Saturday, May 1, 2010

The New York World's Fair 1939

There is a history of World's Fairs. The 1939 New York World's Fair wasn't even the first world's fair in the US in 1939, launching April 30, months after the San Francisco exhibition began. But the 1939 NYWF stands out as the one to remember out of all of them, with its soaring futurism and the general not-in-Knoxville-ness of the whole affair.

There are several directly cartoon related aspects of the Fair, but they will have their own entries (and one already has had one:
). This post is more about the Fair in general (but see below for a Disney myth).

The Fair lasted for two years, and closed in 1940 having lost many millions of dollars. But it left an impression from its visuals (the pinnacle/final gasp of Art Deco, which had gotten into swing at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, or the 1925 Paris World's Fair) that we can still feel today.

In some ways, the closest we may have now is Epcot, with its own sphere and cultures of the world collected in one place. Maybe added to Tomorrowland at Disney World.
(Disney would go to the '64 Fair, complete with animatronic dinosaurs and the It's a Small World ride:

Most of what I see presents a fairly standardized view of the Fair. However, looking at some of the impressions it left, it was a more textured place. It was part of the popularized the drink the Zombie, with a club run by Monte Proser (eventually of the Copacabana), called, appropriately enough Monte Proser's Zombie, "The Meeting Place on the Midway".

Moreover, there was a surprisingly large amount of nudity at the fair.

Robot hookers: Medicusc1939_17_512kb

Living (naked) Magazine Covers, and Extasie: Medicusc1939_18_512kb

Dali's Dream of Venus (nude underwater): Medicusc1939_2_512kb

NTG Congress of Beauty (see through bras):Medicusc1939_8_512kb

It's all a natural extension of the cootch tent from the old carnival days, but it's not something you hear about so much; but unsurprisingly there it is in the filmed evidence. ("Let's film the first wheat field in New York City in a lifetime!" "I have a better idea.") There is plenty of other footage as well:

You can hear the theme song for the Fair (Dawn of A New Day, written by George and Ira Gershwin) at

Big forum for the 1939 NYWF:

While this post is on the Fair in general, I will mention here that there were supposedly Snow White Dioramas at the 1939 NYWF that eventually ended up at the Magic Forest at Lake George, NY.
However, it seems they were actually were department store display sets that date from 1937

I suppose Disney could have repurposed one of the displays for use in the Fair, but I have yet to find any solid proof of Disney having a space to have such a presentation; Mickey's Surprise Party was in Nabisco's space in the food building, not in a Disney space. Moreover, Snow White was finally being pulled from theaters by around this time. Magic Forest Park may simply find it in their interests to continue the story. Even if people don't remember the '39 NYWF to the extent they once did, it remains more romantic than "it was in a mall".

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