A Picture Is Worth: Streamlining at the 1939 New York World's Fair

Public Domain. Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., photographer [Public domain]

John Foster at The Design Observer reminds us that the New York World's Fair opened 75 years ago this April.

The fair attempted to project the approaching “machine-age” future through ideas, art, architecture, consumer products, demonstrations, and exhibits. Funded in part by corporate giants like AT&T;, Westinghouse, General Motors, Ford, RCA, and many others, hindsight shows that it was as much a giant advertising campaign as fair — with each corporate sponsor exhibiting their version of the future.

He points to the extraordinary archives at the Museum of the City of New York, where you can view photographs of what was some of the best streamline design architecture ever assembled. Included is this painting by illustrator Emrich Nicholson (1913 - 2001), from the Automotive Building, demonstrating principles that haven't changed in 75 years.

Foster mentions the Futurama exhibit, designed by Norman Bel Geddes. I covered it last year, including this wonderful video. The first nine minutes are a tour of the exhibit, and then it turns into a wonderful vision of America with self-driving cars, and fabulous new cities with highways "carefully routed as to displace outmoded business sections and undesirable slum areas whenever possible. Man continuously strives to replace the old with the new."