The World-Telegram's editors raved: "Grover Whalen has built a better mousetrap and found the world beating a path to his door."
But not everyone agreed.
When they started to build the New York World's Fair
Trucks began to come from everywhere.
Up went the buildings every day.
And around went workmen every which way.
Up went buildings every day and some more.
How could they tell what each building was for?
A great big Trylon and a ball immense
And a lot of pictures that don't make sense
And a man called Whalen at the head of it all
Please Mr. Whalen for what is it all?
Donald Merwin, ten-year- old poet
Grover Whalen answered the poetic query in his autobiography: "This, then, was the Fair - primarily a great theater. Not only the proscenium behind which a thousand entertainments might pass to delight the spectator, but also an amphitheater - vast enough, deep enough, distinguished enough to show the average man how the powers of the universe might be aligned to sustain and comfort him."
World-Telegram May 1, 1939
Long Island Daily Press May 17, 1939
- THE NEWS EDITORS
- Brooklyn Citizen, May 1, 1939: "It was as though Aladdin had come and rubbed his magic lantern."
- Brooklyn Eagle July 18, 1939: "The magic wrought by lighting has never been brought home to the people so realistically as at the Fair." They are in a receptive mood for suggestions that will make their World of Tomorrow as much a world of color and light."
- (Jefferson City MO) Daily Capital News May 9, 1939: "If this is the world of the day after tomorrow, we may all be happy yet."
- Herald Tribune April 30, 1939: "'The World of Tomorrow' – it is of course nothing as banal as that. It is something vastly better. It is the Apotheosis of today."
- Lowell (MA) Sun May 1, 1939: "Deigned to be the greatest show on earth, the long – heralded World of Tomorrow is now in progress. This great pageant will have to go some to live up to its advance reputation."
- New Castle (PA) News August 19, 1939: "Of course some folks were bored at the whole thing but they would be bored if they saw the battle of Waterloo with the original cast."
- New York Amsterdam News May 6, 1939: "Replete with strikingly designed buildings, awe – inspiring exhibits and alluring amusement attractions, all laid out in an attractive, modernistic fashion, the Fair more than lives up to the highest promises made for it."
- Queens Evening News June 17, 1939: "During the construction of its epochal enterprise – greater in magnitude than half a dozen Panama Canals – the knockers were direfully predicting that the new result would be a bizarre potpourri of jumbled, weird architectural conceptions. How wrong they have been!"
- Queens Evening News October 13, 1939: "The World of Tomorrow remains a masterpiece of man's ability to devise and create what before was seemingly impossible."
- Sunday (Daily) Mirror April 30, 1939: "We live in the greatest city in the world, but we don't do much about it. We don't boast. We don't think we have to."
- THE COLUMNISTS
- George Matthew Adams - San Antonio (TX) Express June 29, 1939:
"The fair in New York is one of the most inspiring achievements that have been consummated in America."
- John Anderson - Journal American June 11, 1939:
"Mr. Whalen's arch collapse suggest that it owes more to the theatre than it will every say. Surely two of Mr. Whalen's choicest pieces of bait are the General Motors crab – wise chair ride into the future and Mr. Rose's tidewater skin and shank festival."
- Hal Easton - Long Island Daily Press May 10, 1939: "A World's Fair consist largely of screwball architecture and skin shows. The architecture winds up eventually in the form of H'wood sets, while the skin shows return to the burlesque wheel to await another educational uplift."
- H. B. Ellison - Sun August 19, 1939:
"I'm a booster for the city that produced this World's Fair because it makes New York the world's hometown."
- Gardner Harding - Harper's Magazine July 1939:
"It is a better Fair than the American people deserve, and probably a better one than they wanted."
"The fair is a bold and free expression of the power age – a statement of our magical new energies."
"It's like - well, like Salvador Dali's version of The Land of Oz."
"I find that it has a sort of lure that keeps you coming back to the Fairgrounds to see what you missed the last time."
"Broadway's biggest rival is 45 minutes from Times Square."
"I walked through the center at night, approaching the Trylon and Perisphere, it did look like a dream city."
"That World's Fair is a solid killer folks!"
"There is something of idealism blended with the honky – tonk."
"There is something for everybody at the Fair. It is the greatest spectacle since the animals marched in two-by-two."
"Grudgingly, resentfully, I must admit that the World's Fair is quite a show."
"When the world of tomorrow becomes a memory of yesterday – think of what fun Albert Einstein will have."
"It looks a lot like today, only prettier and, of course, spanking new and shining like a general's boot."
"We are unable to decide which of the free exhibits is the most amazing."
- PEOPLE IN THE KNOW
- A Gallup Pollsters stood outside the gates to get patrons reactions: "Some of the statues are a little immodest for children." "No more Fair for me. I'd rather cook in a hot kitchen." (a seventy – five – year – old Gold Star mother); "The guards are so neat looking." "I didn't like the cows being milked by machines. It's inhuman."
Amarillo (TX) Globe May 17, 1939
- "'Better than I expected' has undoubtedly been brought back by visitors to the Fair."
Sun August 1, 1939
- John Gloag, an English gentleman who had been to every world's fair since 1908: "The New York fair is the last word in fairs. Everything was planned."
World – Telegram June 16, 1939
- Paul Hollister, executive vice president and sales promotion manager of Macy's: "For the fact is that hard – boiled New York went to Flushing to scoff, remained to pray and is thinking of running Grover Whalen for president of North, South and Central America."
Journal American June 7, 1939
- Lily Pons and her husband, Andre Kostelanetz: "It's simply wonderful. The color, its so cheerful!"
Journal American May 1, 1939
- Thomas Watson, president of IBM: "This great exposition is an achievement so timely as to be of transcendental significance."
Think IBM Press
- Al Smith, former New York governor and presidential candidate: "The San Francisco fair is nice, but it's not large. And no, I did not see Sally Rand. "The World of Tomorrow" is a lot better than New York."
World-Telegram May 18, 1939
Journal American April 6, 1939
HOW THE PRESS LABELED "THE WORLD OF TOMORROW"
The Brooklyn Eagle noted: "We don't recall that any World's Fair ever had such a variety of picturesque nicknames as this one." Here is a list of some of press's best.
- Ageless Acres of Whalenland
- Awesome Acres
- Baghdad on the Dump
- Baleful Bog
- Beauteous Bog
- Beautified Bog
- Beautiful Bog
- Brisk and Bright Bottomland
- Broiling Bog
- Fabulous Fen
- Fabulous Fiesta
- Flushing Fantasy
- Flushing Fen
- Flushing Front,
- Flushing Phantasmagoria
- Frenzied Fen
- Hectic Heath
- Long Island Illusion
- Lunatic Lea
- Mad Marsh
- Mad Meadows
- Madcap Moor,
- Magic Meadows
- Magnificent Mesa
- Maremma of Manana
- Marvelous Marsh
- Melting Meadow
- Merry Madness
- Miraculous Meadows
- Musical Meadows
- Queens Harlequinade
- Slap-Happy Swamp
- Sublime Slough
- Topsey-Turvey Terrain
- Wacky Wonderland
- Whalen Walls
- Whalen Whirl
- Whalen's Acres
- Whalen's Whirligig
- Whalen's Whopping Whirligig
- Whalen Wonderland
- Woozy Wallow.