Monday, November 19, 2018

The World’s Fair

Did you know the State Library has books about various World’s Fairs? The guides to these expositions are quite diverse and include maps, advertisements, pictures of the fairgrounds (including iconic buildings), and sculptures.  The World’s Fairs are frequently called expositions or expo for short.  In 1928 an organization called the International Bureau of Exhibitions started running these fairs. The purpose of these exhibitions was to showcase achievements of nations. These fairs or expositions also provided entertainment, introduced artwork and architecture, celebrated history, technology and industry.

In 1876 Philadelphia hosted an historical exposition which celebrated the centennial of the Declaration of Independence and they hosted another exposition in 1926 for its 150th birthday. 

The Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889 put the Eiffel Tower on display.  In fact the tower was not finished and workman worked throughout the night to finish the 2nd floor observation deck. The Paris Exposition of 1889 is the centennial of the Storming of the Bastille which opened May 6, 1889. The Eiffel Tower was used as the entranceway for the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle.  This exhibition was devoted to the technological achievements of the past century.  Paris has been host to 6 World’s Fairs the most of any country, including 1855, 1867, 1878, 1889, 1900, and 1937.

In 1893 Chicago hosted the Columbian Exposition to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus coming to the New World in 1492.  The buildings were done in the beaux arts style which is a classical Greco-Roman style. There were many white buildings that were built and it became known as the white city. Some buildings from the fair still exist including the Museum of Science and Industry which is housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts.  The Art Institute of Chicago was built for the 1893 fair.  Various states in the U.S. put up exhibits including Connecticut who featured the Pope Manufacturing Company makers of the Columbia bicycle.  The Ferris Wheel was also introduced at the Columbian Exposition.

In 1904 St Louis, Missouri hosted a World’s Fair for the one hundredth anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase which was in 1803.  Originally this fair was going to be held in 1903 but more time was needed to allow more states and foreign countries to participate.  It is also known as the fair that introduced the most food.

New York is the only city to have a World’s Fair where one fair lasted more than one year.  They did this twice from 1939-1940 and 1964-1965.  The 1939 World’s Fair has a guidebook which features descriptions of exhibits such as the bobsled ride, which was nicknamed “The Flying Turns” where “visitors hurtle at terrific speed down a banked runway reminiscent of a real bobsled course. Some of the turns are taken at a stomach-jolting ninety-degree angle, the sleds being held to their course by centrifugal force.”  Various companies display their products such as the Continental Baking Company, which have a demonstration of Wonder Bread and Hostess Cake being slo-baked. The guidebook uses Art Deco imagery and architecture.

We have two guides for the World’s Fair in New York City from 1964-1965: one for 1964 and one for 1965. The metal globe and the bronze statue from the Fair are still at the location where the fair was held.  Tennis fans might recognize this picture because it is where the US Open of tennis is held in Flushing Meadows, NY.  Nowadays there still are World’s Fairs just not as often as in the past.  Instead they now focus on such topics as the environment.

For more information consult these resources:

Philadelphia Exposition 1876

The Columbian Exposition 1893

St Louis World’s Fair of 1904

Philadelphia Exposition 1926

Naomi Allen
Reference Staff