How the ‘World’s Fair’ Has Celebrated International Achievements for Over 150 Years
In 1986 my mom, step-dad, and sister drove from the San Francisco Bay Area to Vancouver, British Columbia for the 1986 World’s Fair. We didn’t have much money, so we camped at a nearby site and went in every day for a week. I remember it like some retro-future dream of technology and innovation.
I vividly remember Highway 86:
And this water park:
And this big giant watch and the whole Switzerland pavilion:
The next World’s Fair is in Dubai in 2020, and after that it’s Buenos Aires in 2023.
For the grand entrance of the Exposition Universelle in Paris, Gustave Eiffel and his firm, Eiffel et Compagnie, designed a three-leveled, 1,063-foot wrought iron tower. Selected from over 1,000 entries, the Eiffel Tower was built in homage to the French Revolution.
In addition to the avant-garde edifice, the Exposition Universelle also featured a Galerie des machines (“machine hall”), Wild West shows, and architectural models of sites around the world. The event lasted from May 6 through October 31, 1889.
From February 20 through December 4, 1915, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition was held in San Francisco. Though officially intended to mark the completion of the Panama Canal, this fair also celebrated the city’s remarkable recovery following a devastating earthquake in 1906.
When they weren’t marveling at the first transcontinental telephone call or admiring the on-loan Liberty Bell, visitors spent their time “strolling down wide boulevards, attending scientific and educational presentations, ‘traveling’ to international pavilions and enjoying thrilling displays of sports, racing, music and art” (National Park Service).
In 1964, the World’s Fair was held in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, New York. Thematically based on “Peace Through Understanding,” the spectacle showcased the achievements of 80 nations and 24 US states. It also featured pools, carnival rides, and fountains.
This edition of the world’s fair is where Walt Disney debuted his Audio-Animatronics. These technologically-advanced robots were featured in four shows: ‘Ford’s Magic Skyway,’ ‘Progressland,’ ‘Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,’ and ‘It’s a Small World.’ Disney would eventually bring all of these attractions to Disneyland, with the particularly popular ‘Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln’ and ‘It’s a Small World’ remaining at the resort today.
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