Category:New York Worlds Fair (1939)

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The 1939 New York World's Fair was a massive international exhibition intended to help lift the spirits of the American public after the Great Depression. The Fair's optimistic and forward-looking theme was "The World of Tomorrow", and as well as properly introducing television to the American public for the first time, the Fair also launched the new synthetic fibre Nylon, and the Viewmaster 3D viewer system.

Visual branding

The main visual identity of the Fair was provided by two massive geoemtrical structures situated by each other: the pointy "Trylon" pylon, and the adjacent spherical "Perisphere" building. These two white structures provided an immediately recognisable visual signature for postcards and promotional materials.


Notable models included a massive model railway, the "Futurama" variable-scale model of a fictional part of the US in the future (1960s), and the "Democracity" model of a future (2039) city, housed in the spherical "Perisphere".

Buildings and statuary


  • Administration BuildingHarvey Stevenson, Eastman Studds, Gerald A. Holmes, John A. Thompson, Edgar I. Williams, Richard A. Kimball, Ellery S. Husted
  • Aviation BuildingWilliam Lescaze, J. Gordon Carr
  • Bridge Of TomorrowA. J. Barzaghi, M. L. Radoslovich
  • Business Systems And Insurance BuildingEric Gugler, Slee & Bryson
  • Hall Of Communications BuildingFrancis Keally, Leonard Dean
  • Consumers BuildingFrederic C. Hirons, Peter Copeland
  • Contemporary Arts BuildingFrederick L. Ackerman, Joshua D. Lowenfish, John V. Van Peltv
  • Cosmetics BuildingCross & Cross, John Hironimus
  • Electrical Products BuildingWalker & Gillette
  • Food Building No. 2Aspinwall & Simpson, M. W. Del Gaudio
  • Food Building No. 3Philip L. Goodwin, Eric Kebbon, Edward D. Stone, Richard Boring Snow, Morris Ketchum, Jr.
  • Maritime BuildingEly Jacques Kahn, Muschenhelm and Brounn
  • Health And Education ExhibitsMayers, Murray & Phillip
  • Music BuildingReinhard & Hofmeister
  • Perisphere And TrylonHarrison And Fouilhoux
  • Production And Distribution BuildingCorbett & Macmurray, Robert W. Cutler
  • Textiles BuildingFrederick G. Frost, Sr. & Jr., Ward W. Fenner
  • Chrysler BuildingJames Gamble Rogers
  • Y.M.C.A. Building, Home Furnishings Building, All Gas—Good Housekeeping HomeDwiqht James Baum
  • Federal Building, Section Of Hall Of Nations, View Of The Court Of StatesEgerton Swartout, York And Sawyer, Mckim, Mead & White, Frederick R. King
  • Hall Of PharmacyGeorge L. Paine, Jr., Pleasants Pennington, I. Woodner-Silverman


  • George Washington StatueJames Earle Fraser
  • MithranaAlbert Stewart

Official image gallery

As with other World Fairs of the period, the official images tended to be artist impressions rather than colour photographs: this allowed the Fair's publicity materials to be prepared well in advance. Given the short timescales, some of the exhibits would probably still be being worked on right up until the opening day, making advance photography difficult.

1939 promotional text:

The New York World's Fair 1939

– The "World of Tomorrow" in the Building –

Volumes could be written about the New York World's Fair 1939. Portraying "The World of Tomorrow", it will contain a promise for the Future built with the tools of Today upon the experience of Yesterday.

No worlds fair hasever been attempted on so lavish a scale or with such universal participation. More than sixty nations are expected to exhibit as well as our own Federal Governement, States and Territories and the City of New York. In addition, industry, labor and civic groups – art and science – virtually every interest of mankind will be represented.

More than 200 strikingly designed buildings will house thee fascinating exhibits, each building conforming in beauty and dignity with the Theme Center – the Trylon and Perisphere – giant geometric structures symbolic of man's activities and his aspirations.

Built at a cost of from $125,000,000 to $150,000,000, this greatest of all modern spectacles promises to be not only the most significant world event of 1939 but of many years to come.

1939 review (Model Railway Constructor)

Model Railways at the World's Fair

By "Americana"

THE eyes of the world to-day are all turned towards "The World of To-morrow" – the 1939 New York World's Fair, the largest international exposition in all history, which is expected to be visited by fifty million people before it closes on October 30. The exposition is a city within a city, brilliant by day, dazzling by night, covering an area of 1,216 acres, and representing an investment of nearly £30,000,000. The Americans, renowned as they are in the art of the spectacular, have truly excelled themselves here. More than 10,000 trees and millions of flowers and plants line seventeen miles of beautiful boulevards.

America's ever enterprising Railroads play an importait part in this dreamland of the future. Twenty-seven of the Eastern Railroads have co-operated to sponsor a mighty spectacle of railroading, covering in itself seventeen acres, and including the largest building in the entire Exposition.

The Model Railroad.

Within the Railroad Building has been built what is surely the largest and most impressive model railway in the world. It is in the form of a huge diorama, 160 feet long by 40 feet wide; representing in perspective 50 square miles with 40 miles of track. The model scenery embodies the topographical features of the Eastern states of America, and there is seating capacity enabling 1000 persons to view the presentation at one time.

The layout is in "0" Gauge, to the American standard scale of ¼in. to one foot. There is no unsightly third rail, the whole system being operated on the two-rail or insulated wheel system of power distribution – here surely is the answer to those who condemn this system as being impracticable!

The layout contains more than 3,500 feet of track laid in 70,000 "ties" or sleepers, with a quarter of a million spikes. The line winds through a scenic setting consisting of mountain, forest, valley, river and ocean; more than 1,000 buildings represent cities, factories, stations, car shops, roundhouses, refineries and power stations, whilst 50 locomotives and 500 cars perform the everyday tasks of the railroads in miniature. Model ships sailing over lakes, rivers and estuaries consisting of 7,000 gallons of real water are manipulated by a complicated mechanism below the surface of the vater.

Operation Under All Conditions.

Performances are given hourly, and last for 35 minutes, during which all operations are explained over a loud speaker. The scene opens in the hours of early morning darkness, supposedly at 4 a.m., against the background of a starlit sky, the darkness broken only by the twinkling of the colour light signals and the floodlighting of the freight yards and other scenes of railroad activity. Soon the first streak of dawn glows in the eastern sky, and as the stars fade with the slowly advancing daylight the daily bustle and activity of the railroad swings into its stride. Trains, both main line and local arrive and depart at the terminal. Passenger trains are made up for their runs, road engines run back and forth over a loop to and from the roundhouse, whilst freight is handled through the receiving and classicification yards in specific operations. Every type of freight car is in evidence, hopper, lumber, tank, flat, gondola, box, refrigerator; container and caboose, in-fact every phase in the life of a railroad is reproduced in miniature.

Night Comes Again.

Other features of this wonder exhibit include an operating funicular railway serving a mountain pleasure resort, industrial plants of all kinds with sidings, showing the way the railroads handle grain, food, steel and livestock; also a complete oil refinery, power plant, and cement plant.

At last comes the dramatic finale. In the fast-gathering dusk hundreds of fairy-like lights shine from the windows of the towering sky-scrapers of the great cities and towns; lights glow from the train windows, while a coal-laden steamboat heads way out to sea, guided by the light of tiny flashing beacons. Night has come once more, but the railroads must go on!

Thus closes a beautiful and inspiring representation of but a single day in the life of a vast modern community, surely vividly impressing upon all who witness it how truly the railways are still the life-blood of our present-day civilisation.

— , -, , The Model Railway Constructor, , July, 1939

Main Area

Theme areas

  • Administration Bldg.
  • Arctic Pavilion
  • Army & Navy Camp
  • Art: Contemporary
  • Art: Old Masters
  • Arts
  • Aviation
  • B.M.T Subway Station
  • Boy Scout Camp
  • Building Materials
  • Casino Of Nations
  • Childrens World
  • Communications
  • Constitution Mall
  • Consumers
  • Cosmetics
  • Court Of Peace
  • Cuban Village
  • Democracity
  • Domestic Utilities
  • Electric Farm
  • Electric Utilities
  • Electrical Products
  • Fashions
  • Gardens On Parade
  • Gas Industries
  • Glass
  • Home Furnishings
  • Ind. Subway Station
  • Industrial Science
  • Jewels
  • Maritime
  • Medicine, Public Health
  • Men's Apparel
  • Merrie England
  • Metals
  • New York State Amphitheatre
  • Old New York
  • Operations (Industrial)
  • Petroleum
  • Pharmacy
  • Picnic Grounds
  • Post Office
  • Railroads
  • Rodeo
  • Religion
  • Science, Education
  • Sports
  • Sun Valley
  • Terrace Club
  • Theme Center
  • Town Of Tomorrow
  • World's Fair Music Hall


  • American Radiator
  • American Tel&Tel
  • American Tobacco
  • Beech-Nut
  • Borden Dairy
  • Budd Manufacturing
  • Business Systems And Insurance
  • Carrier Corp
  • Christian Science
  • Chrysler Motors
  • Consolidated Edison
  • Continental Baking
  • Coty
  • Crosley Radio
  • Distilled Spirits Inst.
  • Dupont
  • Eastman Kodak
  • Elgin Watch
  • Equitable Life
  • Firestone
  • Ford
  • General Cigar
  • General Electric
  • General Motors
  • Goodrich
  • Heinz
  • Johns-Manville
  • National Dairy Products
  • Pan-American Wing
  • R.C.A.
  • Schaefer House
  • Standard Brands (Foods)
  • Swift Packing
  • Triangle
  • U.S. Steel
  • Westinghouse
  • WPA Theatre
  • Y.M.C.A.


  • Argentina
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • British Empire
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Czecho-Slovakia
  • Eire (Irish Pavilion)
  • France
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • League Of Nations
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Palestine
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rumania
  • Russia
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • U.S. Government
  • Venezuela

US States:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • New England
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York City
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin


  • Food Hall (×2)
  • Foreign Pavilions
  • Gate: Administration
  • Gate: B-M.T. Subway
  • Gate: Corona
  • Gate: Flushing
  • Gate: Fountain Lake
  • Gate: I.R.T Subway
  • Gate: Ind. Subway
  • Gate: Long Island R.R.
  • Gate: South Gate
  • Gate: World's Fair Blvd.
  • I.R.T. Subway Station
  • Long Island R.R. Station

"Amusements" Area:

  • Aerial Joyride
  • Arctic Girls
  • Army & Navy Camp
  • Artists Colony
  • Auto Dodgem
  • Baby Incubator
  • Ballantine's
  • Beautiful Orient
  • Bobsled Ride
  • Brass Rail
  • Caruso
  • Centipede Ride
  • Children's World
  • Creation Show
  • Crystal Palace
  • Cuban Village
  • Doughnut
  • Enchanted Forest
  • Federal Hall
  • Florida
  • Gang Busters
  • Giant Cyclone
  • Giant's Causeway
  • Hawaiian Village
  • Heineken
  • Hunting Lodge
  • Independent Subway Station
  • Jitterbug
  • Jungleland
  • Knickerbocker
  • Laffland
  • Laugh In The Dark
  • Live Monsters
  • Living Magazine Covers
  • Merrie England
  • Meteor Ride
  • Midget Autos
  • Miracle Town, Midgets
  • National Cash Register
  • Naval Show
  • N.Y. State Amphitheatre
  • N.Y. Zoological Society
  • Old New York
  • Parachute Jump
  • Parking (Taxis)
  • Penguin Island
  • Queens C. Of C.
  • Rodeo
  • Rolloplane
  • Savoy Dancing
  • Serpentine Ride
  • Shooting Gallery
  • Show Boat
  • Silver Streak
  • Sky Ride
  • Snapper
  • Strange As It Seems
  • Stratoship
  • Sun Valley
  • Supercharged Racers
  • Terrace Club
  • Time And Space
  • Victoria Falls
  • We Humans
  • World's Fair Music Hall

The 1939 "Coronation Scot"

British railway enthusiasts remember the 1939 Fair as the event used by the LMS to show off their new red-and-gold streamlined luxury version of the Coronation Scot train. Only one of these new red-and-gold trains was ever completed, and it was sent to the US for a promotional tour and to be exhibited at the Fair. ... After which the start of World War Two caused it to be stranded there for the duration of the war. By that time, the carriages were no longer pristine, and UK track was too damaged to be able to run a high-speed luxury service.

The Coronation Scot's US tour and World Fair appearance were considered important as a way of helping Americans to identify with Britain, with the resulting feeling of camaraderie with Briain amongst the general population hopefully encouraging US politicians to vote to come to Britain's aid during the impending war, which now seemed unavaidable.


The site and some of the surviving infrastructure were repurposed for the "unauthorised" 1964 New York World's Fair, which also included a scale model of New York itself ("Panorama of the City of New York").

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