Promises Made: The 1964-65 World’s Fair

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For kids of my generation, 1964 was a seminal year. That February the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show for three consecutive Sundays. And the following April, the World’s Fair opened in Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, New York. For an impressionable 12-year-old, both events held a promise for the future and impacted me greatly.

The World’s Fair promised the future today, and in many ways it delivered. There I got to ride my first monorail, view the “near” future through the Futurama exhibit, speak and be seen on the Picturephone, and visit various countries throughout the world without leaving my hometown. We ate Belgian waffles, watched dancers from Thailand, and viewed the gleaming new Shea Stadium from the spinning Observation Towers high above the park. At the IBM exhibit we watched a film on computer logic by Charles and Ray Eames on nine connected screens, a precursor of IMAX.

Other promises were made: flying cars, jet packs, trips to Mars and beyond, underwater cities, robot laborers. A time capsule was placed in the ground—and, not coincidentally, one of the items was a 45 RPM recording of “A Hard Day’s Night” by the Beatles.

Now all that remains on the site (the same grounds as the 1939 World’s Fair) are the aging Unisphere and the New York State Exhibit. Unlike the sleek, Art Deco–inspired ephemera left behind from 1939, the souvenirs, architecture, and printed matter from 1964 are an odd mix of ’50s kitsch and the International Style. Almost 50 years later, I am still waiting for those flying cars.

World’s Fair map. (Click to view larger.)

General Motors brochure cover and interior

Dress Up for the New York World’s Fair cover and interior


Atlantic brochure cover


General Cigar brochure cover and interior

Souvenir plates and ashtray

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