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1964 New York World's Fair

EXPO New York 1964/1965
View from the observation towers of the New York State Pavilion; the Unisphere is in the center, Shea Stadium at far background left.
BIE-class Unrecognized exposition
Name 1964/1965 New York World's Fair
Motto Peace through understanding
Building Unisphere
Area 650 acres (260 ha)
Visitors 51,607,307
Organized by Robert Moses
Countries 58
Organizations 15
Business General Electric, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, IBM, Bell Telephone, US Steel, Pepsi Cola, Dupont, RCA, Westinghouse
Country United States
City New York
Venue Flushing Meadows, New York
Bidding 1955
Awarded never
  • April 22, 1964 (1964-04-22)
  • April 21, 1965 (1965-04-21)
  • October 18, 1964 (1964-10-18)
  • October 17, 1965 (1965-10-17)
Previous Century 21 Exposition in Seattle
Next Expo 67 in Montreal
Website .com.nywf64www

The 1964/1965 New York World's Fair was the third major world's fair to be held in New York City.[1] Hailing itself as a "universal and international" exposition, the fair's theme was "Peace Through Understanding", dedicated to "Man's Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe"; American companies dominated the exposition as exhibitors. The theme was symbolized by a 12-story high, stainless-steel model of the earth called the Unisphere.[2] The fair ran for two six-month seasons, April 22 – October 18, 1964 and April 21 – October 17, 1965. Admission price for adults (13 and older) was $2 in 1964 (equivalent to $15.21 in 2016) but $2.50 in 1965, and $1 for children (2–12) both years (equivalent to $7.6 in 2016).[3]

The fair is best remembered as a showcase of mid-20th-century American culture and technology. The nascent Space Age, with its vista of promise, was well represented. More than 51 million people attended the fair, though fewer than the hoped-for 70 million. It remains a touchstone for New York–area Baby Boomers, who visited the optimistic fair as children before the turbulent years of the Vietnam War, cultural changes, and increasing struggles for civil rights.

In many ways the fair symbolized a grand consumer show covering many products produced in America at the time for transportation, living, and consumer electronic needs in a way that would never be repeated at future world's fairs in North America. Most major American manufacturing companies from pen manufacturers to auto companies had a major presence. While this fair did not receive official sanctioning from the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE), it did give many attendees their first interaction with computer equipment. Many corporations demonstrated the use of mainframe computers, computer terminals with keyboards and CRT displays, teletype machines, punch cards, and telephone modems in an era when computer equipment was kept in back offices away from the public, decades before the Internet and home computers were at everyone's disposal.


  • Historical antecedents 1
  • Beginnings 2
  • Architecture 3
  • International participation 4
  • Federal and state exhibits 5
    • US Pavilion 5.1
    • United States Space Park 5.2
    • New York State Pavilion 5.3
    • Other state pavilions 5.4
    • New York City Pavilion 5.5
    • Bourbon Street Pavilion 5.6
  • American industry in the spotlight 6
    • General Motors Pavilion 6.1
    • IBM Pavilion 6.2
    • Bell System Pavilion 6.3
    • Westinghouse Pavilion 6.4
    • Dinoland 6.5
    • Ford Motor Company Pavilion 6.6
    • Chunky Candy Corporation Pavilion 6.7
  • Films 7
  • Disney influence 8
  • Failure of amusements 9
  • Controversial ending 10
  • On-site legacy 11
    • Shea Stadium 11.1
  • Reuse of pavilions and major exhibits elsewhere 12
  • Cultural references 13
    • In advertising 13.1
    • In artifacts and memorabilia 13.2
    • In film and documentaries 13.3
    • In games 13.4
    • In music 13.5
    • In television 13.6
    • In theater 13.7
  • Gallery 14
  • See also 15
  • References 16
    • Bibliography 16.1
    • Notes 16.2
  • External links 17
    • Videos 17.1

Historical antecedents

The site, Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the borough of Queens, had also held the 1939/1940 New York World's Fair. It was one of the largest world's fairs to be held in the United States, occupying nearly a square mile (2.6 km2) of land. The 1939 fair also occupied space that was filled in for the 1964/1965 exposition. Preceding these fairs was the 1853–54 New York's World's Fair, called the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, located in the New York Crystal Palace on what is now Bryant Park in the borough of Manhattan, New York City (All three of New York's world's fairs were the only international expositions to run for two years, rather than one).


The 1964/1965 Fair was conceived by a group of New York businessmen who remembered their childhood experiences at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Thoughts of an economic boom to the city as the result of increased tourism was a major reason for holding another fair 25 years after the 1939/1940 extravaganza.[4] Then-New York City mayor, Robert F. Wagner, Jr., commissioned Frederick Pittera, a producer of international fairs and exhibitions, and author of the history of International Fairs & Exhibitions for the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Compton's Encyclopedia, to prepare the first feasibility studies for the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair. He was joined by Austrian architect Victor Gruen (creator of the shopping mall) in studies that eventually led the Eisenhower Commission to award the world's fair to New York City in competition with a number of American cities.

Organizers turned to private financing and the sale of bonds to pay the huge costs to stage them. The organizers hired New York's "Master Builder" Robert Moses, to head the corporation established to run the fair because he was experienced in raising money for vast public projects. Moses had been a formidable figure in the city since coming to power in the 1930s. He was responsible for the construction of much of the city's highway infrastructure and, as parks commissioner for decades, the creation of much of the city's park system.

In the mid-1930s, Moses oversaw the conversion of a vast Queens tidal marsh/garbage dump into the fairgrounds that hosted the 1939/1940 World's Fair.[5] Called Flushing Meadows Park, it was Moses' grandest park scheme. He envisioned this vast park, comprising some 1,300 acres (5 km2) of land, easily accessible from Manhattan, as a major recreational playground for New Yorkers. When the 1939/1940 World's Fair ended in financial failure, Moses did not have the available funds to complete work on his project. He saw the 1964/1965 Fair as a means to finish what the earlier fair had begun.[6]

To ensure profits to complete the park, fair organizers knew they would have to maximize receipts. An attendance of 70 million people would be needed to turn a profit and, for attendance that large, the fair would need to be held for two years. The World's Fair Corporation also decided to charge site rental fees to all exhibitors who wished to construct pavilions on the grounds. This decision caused the fair to come into conflict with the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE), the international body headquartered in Paris that sanctions world's fairs: BIE rules stated that an international exposition could run for one six-month period only, and no rent could be charged to exhibitors. In addition, the rules allowed only one exposition in any given country within a 10-year period, and the Seattle World's Fair had already been sanctioned for 1962.[5]

The United States was not a member of the BIE at the time, but fair organizers understood that a sanction by the BIE would assure that its nearly 40 member nations would participate in the fair. Moses, undaunted by the rules, journeyed to Paris to seek official approval for the New York fair. When the BIE balked at New York's bid, Moses, used to having his way in New York, angered the BIE delegates by taking his case to the press, publicly stating his disdain for the BIE and its rules.[5] The BIE retaliated by formally requesting its member nations not to participate in the New York fair.[5] The 1939/1940 and 1964/1965 New York World's Fairs were the only significant world's fairs since the formation of the BIE to be held without its endorsement.


Many of the pavilions were built in a Mid-Century modern style that was heavily influenced by "Googie architecture". This was a futurist architectural style influenced by car culture, jet aircraft, the Space Age, and the Atomic Age, which were all on display at the fair. Some pavilions were explicitly shaped like the product they were promoting, such as the US Royal tire-shaped Ferris wheel, or even the corporate logo, such as the Johnson Wax pavilion. Other pavilions were more abstract representations, such as the prolate spheroid shaped IBM pavilion, or the General Electric circular dome shaped "Carousel of Progress".

The pavilion architectures often expressed a new-found freedom of form enabled by modern building materials, such as reinforced concrete, fiberglass, plastic, tempered glass, and stainless steel. The facade or the entire structure of a pavilion served as a giant billboard advertising the country or organization housed inside, flamboyantly competing for the attention of busy and distracted fairgoers.

By contrast, some of the smaller international, US state, and organizational pavilions were built in more traditional styles, such as a Swiss chalet or a Chinese temple. After the fair's final closing in 1965, some pavilions crafted of wood were carefully disassembled and transported elsewhere for re-use.

Other pavilions were "decorated sheds", a building method later described by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, using plain structural shells embellished with applied decorations. This allowed designers to simulate a traditional style while bypassing expensive and time-consuming methods of traditional construction. The expedient was considered acceptable for temporary buildings planned to be used for only two years, and then to be demolished.

International participation

View of the Unisphere with world flags
West Berlin Pavilion, by Hans Wehrhahn[7]

The BIE rejection was nearly a disaster for the fair. The absence of Canada, Australia, most of the major European nations and the Soviet Union, all members of the BIE, tarnished the image of the fair.[5] Additionally, New York was forced to compete with both Seattle and Montreal for international participants, with many nations choosing the officially sanctioned world's fairs of those cities over the New York Fair. The fair turned to trade and tourism organizations within many countries to sponsor national exhibits in lieu of official government sponsorship of pavilions.

New York City, in the middle of the 20th century, was at a zenith of economic power and world prestige. Unconcerned by BIE rules, nations with smaller economies (as well as private groups in (or relevant to) some BIE members[8][9][10][11][12]) saw it as an honor to host an exhibit at the Fair. Therefore, smaller nations made up the majority of the international participation. Spain,[13] Vatican City,[14] Japan,[15] Mexico,[16] Sweden,[17] Austria,[18] Denmark,[19] Thailand,[20] Philippines,[21] Greece,[22] and Pakistan,[23] and Ireland to name some, hosted national presences at the Fair. Indonesia sponsored a pavilion, but relations deteriorated rapidly between that nation and the USA during 1964, fueled by anti-Western and anti-American rhetoric and policies by Indonesian president Sukarno, which angered U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. Indonesia withdrew from the United Nations in January 1965, and officially from the Fair in March. The Fair Corporation then seized and shut down the Indonesian pavilion, and it remained closed and barricaded for the 1965 season.[24]

One of the fair's most popular exhibits was the Vatican Pavilion, where Michelangelo's Pietà was displayed and brought in from St Peter's Basilica with the permission of Pope John XXIII; a small plaza, exedra monument, marking the spot (and Pope Paul VI's visit in October 1965) remains there today. A modern copy, replica had been transported beforehand to ensure that the statue could be conveyed without being damaged. This copy is now on view at St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie, in Yonkers. It is currently in the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Douglaston, NY. The exedra monument is now utilized with permits since 1975 for prayer Vigils by Our Lady of the Roses relocated from Bayside, NY.

A recreation of a medieval Belgian village proved very popular. Fairgoers were treated to the "Bel-Gem Brussels Waffle"—a combination of waffle, strawberries and whipped cream, sold by a Brussels couple, Maurice Vermersch and his wife.[25]

Fairgoers could also enjoy sampling sandwiches from around the world at the popular Seven Up International Gardens Pavilion which featured the innovative fiberglass Seven Up Tower.[26][27] While dining, visitors were treated to live performances of international music by the 7-Up Continental Band as well as musical selections from the Broadway stage.[28][29]

Emerging African nations displayed their wares in the Africa Pavilion. Controversy broke out when the Jordanian pavilion displayed a mural emphasizing the plight of the Palestinian people. The Jordanians also donated an ancient column which remains at their former site. The city of West Berlin, a Cold War hot-spot, hosted a popular display.

Federal and state exhibits

US Pavilion

The US Pavilion was titled "Challenge to Greatness" and focused on President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" proposals. The main show in the multimillion-dollar pavilion was a 15-minute ride through a filmed presentation of American history. Visitors seated in moving grandstands rode past movie screens that slid in, out and over the path of the traveling audience. Elsewhere, there were tributes to President John F. Kennedy, who had broken ground for the pavilion in December 1962 but had been assassinated in November 1963 before the fair opened.

United States Space Park

Space Park

A 2-acre (8,100 m2) United States Space Park was sponsored by NASA, the Department of Defense and the fair. Exhibits included a full-scale model of the aft skirt and five F-1 engines of the first stage of a Saturn V, a Titan II booster with a Gemini capsule, an Atlas with a Mercury capsule and a Thor-Delta rocket. On display at ground level were Aurora 7, the Mercury capsule flown on the second US manned orbital flight; full-scale models of an X-15 aircraft, an Agena upper stage; a Gemini spacecraft; an Apollo command/service module, and a Lunar Excursion Module. Replicas of unmanned spacecraft included lunar probe Ranger VII; Mariner II and Mariner IV; Syncom, Telstar I, and Echo II communications satellites; Explorer I and Explorer XVI; and Tiros and Nimbus weather satellites.[30]

New York State Pavilion

New York played host to the fair at its six-million-dollar open-air pavilion called the "Tent of Tomorrow." Designed by famed modernist architect Philip Johnson, the 350-foot-by-250-foot pavilion was supported by sixteen 100-foot-high concrete columns, from which a 50,000-square-foot roof of polychrome tiles was suspended. Complementing the pavilion were the fair's three high-spot observation towers, two of which had cafeterias in their in-the-round observation-deck crowns. The pavilion's main floor, used for local art and industry displays including a 26-foot scale reproduction of the New York State Power Authority's St. Lawrence hydroelectric plant, comprised a 9,000-square-foot terrazzo replica of the official Texaco highway map of New York State, displaying the map's cities, towns, routes and Texaco gas stations in 567 mosaic panels.[31] An idea floated after the fair to use the floor for the World Trade Center did not materialize. The Fair was held in New York in honor of the 300th Anniversary of the naming of New York when King Charles II sent an English fleet to reclaim it from the Dutch in 1664. Prince James, the Duke of York named it New York from New Amsterdam.

Other state pavilions

Wisconsin Pavilion

Wisconsin exhibited the "World's Largest Cheese." Florida brought a dolphin show, flamingos, a talented cockatoo from Miami's Parrot Jungle, and water skiers to New York. Oklahoma gave weary fairgoers a restful park to relax in. Missouri displayed the state's space-related industries. Visitors could dine at Hawaii's "Five Volcanoes" restaurant.

New York City Pavilion

At the New York City pavilion, the "Panorama of the City of New York", a huge scale model of the City was on display, complete with a simulated helicopter ride around the metropolis for easy viewing.[32] Left over from the 1939 Fair, this building had also hosted the United Nations from 1947 to 1952. And prior to 1947 it was used partially as a recreational public roller skating rink.

Bourbon Street Pavilion

Bourbon Street Pavilion

Louisiana had a pavilion called "Louisiana's Bourbon Street" (later renamed to just "Bourbon Street"), which was inspired by New Orleans' French Quarter. It started off with financial trouble, not being able to complete its construction and subsequently filing for bankruptcy. A private company, called Pavilion Property, bought up the assets and assumed its debts. This prompted Louisiana Governor John McKeithen to sever all ties and withdraw state's sanction, leaving the pavilion completely to private enterprise.

Special media attention was given to a racially integrated minstrel show, that was intended to be satirical anti-bigotry, called "America, Be Seated", produced by Mike Todd Jr. During the opening of the fair, several civil rights protests were staged by members of the NAACP, who believed that the "minstrel-style" show was demeaning to African-Americans.

The pavilion included ten theater restaurants, which served a variety of Creole food, a Jazz club called "Jazzland" which hosted live jazz artists, miniature Mardi Gras parades, a teenage dancing venue, a voodoo shop, and a doll museum. Due to the presence of the various bars, the pavilion was especially popular at night. Notable go-go dancer Candy Johnson headlined a show at a venue called "Gay New Orleans Nightclub". Near the closure of the fair, the pavilion was reported to have achieved the highest gross income of any single commercial pavilion at the fair. The 26-year-old director of operations, Gordon Novel, was called an "Entrepreneurial Prodigy & Boy Wonder" in Variety for his accomplishments.[33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43]

American industry in the spotlight

General Motors Pavilion

Concept car inside the General Motors Pavilion

At the New York World's Fair of 1939/1940, industrial exhibitors played a major role by hosting huge, elaborate exhibits. Many of them returned to the New York World's Fair of 1964/1965 with even more elaborate versions of the shows they had presented 25 years earlier. The most notable of these was General Motors Corporation whose Futurama, a show in which visitors seated in moving chairs glided past elaborately detailed miniature 3D model scenery showing what life might be like in the "near-future", proved to be the fair's most popular exhibit. Nearly 26 million people took the journey into the future during the fair's two-year run.

IBM Pavilion

The IBM Corporation had a popular pavilion, where a giant 500-seat grandstand called the "People Wall" was pushed by hydraulic rams high up into an ellipsoidal theater designed by Eero Saarinen. There, a film by Charles and Ray Eames titled Think was shown on fourteen large and eight small screens, illuminating the workings of computer logic. At ground level beneath the theater, visitors could explore Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond (an exhibit of mathematical models and curiosities) and view the Mathematics Peep Show (a series of short films illustrating basic mathematical concepts).[44] IBM also demonstrated handwriting recognition on a mainframe computer that would look up what happened on a particular date that a person wrote down—for many visitors, this was their first hands-on interaction with a computer.

Bell System Pavilion

The Bell System (prior to its break up into regional companies) hosted a 15-minute ride in moving armchairs depicting the history of communications in dioramas and film. Other Bell exhibits included the Picturephone as well as a demonstration of the computer modem. DuPont presented a musical review by composer Michael Brown called "The Wonderful World of Chemistry". At Parker Pen's exhibit, a computer would make a match to an international penpal.

Westinghouse Pavilion

Westinghouse Pavilion

The Westinghouse Corporation planted a second time capsule next to the 1939 one; today both Westinghouse Time Capsules are marked by a monument southwest of the Unisphere which is to be opened in the year 6939. Some of its contents were a World's Fair Guidebook, an electric toothbrush, credit cards (relatively new at the time) and a 50-star United States flag.


The Sinclair Oil Corporation sponsored "Dinoland", featuring life-size replicas of nine different dinosaurs, including the corporation's signature Brontosaurus.[45] The statues were created by Louis Paul Jonas Studios in Mahopac, New York.[46][47]

Ford Motor Company Pavilion

The Ford Motor Company introduced the Ford Mustang automobile to the public at its pavilion on April 17, 1964. The Ford pavilion featured the "Ford's Magic Skyway" ride, in which guests rode in ford vehicles past scenes featuring dinosaurs, cavemen, and a futuristic cityscape.[48]

Chunky Candy Corporation Pavilion

The Chunky Candy Corporation put on what was then a state-of-the-art, transparent display of candy manufacturing in full sight for visitors, where they were able to view "all the steps in a highly automated process..."[49]

The Pavilion also included an interactive sculpture playground, 'Sculpture Continuum,' designed by Oliver O'Connor Barrett."The individual sculptures were assembled in a particular array so that peepholes in the pieces provided sight lines that resulted in composite forms becoming visible to the viewer."[50]


The fair was also a showplace for independent films. One of the most noted was a religious film titled Parable, which showed at the Protestant Pavilion. It depicted humanity as a traveling circus and Christ as a clown.[51] This marked the beginning of a new depiction of Jesus,[52] and was the inspiration for the musical Godspell. Parable later went on to be honored at Cannes, as well as the Edinburgh Film Festival and Venice Film Festival.[52] Another religious film was presented by the evangelist Billy Graham (who had sponsored his own pavilion) called Man in the 5th Dimension, which was shot in the 70mm Todd-AO widescreen process for exclusive presentation in a specially designed theater equipped with audio equipment that enabled viewers to listen to the film in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish.[53] The 13 and one-half minute film Man's Search for Happiness was made for the Mormon Pavilion[54] and was shown within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for decades.

The surprise hit of the fair was a non-commercial movie short presented by the SC Johnson Company (S.C. Johnson Wax) called To Be Alive!. The film celebrated the joy of life found worldwide and in all cultures, and it would later win a special award from the New York Film Critics Circle and an Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject).

Disney influence

Fountains and a reflecting pool mark the approach to the Unisphere

The fair also is remembered as the venue Walt Disney used to design and perfect his system of "Audio-Animatronics", in which a combination of electromechanical actuators and computers controls the movement of lifelike robots to act out scenes.[55] WED Enterprises designed and created four shows at the fair:

  • In "Pepsi Presents Walt Disney's 'It's a Small World' - a Salute to UNICEF and the World's Children" at the Pepsi pavilion, animated dolls and animals frolicked in a spirit of international unity accompanying a boat ride around the world. The song was written by the Sherman Brothers. Each of the animated dolls had an identical face, originally designed by New York (Valley Stream) artist Gregory S. Marinello in partnership with Walt Disney himself.
  • General Electric sponsored "Progressland", where an audience seated in a revolving auditorium (the "Carousel of Progress") viewed an audio-animatronic presentation of the progress of electricity in the home. The Sherman Brothers song "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" was composed for this attraction. The highlight of the exhibit demonstrated a brief plasma "explosion" of controlled nuclear fusion. The crowd-pleasing loud crack that was produced could be heard even on the line outside in the neighboring Travelers Insurance pavilion.
  • Ford Motor Company presented "Ford's Magic Skyway", a WED Imagineering designed pavilion, which was the second most popular exhibit at the fair. It featured 50 actual (motorless) convertible Ford vehicles, including Ford Mustangs, in an early prototype of what would become the PeopleMover ride system. Audience members entered the vehicles on a main platform as they moved slowly along the track. The ride moved the audience through scenes featuring life-sized audio-animatronic dinosaurs and cavemen. Walt Disney Productions had earlier been asked by General Motors to produce their exhibit, which also featured a similar ride and dioramas, but Disney had declined this job.

After the fair, there was some discussion of the Disney company retaining these exhibits on-site and converting Flushing Meadows Park into an East Coast version of Disneyland, but this idea was abandoned. Instead, Disney relocated several of these exhibits to Disneyland in Anaheim, California and subsequently replicated them at other Disney theme parks. Today's Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida is essentially the realization of the original concept of an "East Coast Disneyland" with Epcot Center designed as a "permanent" world's fair.[56]

All four attractions from 1964 are still represented in one way or another: Two attractions from the fair are relatively unchanged, including a replica of "It's a small world" and the original (albeit updated) Carousel of Progress. Versions of "It's a small world" are an attraction at all five Disney Magic Kingdom-style parks, and its theme song is among the most widely known on the planet.

The two remaining attractions exist as evolutions of the originals. The dinosaurs from Ford's Magic Skyway became the Disneyland Railroad Primeval World diorama, and the motorized tires embedded in the track which propelled and regulated the speed of ride vehicles inspired Disneyland's PeopleMover, and later the Tomorrowland Transit Authority of Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Kingdom. "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" was expanded into The Hall of Presidents.

Meanwhile, Disneyland still hosts the original "It's a small world" and "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" transferred from New York, as well as the now-unused track of the original Disneyland PeopleMover based on the Ford's Magic Skyway. The original Carousel of Progress was first moved to Disneyland in 1967 and then to its current home at the (Florida) Magic Kingdom in 1973.

Disney later used technologies developed for the fair to create the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Epcot Center's original attractions borrowed heavily from the audio-animatronic advances of the fair and its general design guidelines.

Failure of amusements

The Krofft's "Les Poupées de Paris Pavilion"

One of the fair's major crowd-attracting and financial shortcomings was the absence of a honky-tonk atmosphere engendered by midways, and this was another thing that irked the BIE, which insisted that all officially sanctioned fairs have a midway. What amusements the fair actually had ended up being largely dull. The Meadow Lake Amusement Area was not easily accessible, and officials objected to shows being advertised.

Furthermore, although the Amusement Area was supposed to remain open for four hours after the exhibits closed at 10 pm, the fair presented a fountain-and-fireworks show every night at 9 pm at the Pool of Industry. Fairgoers would see this show and then leave the fair rather than head to the Amusement Area; one was hard pressed to see anyone on the fairgrounds by midnight.

The fair's big entertainment spectacles, including the "Wonder World" at the Meadow Lake Amphitheater, "To Broadway with Love" in the Texas Pavilion, and Dick Button's "Ice-travaganza" in the New York City Pavilion, all closed ahead of schedule, with heavy losses. It became apparent that fairgoers did not go to the fair for its entertainment value, especially as there was plenty of entertainment in Manhattan.[57]

A notable exception to this situation was Les Poupées de Paris (The Dolls of Paris), an adults-only musical puppet show created, produced and directed by Sid and Marty Krofft. This show, modeled after the Paris revues Lido and Folies Bergère, was heavily attended, and financially successful.[58]

Controversial ending

The fair ended in controversy over allegations of financial mismanagement. Controversy had plagued it during much of its two-year run. The Fair Corporation had taken in millions of dollars in advance ticket sales for both the 1964 and 1965 seasons. However, the receipts of these sales were booked entirely against the first season of the fair.[5] This made it appear that the fair had plenty of operating cash when, in fact, it was borrowing from the second season's gate to pay the bills. Before and during the 1964 season, the fair spent much money despite attendance that was below expectations. By the end of the 1964 season, Moses and the press began to realize that there would not be enough money to pay the bills and the fair teetered on bankruptcy.[5] In March 1965 a group of bankers and politicians asked showman Billy Rose to take over the fair, which he declined stating: "I'd rather be hit by a baseball bat" and "cancer in its last stages never attracted me very much".[34][59]

While the 1939–1940 New York World's Fair returned 40 cents on the dollar to bond investors, the 1964/1965 fair returned only 19.2 cents on the dollar.[5]

On-site legacy

The Unisphere on July 31, 2010

New York City was left with a much improved Flushing Meadows Park following the fair, taking possession of the park from the Fair Corporation in June 1967. Today, it is heavily used for both walking and recreation. The paths and their names remain almost unchanged from the days of the fair.

At the center of the park stands the symbol of "Man's Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe" – the fair's Unisphere symbol, depicting our earth of "The Space Age". The Unisphere was made famous again in 1997 when it was featured in the film Men in Black (in the film, The Unisphere is destroyed by a crashing space ship). The Unisphere has become a symbol of Queens, and has appeared on the cover of the borough's telephone directory books.

The city also inherited a multimillion-dollar Science Museum and Space Park exhibiting the rockets and vehicles used in America's early space exploration projects. The Space Park deteriorated due to neglect, but in 2004 the surviving rockets were restored and placed back on display. The outdoors exhibit is now part of the expanded New York Hall of Science, a portion of whose building is also a remnant of the fair.

The carousel that was the centerpiece of Carousel Park in the Lake Amusement Area (which was previously two carousels from Coney Island that were merged for the fair) was relocated to the former Transportation Area outside of the Queens Zoo in the park where it still operates today.

Ruins of the observatory towers in 2006

Both the New York State Pavilion and the United States Pavilion were retained for future use. No reuse was ever found for the U.S. Pavilion, however, and it became severely deteriorated and vandalized; the U.S. Pavilion building was ultimately demolished in 1977. The New York State Pavilion found no residual use other than as TV and movie sets, such as an episode of McCloud; for The Wiz; and part of the setting (and the plot) for Men in Black. In the decades after the fair closed, it remained an abandoned and badly neglected relic, with its roof gone and the once bright floors and walls almost faded away. Once the red ceiling tiles were removed from the pavilion in the late 1970s for safety reasons, the Texaco terrazzo floor map of New York State was subject to the elements of weather and was ruined. In 1994, the Queens Theatre took over the Circarama adjacent to the towers and continues to operate there, using the ruined state pavilion as a storage depot. Some conservation and restoration efforts were demonstrated in 2008 by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, and a handful of local groups advocated for funds to complete the floor's restoration. The New York State Pavilion was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.[60] In the fall of 2013, New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation announced plans to restore the pavilion with new landscaped paths and event spaces at an estimated cost of $73 million, as opposed to the $14 million cost to demolish the structure.[31]

Nearby, the fair's Heliport has been repurposed as an elevated banquet/catering facility called Terrace on the Park.

Of the two structures from the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair that survived though the 1964-65 Fair—the New York City Pavilion, and the Billy Rose Aquacade and Amphitheater—only the New York City building is still standing. The Amphitheater fell into disrepair in the 1980s and was torn down in 1996. The former New York City Pavilion is now home to the Queens Museum, which also continues to display the multimillion-dollar scale model "Panorama of the City of New York", updated from time to time.[32] As of 2012, the historic 1939 structure also has an excellent display of memorabilia from the two world's fairs. For many years, the section where the early United Nations General Assembly once met was reverted to its historic role as an ice skating rink, but in 2009 the skating rink was moved to a new recreation center across the park. In April 2011, the Queens Museum broke ground on an ambitious expansion project at the old skating rink that almost doubled its floor space, bringing the total to about 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2).[61]

In 1978, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, as it is now called, became the home of the United States Tennis Association, and the US Open tennis tournament is played there annually. The former Singer Bowl, later renamed Louis Armstrong Stadium, was the tournament's primary venue, until the larger Arthur Ashe Stadium was built on the site of the former Federal Pavilion and opened in August 1997. Collectively, the complex is called the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Shea Stadium

Shea Stadium, while not part of the fairgrounds proper, was listed in the fair's maps and was served by the same subway line. During the 1964 and 1965 baseball seasons, the New York Mets added a World's Fair commemorative patch to the left sleeve of their home jersey and the right sleeve of their road jersey.[62]

The stadium—with its distinctive blue-and-orange steel panels that matched the colors of the World's Fair girding its exterior—opened five days before the Fair on April 17, 1964 at a site across Roosevelt Avenue from the Fairgrounds (The panels were removed in 1980). The New York Mets baseball team moved to the stadium from the aging Polo Grounds in Manhattan. The building then served as home for the Mets from 1964 to 2008, when it was demolished and the space used for parking for the adjacent new stadium (Citi Field) in 2009. The stadium played host to the World Series four times, in 1969, 1973, 1986, and 2000.

Shea Stadium also served as the home of the New York Jets from 1964 to 1983, the New York Yankees in 1974 and 1975 while Yankee Stadium was being renovated, and the New York Giants in 1975. In the Mets' new ballpark, Citi Field, there is a food court called the "World's Fare Market" which pays homage to the team's historic connection to the fair. The Unisphere and the top of the New York State Pavilion can be seen from the food court entrance/exit.[63]

Reuse of pavilions and major exhibits elsewhere

Aerial view of some remaining structures in Flushing Meadows in 2004, including the ruins of the New York State Pavilion in the foreground

Like its predecessor, the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair lost money. It was unable to repay its financial backers their investment, and it became embroiled in legal disputes with its creditors until 1970, when the books were finally closed and the New York World's Fair 1964–1965 Corporation was dissolved. Most of the pavilions constructed for the fair were demolished within six months following the fair's close. While only a handful of pavilions and exhibits survived, some of them traveled great distances and found new homes following the fair:

  • The Austria pavilion became a ski lodge at Cockaigne Ski Resort in western New York. On January 25, 2011 the building was destroyed by fire.[64]
  • The Wisconsin pavilion's front teepee-like portion became a radio station in Neillsville, Wisconsin. The pavilion's large rear structure that formed a squat-looking "H" (if seen from above) is the combined kitchen, dining hall, and recreation hall of Camp Ramah in upstate Lakewood, Pennsylvania.
  • The US Royal tire-shaped Ferris wheel was relocated to become a landmark along Interstate 94 in the Metro Detroit Downriver community of Allen Park, Michigan.[65]
  • The Pavilion of Spain relocated to St. Louis, Missouri and is now a part of a Hilton Hotel.
  • The Parker Pen pavilion became offices for the Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.
  • The Johnson Wax disc-shaped "Golden Rondelle Theater" was reworked by Taliesin Associated Architects,[66] and joined the S.C. Johnson Wax complex in Racine, Wisconsin,[67] which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.[66]
  • The chapel and stained glass windows from the Vatican pavilion were built into a Roman Catholic church called Saint Mary Mother of the Redeemer in Groton, Connecticut.[68]
  • The Christian Science pavilion became a church in Poway, California. The structure was demolished in 2006.
  • The Mormon pavilion became a church in Plainview, New York, dedicated December 2, 1967 and still in use.
  • A large oil painting of a woman, painted in 1964 by Roy Lichtenstein and titled New York World's Fair, is in the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • The carillon from the Coca-Cola Pavilion was moved to Stone Mountain Park, near Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond, an interactive exhibit from the IBM Pavilion, was relocated to the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, but is no longer there. An identical copy of the exhibit was obtained by the New York Hall of Science around 2000, and remains on display not far from the site of the original 1964 installation.
  • For many years the fair's amateur radio station console was used by the American Radio Relay League. Later sold, in 2006 it was purchased by a Collins Radio collector in Texas.[69]
  • The illuminated "G" from the large fiberglass Rocket Thrower sculpture.)
  • Sinclair Oil "Dinoland" spent a period of time as a traveling exhibit. The Stegosaurus model was eventually donated to Dinosaur National Monument, where it is still on display to this day.
  • As noted, the Disney-created attraction It's a small world was transferred to Disneyland, along with the "Carousel of Progress" and the first Abraham Lincoln audio-animatronics figure for the original Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln show. Scenery and the audio-animatronics dinosaurs from the Ford Magic Skyway show were installed in the Disneyland Railroad's Primeval World Diorama, and the attraction's actual WEDway ride system was improved upon and used for Tomorrowland's PeopleMover.
  • Some of the light fixtures that lined the walkways can be found still functioning at Penn Hills Resort in the Pocono Mountains, Analomink, Pennsylvania, and the Orange County Fairgrounds in Middletown, New York. Until 2011, Canobie Lake Park in Salem, New Hampshire also had the Illuminators, but they have since been replaced. Canobie Lake Park also has been reusing street mailbox-shaped trash cans from the World's Fair.
  • The Skyway cable car tower structures and gondolas were moved to Six Flags Great Adventure (at that time called Great Adventure) in New Jersey for use from 1974 to the present.[70]
  • The New England Pavilion was disassembled and moved to South Portland, Maine where most of it was reassembled and still in use today as a small shopping mall at 50 Maine Mall Road.
  • The World's Fair Building/Churchill Tribute[71] was dismantled after the fair and later reassembled as the aviary for the Flushing Meadows zoo (now Queens Zoo). It is still in use.[72]
  • The Triumph of Man exhibit from the Traveler's Insurance Pavilion[73] was on display at the original location of the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio, from 1966 to 1999 when the museum moved. It was revamped as the Time Tunnel in 1983.[74][75][76]
  • The Belgian Village carousel after the 1964 World's Fair went to Montreal, Canada, where it was part of Expo '67 in the Carrefour International at the LaRonde amusement area. After that fair closed, the ride was moved into the Kiddieland area of the now-permanent LaRonde Amusement Park. The 1885 "Le Galopent" carousel was restored in 2008 and still turns in LaRonde today, which is now owned by Six Flags.
  • The R33 and R36 cars built for the IRT Flushing Line (#7) subway route that served the 1964 fair ran the route for over 39 years afterwards, with some still in revenue service through 2003. Some of the rolling stock still survives today in maintenance work use or in storage. At least one of these cars is in the collection of the New York Transit Museum, and usually is on display there. The rest of the fleet has been sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean as part of the "Redbird Reef" off the coast of the Northeast US, to serve as an artificial barrier reef habitat for marine life.

Cultural references

Contents of the 1964 Westinghouse Time Capsule

In advertising

  • A Stella Artois commercial in 2012 featured Belgium and the beer at the World's Fair with Japanese calculators and Soviet rocketry; however, the only nation the ad featured that was actually at the Fair was Japan.

In artifacts and memorabilia

Commemorative postage stamps were produced for the fair, souvenir medals were issued, and a large amount of memorabilia remains in private hands. There is significant interest in collecting these pieces. Items of all types, many quite inexpensive, frequently appear in sales.

The Queens Museum has on permanent display a selection of some 900 items from its archive of 10,000 artifacts from both the 1964/1965 and 1939/1940 World's Fairs.[77]

In film and documentaries

  • The fair was the destination of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters aboard their psychedelic bus "Further", in a road movie filmed in 1964 but not officially released until 2011's Magic Trip documentary.
  • The fair was the inspiration and design for the Gotham City's World Fair in the animated film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993).
  • Connecticut Public Television produced The 1964 World's Fair, a documentary about the fair narrated by Judd Hirsch (1996).[78]
  • In the film Agent K).
  • In the movie Iron Man 2 (2010), Flushing Meadow Park is where the fictional "Stark Expo 2010" and "Stark Expo '74" take place, with the Unisphere featuring as a key element at several points in the film.
  • The movie Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) includes scenes of an expo showing the Unisphere, at a fictional "Modern Marvels of Tomorrow" exposition but the Unisphere would not have been present at that time, regardless, as the movie was set in the WWII era.[79]
  • In the two minutes documentary Think Back: New York World’s Fair, 1964 (2014) the New York Times commentator Sam Tanenhaus explained why even though the organizers of the New York World’s Fair billed the event as one for the ages, it failed to leave a lasting mark on the culture.[80]
  • The fair features heavily in the 2015 Disney film Tomorrowland. In the film, the Hall of Invention and its invention competition are used as a front by Tomorrowland recruiters to identify potential contributors to the future, and the fair's It's a Small World attraction is portrayed as concealing a hidden entrance to Tomorrowland, accessible by the possession of the film's iconic "T" pin.

In games

  • The Unisphere, observatory towers, and New York state pavilion can be seen as a site in Grand Theft Auto IV (2008) as part of "Meadows Park" in the borough of Dukes.

In music

  • Brooklyn-based indie band They Might Be Giants has paid homage to the fair several times, with member John Linnell having been there when he was a child:[81]
    • The band made the music video for their single "Don't Let's Start" (1987) at the former fair site
    • The song "Ana Ng" (1988) includes the line "All alone at the Sixty-Four World's Fair / Eighty dolls yelling 'Small Girl After All'", which is a direct reference to the fair and the "It's a small world" attraction. It also mentions the DuPont Pavilion.
    • The band performed a cover of the theme song to the Carousel of Progress ("There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow") on the soundtrack to the film Meet the Robinsons (2007).
  • Queens-based rap duo M.O.P. appears in front of the Unisphere throughout the video for their song "World Famous".
  • Marc Cohn's song "Perfect Love", released in 1991, tells the story of a young couple who "worked one summer together at the '64 World's Fair". The lyrics also make reference to some of the fair's attractions.

In television

(Alphabetical, by series)

  • The pilot episode of Batman: "Hi Diddle Riddle" (1966), opens with a daring robbery at the Gotham City World's Fair, using stock footage from the 1964 New York World's Fair.
  • The Riddler hides in the World's Fair in one episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
  • The Unisphere and Tent of Tomorrow in Flushing Meadows, and part of World's Fair park, appeared in CSI: NY's season 6 episode "Manhattanhenge" (2009).
  • The Unisphere and observation towers are a backdrop during a portion of the opening credits to the CBS sitcom The King of Queens (1998-2007).
  • The Flight of the Conchords (2007-2008) TV show often filmed at Flushing Meadows Park, with the Unisphere and observatory towers as a backdrop.
  • The Simpsons episode "Marge vs. the Monorail" (1993) symbolized a poorly built monorail system starting to decay by showing the decal that says "Springfield Monorail" coming undone, revealing that the original decal read "1964 World's Fair Model".
  • The Flintstones and the Rubbles visit the 1964-5 New York World's Fair via a time machine in The Flintstones episode 5.18, "Time Machine" (airdate January 15, 1965).
  • In the "Get Shredder!" episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987), Shredder and Krang use an abandoned building from the 1964 World's Fair as their hideout when they lose access to the Technodrome, which has ended up stuck in Dimension X.[82]

In theater

  • The Woody Allen play, Don't Drink the Water (1966) includes the line "I'm a failure ... not just a little failure - I'm a big failure - like the World's Fair".


See also



  • World's Fair Legacies William P. Young.[83]
  • Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Today William P. Young.[84]
  • International Participation in the New York World's Fair 1964–1965 Sharyn Elise Jackson.[85]
  • Editors, Time-Life Books Official Guide: 1964–1965 New York World's Fair . Book Sales: 1963–1965.
  • Third Supplemental Report on New York World's Fair 1964–1965 Corporation Covering Operations from Inception to December 31, 1966. October 26, 1967.[86]
  • [87]
  • New York Public Library archives of '64–'65 World's Fair. Manuscripts & Archives Division of Fair Administration, Construction, Maintenance, Participation, and Public Relations.[88]
  • Gordon, John Steele, "The World's Fair: It was a disaster from the beginning," American Heritage Magazine, October 2006, Volume 57, Issue 5.


  1. ^ Archdiocese History, Archdiocese of New York. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
  2. ^ Gordon, John Steele (October 2006). "The World's Fair: It was a disaster from the beginning". American Heritage.
  3. ^ [1]. The New York Times.
  4. ^ Reprint This articles includes a full list of the original members of the Fair committee, mostly corporate and union leaders.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h
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  25. ^ see photo at for the "Bel-Gem" Brussels Waffle sign
  26. ^ The New York Times. September 29, 1964. p. 21.
  27. ^ The New York Times. May 31, 1964. p. R1.
  28. ^ The New York Times. September 12, 1964. p. 21.
  29. ^ The New York Times. October 16, 1964. p. 31.
  30. ^ Stanton, Jeffrey (2006). "Showcasing Technology at the 1964–1965 New York World's Fair".
  31. ^ a b "Long-Shuttered N.Y. State Pavilion In Queens To Reopen For 3 Hours Next Month," CBS New York, March 25, 2014
  32. ^ a b
  33. ^
  34. ^ a b
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  51. ^ Parable (1964) - IMDb
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  53. ^ "Man in the 5th Dimension". The 70mm Newsletter.
  54. ^ "Legacy of the Mormon Pavilion - Ensign October 1989". Retrieved April 4, 2012.
  55. ^ The History of Disney's Audio Animatronics - Disney Blog at Magical Kingdoms
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  57. ^ "But Where's the Fun? Lost in a $7 Million Fiasco" Life. August 7, 1964. pp. 85–87.
  58. ^ "Adults Only" Time
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  60. ^
  61. ^
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^
  65. ^
  66. ^ a b
  67. ^ Bill Cotter, Bill Young, The 1964-1965 New York World's Fair: Creation and Legacy, Arcadia Publishing, 2008, p. 90.
  68. ^
  69. ^ QST, September 2009, pp. 92–3, "Vintage Radio: Displaying Your Collection"
  70. ^ "1964 World's Fair Sky Ride at Great Adventure".
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  73. ^
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  85. ^ [2] Archived November 5, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
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  87. ^
  88. ^ [3] Archived March 27, 2009 at the Wayback Machine

External links

  • New York State Pavilion Project
  • New York 1964–1965 World's Fair
  • (1964/1965 New York World's Fair Website)
  • "Peace Through Understanding" – A New York World's Fair Community and Electronic Bulletin Board
  • "BBQ Productions" – An independent film production company that spent 15 years to produce a documentary film about The 1964/65 New York world's Fair
  • Bygone LI 64 Worlds Fair Page
  • '64 World's Fair Guide book multiple PDF document of complete guide booklet.
  • 1964-'65 New York page on
  • A Collection of Photos on flickr


  • Documentary film about the 1964 New York World's Fair
  • Bring Back the New York World's Fair 1964 on YouTube
  • Black-and-white newsreel of 1964 World's Fair on YouTube
  • The 1964–1965 New York World's Fair Remembered on YouTube
  • 1964–1965 New York World's Fair – A look back slideshow on YouTube
  • New York World's Fair 1964 1965 – New York State Pavilion on YouTube
  • Color home movie of 1964 New York World's Fair exhibits on YouTube
  • Aerial view of the 1964 New York World's Fair showing the pavilions on YouTube
  • Internet Archive: New York World's Fair, 1964/03/02 Newsreel
  • Internet Archive: To The Fair! (Part 1) (1965) Film about a trip to the 1964 New York World's Fair. Part 1
  • Internet Archive: To The Fair! (Part 2) (1965) Film about a trip to the 1964 New York World's Fair. Part 2
  • Internet Archive: 1964 New York World's Fair Report (1961) Film about planning the fair with Robert Moses.
  • Internet Archive: Out Of This World Film about a woman going to the General Motors Pavilion to see the Kitchen of Tomorrow.
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