The Panama Pacific Exposition Issue commemorated the World's Fair held in San Francisco from February 20 to December 4, 1915. Planning for the event began in 1911, just five years after the great earthquake that destroyed the city. All four stamp designs of the issue were inscribed "San Francisco, 1915" but were released January 1, 1913, to give advance notice of the event.
The stamps of the series commemorated historical events. The 1-cent stamp commemorated the 400th anniversary of Spanish explorer Vasco Numez de Balboa’s discovery of the Pacific Ocean on September 1, 1513, and the 10-cent stamp commemorated the discovery of San Francisco Bay in 1769 by Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola. The 5-cent stamp illustrating the Golden Gate, entrance to San Francisco bay, and the 2-cent Panama Canal stamp completed the issue.
The Bureau’s chief designer, Clair Aubrey Huston, created the handsome designs, but the image of the 10-cent 'orange-yellow' stamp showed so poorly that a darker orange shade was issued in August.
The stamps were originally perforated 12 gauge. When the stamps were produced in late 1914 and early 1915, the Post Office was experimenting with the 10 gauge perforation, so the Panama Pacific stamps were also issued perforated 10 gauge. The Panama Pacific Exposition stamps were the only flat plate U.S. commemorative stamps to have more than one type of perforation.