The 1939 New York World's Fair

Theme Center

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George Washington - 1939 New York World's Fair Theme Center

The 1939 World's Fair celebrated the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington as the first president of the United States. But the fair was more than this; the basic statement issued by the Committee on Theme declared that "The New York World's Fair is planned to be "everyman's fair' – to show the way toward the improvement of all the factors contributing to human welfare. We are convinced that the potential assets, material and spiritual, of our country are such that if rightly used they will make for a general public good such as has never before been known. In order to make its contribution toward this process the Fair will show the most promising developments of production, service and social factors of the present day in relation to their bearing on the life of the great mass of the people.

Trylon and Periaphere

The plain American citizen will be able to see here what he could attain for his community and himself by intelligent coordinated efforts and will be made to realize the interdependence of every contributing form of life and work." From this inspiring determination arose the slogan: "Building the World of Tomorrow."

Trylon and Perisphere - Theme Center - 1939 New York World's Fair

The Trylon, a three-sided pylon, stood 610 feet high and its companion, the Perisphere, measured 185 feet in diameter. The original plans called for a 700 foot Trylon and a larger Perisphere, but money ran short – and so did the Trylon. Designed by Wallace K. Harrison and André Fouilhoux, they have become the most recognizable symbol of the Fair. It has endured for the past five decades and will for many more.

The Trylon and Perisphere were constructed with 2,000 cubic yards of concrete and reinforced steel and 3,000 tons of structural steel resting on more than 1,000 pilings of Douglas fir creosoted for durability. The total weight for the two structures was approximately 10,000 tons.

Looking down from the Trylon and Perisphere - courtesy of Ben Weston

Trylon and Perisphere with the New York City Building - 1939 World's Fair

Inside the Perisphere was the "Democracy" exhibit, a huge model of "The City of the Future– which would house more than 1,000,000 people. Outside the city were five satellite towns with an artery of roadways connecting them back to the center of the metropolis.

During the first season, an estimated 26,000,000 people attended. Admission to the Fair was 75 cents, but was lowered to 50 cents on October 1, 1939. The 1939 World's Fair covered 1,216 acres. It was three and a half miles long and, in some places, one mile wide. There were ten entrances to the Fair, which could handle a maximum of 160,000 admissions an hour. 

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