Sunday, July 19, 2009

New York World's Fair 1939-40

The theme was "Building the World of Tomorrow". For New Yorkers in the late 1930's, the Great Depression had severely impacted most families and war in Europe was already a very real possibility for the U.S.

These photographs from the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library collection, were photographed by Gibson resident Max Hubacher.

When the New York World's Fair opened at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on a hot April day in 1939, it was the largest exposition of its kind ever planned. It's modernistic sculptures, the Trylon and Perisphere symbolised the brave new world where industrial design would improve everyone's lives. The Fair showcased Corporate America's innovations for the future: improved methods of transportation, medicine, farming and food production, advancements in communication -- the spectacular introduction of television!

Four years earlier, a group of retired policemen came up with the idea to promote commerce and good will in a recovering nation and to give people a reason to rejoice. Former Chief of Police Grover Whalen was elected President of The New York World's Fair Corporation, which brought titans of commerce and industry into the enterprise, and included Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and Park Commissioner Robert Moses to organize and run the exposition. The corporation paid for the renovation of the Flushing
Meadow area, which was at the time a dumping ground, and arranged that it would become a city park after the Fair.

While the event was a commercial showcase, it was also a diplomatic event, structured to present the benefits of the American way of life as the pathway to personal freedom and economic success.

Hitler's Germany did not participate in the Fair. By the time the Polish and Czech pavilions were completed, their countries had been invaded by Germany and, effectively, no longer existed. The Soviet presence at the Fair already portended the tension of the Cold War; the U.S.S.R. pavilion was razed and replaced in the 1940 season by an open plaza called the "American Common." By the summer of 1940, France had fallen, Italy had invaded Ethopia and Britain had declared war on Germany.
Over 200,000 people attended the April 30th grand opening. The admission fee, which was considered expensive at the time, was seventy-five cents for adults and twenty-five cents for children. (A subway ride was five cents). Over 44 million people had visited the exhibits by the end of the second season. Yet, the Fair did not make a profit.

For further Inofrmation:
Search for information about the Fair in the ALISweb Catalog

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