Time Travel: The 1964 New York World's Fair

Time Travel: The 1964 New York World's Fair

 

Exactly half a century ago, the New York World's Fair opened, dazzling visitors from around the world with futuristic displays of products and technologies both emergent and imagined, together along with an assortment of purely whimsical amusements. The 1964 World’s Fair was the third to be held in New York and, partly due to the relatively advanced media of the time, the most recognizable. The Fair's official theme was "Peace Through Understanding," and it was dedicated to "Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe." No doubt the most enduring symbol of the event remains the Unisphere, a 12-story high, stainless-steel model of the earth that served as the Fair’s centerpiece and still stands on the original site in Flushing Meadows, Queens.

The Fair’s exhibitions were dominated by American companies and showcased mid-20th-century American culture and technology, notably the so-called Space Age. New products, transportation and electronics loomed large, often as part of amusement-style rides through imaginative portrayals of a future that seems all too nostalgic now. But possibly the most famous exhibit was actually from the past: Michelangelo's "Pieta," displayed for the first time in the U.S. The Fair also marked the introduction of the Ford Mustang.
 Then there was Walt Disney Productions’ "It's a Small World," featuring "audio-animatronic” children of many nations singing the annoying theme song some visitors still can’t forget. Perhaps most enduringly, the Fair also introduced America to “Belgian Waffles.”

Admission price for adults was $2 in 1964 and $1 for children, and more than 51 million people attended the Fair. For baby boomers who visited the fair as children, it remains a symbol of pre-Vietnam War optimism. The Fair closed on Oct. 17, 1965. This spring and summer a number of anniversary festivities will be taking place in New York (see the official site below). While a real time capsule was buried 50 feet below the Fair to be opened in the year 6939, we’ve provided a virtual one for more immediate gratification.

By Jorge Socarras