Five Things – 4.23.12 – World’s Fair Edition

Lately I’ve found myself reading about Worlds Fairs, those expos of society’s progress that were held time to time all over the world as far back as the 19th century.  Growing up as an 80s kid, I never heard much about these – seems like I was born just a little bit too late for the Fairs to be on my radar.  To my surprise, they’re still happening today.  Maybe it’s a “rose-colored glasses” thing, but looking through the exhibits of the World’s Fairs throughout the centuries emphasizes this great spirit of togetherness and optimism as all these nations and their industries came together to boast of their achievements, learn of others, and work together to push society forward.  Here are some of my favorite bits and bobs that I’ve come across:

1.  FUTURAMA – General Motors had some of the coolest architecture and forward-reaching exhibits that I’ve come across.  Futurama, at the 1964 fair in New York, took guests through a look at the exploration and technology of tomorrow.

I think we misplaced this future somewhere.

2.  The Voder – Invented by Homer Dudley in 1937, the Voder was the first attempt to electronically synthesize human speech.  The Voder was demonstrated at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York and at the Golden Gate International Exposition that same year.



3.  1982 –


Held in Knoxville, the 1982 Fair featured the first digital touchscreens. Cherry Coke was also unveiled. And they built the Sunsphere, which makes an appearance in one of my favorite Simpson’s episodes:



But I think my favorite thing that I’ve found about the 1982 Fair are these stamps, found at So Much Pileup:

82 Worlds Fair stamps


4.  Century 21 Expo –  The Century 21 Expo was held in Seattle in 1962.  First, there’s the logo:

century 21 expo

Then there’s the monorail that Seattle built just for the fair, which is still operational today. The Space Needle was constructed for the fair, too.


Lastly, there’s this great film, The House of Science:



5. Carousel of Progress – Alllllmost made it through a post without a Disney mention.  Walt was a huge fan of the Worlds Fairs, and used them both to inspire him and his team as well as negotiate funding for future research.  To show his company’s capability and gain investment partners, Disney did several booths at various World’s Fairs.  Many of these, like Great Moments with Mister Lincoln, served as the bedrock for future Disneyland/Magic Kingdom attractions.  My favorite of these is the Carousel of Progress, an exhibit for General Electric that shows the improvements to life technology has provided over the year.  The ride is set in six phases, each moving further in time, ending with the final segment taking place in the not-too-distant future.


I had way more than five things this week, so I may post some other artwork and stuff that’s inspired me about World Fairs throughout the week.  There’s so much!