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Bill Cotter

Restored images of the 1939-40 NYWF

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A few weeks/months ago Bradd Schiffman posted some images of the 1939-40 Fair. I later restored them for him and sent them back for posting, but Bradd hasn't been seem much in these parts. I thought I would post a few now and if people are interested I can add some more. I think you'll find some more details visible in these than what was originally posted.

Bill

4101 - Trylon and Perisphere

4101.jpg

4102 - Court of Power from Perisphere

4102.jpg

4103 - Constitution Hall from Perisphere

4103.jpg

4104 - League of Nations from Perisphere

4104.jpg

4105 - Avenue of Pioneers and massed flags

4105.jpg

4106 - Giant Sundial on Constitution Mall

4106.jpg

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4107 - Court of Power from Perisphere

4107.jpg

4108 - Unique walkway from Perisphere

4108.jpg

4109 - Lagoon in theme center

4109.jpg

4110 - Towards sundial from Perisphere walkway

4110.jpg

4111 - Giant sundial, late afternoon

4111.jpg

4112 - Lagoon from foot bridge

4112.jpg

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Though the Trylon and Perisphere are pretty much inseparatable, the walkway down from the Perisphere (officially named the Helicline) is not often thought of as part of the other two, or as famous.

Nice job on the photos Bill. Looks like they were taken yesterday.

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<!--coloro:blue--><span style="color:blue"><!--/coloro-->Wonderful job, Bill!

It's now as if we can fall through each image into the fair itself.

Truly wonderful images. My thanks to you and Bradd.

I never noticed the overlapping layers of the Perisphere before. It's as if a giant layered long sheets over a chicken wire globe, and then plastered the entire object. (This layering doesn't diminish the magic for me. The architecture would be beautiful if sculpted in play dough.)

I know that many of the statues were of a type of plaster. Were most of the plaster cast statues made of the same type of "staff" that the Columbian exposition used?<!--colorc--></span><!--/colorc-->

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Great photos. Boy they are so sharp and colorful. The 1939 Fair looked very artsy. I especially like the picture of the compass. For some reason when I am at FMCP I lose my sense of North & South. That photo will help me now.

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A few weeks/months ago Bradd Schiffman posted some images of the 1939-40 Fair. I later restored them for him and sent them back for posting, but Bradd hasn't been seem much in these parts.

Yea, what ever happened to me anyway? Last I heard, I had just finished a huge feature on the House of Good Taste and had shipped it off to Bill Young for post-production. Hope I'm doing ok. Anybody know if I've found a job yet?

ps: Bill, I STILL can't get over how sharp, clear and detailed you made these slides!!!

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I enjoy seeing photographs of the first great fair held in Queens, NY. Did anyone notice one of our famous Art Deco flag polls in the photo titled “New”? The polls are in their first location, which is a good distance from where they stand today.

By the way the photo titled “4102 - Court of Power from Perisphere” was taken in 1940.

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Bill, the key as you put it is the Parachute Jump. In an earlier topic, we talked about the relocation of the Parachute Jump between seasons. The photo in question shows the jump close to the center of the fair. If you took the same photo in 1939, the jump would not be visible.

Mico-quiz, what is missing from the maps ‘Plan of the Fair’ and ‘Access to the Fair’ found in both the 1964 and 1965 Official Guides?

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The "under side" of the Helicline ramp (picture 4108) looks really shiny. Was it polished aluminum? It really catches one's attention next to all those structures with the white plaster/stucco surfaces.

Looking at the sundial in picture 4106, I can't discern any shadow. I guess the park's groundhogs took a look and went back to sleep for a few more weeks.

Did they have clocks displayed around the fairgounds in '39-40 (like '64-65 had the Seiko displays and the time displayed on the General Foods Arches), or did people have to rely on this sun dial? Or maybe they didn't want people to be so time concious during their visit to the Fair. Maybe life was as much slower in '39 compared to '64, as '64 was compared to today.

I also see a Brass Rail in one of these pictures. What was the popular gastronomic revelation of this Fair?

'64-65 had the Belgian Waffles, and St. Louis 1904 suposedly debuted the ice cream cone. What was "must have one" in New York '39?

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There was a statement, above, about the Perisphere. It was actually surfaced with gypsum board coated with a type of plaster and it was very temporary. By 1940, significant repairs were necessary. The Fair was originally planned for just one season and the winter months of 1939-40 caused noteworthy damage to the surface of the Perisphere. (Most of the statuary was plaster but not of the type ("staff") used at the World's Columbian Exposition. It still amazes me that the art work was created with the clear intention that it would be destroyed at the close of the Fair.)

The Perisphere was used as a projection screen of sorts. Moving images of clouds were sometimes projected on the pure white surface at night. During Halloween, the image of a jack-o-lantern was projected making the entire Perisphere resemble an enormous jack-o-lantern as seen from the Lagoon of Nations.

The Helicline was, indeed, a distinct aspect of the Theme Centre. Jason Robards discusses the Helicline in the film he narrates, and refers to it as a "ramp" exiting the Perisphere--"only it wasn't a ramp; it was a Helicline." Many Fair visitors remembered the Helicline as the location for the most dramatic Fair vistas. It also added a great deal to the geometric beauty of the Trylon and Perisphere. These photographs verify this.

Those photographs are outstanding. I often think of the Fair in the monochrome images of Richard Wurts (The New York World's Fair in 144 Photographs). This Fair, in these images, looks so substantial, so inspiring. It was Gotham and Oz rolled into one. The Art Deco splendor reflects the optimism of the era and the attention to precise detail is a hallmark of a generation which understood who they were and where they were going. When FDR surveyed these very scenes in 1939, he stated that Americans looked to the future and that "our wagon is hitched to a star." This Fair is the embodiment of that spirit.

Thank you for posting these. They are remarkable images.

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<!--coloro:blue--><span style="color:blue"><!--/coloro-->I think of things beautiful and temporary.

Ray Bradbury wrote a short story once about a man who was trying, unsuccessfully, to obtain a piece of art by Picasso. One day, by chance, the man came upon Picasso drawing in the sand. The man stopped, and observed the swirls and shapes before him. He thought such beautiful, and his mind became lost in their trigonometry. Then the surf erased them from his eyes.

In so many ways we are looking at art drawn on sand.

It's amazing to me that the statuary of the 39-40 fair lasted as long as it did.

I am so glad that we have some glimpse of it, and both "our" fairs. <!--colorc--></span><!--/colorc-->

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Thanks for posting these Bill, Rose you read my mind they are so colorful and clear I want to jump into them. Although I will always be partial to 64-65 because I was there, I can see why people called this "the great fair". Hard to believe 2 six month sessions and then gone.

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The Perisphere was used as a projection screen of sorts.  Moving images of clouds were sometimes projected on the pure white surface at night.

67074_WF41_Night_Illumination_of_the_Trylon_and_Perisphere.jpg

This is a postcard. What looks like "graffiti stripes" on the upper part of the Trylon are actually a result of running the postcard the wrong way through the roller postmarking machine at the Post Office, which produced the "killer" stamp defacing bars on the Trylon.

In any case, this picture clearly shows the 'moving clouds' which were projected onto the surface of the Perisphere.

The back of this postcard says:

Bathed in warm glowing colors, the Theme Center of the Fair by night gives the visitor a beautiful, unreal, effect of a fairy-land fantasy.

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Notice that this postcard appears to show the trees illuminated from underneath.

I was scanning some slides from the '64-65 Fair yesterday, and came across a couple of different ones- daytime views- which appear to show some kind of devices along the Hoover Promenade (next to the Fountains of the Fairs) which may have served the same purpose. Did the '64-65 Fair light up their trees from underneath, much like the '39-40 Fair?

14_Hoover_Promenade.jpg

14a_Hoover_Promenade.jpg

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Another postcard showing the tree illumination in '39-40- - -

9A-H_710_Trylon_and_Perisphere_at_Night.jpg

On this one, it says on the back:

This breathless photo-extravaganza of lighting shows the towering Trylon and the Perisphere at night. Buildings and even trees are alive with light. The trees get their fantastic incandescent effects from capillary mercury tubes (one of the newest sources of light) hidden in the ground.

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This 1964 photo appears to show the underside of the trees bathed in a green glow very much like that '39-40 picture with the clouds projected on the Perisphere.

063_-_Fountains_of_the_Fairs_-_night.jpg

Bill Cotter photo, Set 52, picture #063

Maybe the "from underneath" nature of light projections like this is why that helicopter film footage that Rose found yesterday seems so much darker. The trees were not lit up from above- they just blended into the blackness, while at street level they glowed with light.

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There a number of night photos of the 1939-40 NYWF at the National Archives. This is probably old news to the older PTU members, but is good stuff for those who have recently joined.

Here is one of the T&P with the clouds Randy spoke of above:

5a30812r.jpg

The Gottscho-Schleisner collection features over 400 B&W and over 180 color photos from the fair.

If only the National Archives would put the 1964-65 collections online. There is a Look Magazine collection taken during the winter of '64-65 that hasn't been offered yet. Some of these photos were used in a magazine article for February 1965. Only 10 or so out of the 980 slides taken were published.

Look Collection Link

There is a film of the Halloween version of the Perisphere from the Medicus Collection at the Prelinger Archives. The image is at the end of the reel.

Have fun,

Randy.

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Do you think they would consider an offer from Bill and I to patriotically donate our services to our country by scanning & restoring these historical slides so that every citizen can enjoy them?

FAT CHANCE!

No, they'll continue to wait on congressional appropriations to hire their own college interns to do it for them, thus providing one more excuse to raise our taxes.

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I thought I would post a few now and if people are interested I can add some more.

Bill, I think it fair to say we are sufficiently interested!

...we're ready for you to post some more...

Bring it on!

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<!--coloro:blue--><span style="color:blue"><!--/coloro-->While searching for information on mercury capillary tube lighting; I found a reference to the color of such lighting, and the use of lighting in the 39-40 fair. Neither reference was more than a few words, but brought to mind two questions.

1) Was the green in the lighting of the trees due to the mercury capillary tubes? (which gave off a greenish glow.) If not, was this lighting done with a filter?

2) Was it true that each zone of the 39-40 fair had some sort of color lighting theme ? If so, what was this theme? (This brings to mind our frequent discussions on the 64-65 luminares.)

In some ways the 39-40 fair is "new" territory. So many things, big and small, are waiting for us to explore<!--colorc--></span><!--/colorc-->.

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