October 30, 1939 – Closing The New York World’s Fair (For The Winter)
It was October 30, seventy-eight years ago that the 1939 New York World’s Fair came to a close for the winter. Scheduled to re-open in May of 1940. The World of Tomorrow, as it was referred to, was a hugely ambitious project – the second largest and most expensive World’s Fair of all time (second only to the St. Louis‘ Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904), it covered over 1200 acres in the Flushing Meadows section of New York. It was also the first World’s Fair to focus completely on the future. The Grand Opening of the Fair, in April of 1939 was a gala extravaganza, with an opening address by President Roosevelt , the very first to be televised. Among the notables taking part in the fair activities was Albert Einstein, who gave an address on Cosmic Rays, concluding with the official lighting of the Fair.
Ironic, since six months after the opening, war in Europe would break out, leading to World War 2 and anything but an optimistic future.
There was some concern the fair would re-open, come May. The world situation by October of 1939 was grave and becoming worse by the day. Many of the countries hosting exhibits would be consumed by the war, and returning in 1940 seemed like an impossibility. But the biggest concern was a financial one. With some $48 million in revenue from visitors, it came nowhere near fulfilling the $160 million investment made to build and operate the fair. The original organizer of the Fair, Grover Whalen was replaced and the focus shifted to more amusements and less on the educational and uplifting exhibits.
But while the events in the world continued to unfold, on October 30, 1939 there was still an air of optimism that everything would re-open again in May. So, to celebrate the closing of the Fair for the Winter season, Mutual Radio broadcast the closing ceremonies live, including addresses by many of the notables who participated during the year.
A half-hour snapshot of the World Of Tomorrow, as it was first heard on October 30, 1939.
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