Friday, April 22, 2011

1964 New York World's Fair

On this day in 1964, the New York World's Fair opened at Flushing Meadows in Queens. With the world entering the "Space Age," the theme of the fair was "Peace Through Understanding" and was dedicated to "Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe." It was this last idea that was the inspiration for the centerpiece symbol of the fair, the Unisphere, an enormous, 12-story high stainless steel globe. The earth is shown surrounded by three rings which allegedly portray the orbits of Yuri Gagarin (the first man in space), John Glenn (the first American to orbit the earth) and Telstar (the first active communications satellite).

The 1964 New York World's fair is remembered as the dry-run for Walt Disney's "Audio-Animatronics" system. In fact, the Walt Disney Company designed and created four entire shows for the fair. 1) "It's A Small World" at the Pepsi Pavilion (featuring dolls of little children from around the world and a maddeningly syrupy song written by the Sherman Brothers), 2) "Progressland" at the General Electric Pavilion (where people saw scenes of the progress of inventions in daily life) , 3) "Ford Magic Skyway" at the Ford Pavilion and 4) "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln" at the Illinois Pavilion. All of these shows went on to second lives at Disneyland and subsequently, Disney World. Obviously "It's A Small World" remains largely unchanged, including the song. "Progressland" became the "Carousel of Progress" and is still in operation, "Ford Magic Skyway" became the People Mover and then later the Tomorrow Land Transit Authority, and "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln" expanded to become "The Hall of Presidents."

Some of the New York World's Fair structures remain including the observation towers and, thankfully, the marvelous Unisphere, seen above in 2010.

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