In the Minnie's diary of 1941 thread, Beth and I have touched on the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair. Along these lines, I thought it'd be a good idea to start a thread on that very topic. So, here goes!
When the 1939 New York Worlds Fair was originally conceived, its creators intended it to run for five years. They even toyed with the idea of making the mammoth exposition a permanent annual event. Many nations-except Nazi Germany-were invited to set up an exhibition pavillion to show off their nation's scientific, as well as, socio-economic achievements. Japan, however, was represented at the Fair. And, during a stately ceremony on Japan Day, the Japanese Ambassador presented Grover Whalen, the president of the NY World's Fair Corporation, with the Torch Of Eternal Friendship. . . .
It was the endeavor of the Fair's promotors to demonstrate to the world what could be accomplished, if everyone worked together toward the development of newer and better technologies, housing, city planning, and improved means of travel. The 1939 NYWF's theme, Building The World Of Tomorrow, put forth, among other things, the idea that better living could be achieved through democratic ascent, along with a willingness to shake off the staid conventions of the past. But that wasn't all. The Fair's promoters enticed the public with such phrases as, Come see what modern looks like! And modern was really what the whole fair was about. The Fair's most famous structures were the Trilon and Perisphere. Basically, they looked like a huge obelisk and an enormous globe. They were the iconic symbols of the Fair, but they weren't so old-fashioned as an obelisk and globe! No! That obelisk was a Trylon. And that enormous globe-thing was a Perisphere. They were the first buildings you entered when visiting the Fair. And you reached those futuristic structures by means of a curving ramp. Only, it wasn't a boring, old-fashioned ramp-it was a Heli-climb. Once inside the Perisphere, the first exhibit you layed eyes on, was a perfectly ordered, futuristic metropolis called Democracity.* Of course, entertainment was a big part of the Fair. The Fair's entertainment and amusement section was something of a primeval Disneyland.
1940, however, was a different story. The New York Worlds Fair was beginning to lose money. Grover Whalen, who headed up the New York Worlds Fair Corporation, tirelessly promoted the Fair, but he just hadn't sold enough tickets. So, Whalen was ousted and replaced by a banker named Harvey Gibson. With the dark clouds of war looming on the horizon, the NYWF's board of directors did away with a lot of the social purpose exhibits, and greatly expanded the entertainment area. Big bands such as those of Artie Shaw, Hal Kemp, Benny Goodman, Ben Bernie, Jimmy Lunceford and others, played nightly to rousing jitterbug dance contests. The theme for the 1940 Fair, For Peace And Freedom, mainly centered around flag-waving patriotism. As a result, the contraversial Russian Pavillion (which featured an enormous metal statue dubbed "Joe The Worker" as well as, a large portrait of Josef Stalin) was removed, and a great amphitheater set in its place, which featured many outdoor patriotic shows. Fountain Lake, where Billy Rose's Aquacade was staged, was renamed Liberty Lake. And, to top it all off, Kate Smith was there to sing God Bless America. All these drastic changes were almost certainly a sign that America was getting the jitters over what was happening in Europe. It was also, perhaps, a manifestation of the strong isolationist sentiment that was prevalent in the nation at the time.
Despite Banker Harvey Gibson's best efforts, the NYWF continued its plunge ever deeper into the red. As attendance dropped even further, it became clear that 1940 would be the Fair's last year. A survey was eventually conducted among the population. Among the reasons given for why people weren't coming to the Fair, was the high entrance fee of 75 cents. After all, the nation was still in the throes of the Depression. Many people also thought they'd be "high-hatted" and not have a good time. Though ticket prices were reduced, attendance continued to decline, and the 1939 New York World's Fair, so full of hope and promise for the future, shuttered its ticket windows for the last time. After the Fair closed, the fairgrounds, which were built on top of an old ash dump in Flushing-Queens, were bequeathed to the City of New York. Long Gone, are the famous trademark Trylon and Perisphere of the 1939 New York Worlds Fair; they were dismantled and sold for scrap after the fair closed. However, the Unisphere of the 1964 NYWF still stands, as do one or two old buildings which stand as relics of the 1939/40 fair.
Below, I've posted scans of some items from the 1939 New York World's Fair from my personal collection. I have many more, which I'll try to post as time goes on. I hope these images will transport you back to a time when our country was filled with bright optimism for the future. Though the sights and sounds of the 1939 New York Worlds Fair are now only phantoms of the past, the spirit of that great exposition still resonates today as we flock to expos, trade shows, and exhibitions to see the latest in computer electronics, cars, and other forms of futuristic, high-tech gadgetry.
Above: Front and back covers of the 3rd edition Guidebook for the 1939 NYWF. - Collection of Steve W.
ABOVE: Front and back cover of 1st Edition Guide Book 1939 New York Worlds Fair. - Collection of Steve W.
Above: Front cover of the booklet handed out at the Firestone Tire Exhibit. - Collection of Steve W.
Above: Front & back covers of the booklet for the California Artificial Flower Company. - Collection of Steve W.
Above: Front cover of the booklet one received when entering the Good Housekeeping building exhibit. - Collection of Steve W.
Above: Front & back covers of the large book one could purchase when entering the outdoor theater of Billy Rose's Aquacade.
Synchronized formation swimming was a big attraction during the 1930s, made popular by the grand Busby Berkley movie
musicals of that decade. Today we may scoff at the book's fifteen-cent price tag, but 15 cents in 1939 bought a lot more than
it does today! - Collection of Steve W.
Above: Ad for Ford Motor Company at the NYWF featuring many of the new models for 1939. - Collection of Steve W.
Above: One of many guidebooks printed for the benefit of those who wished to find their way to the NYWF -- and find their way
around, once they arrived. - Collection of Steve W.
Above: Front and back covers of May 1st, 1939 issue of TIME Magazine featuring caricature of Grover Whalen on the front cover.
Note the Chesterfield ad...how about those handy smoker's gloves! "Got to have another cigarette!" - Collection of Steve W.
Above: Another one of many general souvenir books one could've purchased while visiting the Fair. - Collection of Steve W.
Above: Souvenir book one could purchase at the Railroads On Parade show and exhibit.
I have this book but, I was unable to scan it, as it's a BIG book! So I found a smaller
scan on the Internet. - Collection of Steve W.