The World’s Fair

It was a disaster from the beginning

 

It had no fewer than three official themes, the remarkably clunky “Man’s Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe,” the less than original “Peace Through Understanding,” and the more or less meaningless “A Millennium of Progress.” Its symbol was the Unisphere, which still can be seen at Flushing Meadows Park, where the fair was held. It wasn’t even an official world’s fair, and most major countries boycotted it. It was a financial disaster.

One of the myriad souvenirs generated by the festival.
 
richard snow collection2006_5_59
Read more »

Small World

ROBERT MOSES built small with the same imperial vigor as he built big, and at his behest the art of making scale-model cities reached its peak. The result still survives, and although few New Yorkers know about it, they can see their whole town—right down to their own houses or apartment buildings—perfectly reproduced.

THERE ARE FEW REMINDERS THAT TWO WORLD’S FAIRS were held in New York’s Flushing Meadow. The Unisphere—the 140-foot steel globe encircled by the orbits of the first satellites—is still there, and a granite monument marks the spot where two time capsules were buried—one in 1938 and the other in 1963 —to be opened in the year 6939. Elsewhere more than thirty years of neglect have taken their toll.Read more »

The White City

THE 1893 WORLD’S COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION WAS SO WONDERFUL THAT EVERYBODY HOPED IT WAS A PROPHECY OF WHAT THE TWENTIETH CENTURY HELD IN STORE. BUT IN FACT, THE CITY THAT MOUNTED IT WAS.

“The world’s greatest achievement of the departing century was pulled off in Chicago,” said George Ade, one of the city’s first important writers. “The Columbian Exposition was the most stupendous, interesting and significant show ever spread out for the public.” The fair drew an estimated twenty-seven million people, making it the greatest tourist attraction in American history. And it was a cultural phenomenon of profound importance.Read more »

The Other Fair

New Yorkers recall 1939 as the year of the great World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow. But that’s just more Eastern provincialism. Take a look at what was going on in San Francisco.

A newspaper article the other day informed me that the late 1930s are back in fashion. Historical societies are girding to protect Art Deco. The clarinet of Benny Goodman is heard on compact discs. Designers are filching illustrations and typefaces from The Saturday Evening Post. If the trend continues, we may shortly be revisited by dotted swiss housedresses, junket rennet custard, the wimple, and the Studebaker sedan. Read more »

What Went Wrong With Disney’s Worlds Fair

With Epcot, Walt Disney turned his formidable skills to building a city where man and technology could live together in perfect harmony. The result is part prophecy, part world’s fair. Here, America’s leading authority on technological history examines this urban experiment in the light of past world’s fairs, and tells why it fails where they succeeded—and why that matters.

MOST OF THE world must know by now that Epcot is a place built in north-central Florida by the followers of Walt Disney to explain how science and technology fit into the human scheme of things. When the editors of AMERICAN HERITAGE invited me to take a look at it, I gratefully accepted for several reasons. Read more »

How To Raise A Family On $500 A Year

A REMARKABLE SOCIOLOGICAL EXPERIMENT SHOWED YOU COULD DO IT—IF YOU COULD STAND IT

In 1893 Chicago played host to a World’s Fair that rivaled the Paris Exposition of 1889 for splendor and exceeded all previous fairs in magnitude. The great Columbian Exposition not only demonstrated what had been accomplished in the four hundred years since Columbus’ first voyage to the New World but also offered a vision of what might be. Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted laid out an orderly arrangement of buildings, promenades, and lagoons as a vision of proper city planning.Read more »

Past Time

THE GREAT HISTORICAL CLOCK

 

To its owners it was “The Eighth Wonder of the World … The Acme of Mechanical Science,” and even if those claims seem a little inflated, the Great Historical Clock is undeniably a wonder. It was built by Roland Hurlburt, a Boston carpenter who apparently was enchanted by a similar monumental clock he saw at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. Working with his son, he completed it around 1884, and probably exhibited it at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.Read more »

Neon

The outdoor electric-light spectacular that transformed cities all over the world was born at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, where a single lighted column glowed with no fewer than four thousand incandescent lamps. By 1900, fifteen hundred incandescent bulbs had been hung on the narrow front of the Flatiron Building in New York City to form America’s first electrically lighted outdoor advertising sign. After that, incandescent signs began to flicker on across the country.Read more »

Centennial City

The simple, affectionate water colors of an unassuming Scots immigrant, David J. Kennedy, bring back the Philadelphia of 1876 and our first great world’s fair

President Ulysses S. Grant opened the United States Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia on May 10, 1876. When the closing ceremonies were held on November i o, in a cold drenching rain, 9,910,966 people (paid and free) had passed through the entrance gates. This was more than fourteen times the population of Philadelphia, the second largest city of the United States, and more than had attended any of the great world’s fairs held in the preceding quarter century.Read more »