Its been 50 years since the 1964, 1965 New York Worlds Fair, but vivid memories of the fair are still etched in the heads of so many that attended. The 1964, 1965 New York Worlds Fair opened April 22, 1964 in Flushing Meadows, Queens and closed on October 17th 1965. The 64/65 Worlds Fair was one of the coolest events to ever hit New York City! Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was completely transformed into a dreamland beyond ones wildest imagination. The newness, uniqueness and futuristic technology was something never before witnessed by inner-city kids or for that matter adults. Even for the older adults who were lucky enough to have attended the 1939 New York Worlds Fair. It just didn’t compare. The 64/65 Fair in Flushing became the flagship Worlds Fair.
The fair kicked off a time of change not only for New York City, the United States but for the world. Many of the items and technology featured in this Worlds Fair became a way of life during the years to come. The push button phone featured for the first time ever at the fair eventually moved the longstanding good old rotary phone into extinction. Ford unveiled the Mustang at the fair. The Mustang is still in production to this day and remains Fords most recognized automobile. Chrysler showcased an experimental car powered by a turbine (jet style) engine. Attendees would be able to witness the car drive around a track. At the time Chrysler billed the turbine engine as the engine of the future for cars. However, there were certain technological hurdles the car maker couldn’t overcome for the engine to be production ready. For instance the jet fuel burned so hot no one was able to stand behind the car with the engine running. Chrysler also couldn’t find a way to quite the amount of noise produced or limit emissions. The first color TV debuted at the Worlds Fair 25 years after a black and white TV was introduced at the 1939 New York Worlds Fair. Here are some other notables either introduced or in early development on display at the fair:
- The first video phone was introduced by Bell System called Picturephone. You would be able to see the person and talk to them at the same time. This was basically an early version of today’s Skype.
- The First push button phone was on display. Prior to the fair all phones were rotary dial.
- The Belgian Waffle was popularized.
- A model of the Twin Towers World Trade Center was on display.
- Sprite was developed and introduced to the public for the first time.
- The first color television was on display.
The 1964, 1965 Worlds Fair also had a number of exhibits featured throughout the fair. All-in-all there were a hundred and fifty pavilions and exhibits. Thirty-six foreign countries and twenty-one states sponsored exhibits. The rest were mostly sponsored by corporations. The exhibits by foreign countries were something very similar to what you see at Disney World today.
One of the fairs most famous exhibits was the Vatican Pavilion because it was where Michelangelo’s “Pieta” was displayed for the first time in the United States. Michelangelo’s “Pieta” was imported all the way from Italy specifically to be showcased at the Fair. The Carrara marble sculpture is the only piece of art Michelangelo Buonarroti ever signed. It displays the body of Jesus Christ laying on his mothers lap just after the Crucifixion. Walt Disney Productions had their own exhibit displaying robots that used a technology called “audio-animatronics”. These robots could move, sit, stand and talk. The U.S. Space Park housed full-scale models of a Saturn V Boattalia rocket engine. The Saturn V is the same engine that was later used in the Apollo space missions. The Better Living Center housed 76 live animals. The fair even had a dinosaur park called Sinclair Dinoland. Guests would see life size dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops and Brontosaurus. Another exhibit named the Illinois Pavilion featured a life size figure of Abraham Lincoln, which would speak the Gettysburg Address.
In the amusement park area and throughout the Worlds Fair there were a number of fun and futuristic rides. U.S.Royal Tires built a gigantic Ferris Wheel with the look of a tire. Visitors could ride go karts with the shell of actual cars. Chrysler offered a ride giving attendees the chance to sit in a car as it went through a complete automobile assembly line. An entire Monorail train system was built around the amusement area. Riders would embark on an eight minute ride inside a quite air conditioned single track monorail train three stories in the air. Within the amusement area there were a number of amusement park type rides including a roller-coaster like water ride. Perhaps the most awe inspiring ride at the fair was General Motors Futurama ride where riders would experience a futuristic view of the galaxy as never before seen. They would witness underwater hotels, Lunar Rovers maneuvering effortlessly on far away planets, an Antarctica developed with multiple dome-like communities and the technological machines used to build Futurama.
The Worlds Fair was enormous. It was situated on 12,000 plus acres of land. This post only offers a glimpse into the greatness of this epic event. I haven’t even mentioned the Tower of Light, The Band Pavilion, the Carousel of Progress or the plethora of other items and pavilions. When visitors saw all they could see for one day and their feet were killing them they would make their way over to the fountain (by the gigantic 12 story stainless steel globe known as the Unisphere) to watch the nightly fireworks.
Unfortunately, today there is not much left of the Worlds Fair at its original location. However, one structure still stands at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. I’m talking about the Worlds Fair’s most iconic structure. The famed New York State Pavlovian designed by Philip Johnson. It housed three observation towers and is known to many as the centerpiece of the fair. It is now designated as a National Treasure by the National Trust of Historic Preservation. It also was the location for the fairs 50th anniversary celebration which took place earlier this year.
Believe it or not the Worlds Fair is still alive and well today. It’s just under another name. Plus, the famous fair hasn’t been in the United States for a number of years and isn’t expected back for many more to come. The Worlds Fair is now called Universal Exposition or Expo for short. The last Expo took place in Shanghai, China in 2010. 73+ million people attended with 246 exhibits on display. The next Expo will be held in Milan, Italy starting May 1st 2015.
A small clip from shows at the theater. The audience would sit in the center while the theater moved around around the audience.
Win the column of cash. This a small video clip of a cash (one dollar bills) filled gigantic glass tube spinning around in a circle. If attendees guessed how much money was in the column they would win all the money.
*Green Tea Break would like to thank the donor of the above (never before published) video clips. And also for their first hand account of such a fantastic event.
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