Historic photos take you back to the 1939 New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows

April 30, 2018

Aerial view of the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair; via NYPL

On April 30, 1939, the New York World’s Fair opened in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. The fair, which spread across 1,200 acres, commemorated the 150th anniversary of George Washington’s inauguration in Lower Manhattan, and had a central theme of “Building the World of Tomorrow.” Construction of the fair began in 1936, which involved turning the Corona city dump and tidal swamp into the fairgrounds. After the land was cleared, hundreds of architects, designers, engineers and construction workers came together to transform the dump into the site for the World’s Fair.

The “Trylon”, a 700-foot obelisk, and the “Perisphere,” a 200-foot globe, stood in the center of the fairgrounds, soon becoming permanent symbols of the Fair. Many American corporations, including the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, the Borden Company and General Motors, participated, as a way to introduce fairgoers to new products. With close to 60 nations and 33 U.S. states participating, and its own subway line, the 1939 World’s Fair remains one of the largest, and most iconic, international fairs in history. Ahead, check out some of the photos of the historic World’s Fair, found in the New York Public Library’s extensive collection.

By land, by sea, by air all roads lead to New York World’s Fair 1939; map via NYPL

American Jubilee chorus girl Lucy Monroe wearing the Trylon and Perisphere hat; via NYPL

Opening Day parade in 1939; photo via NYPL

Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking at fair’s Opening Day; photo via NYPL

Crowd forms around a statue of George Washington on Opening Day; photo via NYPL

General Motors Corp. at the World’s Fair; photo via NYPL

Publicity posters, last day to see Fair; photo via NYPL

Police in World’s Fair Police Car; photo via NYPL

Man with bull, horse and dog traveling to the fair; photo via NYPL

Attendant giving boy on bike directions; photo via NYPL

A hitchhiker with a mechanical hand coming out of his suitcase; photo via NYPL

Airline hostesses waving; photo via NYPL

American Jubilee chorus girls pose in front of the pool at Constitution Hall; photo via NYPL

Brenda Putnam’s sculpture, The Crest; photo via NYPL

Actor Jimmy Ellison and wife, Gertrude Durkin, riding the Parachute Jump; photo via NYPL

A bicycle number performed at the World’s Fair; photo via NYPL

Uncle Sam at Parachute Jump; photo via NYPL


All images courtesy of the New York Public Library

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *