The 1939-40 New York World's Fair: A Window into 20th-century American Life

Widely regarded as the World's Fair, the New York World's Fair of 1939-1940 was held at Flushing Meadow in Queens. By every measurement "” size, cost, attendance, publicity, foreign government participation, number of exhibitors "” it outranked all earlier international fairs. With its theme, "Building the World of Tomorrow," the Fair proposed to celebrate the achievements of modern scientific and industrial civilization while offering an optimistic and exciting vision of the future world in the making. Like all fairs it also hoped to stimulate trade and sell goods. Its records (comprising over 1,200 boxes) consist of the Fair's administrative files, containing correspondence, reports, minutes, financial and legal records, memoranda, photographs, phonograph records, printed matter, and other materials from the central office and thirty-three departments of the Fair. The iconic symbols of the 1939-40 World's Fair, the Trylon and Perisphere, were located at the Theme Center of the Fair. The eighteen-story Perisphere housed the theme exhibit, designed by Henry Dreyfuss and featuring a 100-foot model of Democracity, the "œcommunity of tomorrow." Eventually more than 18,000 photographs from the 1939-40 NYWF Records will be available in The New York Public Library's Digital Gallery.


Selected photographs from the 1939-40 New York World's Fair Records.
The New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division, New York World's Fair 1939-1940 Records.


Treasures Video: Watch a Short Film About the 1939-40 New York World's Fair

More Images from the New York World's Fair 1939-40 Records

Finding Aid: New York World's Fair 1939 and 1940 Incorporated Records

About the Manuscripts and Archives Division

Library Catalog Record