Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2024 Issue

World's Fairs and Expositions from Zephyr Used & Rare Books

World's Fairs & Exhibitions.

Zephyr Used & Rare Books has created a thick catalogue called World's Fairs and Expositions – Catalogue 2024. It is filled with materials about the various fairs and exhibitions, almost all contemporary to the fairs themselves. With the exception of a couple of items from fairs in Paris, Vienna and London, they are fairs that took place in America, with a strong bias to the west coast, although Chicago too is well-represented. The fairs go as far back as America's Crystal Palace Exhibition in New York 1853-1854 to as recent as the New York World's Fair of 1964.

 

Following the Crystal Palace fair we hit some of the major ones, the Centennial Exhibition of 1874 in Philadelphia, Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893, the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, World's Fairs in New York in 1939 and 1964, and Seattle's World's Fair of 1962. Then there are many others in between, Canada's Dominion Exhibition in Montreal in 1880, the California Midwinter Exhibition of 1894, The Louisiana Purchase exhibition in St. Louis in 1904, The Lewis and Clark Exhibition in Portland in 1905, The Jamestown Ter-Centennial of 1907, Alaska-Yukon-Pacific in Seattle in 1909, the somewhat obscure Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha in 1910, back to Chicago in 1933 for A Century of Progress, Texas Centennial of 1936 in Dallas, the Golden Gate Exposition of 1939 in San Francisco, and the Oregon Centennial Exposition of 1959. Then there was the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901 with amazing displays using the new invention of electric light, but forever marred by and remembered for being the place where President William McKinley was assassinated.

 

Here's something I didn't even realize – the last world's fair in America was the Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans in 1984. America hasn't had a world's fair 40 years. Zephyr notes that they have been supplanted by places like Disney World and large theme parks. I have been to Disney and it's an exciting place, particularly if you have children, but it is not a world's fair, where you could learn so much and envision the future along with having a good time. I got to see two when I was young, Seattle and New York, and it's sad to see today's youth cannot experience one, at least not in the United States. Over half of the population of the U.S. is under 40, meaning most Americans have never had the chance to attend a world's fair. I hope that opportunity returns one day, but for now, we will have to be satisfied with visiting some of those of years gone by through the magic offered in this catalogue.

 

We begin with The World of Science, Art, and Industry Illustrated, from the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, America's first world's fair. It took place in New York 1853-1854. All sorts of crafts were displayed, as were some scientific and technological inventions. There was Royal Earl House's printing telegraph. The telegraph, using Morse Code, was only about a decade old when House found a way to use it to send messages to a keyboard that could print them out. John Whipple's daguerreotypes of the moon were on display. Elias Otis demonstrated his safety elevator. When Otis cut the cable, he did not fall to his death. The most notable feature was the Crystal Palace. It was patterned on London's Crystal Palace, created for their fair in 1851. The palace was built primarily from glass and steel. It is featured in this book with 500 woodcut illustrations and a color plate. After the fair closed the Crystal Palace held trade fairs until 1858, when it burned to the ground in less than half an hour. There was some wood used in there too. Item 1. Priced at $650.

 

In two more years, America will celebrate her 250th birthday and there will undoubtedly be many celebrations, hopefully even a world's fair. This one was held for the 100th anniversary of her Declaration of Independence, logically enough in Philadelphia in 1876. This item is well-described by its title – Centennial Portfolio: a Souvenir of the International Exhibition at Philadelphia, Comprising Lithographic Views of Fifty of its Principal Buildings. The book includes a map of the grounds and floor plans. The 52 color lithographs are captioned in English, French, Spanish and German. The publication contains the bookplate of James Samuel Clark, who served with an Iowa regiment during the Civil War. Item 14. $395.

 

Next is Authentic World's Fair Album of the World's Columbian Exposition Illustrated. This celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus' “discovery” of America, a year late in 1893. It was held in a place the seaman Columbus never came anywhere close to – Chicago. This was by far the greatest such exposition America had ever seen to date. There were 200 buildings built for the fair to hold the various exhibits. Virtually all were designed to be temporary, a good thing since a fire raced through the fair grounds a year later. Over 27 million people attended. There were life-size reproductions of Columbus' three ships, built in Spain, which sailed to America. Norway sent over a Viking ship. Forty-six countries exhibited. Visitors could ride the first moving walkway. The most dominant feature was the 264-foot Ferris Wheel with 36 cars that held 40 people each. Probably the most impressive part was the extensive electric lighting, a very recent invention at the time. The buildings were well-lighted, as were the outdoor fountains with huge spotlights aimed at some structures. There was also an electricity building with exhibits and a statue of Benjamin Franklin outside, a man ahead of his time. Nikola Tesla (another man ahead of his time) put on demonstrations during a week-long visit. This booklet contains 14 color plates of buildings, including the Woman's Building, Art Palace, Agricultural Building, and Electric Building lighted at night. Item 30. $350.

 

Next we have a special edition The Call, a Hearst newspaper from San Francisco. Dated April 13, 1915, the headline announces Gates of 'Jewel City' Open! 400,000 Enter. This was the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915. It was designed to recognize the recent opening of the Panama Canal and the nations of the Pacific. However, a less-stated aim was to show the world that San Francisco was back after the earthquake of 1906. The fair began with President Wilson hitting a golden telegraph key in Washington, demonstrating wireless communications. A photograph on the front page shows a group of officials parading to the opening. Item 106. $175.

 

This pamphlet is headed Futurama. It came from the 1939 New York World's Fair. It is is a souvenir of the Highways and Horizons of General Motors. Futurama was a miniature world set along a third-of-a-mile moving conveyor on different levels from which viewers could see the future, all the way out to 1960. I don't know whether they pictured the election of John F. Kennedy, but probably not. Item 182. $100.

 

Futurama was such a great success that when the world's fair returned to New York in 1964, General Motors was there with Futurama II. This souvenir is headed Let's Go to the Fair and Futurama. Futurama II proved to be even more popular. It featured a 15-minute ride through a vast miniature world. Over 5 million visitors came, the largest attendance at any world's fair display ever. Item 196. $100.

 

We better give a balancing message here to Ford. This is a dealer's brochure for the 1965 Mustang. The car was introduced at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Ford was hoping for success with the Mustang, but its sales far outpaced their happiest dreams. A few years ago, the 10 millionth Mustang rolled off the assembly plant and it's still going strong. Ford and the other American car companies have stopped making passenger cars, pick-ups and SUVs so totally dominating sales it was no longer profitable to make cars. Except the Mustang. Its popularity has been so strong that Ford continues to make Mustangs, the last major American passenger car. Item 197. $275.

 

Now in the 21st century, we have seen no more world's fairs. But, a long time ago, there was one dedicated to our current century. It was Century 21 Exposition, also known as the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. This brochure was devoted to the Seattle Fair's most notable and visible structure, The World Famous Space Needle. It stands 605 feet tall and at the time it was built, it was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi. At the top is an observation tower from which you can view the Seattle skyline. This pamphlet contains illustrations of views that can be seen from the observation deck, including, in the distance, something even taller – Mt. Rainier. The Space Needle still stands today, with a revolving restaurant up top along with the observation deck. Item 187. $275.

 

Zephyr Used & Rare Books may be reached at 360-695-7767 or zephyrbook@gmail.com.

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