Life in 1915: Celebrating 105 Years In San Diego

As far as years go, you could do worse than 1915. In that year, Frank Sinatra was born, Einstein explained gravity, a postage stamp cost two cents and the U.S. still had yet to fight in a world war. And in May of 1915, a sixteen-vessel fleet that would become Flagship Cruises & Events began offering water transportation and 50-cent harbor tours on San Diego Bay. Today as Flagship celebrates our 105th anniversary, let's take a look at what life was like in San Diego back in 1915.

Life In 1915

  • U.S. president: Woodrow Wilson
  • Babe Ruth hits his first home run
  • Congress votes to continue to deny women the right to vote
  • The US Coast Guard was founded
  • Top Baby Names: Mary, Dorothy, John and William 
  • Other notable births: Arthur Miller, Billie Holliday, Ingrid Bergman, Muddy Waters and Orson Welles

By The Numbers

Our American flag still had just 48 stars. Life expectancy was 47 years, and the average annual salary was $687. Here's what that salary could buy:

  • First class stamp: 2 cents
  • A quart of milk: 9 cents
  • Coffee: 15 cents/pound
  • Gas: 25 cents/gallon
  • Harvard tuition: $150
  • A new home: $3,200

In 1915, San Diego had 1/25th the number of residents it has today. The entire population could have fit in Qualcomm Stadium (which would not be built for another 52 years).

Putting San Diego On The Map

The Panama Canal’s opening in 1914 brought global significance to San Diego, the first American port on the Pacific side. The city hosted a celebration in 1915, the Panama–California Exposition, held in Balboa Park. Many of its features remain iconic symbols of San Diego today — the California Bell Tower, Cabrillo Bridge, Spreckels Organ Pavilion and exotic animal expos that would become the San Diego Zoo.

In 1915, the tallest building in San Diego was the U.S. Grant Hotel at 211 feet, still in operation today. It was shadowed by the El Cortez Hotel (310 ft) in 1927. Today, the pinnacle of our jagged skyline is One America Plaza (500 ft), built in 1991.

Cruise Comforts

Many of society’s simplest and greatest inventions were yet to come. In 1915, passengers would have no concept of band aids, zippers, sunglasses or suntan lotion. No one had an instant camera to capture the incredible views. Streets had no parking meters or traffic lights. Even the invention of sliced bread was still more than a decade away.

In the century that followed, travel on San Diego Bay would become faster, easier, safer and much more exhilarating. Flagship's highlights include:

  • Expanded ferry service to Coronado (1918), with a five-cent fare earning it the nickname "Nickel-Snatcher" 
  • World's first whale watching tours (1949), a source of local pride establishing San Diego as a premier whale watching destination
  • First nighttime harbor tours (1958), with dining and dancing permits that lead the way to grand parties, weddings and celebrations on the bay
  • Patriot Jet Boat's arrival (2013), the only vessel of its kind in San Diego, providing thrilling high speed tours of the bay

Today, each passenger gets written into a new chapter of Flagship's story. They become part of our century-long lineage, connecting curious visitors and proud residents back to the first excursion in 1915.

Photos: Coronado Historical Association

Help us celebrate! Purchase a gift card toward any future Flagship cruise and save 20%.
Discount will be applied automatically during checkout. Offer ends June 1.