Rep. Sol Bloom (right), House Speaker William Bankhead (center) and Sen. James Mead lead a congressional visit to the Fair.   More information

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A patriotic fireworks display commemorating WWI and the Revolutionary, Civil, and Spanish American Wars, “Lest we forget.”   More information

Officials place a wreath before James Earle Fraser’s statue of George Washington.    More information

In the Court of Peace, Boy Scouts carry the largest American Flag, measuring 40x100 feet.    More information

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A promotional photo from 1940 carries the caption, “Old Glory seems to caress another symbol of Democracy - the Trylon"    More information

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L. A. Wilcox, a 93-year-old Civil War veteran, explains his medals to little Antoinette Falabella.    More information

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1940 Chairman of the Fair Corporation Harvey Gibson goes over plans for “I Am an American Day” with Basil O’Connor.    More information

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Uncle Sam leads the “I Am an American Day” parade through the Court of Peace on October 15, 1940.    More information

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“On the eve of the national conscription,” thousands joined in a mass Pledge of Allegiance for “I Am an American Day.”    More information

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A crowd attends the opening and dedication of the American Common.    More information

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First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt speaks at the dedication of the American Common.    More information

A man in a horse costume accompanies a "hillbilly band" during the "World's Biggest Barn Dance" at the American Common.   More information

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More than 700 dancers, hillbilly bands and square dance orchestras took part in the "World's Biggest Barn Dance."    More information

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Albert Johnson, producer of the American Jubilee, works on a sketch of the show.    More information

Artist’s sketch of the entrance to the American Jubilee.    More information

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A promotional photograph of Paul Haakon, performer in the American Jubilee.    More information

A promotional photograph of Janice Palmerson, performer in the American Jubilee.   More information

“Abraham Lincoln” in his dressing room backstage.    More information

"New York belles" wave good-bye to departing troops at the outbreak of the "War Between the States" scene.   More information

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The “Bicycle” number during the American Jubilee.    More information

Audience members endorse their presidential candidate during the mock election in the American Jubilee.    More information

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A candid shot of performers in colonial costumes taken between rehearsals of the American Jubilee.    More information

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A historical anachronism takes place at the Fair’s American Jubilee.    More information

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Uncle Sam on a building roof, with the Trylon and Perisphere in the background.    More information

Uncle Sam with a bomb on display.    More information

Uncle Sam holds a little girl amidst a group of Midway visitors.    More information

Patriotism on Display

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For Peace and Freedom: The 1940 Season

"I Am an American"

The American Common

American Jubilee Extravaganza!

It's Franklin D. for Me!

He Wants You!

On April 30, 1940, Congressman Sol Bloom wrote a stern letter to his contact at the Fair. “Julius … I want you to get in touch immediately with … Mr. Harvey Gibson," he said, asking that "some assurance is given to Congressman Hamilton Fish that a proper exhibit and display of patriotic material will be made and that something is done to offset that which was not done last year at the New York Fair, which was supposed to have been held to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington.” According to a second letter of July 1940, Congressman Bloom was still not satisfied: “They are thinking more of selling cocktails and highballs out of Washington Hall than they are of selling Patriotic literature and that is the truth.”
Bloom’s protestations notwithstanding, between the 1939 and 1940 seasons of the Fair, there was a dramatic shift in the content and marketing of the Fair from what was considered an elitist intellectual-based program to the new theme “For Peace and Freedom,” with marketing geared toward “the man on the street.”
Many factors contributed to this shift — not the least of which was the disappearance of many of the pavilions surrounding the Lagoon of Nations. The notorious USSR Pavilion had been dismantled. Nine other nations withdrew, including Czechoslovakia (now under Nazi occupation), the Netherlands, and Japan. With the Depression still gripping sections of the country and the Second Great War escalating rapidly in Europe, the Fair veered toward becoming a nationalist celebration.

On October 15, 1940, the eve of registration for the peacetime draft established by national conscription legislation, thousands of Americans met at the Fair to participate in “I Am an American Day.” Sponsored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the celebration drew people of all ages, sects, and religions. A special inducement to participate was a one-dollar ticket, which “provided the holder with admission to the Fair plus thirteen hit shows, including the Jubilee, Aquacade, Railroads on Parade and Gay New Orleans.” After a mass Pledge of Allegiance in the Court of Peace with Uncle Sam, members of the Police Department led an “I Am an American” parade through the Fair’s streets.

The 100,000-square-foot lot left vacant by the USSR's departure was replaced with the American Common, a performance venue given over to patriotic pageants and events celebrating democracy and American diversity. The Common essentially consisted of a band shell and an open area called the “Green.” There, cultural and ethnic community groups were invited to mount events and programs. Weekly square dances were especially popular.

The Fair also staged the American Jubilee extravaganza, a patriotic musical spectacle combining elements of circus, musical comedy, and opera. The extravaganza, to be performed on "the world's largest rotating stage," was designed by Albert Johnson to open with the 1940 season.

The extravaganza celebrated events from American history and included cast members dressed in colonial, antebellum, Victorian, and modern garb, as well as actors playing Presidents Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. One of the most touted sections depicted a "preview" of the 1940 presidential election, with an applause meter registering audience preference for Roosevelt or Wendell Willkie.

Another popular figure at the 1940 season was none other than Uncle Sam. Beyond leading the “I Am an American Day,” he was photographed all around the Fair by the press department. The images, especially those of Uncle Sam among the “Midway Activities” (or the Amusements Area), are striking in their melancholy tone — perhaps foreshadowing the war-ridden years to come.

 

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