In the years 1939 and 1940 - held over because it was both so popular and so unprofitable - New York punctuated the depressed but hopeful 1930's with the perfect expression of their dreams for better times. Millions came to visit the World's Fair focal exhibit, Democracity - a vast diorama of The World of Tomorrow - and the even more popular Futurama at the General Motors Building.
Industry, communities and foreign nations competed with each other's spectacular visions of the world the way it was about to be: a world connected by monorails and streamlined railways, where hygienic crops grew under giant bell jars; where cars like rockets and rockets like cars would speed us across highways and skyways; where every aspect of society would be improved by the simplfying influence of our new technologies; where prosperity would be attained by all and peace would be its natural consequence.The best architects and industrial designers of the day devised the buildings of the 1939 World's Fair and its exhibits. Raymond Loewy designed the Transporation Zone's Focal Exhibit for Chrysler Motors, Walter Dorwin Teague designed the "Ford Exposition"; Norman Bel Geddes designed the Futurama, another diorama exhibit so large that visitors toured it in moving chairs, with a synchronized recording explaining the exhibit to them through seat-mounted speakers. Many of these inventions reappeared years later at Disneyland.
There were robots and automatic dairies, exhibits that proclaimed that this new material or that would usher in a new age of leisure. The Fair predicted a cleaner, simpler world in which we'd all be richer and in which the idea of war would be unthinkable. All of these things were what people wanted and even desperately needed to believe.
Thirty years later we had achieved almost all of the details of that vision. We saw great highways crisscrossing the nation and regular, speedy flights from coast to coast - even from country to country. We walked on the Moon. We achieved almost every one of the individual parts of the 1939 Worlds Fair's vision for the future, but none of its overarching vision.
Technology has yet to make anything simpler - compare a telephone from 1939 with the incomprehensible panel of buttons you probably have on your desk. We achieved the details; we made the gadgets; but we forgot the point.
This collection of images is no more than a collection of those details, but in looking at them and dreaming over them, you can still glimpse what the future was supposed to be all about. And you know what? There's still more future out there, if you think about it.
Use the links in the left menu, below "1939 New York World's Fair", to see the shirts, mugs, cards and posters.