Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The 50th Anniversary of the New York World's Fair!

50 years ago today, one of the greatest World's Fairs EVER opened in Flushing Meadows, New York. My interest in this Fair started when I learned about the various exhibits produced by Walt Disney and his Imagineers. But the '64 World's Fair offered so many amazing experiences; General Motors' "Futurama"; Bell System's "The Ride of Communication"; Michelangelo's "Pieta"; Eastman Kodak's giant photo prints (the largest in the world); Sinclair Oil's "Dinoland"; the giant steel Unisphere; to name but a few!

What a place, what an incredible confluence of design, architecture, theater, and technology. It's predecessor in 1939, which came along at the end of a crushing Depression and the beginning of a World War, the 1964 Fair opened when world was in turmoil; the Cold War and the assassination of President Kennedy were just two of the crises that made the world feel hopeless and frightening. 

The Fair offered an optimistic view of the future that must have lifted visitor's spirits, even if they weren't completely conscious of it. For those of us who only get to experience the Fair through photos and ephemera all these years later, that optimism is still palpable, and (for some), powerful.

But enough of my blather! Let's look at some pictures, starting with this wonderful image taken from the observation deck of the Transportation and Travel pavilion (the one with the green moon dome). Just look at the multitude of visitors down below! Nearby is the Chrysler pavilion (in the much-more-colorful 1965 color scheme), with the skeletal Ford pavilion in the distance.  The crowds give this photo lots of energy. Considering the cold-weather clothing everyone is wearing, this image may have been taken during the last days of the Fair (it closed in October of 1965).

Now we're down near the very same "rocket" seen in the first image, but we're in 1964 (note that it is mostly white, without the later oranges and pinks). The Hall of Science is still under construction in the background. I love the use of water to simulate the exhaust of the rocket! And how about that Delta tote bag that woman is carrying? 

There is no shortage of photos of the U.S. Steel "Unisphere", but I never get tired of it. Weary visitors rest near the pool and fountains at the base of the globe; the people are half the fun of this picture! In the background is the Republic of China building, with the colorful Sky Ride strung like paper lanterns above it.

The Belgian Village was so much more than just waffles with whipped cream and strawberries - though I would have walked over there just for one of those. The village had crooked cobblestone streets, an arched stone bridge, a carousel, and shops full of souvenirs and handicrafts. It was the largest international exhibit at the Fair - over 4 acres.

Here's a lovely (postcard-worthy?) view of the Eastman Kodak building, with warm late-afternoon lighting imbuing everything with a golden touch. The curving organic shapes are futuristic and appealing in an abstract manner, and the trees and shrubs make everything feel more welcoming. 

And finally, a photo from the Pepsi Cola pavilion, where you could meet your friends and family beneath the Tower of the Four Winds, or ride Walt Disney's "It's a Small World". Thanks to the Disney connection, guests who'd never made it to Anaheim had a chance to meet a variety of costumed Disney characters, just like at Disneyland. Alice and the White Rabbit pose with two young visitors… I love the girl's cat's-eye glasses, and the boy looks as happy as can be. Hey kid, take lots of photos! (Notice the Eastman pavilion in the background). If you look closely at the girls shoulder….

…you can see that she has one of these "Preferred Entry" passes from another Disney-produced show, General Electric's "Progressland". I am very jealous of her.

Wait, wait! Here is a last-minute addition to today's post… a beautiful photo of the Tower of the Four Winds. Rolly Crump's 120-foot tall kinetic sculpture has become one of the most beloved icons of the Fair; just look at it! The colorful, whimsical tower is not only charming and fun, but it is a wonderful example of mid-century design.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the New York World's Fair!


Nanook said...


Images from the 1964 World's Fair are always a welcome sight. Each one of them is full of great imagery, and for the lucky few who attended - great memories.

Our friend with the Delta Airlines bag seems to be sporting a 'modified' babushka. Very sensible.

Thanks, Major, for sharing with us another peek at 'one of the greatest World's Fairs'.

Anonymous said...

After viewing this terrific New York World's Fair post, I feel we've been granted "GDB Preferred Entry"!!!

Thank you!!

Bill in Denver

Alonzo P Hawk said...

I agree with Nanook, World's fair photos are always a welcome site. ***Babushka alert on the first Unisphere photo. On the left walking right to it. 1960's crowds are always ripe for a sighting or two.

Raimundo said...

Great fair, great clothes, great pictures; and Major, your enthusiasm is a pleasure to read, the day just started with some 4/22/'64 optimism!

Tom said...

Awesome! This was like a banquet for the eyes. The colors, the people, the architecture. Now if someone could find a picture of the Toucan and Parrot Show at the GE pavilion I could die happy.

And those lights (Luminaires I believe)! I never noticed how many styles there were. So sad most of them were lost. I will have to craft some of my own. I'm sure my wife won't mind if I replace all of our current fixtures with them.

Rosie said...

I agree with Raimundo, your enthusiasm is contagious. Why don't we have World's Fairs anymore? Is it because once they got "Futurama-land" all built, it'd be outdated? And where the heck is Rolly's sculpture now? It should be smack-dab in the center of Disneyland!Happy Anniversary, Fair! So sorry I missed you!

Chuck said...

I was just looking at some of my parents' World's Fair pictures (taken in April of '64) with my dad over the weekend in honor of the Fair's opening anniversary. I am sorry I missed the Fair, but am grateful I was able to capture some of the feel of it in Tomorrowland '67, the original incarnation of WDW's Tomorrowland, and Epcot when it was still EPCOT.

These are simply gorgeous - a fitting tribute to an ideal world that never was...but we hope someday may still be.

K. Martinez said...

Great NYWF'64 post today. With the exception of a few still standing, the Skyway rides seem to be a thing of the past. That last photos of the "Unisphere" is incredible. Perfect finale to today's post. Thanks, Major.

@Chuck - I too feel grateful that I was able to experience Tomorrowland '67, WDW's original Tomorrowland and EPCOT Center. It's probably the closest we'll ever get to the 64 Fair.

Melissa said...

Wowee-wow-wow, Major, you really outdone-did yourself with this one!

I think you broke the part of my brain that makes comments, so I'm just gonna jump though the screen, be the lady with the babushka and the Delta bag, and head over to the Belgian Village for some waffles.

PsySocDisney said...

Thanks for the fantastic NYWF tribute today, Major! So many people looking so excited and thrilled to be a part of this fair to remember… the optimism shines through the photos very clearly. Those preferred entry passes are a real treat. Now I'm craving waffles!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I saved some extra goodies for today's post!

Bill in Denver, you're welcome!

Alonzo, yes, especially 1960's crowds in cold weather. I'm surprised there aren't *more* babushkas in sight, to be honest.

Raimundo, it is true, I am enthusiastic about this Fair! I wish I could have seen it in person.

Tom, I would LOVE to have a luminaire, even a self-made version. I was surprised to learn that the colored "glass" was actually plexi. And I believe that there were scores of different color combos and shapes.

Rosie, I think that we don't really have major fairs in the US anymore due to the economy, more than anything. They had a HUGE World Expo in Shanghai in 2010, over 73 MILLION people attended.

Chuck, I have to admit that what appeals to me the most is the optimism that the Fair presented. It made you want to see how awesome the future would be. Nowadays… who knows.

K.. Martinez, I miss Skyway rides so much. There are versions with windows which would eliminate the dropping of pennies and spitting; but I'm not sure how they can make them ridable for handicapped folks.

Melissa, thanks! And I'm happy to say that I still have some really great WF images to share with you in the future.

PsySocDisney, I don't know about you, but I am ALWAYS craving waffles.

Dennis Levittown NY said...

Supposedly, the Tower of the Four Winds was considered too big and heavy to move,so legend has it that it was cut up and dumped in Flushing Bay,next to the Fairgrounds. And many of those great Luminaires enjoyed a second life at an amusement park in New Hampshire, a State Fair out west ,a resort in the Poconos, and other locations. Thanks for the great pictures,Major!

Nancy said...

an AMAZING set today......this makes me want to read up all over again on the one World's Fair that I would have loved to have gone to.

My faves are definitely the first and the Tower of the Four Winds

So, the original Disney Fast Pass was given at the Worlds Fair maybe...pretty cool!

Looking forward to more, Major. Excellent work today! :-)

Melissa said...

The blond lady right above the GDB logo in the Belgian Village picture: Totally Betty Draper.

Melissa said...

That last picture reminds me SO much of the "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth" fireworks/light show at EPCOT. Probably not a coincidence.


Also, is the domain name somanybabushkassolittetime.baba up for grabs?

Dean Finder said...

In honor of the Fair's opening, the team that's trying to preserve the NY State pavilion opened the gates today.

Major Pepperidge said...

Dennis Levittown, I have heard that story, and it makes me wonder what ELSE was tossed into the river from that Fair. Somewhere I have a photo of a carousel at some amusement park, and you can see a luminaire nearby.

Nancy, I added that one of the Tower at the last minute because it was so nice!

Melissa, it's that 60's vibe that she is giving off!

Melissa again, you are so right. I had heard of the Illuminations show, but this really does recall the Fair.

Dean Finder, what a cool event! I hope that the restoration really does continue to go forward. Will the colored plexi panels ever get replaced?

Dean Finder said...

There seems to be public interest, but no money to restore the pavilion.
They've stopped the deterioration of the floor by cleaning out the stuff that was growing in the cracks, and covering it with landscape fabric, sand, and gravel. A few pieces were removed for a restoration study.
The roof is s simpler prospect, but will be plenty expensive on its own, considering that the supports need to be inspected and repaired.

Some nice person posted a photosphere on Google maps so you can see what we waited hours to visit: https://www.google.com/maps/place/New+York+State+Pavilion/@40.743656,-73.844215,3a,75y,262.5h,80.86t/data=!3m5!1e1!3m3!1sRL174UxLIpgAAAQWjI_-vA!2e0!3e11!4m6!1m3!3m2!1s0x89c2607fc22166fb:0x133d2c68e8326ce1!2sFlushing+Meadows+Corona+Park!3m1!1s0x0:0xab84d057caa3d30d