spectators who were captured while trying to escape, but were unable to get clear with the rest. Two men were secured, but only one was charged at the police station.
The Exposition officials knew that the performance was to be given, but no steps were taken to prevent it or to have it modified. The tickets sold at the door on Saturday night were the official tickets of the exposition, and one of the Exposition cash-girls was stationed at the door to take the tickets and see that the percentage of the receipts went to the Fair's treasury.(30)
The scandal died down in the wake of the closing ceremonies. But the one man who was charged with "attending an indecent performance" — according to one account he alone failed to escape because he was overweight and slow to flee — undoubtedly recalled the incident long after the Midwinter Fair closed its gates.
Other difficulties resonated with the international tensions alive in the decade before the turn of the century. At one point, the delegation from Japan strongly objected to the fair-planners' notion that local Japanese would pull visitors around the grounds in jinrikshas. This delegation vowed openly that they would kill any Japanese found degrading the honorable reputation of their nation by performing such menial tasks. The crisis was averted at the last minute by hiring Germans, who painted their faces and dressed up in "Oriental costume."(30)
A more urgent dilemma, from the standpoint of the Exposition Directors, presented itself in the business side of the fair. All vendors were supposed to turn over a percentage of their daily receipts to the Midwinter Exposition General Fund. It was widely believed, though, that the vendors were not reporting their earnings honestly. The Directors therefore devised a system of "rotating cash register clerks" to deal with the problem before it arose. Every day, a management-appointed clerk would take in all receipts from each exhibit. On the next day, the clerk would be shifted to another exhibit, in order to prevent familiarity and collusion arising between clerks and exhibitors.(31) The vendors growled at this enforced garrison. But the Directors were determined that the fair should show a profit; and the surest way of securing that profit, in their minds, was to be rigorous in the collection of its contractual receipts. The policy paid off. When the California Midwinter International Exposition officially closed its doors on July 4, 1894, Director-General de Young could boast that the fair had accomplished all of its goals. The exposition had earned $1,260,112.19 in revenues, as against $1,193,260.70 in expenditures, netting a profit of $66,851.49, without asking for or receiving a single penny of support from federal, state, or local government sources.(32) And after the fair closed, the Fine Arts Building would remain in Golden Gate Park as the city's first municipal museum.
Best of all was the recovery of San Francisco's businesses. In the months before the fair was opened, said exposition Director-General de Young, "stagnation and business depression were everywhere. There was a threatened run on our banks, and a want of confidence was universally apparent. Look today at the situation. There is a complete restoration of confidence; business is progressing as of yore, our streets are crowded, and the general community is in a better frame of mind.”(33) De Young's optimism seems to be confirmed by the fact that there were no major labor strikes in San Francisco for the remainder of the century, and by the emergence of a building boom in the years immediately after the fair, resulting in such structures as the Emporium Department Store, the new Cliff House, the Sutro Baths, and the Ferry Building.