Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - May - 2012 Issue

World's Fairs from Mark Selvaggio Books & Ephemera

Darkestafricachi

“Darkest Africa” was really Chicago pool halls.

Again from Chicago comes an ethnic exhibition: Lew Dufour and Joe Rogers present Darkest Africa at A Century of Progress 1933. Official Souvenir. The souvenir includes a portrait of Chief Woo-Foo and his tribesmen, dressed in tribal costume, with lots of other pictures of “dusky maidens” and “native belles.” The exhibition was designed “to reveal the strange and alluring habits of tribes living in the center of the world's largest continent.” They had come from places like Nigeria, the Gold Cost, and the Congo. However, the 1988 book Freak Show explains this exhibition was not quite as it seemed. There are shades of P.T. Barnum here. Chief Woo-Foo, the book says, was really from New York, his actual name being Charles Lucas, and “the rest of the 'natives' were recruited from Chicago pool halls.” Dufour and Rogers had spent their lives running carnivals laced with less than honest schemes. $200.

Most exhibits at these fairs were meant for fun, but this one represents a far more serious exhibition at the Czecho-Slovak Pavillion at the 1939 New York World's Fair. War had already broken out in Europe, and Czechoslovakia was its first victim, overrun by the Nazis while the world looked away. The title of this brochure is Truth Prevails. Czecho-Slovakia Will Rise Again. This piece served as a fundraiser for the legitimate government of the nation, now in exile. Item 416. $75.

This pamphlet came from what may be the most popular exhibit ever at a World's fair. From the 1939 New York fair it displays General Motors' Futurama. The exhibit consisted of a ride meant to simulate an airplane trip over America in 1960. It was a modern place, with large, efficient, clean cities. The most notable change, at least from an automotive perspective, was the straight, wide, divided highways, speeding people through cities, over rivers and lakes, across the land. This came in the days before the interstate highway system, but certainly presaged it. Much of that has come to pass, except, people still don't speed through cities on these wide highways. Traffic jams still rule the day, the increase in the number of automobiles outpacing the advance in technology. Item 495. $50.

Marc Selvaggio, Books & Ephemera, may be reached at 800-356-2199 or

dsbooks@comcast.net

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