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This exhibit contains original memorabilia, print materials, photographs, and ephemera from The New York World's Fairs of 1939 and 1964. It was created to commemorate and celebrate the 75th and 50th anniversaries, as of spring 2014, of these two monumental events that both shaped Long Island history and reflected the issues and innovations of their times.
Flushing, Queens became the epicenter of global culture when it played host to the New York World's Fair in 1939 and again in 1964. These two events would forever change the perception of the future to the masses, as well as bring fame to a formerly quiet suburb of New York City.
The 1939 fair promised a glimpse into "the World of Tomorrow," attracting over 40 million visitors before its closing. Flushing Meadows was transformed from an ash dump into one of the most visited spots in the country, thanks to Long Island master builder Robert Moses. It was the second largest American world's fair of all time, and was the first to take on the ambitious theme of the future. As described in the official pamphlet of the fair which can be seen in this exhibit, "The eyes of the Fair are on the future — not in the sense of peering toward the unknown nor attempting to foretell the events of tomorrow and the shape of things to come, but in the sense of presenting a new and clearer view of today in preparation for tomorrow; a view of the forces and ideas that prevail as well as the machines." Though it promoted peaceful international relations, the fair became overshadowed due to global politics and the onset of World War II.
When the fair returned to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in 1964, the theme became one of international significance. With the tagline "Peace Through Understanding," the fair's sentiment was symbolized by a 12-story high, stainless-steel globe called the "Unisphere," which can still be seen in its present location today. Best known for its demonstration of American culture and innovation, the fair famously displayed elements of the Space-Age. The achievements of Walt Disney were also present at the fair, with his ride "It's a Small World" becoming an instant hit.
Today, though the fairground is largely destroyed and dismantled, the New York World's Fairs of 1939 and 1964 hold special meaning for all Long Islanders and students of American cultural history.
Hofstra University shares deep connections with both New York World's Fairs, demonstrating a further link between these events and Long Island History. Aymar Embury II, the campus architect for Hofstra in the 1950s, was also responsible for the design and construction of the New York City Pavilion at the 1939 fair, which now houses the Queens Museum of Art. Hofstra would again be present when it had its own presentation at the 1964 fair, a photograph of which can be seen at the conclusion of this exhibit.
Through this exhibit, it is our hope that viewers come to appreciate and celebrate the importance of the New York World's Fairs to both local history and the cultural heritage of America.
To view items in this exhibit, simply click on one of the item titles in the list on the right hand side of this page.
This exhibit was created and organized by Elise Barbeau.
Hofstra University Library Special Collections
-Barbara Kingsley Family Papers
-John P. Drennan Photograph Collection
-Nicholas Meyer Collection
-Official Guide Book, New York World's Fair, 1939. New York: Exposition publication, 1939.
-Official Guide to City of New York Exhibit Building: New York World's Fair 1939 and 1940. New York, 1939.
-Official Guide, New York World's Fair, 1964-1965. New York: Time Inc., 1964.
-World’s Fairs Collection
Cohen, Barbara, Steven Heller, and Seymour Chwast. Trylon and Perisphere: The 1939 New York World's Fair. New York: Abrams, 1989.
Cotter, Bill, and Bill Young. The 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2004.
Zim, Larry, Mel Lerner, and Herbert Rolfes. The World of Tomorrow: The 1939 New York World's Fair. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.