Final Weekend for ‘Future Perfect’

| July 10, 2011 6:00 PM video
To exhibit fastes fighting plane at new york world's fair, 1938 vintage genaltin silber prints figt of irene feldman
The fastest fighting plane from 1938 World's Fair. Photo courtesy of the Queen's Museum.
Future Perfect: Re-Constructing the 1939 New York World’s Fair
Where: Queens Museum
Opens: April 10
Closes: Aug. 21.
Price: $5

“Future Perfect: Reconstructing the 1939 NY World’s Fair,” a photo exhibition at the Queens Museum of Art, documents the striking transformation of Flushing Meadows Corona Park from a notorious ash dump to the site of the 1939 World’s Fair.

Bound by Flushing Bay to the north and Kew Kardens to the south, the fairgrounds created a sprawling 1200-acre exhibit, which also set the parameters for the park as we know it today. The museum’s installation features vintage gelatin silver prints, blueprints and original documents that illustrate the park’s conversion. The fair broke ground on June 29, 1935 and took more than three years to build. Legendary parks commissioner Robert Moses spearheaded a clean up of the “valley of ashes,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald referred to it in “The Great Gatsby.” The effort cost the city nearly a billion in today’s dollars.

Explore some of the exhibition’s images below:

The idea for the New York World Fair was first conceived in 1934 — in the depths of the Great Depression. A year later, Grover Whalen, a popular former police commissioner became the fair’s president and called the initiative “Building the World of Tomorrow.” In a pre-War America, organizers hoped the event would serve as a symbol of hope for the public and a space for industry leaders to showcase innovative technologies. The city’s urban park rangers are hosting an educational event this weekend that will explore both of New York’s World’s Fairs and how they helped shaped the urban landscape. The event is free and will take place on Saturday, August 20 at Flushing Meadows Corona Park from 1:00 p.m.2:30 p.m.

For MetroFocus, Laura Savini  interviewed James Mauro, author of “Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War,” which chronicles the construction of the New York fair. Mauro’s account examines the fairs’ theme of word unity within the context of political unrest and the mounting war in Europe. His narrative weaves in the story of two NYPD detectives who were killed when a bomb detonated on the fairground on July 4, 1940,New York City’s first terrorist attack.


Megan Thompson produced this field piece for MetroFocus.


  • Nina Seminatore Morzenti

    What is meant by the phrase in the 1st paragraph: the fair broke ground on April 30, 1939 and took 3 years to build”. How could it be the 1939 WF? or is there a typo that should read April 30, 1936? What were the actual dates of the Fair’s Opening and Closing? I would love to have been in the area for the Reconstruct. My parents, Beatrice and John Seminatore, married 2 years went to the 1939 World’s Fair. They divorced in 1950 but it was the one thing that let me know that they indeed loved oneanother when they each remembered it separately. Mother spoke often of it and the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. I’m sure they had a wonderful time. I visit the Fair onthe Internet as though I were with Mother and Dad and can hear them still speak with awe about what they saw. Are there any attendance lists or ticket purchase records that I might know just when they were there. I don’t think they ever said. They travelled from Woburn, MA. Mother had given birth to my brother on Easter Sunday, April 9,1939 so I suspect she went later in the year. Perhaps around Thanksgiving when the RCMH put on their holiday Gala? Wish I knew someone else who attended…. NIna

    • Jim Mauro

      Nina: You’re correct, the copy should read that the fair broke ground in JUNE of 1936 and took 3 years to build. It opened on April 30, 1939 and closed for good on October 27, 1940. The first season closed on Halloween in 1939, but in those days the Rockettes were pretty much a regular feature at RCMH, where they appeared between movie showings. There are no attendance records, but how wonderful that your folks were able to see the Fair and remember it so well. Whenever a travel to talk about my book, there’s almost always someone in the audience who attended the Fair. It’s marvelous to hear their memories of what must have been a life-altering event.

      • Nina Morzenti

        June 3,2012 4pmMT
        Thanks for your reply, Jim, to my 1939 World’s Fair wonderings. So often I enter a question or comment at a site and never check back for an answer.  I have a small volume, My School Books by Hendrik Willem van Loon whose books I repeatedly enjoy. He wrote it for the duPont Co to demonstrate some of its book manufacturing products.. Fabrikoid, in particular, at that World’s Fair.  I had never seen it til I stayed with Mother for 6 years before her passing in 2004… when she enjoyed repeating her memories of the 1939 World’s Fair with Dad. This was the only souvenir they bought.  It5 means as much to me as it did to her when I go to the Fair on the Internet. Thanks for your comments. I’ll look forward to reading  
        your book…

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