The 1939–40 New York World's Fair, which covered the 1,216 acres (492 ha) of Flushing Meadows–Corona Park (also the location of the 1964–1965 New York World's Fair), was the second most expensive American world's fair of all time, exceeded only by St. Louis's Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. Many countries around the world participated in it, and over 44 million people attended its exhibits in two seasons. It was the first exposition to be based on the future, with an opening slogan of "Dawn of a New Day", and it allowed all visitors to take a look at "the world of tomorrow". According to the official pamphlet:
The eyes of the Fair are on the future—not in the sense of peering toward the unknown nor attempting to foretell the events of tomorrow and the shape of things to come, but in the sense of presenting a new and clearer view of today in preparation for tomorrow; a view of the forces and ideas that prevail as well as the machines.
To its visitors the Fair will say: "Here are the materials, ideas, and forces at work in our world. These are the tools with which the World of Tomorrow must be made. They are all interesting and much effort has been expended to lay them before you in an interesting way. Familiarity with today is the best preparation for the future.
Within six months of the Fair's opening, World War II began, a war that lasted six years and resulted in the deaths of 50-85 million people.
|1939 New York City|
|Category||Second category General Exposition|
|Name||New York World's Fair|
|Motto||The World of Tomorrow|
|Area||1,202 acres (486 hectares)|
|Organized by||Grover Whalen|
|City||New York City|
|Venue||Flushing Meadows–Corona Park|
|Opening||April 30, 1939|
|Closure||October 27, 1940|
|Previous||Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne in Paris|
|Next||Exposition internationale du bicentenaire de Port-au-Prince in Port-au-Prince|
|Previous||Second International Aeronautic Exhibition in Helsinki|
|Next||International Exhibition on Urbanism and Housing (1947) in Paris|
|Specialized||Exposition internationale de l'eau in Liège|
|Other||Golden Gate International Exposition|
In 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, a group of New York City businessmen decided to create an international exposition to lift the city and the country out of its economic woes. Not long after, these men formed the New York World's Fair Corporation, whose office was placed on one of the higher floors in the Empire State Building. The NYWFC, which elected former chief of police Grover Whalen as president, also included Winthrop Aldrich, Mortimer Buckner, Floyd Carlisle, Ashley T. Cole, John J. Dunnigan, Harvey Dow Gibson, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Percy S. Straus, and many other business leaders.
Over the next four years, the committee planned, built, and organized the fair and its exhibits, with countries around the world taking part in creating the biggest international event since World War I. Working closely with the Fair's committee was New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, who saw great value to the City in having the World's Fair Corporation (at its expense) remove a vast ash dump in Queens that was to be the site for the exposition. This event turned the area into a City park after the exposition closed.
Edward Bernays directed public relations of the fair in 1939, which he called "democracity." Grover Whalen, a public relations innovator, saw the Fair as an opportunity for corporations to present consumer products, rather than as an exercise in presenting science and the scientific way of thinking in its own right, as Harold Urey, Albert Einstein, and other scientists wished to see the project. "As events transpired," reported Carl Sagan, whose own interest in science was nevertheless sparked by the Fair's gadgetry, "almost no real science was tacked on to the Fair's exhibits, despite the scientists' protests and their appeals to high principles."
Promotion of the Fair took many forms. During the 1938 Major League Baseball season, the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, and New York Yankees promoted the event by wearing patches on the left sleeve of their jerseys featuring the Trylon, Perisphere, and "1939." The same year, Howard Hughes flew a special World's Fair flight around the world to promote the fair.
While the main purpose of the fair was to lift the spirits of the United States and drive much-needed business to New York City, it was also felt that there should be a cultural or historical association. It was therefore decided for the opening to correspond to the 150th anniversary of George Washington's first inauguration as President of the United States, and WPA artists painted murals which appeared in the New York Times Magazine.
On April 30, 1939, a very hot Sunday, the fair had its grand opening, with 206,000 people in attendance. The April 30 date coincided with the 150th anniversary of George Washington's inauguration, in Lower Manhattan, as the first President of the United States. Although many of the pavilions and other facilities were not quite ready for this opening, it was put on with pomp and great celebration.
David Sarnoff, then president of RCA and a strong advocate of television, chose to introduce television to the mass public at the RCA pavilion. As a reflection of the wide range of technological innovation on parade at the fair, Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech was not only broadcast over the various radio networks but also was televised along with other parts of the opening ceremony and other events at the fair. On April 30, 1939, the opening ceremony and President Roosevelt's speech were seen on black and white television sets with 5 to 12-inch tubes. NBC used the event to inaugurate regularly scheduled television broadcasts in New York City over their station W2XBS (now WNBC). An estimated 1,000 people viewed the Roosevelt telecast on about 200 television sets scattered throughout the New York metropolitan area.
In order to convince skeptical visitors that the television sets were not a trick, one set was made with a transparent case so that the internal components could be seen. As part of the exhibit at the RCA pavilion, visitors could see themselves on television. There were also television demonstrations at the General Electric and Westinghouse pavilions. During this formal introduction at the fair, television sets became available for public purchase at various stores in the New York City area.
One of the first exhibits to receive attention was the Westinghouse Time Capsule, which was not to be opened for 5,000 years (the year 6939). The time capsule was a tube containing writings by Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann, copies of Life Magazine, a Mickey Mouse watch, a Gillette safety razor, a kewpie doll, a dollar in change, a pack of Camel cigarettes, millions of pages of text on microfilm, and much more. The capsule also contained seeds of foods in common use at the time: (alfalfa, barley, carrots, corn, cotton, flax, oats, rice, soy beans, sugar beets, tobacco & wheat, all sealed in glass tubes). The time capsule is located at , at a depth of 50 feet (15 m). A small stone plaque marks the position. Westinghouse also featured "Elektro the Moto-Man": the 7-foot (2.1 m) tall robot that talked, differentiated colors, and even "smoked" cigarettes.
On July 3, 1940, the fair hosted "Superman Day". Notable was the crowning of the "Super-Boy and Super-Girl of the Day" following an athletic contest, and a public appearance by Superman, played by an unidentified man. Broadway actor Ray Middleton, who served as a judge for the contest, is often credited with having appeared in the Superman costume on Superman Day, but he did not; however, he may have played Superman during a live radio broadcast from the scene. Although the unknown man in the costume is often said to have been the first actor ever to play Superman, Bud Collyer had been performing the role on the Superman radio series since the preceding February.
The fair was also the occasion for the 1st World Science Fiction Convention, subsequently dubbed "Nycon 1".
Ralph Vaughan Williams composed his work for harp and string orchestra Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus on commission from the World's Fair. The first performance was at Carnegie Hall in June 1939, conducted by Adrian Boult. In addition, the British Council commissioned a piano concerto from Arthur Bliss for the British Week at the World's Fair. Adrian Boult conducted the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall on June 10, 1939, with Solomon as the soloist.
Ceramic sculptor Waylande Gregory created The Fountain of the Atom, which displayed the largest ceramic sculptures in modern times. It included the four Elements, each measuring 72 inches (180 cm) high and each weighing over a ton. There were also eight electrons, which were illustrated in Life Magazine (March 1939). Gregory also created two exhibitions featuring his ceramic sculptures for the General Motors Building, American Imports and American Exports.
Nylon fabric, the View-Master, and Scentovision (an early version of Smell-O-Vision) were introduced at the Fair. Other exhibits included Vermeer's painting The Milkmaid from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, a streamlined pencil sharpener, a diner (still in operation as the White Mana in Jersey City, New Jersey), a futuristic car-based city by General Motors, and early televisions. There was also a huge globe/planetarium located near the center of the fair. Bell Labs' Voder, a keyboard-operated speech synthesizer, was demonstrated at the Fair.
The fair was divided into differently themed zones, such as the Transportation Zone, the Communications and Business Systems Zone, the Food Zone, the Government Zone, and so forth. Virtually every structure erected on the fairgrounds was extraordinary, and many of them were experimental in many ways. Architects were encouraged by their corporate or government sponsors to be creative, energetic and innovative. Novel building designs, materials and furnishings were the norm. Many of the zones were arranged in a semicircular pattern, centered on the Wallace Harrison and Max Abramovitz-designed Theme Center, which consisted of two all-white, landmark monumental buildings named the Trylon (over 700 feet (210 m) tall) and the Perisphere which one entered by a moving stairway and exited via a grand curved walkway named the "Helicline". Inside the Perisphere was a "model city of tomorrow that visitors" viewed from a moving walkway high above the floor level. The zones were distinguished by many color cues, including different wall colors and tints and differently colored lighting.
The colors blue and orange were chosen as the official colors of the fair, as they were the colors of New York City, and featured prominently. Only the Trylon and Perisphere were all white; avenues stretching out into the zones from the Theme Center were designed with rich colors that changed the further one walked from the center of the grounds. For example, the exhibits and other facilities along the Avenue of Pioneers were in a progression of blues, starting with pale tints and ending in deep ultramarine. At night, with the latest in lighting technology switched on, the effect was felt by many visitors to be a magical experience.
Outdoor public lighting was at the time of a very limited and pedestrian nature, perhaps consisting of simple incandescent pole lamps in a city and nothing in the country. Electrification was still relatively new and had not reached everywhere in the US. The fair was the first public demonstration of several lighting technologies that became common in the following decades. These technologies included the introduction of the first fluorescent light and fixture. General Electric Corporation held the patent to the fluorescent light bulb at the time. Approximately a year later, the original three major corporations, Lightolier, Artcraft Fluorescent Lighting Corporation, and Globe Lighting, located mostly in the New York City region, began wide-scale manufacturing in the US of the fluorescent light fixture.
Another theme of the fair was the emerging new middle class, leading a hoped-for recovery from the Great Depression. The fair promoted the "Middleton Family"—Babs, Bud, and their parents—who appeared in ads showing them taking in the sights of the fair and the new products being manufactured to make life easier and affordable, such as the new automatic dishwasher.
Each day at the fair was a special theme day, for which a special button was issued; for example, May 18, 1939, was "Asbury Park, New Jersey Day". Some of these buttons are very rare and all are considered collectibles.
In 1940, the theme of the fair was changed to "For Peace and Freedom" as war in Europe escalated. One poster from that year's fair, issued by Borden's Milk, had Elsie the Cow proclaiming "makes you proud to be an American".
With its vast area and prominent location just south of the Theme Center, the Transportation Zone pavilions attracted widespread attention. Perhaps the most popular of the Transportation Zone pavilions was the one built for General Motors. There, the 36,000 square feet (3,300 m2) Futurama exhibit, designed by famed industrial designer and theater set designer Norman Bel Geddes, transported fair visitors over a huge diorama of a fictional section of the United States that was designed with a stunning array of miniature highways, towns, 500,000 individually designed homes, 50,000 miniature vehicles, waterways, and a million miniature trees of diverse species. These elements of the diorama gradually became larger as the visitors, seated in chairs overhead, moved through the exhibit, until the cars and other elements of the exhibit became life-size.
At the conclusion of the ride the visitors to the pavilion exited into an area that was constructed as a life-size city intersection with multistory buildings and stores on all sides. The stores included an auto dealership and an appliance store where visitors could see the latest GM and Frigidaire products. As with almost all pavilions in the fair, these showcases were not only intended to get people to buy the sponsor's products, they were also intended to educate and inform the populace about basic materials and processes that were then very new and not well known. Many experimental product concepts and new materials were shown that were not currently available for purchase, but became available in various ways over the next few years. In many ways the fair pavilions more resembled a modern-day government-sponsored science fair exhibit than they resembled modern corporate advertising and sales promotions.
Adjacent to the GM pavilion was the Ford Pavilion, where race car drivers drove on a figure eight track on the building's roof endlessly, day in and day out. Not far from GM and Ford was the Chrysler exhibit group, where an audience in a theater with air conditioning, then a new technology, could watch a Plymouth being assembled in an early 3D film.
Railroads were a major form of transportation for both passengers and freight in 1939, as airlines are for passengers today. Many visitors to the fair arrived in New York by railroad, and most visitors had at least a moderate interest in the topic. The centerpiece of the Railroad Conference exhibits (on seventeen acres) was "Railroads on Parade", a spectacular live drama re-enacting the birth and growth of railroads. It had music by Kurt Weil and choreography by Bill Matons. In addition to the show, there were important historical objects on display by the various railroads and manufacturing companies, such as the Tom Thumb engine. The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) had its S1 engine on display, mounted on rollers under the driver wheels and running continuously at 60 mph (97 km/h) all day long. The British London Midland & Scottish Railway sent their Coronation Scot express train with a locomotive LMS Princess Coronation Class 6229 Duchess of Hamilton, (disguised as sister locomotive 6220 Coronation), to the fair. GM's Electro-Motive Division had a display of their then new streamlined diesel-electric passenger locomotives. The Italian state railways displayed one of their record-setting ETR 200 electric multiple unit cars.
Fairgoers walking to the left of the Theme Center on the Avenue of Patriots visited the Communications and Business Systems focal exhibits. At the AT&T Pavilion the Voder, a mechanized, synthetic voice, spoke to attendees, foretelling the widespread use of electronic voices decades later.
At the IBM pavilion, electric typewriters and a fantastic machine called the "electric calculator" that used punched cards, were on display. IBM also had a fine art gallery with hundreds of artworks from 70 countries around the world. The exhibit for Firestone Tires featured the famous pygmy hippo, Billy, who had been a pet of former US President Calvin Coolidge.
Next door to these business exhibits was the "Masterpieces of Art" building housing 300 priceless works of the Old Masters, from the Middle Ages to 1800. Whalen and his team were able to borrow priceless paintings and sculptures from Europe and hang them in a graceful, understated building in Queens for two years. Thirty five galleries featured great works from DaVinci and Michelangelo to Rembrandt, from Hals to Caravaggio and Bellini.
The 60 foreign governments that participated in the fair contributed a wide diversity of creatively designed pavilions housing a stunning array of cultural offerings to fairgoers. The Italian pavilion attempted to fuse ancient Roman splendor with modern styles, and a 200-foot (61 m) high waterfall defined the pavilion's facade. Its popular restaurant was designed in the shape of the nation's luxury cruise line ships. The French pavilion, on the Court of Peace that was the grand open space northeast of the Theme Center, ran such a celebrated restaurant that after the fair closed and World War II ended, the restaurant remained in New York City. It soon established itself as one of the finest French dining establishments in the city: Le Pavillon.
The copy of Magna Carta belonging to Lincoln Cathedral also left Britain in 1939 for the first time to be in the British Pavilion at the fair. Within months Britain joined World War II and it was deemed safer for it to remain in America until the end of hostilities. It therefore remained in Fort Knox, next to the original copy of the American constitution, until 1947.
The Greek pavilion was especially interesting because it was a mirror of how the Metaxas quasi-fascist regime wanted to show Greece to the world. The interior rooms were designed by Nelly, the famous Greek photographer. Nelly's collages expressed four aspects of Greece: the legacy of ancient Greece, the Christian spirituality, picturesque landscapes and the Greek racial continuity. On one of its outside walls there were four big murals featuring four historic episodes of Greek history, authored by Gerasimos Steris. After the Fair concluded, the pavilion was dismantled and parts of it were donated for the construction of the Greek Orthodox cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Tarpon Springs, Florida.
The Japanese pavilion was designed by the Japanese-American architect Yasuo Matsui to resemble a traditional Shinto shrine, set within a Japanese garden. It offered tea ceremony and Japanese flower arrangement exhibits. The interior had a "Diplomat room", which featured a reproduction of the Liberty Bell made out of Japanese pearls and diamonds, worth $1 million. This room also featured a photomontage mural across which was written the motto "Dedicated to Eternal Peace and Friendship between America and Japan". Japan and the US went to war on 8 December 1941, a year after the exhibition closed.
The Jewish Palestine Pavilion introduced the world to the concept of a modern Jewish state, which a decade later became Israel. The pavilion featured a monumental hammered copper relief sculpture on its façade titled The Scholar, The Laborer, and the Toiler of the Soil by the noted Art Deco sculptor Maurice Ascalon.
The Second Polish Republic prepared some 200 tons of various works of art. In mid-February 1939, all items were transported by train to the port of Gdynia, where they were loaded on MS Batory, which left Gdynia on February 28. Among most important items presented by Poland in New York City were: a royal carpet of King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk, seven paintings presenting important events of Polish history, 150 contemporary Polish paintings, a gunmetal monument of Józef Piłsudski, armor of a Polish hussar from Kórnik Castle, ancient Polish weaponry (14th–18th centuries), a bell manufactured for the purpose of the Fair, folk costumes, house furniture from different regions of Poland, and examples of Polish inventions.
Exhibitions in the USSR Pavilion included the life-size copy of the interior of the showcase Mayakovskaya station of the Moscow Metro. Designer of the station Alexey Dushkin was awarded Grand Prize of the 1939 New York World's Fair.
Continuing outward from the Theme Center, one saw the Food Zone. Among the many unique exhibits was the Borden's exhibit, that featured 150 pedigreed cows (including the original Elsie) on a Rotolactor that allowed bathing them, drying them, and milking them in a highly mechanized way. While no such complete system ever became common in milk production, many of its features came into everyday use in today's rotary milking parlors.
Next door was the Continental Baking exhibit, presenting a vast, continuous process of baking breads and other products. Consistent with the representative design sense of the Fair, this building was fashioned in the shape of a huge packaged bread loaf, white with red, yellow, and blue balloons on its curved facade. Americans today will recognize this as the packaging for Wonder Bread. Behind the exhibit was a field from which wheat was harvested and used in the baking process. There was a sign in the field that noted that this was the first time in over 100 years that wheat had been grown within the incorporated bounds of New York City.
Beyond the corporate and government zones, the wildly popular but less uplifting Amusements Area was not integrated into the thematic matrix, and was a mere Area rather than a Zone. Despite the high-minded educational tone that Grover Whalen attempted to set, the Amusements Area was the most popular part of the Fair, and included a roller coaster, the Life Savers Parachute Jump (later moved to Coney Island, where it still stands today), the 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge Gimbels Flyer train ride (later purchased by Kennywood, where it still runs today), and carnival acts such as a collection of performing dwarves.
Frank Buck exhibited his "Frank Buck's Jungleland", which displayed rare birds, reptiles and wild animals along with Jiggs, a five-year-old trained orangutan. In addition, Buck provided a trio of performing elephants, an 80-foot (24 m) "monkey mountain" with 600 monkeys, and an attraction that had been popular at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair: camel rides. A number of the shows provided spectators with the opportunity of viewing women in very revealing costumes or topless, such as the "Frozen Alive Girl", the Living Pictures, and the Dream of Venus building. This last attraction was a pavilion designed by the Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí which contained within it a number of unusual sculptures and statues as well as live nearly-nude performers posing as statues. While there were a number of protests by prominent politicians over the course of the fair about the "low minded entertainment," and the New York Vice Squad raided shows in the area on several occasions, the public generally accepted this form of entertainment.
The Bendix Lama Temple was a 28,000-piece full-sized replica of the 1767 Potala temple in Jehol, Manchuria, commissioned and brought back by the industrialist and explorer Vincent Bendix. The Temple had previously been exhibited at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, called "Century of Progress". In New York, the Temple contained a girlie show.
Billy Rose's Aquacade was a spectacular musical and water extravaganza foreshadowing the form of many popular Hollywood musicals in the ensuing years. The show was presented in a special amphitheater seating 10,000 people and included an orchestra to accompany the spectacular synchronised swimming performance. It featured Johnny Weissmuller and Eleanor Holm, two of the most celebrated swimmers of the era, and dazzled fairgoers with its lighting and cascades and curtains of water, pumped in waterfalls at 8,000 gallons a minute. The cost of admission was 80 cents.
The Aquacade facility itself served as an entertainment venue in the park for many years afterward, including the 1964–65 World's Fair, but fell into disrepair in the 1980s and was finally demolished in 1996.
The New York World's Fair of 1939 was just the place to promote neighborly relations between the US and Latin America. Placed against the backdrop of a growing Nazi threat, the World's Fair was an attempt to escape from the looming prospect of war and to promote peace and interdependence between nations. With the fair boasting over 60 countries, with some coming from Latin America, this was the place to redefine negative Latin American stereotypes. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua and the Pan American Union were all represented at the World's Fair. Each country seized the opportunity to showcase their country and to make it more appealing to those around the world, especially in the United States. In their bid to increase cultural awareness at the World's Fair, the countries promoted tourism and strived to compare itself to the United States in an effort to appeal to Americans.
A special subway line, the IND World's Fair Line, was built to serve the fair. World's Fair (now Mets – Willets Point) station on the IRT Flushing Line was rebuilt to handle fair traffic on the IRT and BMT. A Long Island Rail Road station (now Mets – Willets Point) was built next to the Flushing Line station. The IND extension departed the IND Queens Boulevard Line east of the Forest Hills – 71st Avenue station and before the 75th Avenue station. The World's Fair station was at the east side of the Meadowlands at Horace Harding Boulevard. The period system route map and Fair maps display this temporary extension. The World's Fair station was a terminus of the G train (alternate E trains also ran to World's Fair Station), and ran at ground level, separated from the Fair grounds by a fence, past the Jamaica Yard, which is still in use.
For the 1939–40 Fair, a special fleet of 50 "World's Fair Steinway" cars were delivered in late 1938 by the St. Louis Car Company for Flushing Line service. Car #5655 survives in the New York Transit Museum fleet.
The fair was open for two seasons, from April to October each year, and was officially closed permanently on October 27, 1940. To get the fair's budget overruns under control before the 1940 season and to augment gate revenues, Whalen was replaced by banker Harvey Gibson. In addition, much greater emphasis was placed on the amusement features and less on the educational and uplifting exhibits. The great fair attracted over 45 million visitors and generated roughly $48 million in revenue. Since the Fair Corporation had invested 67 million dollars (in addition to nearly a hundred million dollars from other sources), it was a financial failure, and the corporation declared bankruptcy.
Many of the rides from the World's Fair were sold after its closure to Luna Park, Coney Island which was allowed to call itself the New York World's Fair of 1941. The Life Savers Parachute Jump was sold that same year to become the Parachute Jump at Steeplechase Park.
Although the United States did not enter World War II until the end of 1941, the fairgrounds served as a window into the troubles overseas. The pavilions of Poland and Czechoslovakia, for example, did not reopen for the 1940 season. Also on July 4 that same year, two New York City Police Department officers were killed by a blast while investigating a time bomb left at the British Pavilion. The bombing has never been solved, but there is evidence that bombing was an inside job by William Stephenson, a British agent based in New York.
Countries under the thumb of the Axis powers in Europe in 1940 like Poland, Czechoslovakia, and France ran their pavilions with a special nationalistic pride. The only major world power that did not participate for the 1939 season was Germany, citing budget pressures. The USSR Pavilion was dismantled after the first season, leaving an empty lot called "The American Commons". When the fair closed, many among the European staff were unable to return to their home countries, so they remained in the US and in some cases exercised a tremendous influence on American culture. For example, Henri Soulé moved from the French Pavilion at the fair to open Le Pavillon restaurant, retaining Pierre Franey as head chef.
World War II presented additional problems with what to do with the exhibits on display in the pavilions of countries under Axis occupation. In the case of the Polish Pavilion, most of the items were sold by the Polish Government in exile in London to the Polish Museum of America and shipped to Chicago. A notable exception was made for a monument of the Polish–Lithuanian King Jagiełło to which Mayor Fiorello La Guardia took such a liking that he helped spearhead a campaign to have it installed in Central Park, where it still stands today.
Another building saved from 1940 was the Belgian Building designed by Henry Van de Velde. It was awarded to Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, and shipped to Richmond in 1941. The school still uses the building for its home basketball games.
After the Fair, the Temple was again disassembled, and placed in storage for many years. There were proposals to erect it at Oberlin College, Harvard University, Indiana University, and elsewhere, but they all failed for lack of funding. In 1984, the approximately 28,000 pieces were shipped to the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm, Sweden, with plans to rebuild it in a nearby park, but objections from the neighboring Chinese Embassy have stalled the project indefinitely.
Some of the buildings from the 1939 fair were used for the first temporary headquarters of the United Nations from 1946 until it moved in 1951 to its permanent headquarters in Manhattan. The former New York City Building was used for the UN General Assembly during that time. This building was later refurbished for the 1964 fair as the New York City Pavilion, featuring the Panorama of the City of New York, an enormous scale model of the entire city. It became the home of the Queens Center for Art and Culture (later renamed the Queens Museum of Art, and now called the Queens Museum), which still houses and occasionally updates the Panorama.
One other structure from the 1939-40 Fair remains in original location: the Willets Point elevated IRT station, built new for the Fair. It also served the 1964-65 events and continues to serve New York Mets games and US Open Tennis.
The 1939 World's Fair made a strong impression on attendees and influenced a generation of Americans. Later generations have attempted to recapture the impression it made in fictional and artistic treatments.
An archive of documents and films from the 1939 New York World's Fair is maintained at the New York Public Library (NYPL). This collection of official corporate records from the fair is one of the richest and most heavily used collections at NYPL. Extensive highlights from the collection can be viewed online, or via an award-winning free iPad app.
In October 2010, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. opened an exhibition titled Designing Tomorrow: America's World's Fairs of the 1930s. This exhibition, which was available for view until September 2011, prominently featured the 1939 New York World's Fair.
The First World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) was held in the Caravan Hall in New York from July 2 to July 4, 1939, in conjunction with the New York World's Fair, which was themed as "The World of Tomorrow". The convention was later named "Nycon I" by Forrest J Ackerman. The event had 200 participants.Abram Belskie
Abram Belskie (March 24, 1907 – November 7, 1988) was a British-born sculptor.Augusta Savage
Augusta Savage (born Augusta Christine Fells; February 29, 1892 – March 27, 1962) was an African-American sculptor associated with the Harlem Renaissance. She was also a teacher whose studio was important to the careers of a generation of artists who would become nationally known. She worked for equal rights for African Americans in the arts.Billy Rose's Aquacade
Billy Rose's Aquacade was a music, dance and swimming show produced by Billy Rose at the Great Lakes Exposition in 1937.
Later Aquacade moved to the 1939 New York World's Fair where it was the most successful production of the fair (Lowe). The Art Deco 11,000 seat amphitheatre at the north end of Meadow Lake was designed by architects Sloan & Robertson. Shows were staged by John Murray Anderson to the orchestrations of Ted Royal. The pool and the 300 by 200-foot (61 m) stage could be hidden behind a lighted 40-foot (12 m) high curtain of water.
The inaugural Aquacade starred Olympians Eleanor Holm and Johnny Weissmuller (later replaced by Buster Crabbe). Rose married Holm after divorcing his first wife, comedian Fanny Brice.
Duke Ellington played in a 1955 edition for several weeks.
For the New York Aquacade, Rose interviewed 5,000 applicants and chose 500 dancers, actors and swimmers. Gertrude Ederle, a Flushing, Queens resident and the first woman to swim the English Channel, was an Aquacade star. Queens Borough President Donald R. Manes dedicated the pool to her in 1978.
In 1940, Aquacade also opened in San Francisco at the Golden Gate International Exposition where newcomer Esther Williams replaced Holm.
The New York State Marine Amphitheatre was torn down in 1996 because of local opposition to renovating the asbestos-contaminated structure as a concert venue.
Music used for the Aquacade is held by the Music Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.Canadian Society of Graphic Art
The Canadian Society of Graphic Art (CSGA), originally called the Graphic Arts Club, was a non-profit organization of Canadian graphic artists.
It was founded in 1904, and formally chartered in 1933. At one time it was one of the larger organizations of Canadian artists.Colin Moss
Colin William Moss (30 April 1914 – 16 December 2005) was a British artist and teacher who served as a camouflage designer during World War Two.Edris Eckhardt
Edris Eckhardt (January 28, 1905 – April 27, 1998) was an American artist associated with the Cleveland School. She is known for her work in Ceramic art and glass sculpture, her work with the Works Projects Administration's (WPA) Federal Arts Project of Cleveland, and her teaching.Elektro
Elektro is the nickname of a robot built by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation in its Mansfield, Ohio facility between 1937 and 1938. Seven feet tall (2.1 m), weighing 265 pounds (120.2 kg), humanoid in appearance, he could walk by voice command, speak about 700 words (using a 78-rpm record player), smoke cigarettes, blow up balloons, and move his head and arms. Elektro's body consisted of a steel gear, cam and motor skeleton covered by an aluminum skin. His photoelectric "eyes" could distinguish red and green light. He was on exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair and reappeared at that fair in 1940, with "Sparko", a robot dog that could bark, sit, and beg to humans.Futurama (New York World's Fair)
Futurama was an exhibit and ride at the 1939 New York World's Fair designed by Norman Bel Geddes, which presented a possible model of the world 20 years into the future (1959–1960). The installation was sponsored by the General Motors Corporation and was characterized by automated highways and vast suburbs.Gilmore David Clarke
Gilmore David Clarke (July 12, 1892 – August 8, 1982) was an American civil engineer and landscape architect who designed many parks and public spaces in and around New York City.Henry Dreyfuss
Henry Dreyfuss (; March 2, 1904 – October 5, 1972) was an American industrial designer. Dreyfuss and his firm received worldwide recognition for numerous designs for a wide spectrum of consumer and commercial products, including their long-time association with the Western Electric company and the Bell System for designing telephones from the 1930s through the 1960s. His design philosophy was based on applied common sense and scientific principles and resulted in significant contributions to human-factor analysis and consumer research.IND World's Fair Line
The IND World's Fair Line, officially the World's Fair Railroad, was a temporary branch of the Independent Subway System (IND) serving the 1939 New York World's Fair in Queens, New York City. It split from the IND Queens Boulevard Line at an existing flying junction east of Forest Hills–71st Avenue station, ran through the Jamaica Yard and then ran northeast and north through Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, roughly along the current path of the Van Wyck Expressway. The line continued along a wooden trestle to the World's Fair Railroad Station, located slightly south of Horace Harding Boulevard (now the Long Island Expressway). The World's Fair station, the only one on the line, consisted of two tracks and three platforms.
The line was planned beginning in 1936, and it was constructed in 1938. The line and station were only open in 1939 and 1940 during the Fair's operating season. Passengers had to pay a ten-cent fare to use this line, double the subway's standard five-cent fare. This was not the only line to serve the world's fair. The Interborough Rapid Transit and the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit operated service to the Fair via the World's Fair station of their joint-operated IRT Flushing Line. The World's Fair Railroad and station are the only IND line and station to have been closed and demolished. Remnants of the line are still present in the Jamaica Yard.Ilya Bolotowsky
Ilya Bolotowsky (July 1, 1907 – November 22, 1981) was a leading early 20th-century painter in abstract styles in New York City. His work, a search for philosophical order through visual expression, embraced cubism and geometric abstraction and was much influenced by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian.Katherine Milhous
Katherine Milhous (1894–1977) was an American artist, illustrator, and writer. She is known best as the author and illustrator of The Egg Tree, which won the 1951 Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration. Born into a Quaker family active in the printing industry in Philadelphia, Milhous is also known for her graphic designs for the Works Progress Administration(WPA). Her work has been exhibited at the 1939 New York World's Fair and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.Mabel Lockerby
Mabel Irene Lockerby (March 13, 1882 – May 1, 1976) was a Canadian artist. Her birth year is sometimes attributed as 1887 which was from her own curriculum vitae.She was born in Montreal to Alexander Lockerby, a grocer, and Barbara Cox and had seven siblings, whom four survived to adulthood. According to the family bible, the family grew up in a number of houses on MacKay street in MontrealShe studied at the Art Association of Montreal with William Brymner and Maurice Cullen winning two awards, one for her drawing in the "antique class" (1902) and another for composition (1911). In 1914 she began to exhibit in the annual Spring Exhibition at the Association and continued to paint throughout the war.
She was a member of the Beaver Hall Group. She exhibited regularly with the group and in 1926 the National Gallery of Canada purchased one of her works. She joined the Canadian Group of Painters in 1939 and was a member of the Contemporary Arts Society of Montreal. Her work was exhibited in the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Park, Wembley, England in 1924 and 1925, at the 1939 New York World's Fair and at the 400th Anniversary Exhibition in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1954.Her painting style was characterized by rich colours, visible brushstrokes and strong sense of design. She primarily painted portraits, still lifes and landscapes with figures. The National Gallery of Canada has four of her pieces in their collection, including her painting Early Winter. Her work is also in the collections at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Art Gallery of Hamilton.Lockerby died in Montreal at the age of 94 after suffering a stroke a few months earlier.The City (1939 film)
The City is a pioneering short documentary film from 1939 that contrasts the problems of the contemporary urban environment with the superior social and physical conditions that can be provided in a planned community. It was directed and photographed by Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke based on a treatment by Lewis Mumford, which was in turn based on an outline by Pare Lorentz. Aaron Copland wrote the musical score and Morris Carnovsky provided the narration.The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair
The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair is a 1939 American film directed by Robert R. Snody produced by Westinghouse for their exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair.
In 2012, the film was added to the National Film Registry.Trylon and Perisphere
The Trylon and Perisphere were two monumental modernistic structures designed by architects Wallace Harrison and J. Andre Fouilhoux that were together known as the Theme Center of the 1939 New York World's Fair. The Perisphere was a tremendous sphere, 180 feet in diameter, connected to the 610-foot (190 m) spire-shaped Trylon by what was at the time the world's longest escalator. The Perisphere housed a diorama by Henry Dreyfuss called Democracity which, in keeping with the fair's theme "The World of Tomorrow", depicted a utopian city-of-the-future. The interior display was viewed from above on a moving sidewalk, while a multi-image slide presentation was projected on the dome of the sphere. After exiting the Perisphere, visitors descended to ground level on the third element of the Theme Center, the Helicline, a 950-foot-long (290 m) spiral ramp that partially encircled the Perisphere.
The name "Perisphere" was coined using the Greek prefix peri-, meaning "all around", "about", or "enclosing". The name "Trylon" was coined from the phrase "triangular pylon".Westinghouse Time Capsules
The Westinghouse Time Capsules are two time capsules prepared by the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company: "Time Capsule I" was created for the 1939 New York World's Fair and "Time Capsule II" was created for the 1964 New York World's Fair. Both are buried 50 feet below Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, the site of both world's fairs; the 1965 capsule was placed ten feet north of the 1939 capsule. The capsules are to be opened at the same time in the year 6939, five thousand years after the first capsule was sealed.
|Not BIE recognized|