Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Official Guide Book: 1939 World's Fair

The motto of the 1939 New York World's Fair was, "Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms."

And you wonder why 1930's America was afraid of automation! It was practically the theme of the '39 Fair that Man would adhere to the will of whatever Science and Industry dictated. An international fear of robots in the 1930s seems downright reasonable when seen through that lens.

The Official Guide Book to the 1939 New York World's Fair is a beautiful, hardbound book full of paleo-futuristic delights. The introduction to the guide book appears below. I recommend listening to the official theme song of the Fair, "Dawn of a New Day," while reading the intro.
To the millions of Fair visitors, assembled from the many nations of the world, we bid a hearty welcome. During more than four years we have labored mightily to provide you with the great spectacle which you now see. The talents and genius of many men and women - architects, designers, artists, engineers, industrialists, businessmen, civic leaders, and educators - have been assembled to give graphic demonstration to the dream of a better "World of Tomorrow:" that world which you and I and our millions of fellow citizens can build from the best of the tools available to us today. We show you here in the New York World's Fair the best industrial techniques, social ideas and services, the most advanced scientific discoveries. And at the same time we convey to you the picture of the interdependence of man on man, class on class, nation on nation. We tell you of the immediate necessity of enlightened and harmonious cooperation to preserve and save the best of our modern civilization. We seek to achieve orderly progress in a world of peace; and toward this end many competent critics have already noted marked progress.

The completed Fair is a living, eloquent tribute to the men and women who planned, built and operate it - to the executives and many members of a loyal and talented staff. Tribute to each and every one who worked to translate a vision into a pulsing reality.

This is your Fair, built for you and dedicated to you. You will find it a never ceasing source of wonder. We feel that it will delight you and instruct you. But in the midst of all the color, and rhythm, and music and festivity you cannot fail to receive that more serious message: how you and I and all of us can actively contribute, both for ourselves and for our communities, toward that better "World of Tomorrow" to which we all look forward.

With this brief but cordial message we present you to your Fair.

See also:
Our Dread of Robots (1932)
Dawn of a New Day (1939)
Technology and Man's Future (1972)
Restaurant Robots (1931)
Donald Duck's "Modern Inventions" (1937)
All's Fair at the Fair (1938)
"I Can Whip Any Mechanical Robot" by Jack Dempsey (1930s)
Robots vs. Musicians (1931)
The Robot is a Terrible Creature (1922)
Gigantic Robots to Fight Our Battles (Fresno Bee, 1934)
Mammy vs Robot (Charleston Gazette, 1937)
Railroads on Parade (1939)
Memory of 'Tomorrow' (New York Times, 1941)


Rangachari Anand said...

I was reminded of this this book by David Gelernter. Its a rather strange book but the factual parts are very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Ah... those were the days when the future really was The Future. Art Deco and killer robots just go together...

Unknown said...

I need to add that title to my book collection.

Anything else you can share about ti?


Anonymous said...

My grandmother has several Worlds Fair booklets in her library, going back at least this far. i'll have to take a closer look at them next time I visit her.

Amy said...

I really enjoyed "1939: Lost World of Fair". It layers actual history of the fair with fictional, but very compelling characters. I felt almost betrayed when I got toward the end and remembered that it wasn't real.

I'd also recommend the WPA Guide to New York City; a great guidebook that has a section on the fair.


Anonymous said...

Paleo-Futurists! Check out This Book: 1939: The Lost World of the Fair by David Gelertner. I came across it years ago and it is one of THE BEST books on that Fair and that period.

Written while Professor Gelertner was recovering from one of the Unabomber's little packages, it compares and contrasts the Zeitgeists of 1939 and today in the form of a fictional tour of the 1939 World's Fair. I cannot recommend it enough.