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 1939 World's Fair
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March 29, 2005

1939 New York World's Fair

I've written before about the 1939 New York World's Fair, and the place it holds - and represents - in American memory. It's often been compared to the 1851 Great Exposition in London's Crystal Palace, except that I'm not sure that people were still writing about that one on the eve of World War I.

The Fair was a mix of high-brow education, middle-brow futurism, and low-brow entertainment. It was Optimism about Progress in a way that our current culture can barely grasp, much less share. It was so optimistic it included a Palestine pavilion from a country that didn't even exist - yet.

It wasn't even conciously stubborn optimism; that's just the way the country was. Look, it was a Fair, not a newscast. A couple of the countries had to vacate for the 1940 season because they either started a war in the meantime or got plowed under by it. The Poles probably didn't do themselves any favors by holding a drawing to "Win a Trip to Poland" on the eve of being drawn and quartered by Stalin and Hitler.

I haven't been able to find documentation of this, but I suspect that the Fair had some influence on Disney's vision for Epcot. Only some dial got set wrong during the design process. When my parents lived in Orlando, we went to Epcot a couple of times, and I always came away feeling a little disappointed, like the designers were spending more time looking in the rearview mirror than out the windshield. I wanted the World of Tomorrow, but they gave me "Millennia of Progress."

The Links (given a permanent home on the sidebar):

  • 1939: The Lost World of the Fair
  • The New York World's Fair: 1939-1940
  • The Last Great Fair by Jeffrey Hart
  • Iconography of Hope (U.Va.)
  • Images From the '39 Fair
  • Video From the Fair

    Posted by joshuasharf at March 29, 2005 11:48 PM | TrackBack

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