Saturday, September 17, 2016

Brussels World's Fair, 1958

Belgium's "Expo 58" was the first World's Fair since the end of World War II - the last ones had been in 1939/1940 in New York and San Francisco. The Fair ran from April 17th to October 19th; one of the goals was to show the world that Europe had overcome the devastation and privations of the war and was ready to lead the way into a bright (and peaceful) future. While trying to research today's photos, I learned that compared to many other World's Fairs, there is relatively little info about Expo 58.

Let's start with this lovely shot of the huge U.S. Pavilion, surrounded by flags or each State. The pavilion actually consisted of 4 buildings, and visitors could experience such wonders as color television (which was still something of a miracle at the 1964 Fair), fashion shows, an electronic computer, and other items that demonstrated "...the American way of life". In addition, there was a "Circarama" film produced by Walt Disney, a tour of the United States. I wonder if it was essentially identical to "America the Beautiful"?

As you can see, the plaza in front of the U.S. Pavilion had a beautiful elliptical full of fountains - I can find no mention of this, but there might have been one fountain for each U.S. State. Notice the people (in heavy coats) gathered in the lower left - presumably the wind was blowing the other direction.

Next is this group of schoolgirls resting their weary feet on a sunnier day. I assume that they were instructed to wear a red and white kerchief as a way of keeping track of all of them. Say, I see two lovely ladies in the distance!

Yeah, those two. I wish I could get a better look!

Hey, thanks! You think these ladies seem relaxed, just look at the guy on his back. He just doesn't care! 


DIX A Disney resource index said...

The Designing Disney blog wrote an interesting article on the Circarama film: America the Beautiful - 1958 Brussels World's Fair | Designing Disney

At the DIX project's website you'll find 2 interesting articles from the Business Screen Magazine.

TokyoMagic! said...

I didn't realize that much time went by after the end of World War II before there was another World's Fair.

I hope the U.S. Pavilion rotated!

K. Martinez said...

The one singular thing I loved about the Brussels Worlds Fair was the "Atomium". Wouldn't a scaled down version make a great entrance set piece for Disneyland's Tomorrowland? I think it would.

The colorful flags and fountain add quite a bit to the U.S. Pavilion photo. Thanks, Major.

Mark H. Besotted said...

My quick-n-dirty count gave me 46 visible sprays, so I'm guessing one per state is probably right. Do you think they actually assigned specific ones for the states, so tourists from Nebraska could point out the local one to little Timmy?

What are the odds that basements and attics all over Belgium contain moldering mementos of this fair?

Nanook said...


Whenever I think of the Brussels World's Fair, two things always come to mind: The record album of "Jan Clayton Sings Carousel - the Brussels World Fair", and the image of Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Nikita S. Khrushchev, engaged in the "kitchen debate" on July 24, 1959 as they stand in front of a display in the kitchen area of the American exhibit. These (very sharp) images are a welcome change.

Thanks, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

DIX A Disney resource index, thank you for the links! Very interesting.

TokyoMagic!, much of Europe took a long time to really recover from the war. I’ve read about how the Beatles, as young boys, played in bomb craters and ruined buildings. Also, fun fact: every building in Belgium rotates all the time!

K. Martinez, I love the Atomium too, and am glad the original still stands. It’s huge! It would fit in MY idea of Tomorrowland, but it’s probably too retro for today’s audiences. Also, I wonder if it is a trademarked or copyrighted structure (if that’s even possible)?

Mark H. Besotted, I also tried to count the fountains - I doubt they assigned specific States to a fountain, since they were out in the middle of that oval lagoon. Also… “Timmy”? Don’t you mean “Hugo” or “Jacques”? I’m sure there are plenty of pins and other items all over Belgium. I have a few pieces left to me by my great aunt after she passed away.

Nanook, I don’t know who Jan Clayton is, though I think I might have seen that album on eBay in passing. I’ll also cop to ignorance of the “kitchen debate”… time to visit Wikipedia!

Nanook said...


Although the 'Kitchen Debate' is most-assuredly real, I somehow confused its location as being at the Brussels World's Fair, rather than at the 'American National Exhibition' in Moscow, during the summer of 1959. So, all these years THIS image, and similar ones, I've been equating with the Brussel's World's Fair. Tsk, tsk. So I guess it's just Jan Clayton- and BTW - the record was released on the Disneyland label.

Melissa said...

I had never heard of this fair before! Then again, I'm probably so ignorant because my parents didn't send me to St. Babushka's School for Girls.

Melissa said...

I had never heard of this fair before! Then again, I'm probably so ignorant because my parents didn't send me to St. Babushka's School for Girls.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

Holy Brussels Babushka Bonanza Batman!!! (say that on three time fast)

Alonzo P Hawk said...

Wasn't there an old late 60's movie called "if it's tuesday this must be belgium..........cuz of the buttload of girls from St. Babushka's School for Girls"? Maybe it's just the first part.

Nice pictures (as are any worlds fair pics).

DIX A Disney resource index said...

A document I had for quite some time in my bookmarks: America's Salesman - Walt Disney at the Fair - an interesting analysis of the Brussel's Circarama, it's predecessors and history.