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World's Fair 1939-40 (New York, U.S.)

New York

Last modified: 2016-03-05 by rick wyatt
Keywords: world's fair 1939-40 | new york | united states |
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[1939 World's Fair flag of New York]   
image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 3 December 2001
[1939 World's Fair flag of New York]
image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 10 April 2014

See also:

1939 World's Fair flag

This flag was used during the Fair held in New York in 1939.
Dave Martucci, 9 December 1999

The buildings are the trylon (a pyramid, the "triangle") and the perisphere (a sphere, the "disc"), the two buildings, no longer standing, that served as the "trademark" to the fair. There were probably exhibits inside, and probably symbolism to their shape. I have no idea what the three lines are (maybe a design element linking the two). Next time I'm at the Queens Museum of Art, located at the site of the fairs (in the New York City pavilion from 1964, the original home of the United Nations), which has a large exhibit on the two fairs (1964 too) (along with an amazing scale model of New York City, containing every building), I'll check it out.
Nathan G. Lamm, 3 December 2001

From the novel "1939: The Lost World of the Fair" [Gelernter, David Hillel; New York; The Free Press; 1995; 418 pp.]:

On p. 148- "Five thousand different flags and banners are said to be up and flying at the fair, including flags of the exhibitor nations and their colonial possessions, of exhibitor states and private companies, and specially designed theme banners marking out zones, courts and exhibits."

On p. 182- "Once more there are fountains in play, right in front of the Marine Transportation Building & a huge colorful flag- an orange boat with white sails against a blue background. (The flag was designed by twenty-five-year-old Emrich Nicholson...He'd graduated from Yale with a B.A. in Fine Arts and worked as a textile and interior designer. In June of '38 he'd applied for a job at the fair's Board of Design; the board just happened to be looking for a flag designer. Nicholson also designed flags for the Aviation Building, the Court of Communication, the Public Health building, one of the Food buildings and the Amusement Area.)"
Ned Smith, 28 May 2002

The theme of the Fair was the 150th Anniversary of the Inauguration of George Washington in New York. In 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, a group of New York City retired policemen decided to create an international exposition to lift the city and the country out of depression. Not long after, these men formed the New York World's Fair Corporation, whose office was placed on one of the higher floors in the Empire State Building. The NYWFC elected former chief of police Grover Whalen as the president of their committee. The slogan (for 1939 was "Building the World of Tomorrow with the Tools of Today") and (for 1940 was "For Peace and Freedom"). The Symbol was the Trylon and Perisphere, located on Flushing Meadows (Corona Dump), Queens, New York. The fair lasted from 30 April 1939 - 31 October 1939 and 11 May 1940 - 27 October 1940. The cost at the time was USD$155,000,000. The Exposition President was (1939) Grover A Whalen and (1940) Harvey Dow Gibson

Since the flag is inspired on the symbols Trylon and Perisphere ( and!54!A9!D38988CC830C/WarHistory/The193940NewYork/), I guess it's worth mentioning some facts about them:

The Trylon and Perisphere was designed by Henry Dreyfus and the Architects were Wallace K. Harrison and André Fouilhoux (who also built the Rockefeller Center). The structures were initially to be constructed of concrete. But due to the expense, it was changed to a steel frame construction with stucco. One of the original plans called for a sphere suspended by wires. It was later changed to a sphere supported by pillars. 1,000 timber piles weighing 6,000 tons supported the Trylon and Perisphere. The Trylon and Perisphere were connected by a giant ramp called the Helicline. The Trylon planned Ssze was 700 feet tall, 3 sided, but ended at 610 feet tall, 3 sided. The original size was reduced due to budget limitations. The name is derived from "tri" meaning three-sided and "pylon" meaning "monumental gateway". Planned Size: 18 stories tall, 200 feet in diameter. The Perisphere was planned at 18 stories tall, 180 feet in diameter, with a circumference 628 feet, supported by 8 steel columns on a concrete ring which sat on 600 piles. The original size was reduced due to budget limitations. The name is derived from "peri" meaning "beyond, all around, about". The revolving balcony around the Perisphere was called 'The Magic Carpet'. Inside the Perisphere, there was a showcase of the "Democracity", a planned city of tomorrow, in the year 2039, of an estimated population of 1,000,000 inhabitants. The Trylon and Perisphere were connected by a giant ramp called the Helicline, 950 foot long, 18 feet wide. The idea for a ramp to join the two structures was derived from drawings by a Soviet constructivist architect named Jacob Tchernikhov.
Sources:!54!A9!D38988CC830C/WarHistory/The193940NewYork/#name1 (PDF Document with blueprints) (PDF Document with blueprints) (PDF Document with blueprints)
Esteban Rivera, 10 July 2010

For a different one, look at A trylon and a perisphere, with one line running from the former around the latter, all in white on a dark blue background, with in the corners red capital letters (with the clock, starting at top hoist): N Y W F.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 10 April 2014


[1940 World's Fair flag of New York]
image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 10 April 2014
[1940 World's Fair flag of New York]
image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 10 April 2014

While trolling through the New York Public Library Digital Gallery, I chanced upon a number of photos with flags in them from the 1939-40 NY World's Fair. It would appear that there were actually two different flags of the fair, one with the date 1939 and one with the date 1940. Go to the web site and search for images 1672957 and 1672959.
Dave Martucci, 17 April 2011

I include a slightly cropped and reduced version of a 3x5' size 1940 flag. The ebay photograph shows 1940 is written in a straight line, which we already knew from the New York Public Library Digital Gallery photographs. However, it turns out to also have a wider middle stripe. Since this was also true for the pre-fair flag, I'm now beginning to wonder whether the 1939 version really was equal-striped. Likewise, in this photograph, the colour isn't as dark blue.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 10 April 2014

For a version with a bit more history, is a 3x5 feet flag flown over the Boy Scout exhibit at the fair. It having been used has also lead to it being rather pale blue. It looks like it also had its 1939 having sewed over with 1940. (The placement of the digits is slightly different from the other one, with what looks like as 9 ending below the line.)
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 10 April 2014

Patent flag

I found on a philatelic forum a scan of the souvenir stamps issued for the World's Fair in New York 1939. One of the stamps shows the Fair's flag, but the colour of the objects is white, not orange. Maybe it is just "a tooth of the time". However, it is nice to see it:
Valentin Poposki, 22 March 2008

[New York's 1964-65 World's fair] image by Dave Martucci, 4 July 2010

The 1939 World's Fair in New York certainly flew the flag shown at the top of this section. However, on August 3, 1937, Robert Foster, Assignor to the New York World's Fair 1939, Inc. was awarded US Patent #D105485. I am attaching a gif of the image in the Patent Docs. As you can see, the Corporation that put on the fair in 1939 had a very different design patented. I'll bet there is an interesting story here, one I may follow up on someday.
Dave Martucci, 4 July 2010

It is an unequal vertical triband of orange and blue (approx. specs: ~15:(8+11+8) = 5:9) white with a "stencil" style logo on it, blue with thick orange fimbriation, featuring the head and raised arm of the Statue of Liberty and the date 1939.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 4 July 2010

The 1937 Patent Flag (1679331) was used up to the point the Trilon and Perisphere were designed and adopted as the principal World's Fair symbol. At that point the newer flag came into existence (1678957) and the Patent flag was abandoned. Interestingly it would appear the 1939 fair and the 1940 fair were run by separate corporations, so that may explain the two different flags. The same was true of the Golden Gate International Exposition held the same years in San Francisco.
Dave Martucci, 19 April 2014