1939/1940 World’s Fair

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Features, History, Queens

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.

Go back in time

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