A 1935 meeting of the minds created the idea of the New York World's Fair of 1939/40. The Chicago World's Fair of 1933/34 was still fresh in the minds of the group of New York business men who created the New York World's Fair Corporation. The corporation made the idea of a World's Fair in the Big Apple a reality. Amongst the dignitaries involved were Winthrop Aldrich, Mortimer Buckner, Floyd Carlisle, Ashley T. Cole, John J. Dunnigan, Harvey Dow Gibson, Percy S. Straus, and several other business leaders. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia who gained everlasting fame during a newspaper strike by reading the Sunday comics over the radio to the public, was among the dignitaries.
The corporation elected former Chief of Police Grover Whelan corporate president and the corporation rented the uppermost floor of the Empire State Building as its corporate headquarters. At the time, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world.
The 1933/34 Chicago World's Fair chose "A Century of Progress" as its theme. The 1939/40 New York World's Fair touted the "World of Tomorrow" as its theme and defined "Tomorrow" as 1959. The fair showed and sold television sets. It promised faster means of transportation and communication. By 1959 commercial airlines were converting to jet powered airplanes. The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways was under construction. The personal computer was developing but still more than thirty years in the future.
The dominant symbol of the fair is the "Trylon and Perisphere." Both words are manufactured words. "Trylon" simply means "three-sided pylon." A pylon is a guide for moving traffic. It can be a construction for safely moving (guiding) electric current from its source to its destination through wires. It can be a tower for guiding aircraft or a rubber marker-cone to guide motor vehicles around highway construction. For the 1939/40 New York World's Fair, it was a 610-foot tower. Another source describes the Trylon as being over 700 feet tall.
Amongst the meanings of the prefix "peri-" is the word enclosing. The manufactured word "Perisphere" describes the fair's sphere that enclosed a diorama of a Utopian "City of Tomorrow," the theme of the fair. Visitors could also view a slide presentation on the interior dome of the sphere. A moving sidewalk transported visitors through the dome to the Helicline.
The third, not-so-conspicuous, structure in the fair's iconic symbol is a 950-foot-long ramp that spirals part way around the Helicline.
The fair, housed on more than 1,200 estimated acres of New York's Long Island, hosted exhibits from 33 nations and entertained more than 44 million visitors. Broad avenues connected areas of the fair. In 2013, a survey of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the site of both the 1939/40 and 1964/65 World's Fairs, indicated the site to be only 897 acres.
On April 30, 1939, opening day at the fair, RCA televised President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's speech. There were about 200 television sets in New York City at the time. RCA had to provide a demonstration to a skeptical public that the broadcast was a legitimate broadcast, not a magical trick.
On September 1 of the same year, World War II started. It affected the activities of the fair. Some European nations did not return to the fair in 1940. An explosion occurred in the British pavilion. Was the explosion an attack on Great Britain or was it a ruse to encourage the United States to enter the war in defense of the British? That question had never been answered.
Our, or at least my, interest in the 1939/40 New York World's Fair is in the postcards that memorialize the fair.
The "Art Deco" style was prominent in architecture, art, and furniture, during the time of the fair. The "Art Deco" style dominated the architectural style of the buildings and, consequently, dominated the images on postcards of the fair. Although Linen postcards were prevalent during the 1939/40 World's Fair, other varieties also found popularity, were saved, and passed on to collectors.
One accomplishment of the fair is the cleaning of a massive municipal landfill at no expense to the government. The 1964/65 World's Fair used the site. The former landfill is now Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and is one of the larger parks in the city.