Souvenirs from the N.Y. Fair in Flushing Meadows Include Everything from Unispheres to Uniforms
The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair was not an economic success, but 44 years later, there’s a strong market for Sinclair Dinosaurs, maps, coins, and more!
In the days before the internet, or even telephones, World’s Fairs and Expositions were a way to spread the word about industrial, cultural, and artistic advances. The very first World’s Fair was at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, and after that, the World Exposition became a craze all over Europe. For over 150 years, citizens of the world have been introduced to some mankind’s greatest technological achievements in the exhibit halls of World’s Fairs.
A Brief History of the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair
The year 1964 was chosen to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of the colony of New York by the British. Robert Moses, chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Transit Authority of NY was appointed president of the Fair Board. Moses had been active in promoting the Flushing Meadows site for the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, in the hopes that the profits generated would be sufficient to redevelop the site into a city park, but in this, he was disappointed. The 1964-65 fair provided a second chance.
The Unisphere & Peace through Understanding
The Unisphere, a huge metal globe was the signature and central structure of the fair. The open grid-work globe sat in the center of a vast plaza, surrounded by a reflecting pool and fountains with the avenues of the fair radiating off the plaza. Constructed by U.S. Steel of 250 tons of stainless steel, the 12 story, 120’ diameter globe perched gracefully on a slender three pronged base. The continents were overlaid on the grid, and world capitals were indicated by pinpoint lights that came on at night. Encircled by three orbiting bands commemorating international achievements in space travel, the Unisphere was meant to portray the Fair’s theme, “Peace through Understanding.”
Sinclair Dinosaurs, U.S. Rubber Ferris Wheel & We Try Harder
Due to a general lack of participation by most major European nations, the 1964-65 World’s Fair was more than any previous fair, a concentrated exhibition of commercial and industrial technology. The largest exhibits were sponsored by Ford, General Motors, and IBM. Sinclair Oil displayed animatronic dinosaurs, US Rubber featured its 80’ tall Ferris wheel in the shape of a giant tire, and number two car rental giant, Avis introduced its ”We try Harder” campaign. Sponsored by Pepsi, and designed by Disney, the popular It’s a Small World exhibit featured 289 animatronic dolls representing the children of the world singing the Small World theme song in five languages.
Collectible New York World’s Fair Souvenirs
Since the 1964-64 World’s Fair was a tourist destination, memorabilia and collectibles number into the hundreds of items. All the typical gift shop souvenirs exist: spoons, glasses, mugs, plates, pennants, postcards, salt and pepper shakers, handkerchiefs, scarves, playing cards, ashtrays, pins, thimbles, dolls, coins, maps, guidebooks, snow globes, serving trays, coin banks, rain bonnets, and more.
Collectible NY 1964-65 World’s Fair Memorabilia
Some of the highest prices for the fair’s collectibles are for items that were made not for sale as souvenirs, but for use during the fair. These are objects produced for the day-to-day operations of the fair, and include uniforms, employee ID cards, admission tickets, and posters.
-by p4A contributing editor Susan Cramer.
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