Mar 28, 2011

World’s Fairs of Yesteryear

This blog’s first post will feature scenes from the View-Master packet World's Fairs of Yesteryear (B761), which includes pictures from four world’s fairs: New York (1939), San Francisco (1939), Belgium (1958), and Seattle (1962). All scenes are in 3-D.

View-Master was introduced in 1939 at the New York World’s Fair!



Packet Cover



Booklet Cover


From the 16-page booklet:


Midway…Ferris wheel…hot dog…fluorescent lighting.

These words burst upon the consciousness of Americans for the first time at some World’s Fair. At Philadelphia in 1876, people marveled at the telephone and the typewriter; at New York and San Francisco in 1939, they were fascinated by the new miracle of television. Neon lighting caught their fancy when it was introduced at Chicago in 1933. And, if the public library or principal bank building in your city has a row of classic Greek-temple columns along its front, thank (or blame) the Chicago Fair of 1893 for starting this trend.

Around the globe, people have enjoyed World’s Fairs since the first one was held in London in 1851.

When Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria and sponsor of that Fair—known as the Great Exhibition—approved the idea of inviting foreign countries to display their products alongside Britain’s, his opponents snorted that this would lure foreign riffraff to London to steal English patents and assassinate the Queen. But the Fair was held, and was a smashing success. A huge, fantastic hall built of 293,655 panes of glass—the Crystal Palace—was erected for it. Since then there have been scores of World’s Fairs.

For awhile after 1851, every Fair had to have a Crystal Palace; New York tried it in 1853, but the Palace’s roof leaked, and the project was a failure. However, the first passenger elevator was shown at that time.

First successful World’s Fair in the United States was the Centennial Exposition held at Philadelphia in 1876, the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Here, on a 236-acre site, nearly 10 million persons stared in wonder at newly invented machines: the telephone, the typewriter, the huge Corliss steam engine, and Edison’s duplex telegraph, which could send two messages at once on the same wire.

This Fair had no amusements, and needed none; the exploding Industrial Age was exciting enough to Americans in 1876.

Since then many World’s Fairs in the United States have contributed to the heritage of the most recent, New York’s of 1964-65. Some of the lesser ones which have added footnotes to history include Buffalo, 1901, where President McKinley was fatally shot; St. Louis, 1904, which introduced the ice cream cone, hot dog, and iced tea; San Francisco, 1915, first to feature exterior electrical lighting; and San Diego, 1916, which started a Western trend in Spanish architecture.

Let us step into the past as our View-Master Guided Picture Tour takes us to some of the World’s Fairs of Yesteryear, and to mementos that they have left.



Transportation Area, New York 1939


New York Fair, 1939-40: Transportation Area


From the 16-page booklet:


Nearly 45 million persons viewed “The World of Tomorrow” in 1939 and 1940 on New York City’s Flushing Meadows—which later became the site of the 1964-65 World’s Fair also.

The 1939 Fair commemorated the 150th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration in New York City as first President. The fairgrounds were dominated by a stylized, but even taller, version of the Washington Monument—the 700-foot Trylon—and its companion the Perisphere, a 200-foot globe. these trademarks of the Fair were familiar to all Americans; their shapes were reproduced by the thousands on dress prints, in men’s pipes, and in school artwork.

In this scene we are approaching the Ford pavilion in the Transportation Area. The Trylon and Perisphere loom in the background. The Ford exhibit features a journey on the “Road of Tomorrow” which will take us on a half-mile ride along an elevated ramp with cloverleafs and interchanges.



Avenue of Flags, New York 1939


Avenue of Flags at New York’s 1939-40 Fair


From the 16-page booklet:


Flags of 62 participating nations fluttered along the “Street of Wheels” and the “Street of Wings,” leading from the Transportation Area to the Trylon and Perisphere. (These symbols stood on the same site as the Unisphere of the 1964-65 Fair.) The Perisphere housed a show called “Democracity,” the ideal city of the future. Among the wonders of science and technology on display at this Fair were television, nylon, plastic packaging, air conditioning, and the all-electrified farm.

The Amusement Area featured Billy Rose’s Aquacade, a water show starring Eleanor Holm. It was held in the present-day Amphitheatre.



Italian Pavilion, New York 1939


Italian Pavilion, New York Fair 1939-40


From the 16-page booklet:


Despite the darkening war clouds of 1939-40, Mussolini’s Italy had a pavilion at the New York Fair. An interesting feature was the waterfall that splashed down its front.

Other outstanding foreign pavilions included those of Britain, France, Belgium, Poland, and Russia—surmounted by a huge statue.



Court of States, New York 1939


Court of States at New York World’s Fair 1939-40


From the 16-page booklet:


The Court of States at the New York Fair comprised 15 buildings clustered around a pool. In this scene, at the far end, is Pennsylvania’s building, a replica of Independence Hall.

Elsewhere on the grounds was the Federal Government pavilion whose displays, in those New Deal days, emphasized the Government’s services to the individual citizen.



Constitution Mall at Night,

New York 1939


Night Scene on Constitution Mall, New York


From the 16-page booklet:


Looking westerly along Constitution Mall at night, one saw a strangely beautiful sight. The Perisphere glowed a luminous blue; against it loomed the sculptured figure of Washington. In the foreground were the statues of the Four Freedoms (left to right, Freedom of Religion, of the Press, of Petition and Assembly, and of Speech). Ultraviolet light shone on the trees, causing the chlorophyll in their leaves to fluoresce.

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