New York World’s Fair 1939 – in captivating Kodachrome

New York World’s Fair 1939 – in captivating Kodachrome

These 35mm Kodachrome slides were taken by an unknown skilled amateur, at the New York World’s Fair. They are sharp, in good condition, and mounted in period glass mounts. Each one is unique, Kodachrome not being intended for making duplicates or amateur prints, and so far as we know have never been published.

Kodachrome was a brand name for a colour reversal film introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1935. It was one of the first successful colour materials and was used for both cinematography and still photography. Because of the growth and popularity of alternative photographic materials, its complex processing requirements and the widespread transition to digital photography, Kodachrome lost its market share. Its manufacturing was discontinued in 2009 and its processing ended in December 2010.

The 1939–40 New York World’s Fair, which covered the 1,216 acres of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, was the second largest American world’s fair of all time.

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This night shot shows the Ford company’s Road of Tomorrow pavilion. The fair was divided into differently themed zones, such as the Transportation Zone, the Communications and Business Systems Zone, the Food Zone, the Government Zone, and so forth.

Virtually every structure erected on the fairgrounds was extraordinary, and many of them were experimental in many ways. Architects were encouraged by their corporate or government sponsors to be creative, energetic and innovative. Novel building designs, materials and furnishings were the norm.

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Outdoor public lighting was at the time of a very limited and pedestrian nature, perhaps consisting of simple incandescent pole lamps in a city and nothing in the country. Electrification was still very new and had not reached everywhere in the US. The fair was the first public demonstration of several lighting technologies that would become common in future decades. These ‘night shot’ slides show the state-of-the art lighting, (with a brilliant blue being one of the Fair’s official colours).

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In the slide of the American Jubilee show the photographer has given a time exposure to ensure that the lights reproduce well.This has the effect of blurring the people walking past – all except one static couple in the distance, captured as they gaze in wonder at the display.

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The Billy Rose Aquacade was a spectacular musical and water extravaganza foreshadowing the form of many popular Hollywood musicals in the ensuing years. The show was presented in a special amphitheater seating 10,000 people and included an orchestra to accompany the spectacular synchronized swimming performance. It featured Johnny Weismuller and Eleanor Holm, two of the most celebrated swimmers of the era, and dazzled fairgoers with its lighting and cascades and curtains of water, pumped in waterfalls at 8000 gallons a minute.
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John Hix’s “Strange as It Seems” appeared as a syndicated cartoon feature in 1928. In its heyday, it was reported that the comic strip was syndicated in over 1,300 newspapers and became a familiar brand to millions around the globe for its comic strips, books, radio shows and film shorts. In 1939, the Hix brothers outmaneuvered Ripley’s ‘Believe it Or Not!) for an exhibit at the New York World’s Fair.

The lower slide shows the “Frozen Alive Girls” frontage, with the block of “ice” in which the girls were to be entombed, naked, being clearly visible as the barker ‘tells the tale’. They’re clearly not too thrilled at the prospect.

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A rare interior colour shot of the British Empire pavilion.

(More slides to be added soon.) Price of slides and further details on application.  s-herbert@easynet.co.uk

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