Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The World of Tomorrow as Seen from the New York World’s Fairs

"Let us move on, and step out boldly, though it be into the night, and we can scarcely see the way." ~ Charles B. Newcomb       

Today on Far Future Horizons we commemorate the anniversaries of two iconic grand expositions – The New York World’s Fair of 1939 which will be marking its seventy fifth anniversary on April 30th and the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair which will be commemorating its golden anniversary on April 22nd, 2014.

In order to mark these two anniversaries we present three very special video features with the theme “The World of Tomorrow."

Far Future Horizons is all about exploration, discovery, and stepping forward to face future challenges boldly and decisively. The existential threats facing our global civilization are many but; we firmly believe that there were no limits to growth or the future prosperity of the human species. Human inventiveness and ingenuity can help us surmount any problem or obstacle in our path. This is the message we hope to continue to convey to our readers. 

I invite you then, dear readers to "step out boldly, though it be into the night, and we can scarcely see the way "  to the wonderful world of tomorrow.

The Future as Seen from the New York World's Fair

1939 New York World’s Fair

Our first video feature today concerns the 1939 New York World’s Fair and the original General Motors Futurama. In 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, a group of New York City retired policemen decided to create an international exposition to lift the city and the country out of depression. Not long after, these men formed the New York World's Fair Corporation, whose office was placed on one of the higher floors in the Empire State Building.

Elektro the Smoking Robot At the 1939 World’s Fair

The NYWFC elected former chief of police Grover Whalen as the president of their committee. The committee included Winthrop Aldrich, Mortimer Buckner, Floyd Carlisle, Ashley T. Cole, John J. Dunnigan, Harvey Dow Gibson, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Percy S. Straus, and many other business leaders.

The Original 1939 General Motors Futurama Exhibit 

Elektro the Smoking Robot At the 1939 World’s Fair

Our third video feature is about the 1964 New York World's Fair and General Motors’ Second Futurama ride which was updated for the 1964 fair.

View of the 1964 New York World's Fair

The 1964/1965 New York World's Fair was the third major world's fair to be held in New York City. Hailing itself as a "universal and international" exposition, the fair's theme was "Peace Through Understanding," dedicated to "Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe"; although American corporations dominated the exposition as exhibitors. The theme was symbolized by a 12-story high, stainless-steel model of the earth called Unisphere. The fair ran for two six-month seasons, April 22–October 18, 1964 and April 21–October 17, 1965. Admission price for adults (13 and older) was $2.00 in 1964 but $2.50 in 1965, and $1.00 for children (2–12) both years.

The site, Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the borough of Queens, had also held the 1939/1940 New York World’s Fair.

It was one of the largest world's fairs to be held in the United States, occupying nearly a square mile (2.6 km²) of land. The only larger fair was the 1939 fair, which occupied space that was filled in for the 1964/1965 exposition. Preceding these fairs was the 1853-54 New York’s World’s Fair, called the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, located on the site of Bryant Park in the borough of Manhattan, New York City.

Poster for the New York World's Fair of 1964/1965

The fair is best remembered as a showcase of mid-20th century American culture and technology. The nascent Space Age, with its vista of promise, was well-represented. More than 51 million people attended the fair, less than the hoped-for 70 million. It remains a touchstone for New York–area Baby Boomers, who visited the optimistic fair as children before the turbulent years of the Vietnam War, cultural changes, and increasing struggles for civil rights.

General Motors Futurama Building New York World's Fair 1964/1965

This updated version of Futurama or Futurama II  offered its riders a glimpse into what life in the year 2024 would be like. the second video feature for today is promotional film by General Motors follows a young boy as he explores a lunar base of operation, an Antarctic weather forecasting center, undersea exploration and the typical positive 1960s thinking about the future of American design and living. The ride itself was one of the most popular attractions at the fair with over 25 million passengers during the 6 months it was open and the building which housed it was one of the largest buildings ever built for the 1964 New York World's Fair.

How ironic that this optimistic vision of tomorrow would be marred just a decade later by the energy crisis and mounting concerns over environmental degradation.

64-65 NY World's Fair General Motors Futurama II Exhibit 

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