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PROGRESS MADE VISIBLE


NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR, 1939

"Building the World of Tomorrow" was the motto of the last of the great American World's Fairs. One of the most popular American fairs, with its themes of unlimited progress through technology and an idealized American family offered hope to a society just emerging from the Depression and heading into a world war. Unfortunately, the idealism inherent in the concept of a World's Fair couldn't survive in the more cynical post-war world. Later Fairs were more overtly commercial and other forms of spectacle superseded family visit to the Fair.

The Fair's primary stylistic vocabulary was that of the streamlined and modern design which they helped establish. Nowhere was that design more apparent than in the Trylon and Perisphere, a 700-foot spire and an orb as wide as a city block, created to be the Fair's focal point. Inside the Perisphere was the fair's central exhibit: Democracity, a diorama of the city of the future. The most popular exhibit was the Futurama exhibit at the General Motors pavilion, designed by Norman Bel Geddes, one of the leading industrial designer of the 1930s. Futurama was a massive, 36,000 square-foot scale model of America in 1960, complete with futuristic homes, urban complexes, bridges, dams, surrounding landscape, and, most important, an advanced highway system which permitted speeds of 100 miles per hour. Visitors viewed the exhibit from moving chairs with individual loudspeakers. General Motors defined the future as automobile-centered, with urban design remade to accommodate their commercial products.


Official Souvenir Book New York World's Fair.
Official Souvenir Book, New York World's Fair, 1939. New York: Exposition Publications, 1939.

Firestone Builds Today the Tire of Tomorrow Firestone Tire and Rubber Company.
Firestone Builds Today the Tire of Tomorrow: New York World's Fair 1939. The Company, 1939.

New York World's Fair Cook Book Crosby Gaige, 1882-1949.
New York World's Fair Cook Book, The American Kitchen. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1939.

Negro Week Negro Week on the American Common, World's Fair of 1940 in New York, July 23/28: souvenir program. New York: American Common of the World's Fair [1940].

My School Books Hendrik Willem van Loon, 1882-1944.
My School Books: from the unpublished autobiography of Hendrik Willem van Loon. Newburgh, N.Y.: E.I. Du Pont de Nemours..."Fabrikoid" division, 1939.

Delaware Day Delaware Day, Sept. 12, '39, New York World's Fair. Wilmington, Del.: Cann, 1939.

Almanac for New Yorkers Almanac for New Yorkers compiled by workers of the Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration in the City of New York. New York: Modern Age Books, 1939.

Views of the New York World's Fair Views of the New York World's Fair. Long Island City, N.Y.: Quality Art Novelty Co., 1939.

The Time Capsule Westinghouse Electric Corporation.
The Book of Record of the Time Capsule of Cupaloy, deemed capable of resisting the effects of time for five thousand years, preserving an account of universal achievements, embedded in the grounds of the New York World's Fair,1939. New York: The Corporation, 1938.

For the Fair, the Westinghouse Corporation developed a time capsule--one that would be retrieved fifty centuries after being buried. Time Capsule I, was constructed from an alloy made of tempered copper, chromium and silver called Cupaloy. The contents, sealed snugly inside an airtight glass envelope, were selected based upon how well they captured American life as it was in 1939. Inside were thirty five common items such as fountain pens and a set of alphabet blocks. The capsule also contained seventy-five representative fabrics, metals, plastics and seeds. Contemporary art, literature and news events were included on microfilm.

The Book of Record, printed in 1938 on permanent paper with special ink, describes the latitude and longitude of the capsule's burying place. Some 3,000 copies of The Book of Record are stored in libraries, museums and monasteries throughout the world.

Introduction Centennial Exposition Columbian Exposition Pan-American Exposition
Louisiana Purchase Exposition Sesquicentennial Exposition Century of Progress Internet Resources


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