Saturday, January 04, 2020

1939 New York World's Fair

Years ago I acquired some fun vintage photo prints from the 1939 New York World's Fair. The Fair had two themes; one had to do with the 150th anniversary of George Washington's inauguration. But the one that most people remember is "Dawn of a New Day", with its "World of Tomorrow" wonder. So cool to see images from 80 years ago! 

This first one isn't so exciting, but it shows the Fair's theme buildings - the Trylon and Perisphere - to give you a sense of scale. The Trylon was over 600 feet (190m) tall! To the left is a zig-zag lightning bolt lamp that tells us that the photographer was near the Westinghouse pavilion. It's fun to look at the people in their overcoats, it must have been chilly. Everybody is wearing a hat!

Next is this neat view from the "Helicline", a curved walkway that led from the Perisphere down to the ground level. Carrier Corporation's giant igloo is hard to ignore; to its right is the Elgin building - maybe go buy a watch or somethin'. Way in the distance (to the right) is the Spanish-deco tower for the Florida Pavilion. The large stadium in the middle is where visitors could enjoy Billy Rose's Aquacade, a swimming, diving spectacular. Way to the left is the "Streets of Paris". Oo-la-la!

There's that crazy igloo again. "Inuit Deco", when will they come back in style? I'll bet this place was a hit in the summer, when they presumably had air conditioning running - a rarity in 1939. Inside the igloo, guests could enjoy complimentary pieces of whale blubber - much more popular than Belgian waffles with whipped cream and strawberries made famous at later Fairs.

Hey, I was just talking about you, Florida Pavilion! Ya look swell; have you lost weight? It resembles   Charles Foster Kane's estate, "Xanadu". For New Yorkers used to freezing their bippies off during winter, tropical Florida with its warm beaches and swaying palm trees must have seemed very appealing.

I have more pix from the 1939 New York World's Fair to come!


Nanook said...


Ahhh - The Streets of Paris, featuring Gypsy Rose Lee. Thankfully for us all, Willis Carrier was more adept at inventing modern air conditioning than at recreating igloos-!

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Another World's Fair full of wonderful architecture! As with the '64/'65 New York World's Fair, it seems hard to believe that they would just bulldoze everything after the fair. Well, almost everything. I know at least two of the structures were spared. One of those was the Aquacade amphitheater, which was used again for the '64/'65 Fair. Unfortunately, it was torn down in 1996.

Major, I know you are going to laugh at me and my "MeTV," but I JUST NOW finished watching The Twilight Zone and I'll give you one guess as to which episode it was! (It was the one where the jet airplane full of passengers, goes back in time and flies over the 1939 New York World's Fair!)

Chuck said...

The Trylon and Perisphere are such icons of this Fair that I usually forget that they were more than just a giant pyramid and a giant sphere. You can see the Helicline in the first photo, and to give you an idea of scale, the Perisphere was 180 feet in diameter, which is the same as the height from the ground of EPCOT's smaller Spaceship Earth.

Inside was Democracity, a diorama showing a city of the future; along with General Motors Futurama, this was almost certainly an inspiration for the Progress City model in Disneyland's Carousel of Progress.

TM!, it's funny, because as soon as I saw that second picture, I immediately thought of "The Odyssey of Flight 33."

Can't wait to see Part 2, Major!

Andrew said...

If this fair was done today, the Trylon and Perisphere could just be inflatables - they would easier to take down, but I guess the magnitude of the structures would be lost.

I read something recently where a couple said the only vacation they ever took was to this World's Fair. Thanks for the trip!

zach said...

It was on a cruise to Alaska that I learned the importance of blubber to a subsistence economy in Alaskan villages. It is vital to Arctic living where there is a lack of vitamin C from citrus, which is hard to get, that we take for granted. Not to mention vitamin D. I would prefer an orange, thank you.

It's Saturday and I wondered where we might go today. The 1939 Worlds Fair is a great idea since my time machine won't go that far back. It's stuck in 1948 and later. I rely on the Major to get me farther back in time.

Many thanks, as usual.


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, like I said, it was an Art Deco igloo, you don’t see many of those at the North Pole!

TokyoMagic!, yes, I believe that the New York Building from the 1939 NYWF is now the Queens Museum, which sounds pretty neat with its Panorama of the City of New York. I’ve seen that Twilight Zone so many times, but it’s one of my favorites. Good old John Anderson as the pilot. And those two seconds of stop-motion dinosaurs!

Chuck, it’s fun to see a pool hall in “Pinocchio” shaped like a giant cue and 8-ball, clearly riffing on the Trylon and Perisphere. Years ago I blogged about Democracity, but all of my Photobucket links have been dead for over three weeks, otherwise I would link to the post.

Andrew, I’m trying to imagine a 600 foot tall inflatable! Imagine what would happen during a high wind! Years ago there was a documentary interviewing people who had memories of the Fair, it was really neat.

dzacher, I remember that fact about vitamin C in blubber, whoda thunk it? I agree, and orange sounds much more pleasant, but I suppose the folks who eat blubber probably grow to love it. I would love to hop back in time to the 1939 Fair!!

Chuck said...

Pinocchio is my favorite movie, and I'm embarrassed to admit I never caught the Perisphere & Trylon reference. Now that I'm looking at an image of it, it's clear as day.

I had a film professor who was an anthropologist by training, and he emphasized that films are an artifact of the culture from which they came, reinforcing ideas and imagery that would have meant something to the intended audience that might not immediately stand out to people from a different time or place. This is a perfect example of that.

Dennis said...

My grandfather was a crane operator for the American Bridge Co. and he erected the steel for the Trylon and Perisphere. He also installed the steel beams for the Empire State building, the U.N. building , the Verranzzano Narrows bridge and countless other N.Y.C. buildings. I have some nice pictures of the Trylon and Perisphere under construction that were taken by his company.
Dennis, Levittown, Long Island

Sunday Night said...

I love the 39 world's fair. Thanks for the pics. One of the best documentaries I've seen about the fair is World of Tomorrow, which I saw premiere at the Los Angeles FilmEx about 1984.

That last picture reminded me of Balboa Park in San Diego.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Dennis, please share your pictures (and stories about your grandfather's experiences) with us!