The 1939 New York World’s Fair. The World of Tomorrow. The Fair that promised to restore trust in American capitalism after the violent plunge of 1929. A response to the Great Depression. A corporate-sponsored, designer-conceived revision of a world that was shaken by an economic catastrophe that took a human toll on lives and livelihoods. Today it’s a memory of better and worse times; it is an experience; it was about hope that was placed in creative industrial planning—a lifeline to the future. At the same time, it was an entertainment extravaganza replete with souvenirs galore. You cannot have revolution without souvenirs. So in addition to its higher goals, the World of Tomorrow was a show, a stage on which capitalism was a spectacle, a force for good. It’s now more than just nostalgia—it’s antique.
All photographs courtesy The Greenhouse Antiques and Kevin Callaghan. Above the man who built this collection, Kenneth G. Francisco. Thank you!
About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →