New York Daily Photo Analytics

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Imagine being 13 and not having seen much of the world at all.
Imagine also living at a time when technology was on the cusp of the truly fantastic - with mainframe computers, transistors and integrated circuits, the Moog synthesizer designed by Robert Moog and the A-11 aircraft, capable of sustained flight of 2000 mph being announced. And the biggest technological achievement of our time, as promised by JFK during his 1960 presidential campaign, was soon to come - we were going to the moon, literally.
1964 was also the year of the British Invasion with the arrival of the Beatles in the USA. In the world of civil rights Malcolm X announced his break with the Nation of Islam, the formation of a black nationalist organization and met Martin Luther King who won the Nobel Peace Prize. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, abolishing racial segregation in the United States. The Vietnam war was heating up and we saw the first demonstrations. Feminism and the sexual revolution were in full swing and the Vatican condemned the birth control pill.
So it is in this time, that my family took their first trip to New York city to visit the 1964 World's Fair. I remember only a little from that trip, but what I do remember was something that was truly fantastic, a spectacle larger and grander than I ever imagined possible. The exhibits were amazing and way ahead of their time. The audio-animatronics used by Disney are still in use today - Disney's It's a Small World was unveiled at the Pepsi pavilion. IBM displayed handwriting recognition. General Electric sponsored Progressland where the audience was seated and revolved around an auditorium with numerous audio-animatronic presentations of the progress of electricity in the home. The General Motors Futurama had visitors moving on seats through an exhibition of the world of the future. The entire fairground was as large as a small city. Fountains were everywhere - it was true pageantry.
The most memorable icon for this fair was the Unisphere which is still standing in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the site of the fair (and the previous 1939-40 fair). The theme was Peace Through Understanding and the Unisphere represented global interdependence. Built to celebrate the beginning of the space age, it was dedicated to "Man's Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe."
The Unisphere was built in type 305L stainless steel by the US Steel Corporation and erected on the same structural foundation that supported the 1939/1940 New York World's Fair's Perisphere. At 12 stories (140 feet), it remains the world's largest globe and has become one of the few permanent remaining structures from the fair and an unofficial symbol for Queens.
I am sorry that those of you unable to attend will have to imagine and that I have the privilege of remembering ...

Note about the fair: The 1964 World's Fair was actually mired in controversy. In order to be profitable, the fair organizers, headed by Robert Moses, decided that the fair would need to run for two 6 month seasons (1964 & 1965). However, the rules of the BIE (Bureau of International Expositions), headquartered in Paris, stated that an international world's fair run for one six-month period only and only one exposition per 10-year period in a host country. The USA did not meet these requirements and a visit by Moses to Paris was not successful. Moses made his disdain for the organization's decision public. The BIE retaliated by requesting member nation's not participate. Hence, the roster of participants was primarily smaller nations and a large number of industrial firms.


Lily Hydrangea said...

I always like catching a glimpse of this when I travel the LIE into Manhattan.
Great informative post,thanks!

Brian Dubé said...

Lily - I try to get a glimpse whenever I can. Seeing it in person is great along with Flushing Meadows Park and the Queens Museum next door.

Kate said...

I wish we still had World's Fairs. I can only imagine how exciting it would be.

Anonymous said...

Great photo as always!

Jacob said...

Damn! I thought the earth was flat! Just goes to show how important photography is!

Brian Dubé said...

Kate - Apparently there are. The BIE alone appears to have many listed - as recently as 2008 and planned for 2010, 2012, 2015. The number of exhibitors appears to be large. Perhaps they are being eclipsed by so many other competing events etc. For a list got to:

Lars said...

Very nice blog. I have to admit that I love the flair of this city which is very well underlined by your pictures and comments.