Great Souvenirs From The 1939 World’s Fair


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Salt and pepper shaker, 1939. Plastic. Gift of Bella C. Landauer, 2002.1.1928

Salt and pepper shaker, 1939. Plastic. New-York Historical Society. Gift of Bella C. Landauer,

On April 29, 1939, the largest world’s fair of all time came to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in New York. The 1939-40 New York World’s Fair promised visitors a look at “the world of tomorrow.” And part of that included cool souvenirs.

The Perisphere and the Trylon, known together as the “Theme Center,” were two of the main draws of the 1939 World’s Fair. Connected to the Trylon’s spire was at the time the world’s longest escalator, and inside the Perisphere’s dome was a diorama called “Democracity,” which depicted the city-of-the-future. But you could take these structures home as fun salt shakers!

New York World's Fair souvenir hot pad, ca. 1939. Aluminum, cardboard. Gift of Roberta Brandes Gratz, 2008.39.4

New York World’s Fair souvenir hot pad, ca. 1939. New-York Historical Society. Gift of Roberta Brandes Gratz,

If you wanted to remember some of the other structures, such as the Ford Building, the Federal Building, the Amphitheater and the Railroad Exhibit, this souvenir hot pad made by the Sayford Co. of Brooklyn would be a great item. During the depression era, embossed aluminum hot pads were a popular and inexpensive souvenir item. Consumers admired the “simple elegance” and “silvery beauty” of these affordable souvenirs. However, due to the war effort, by 1941 aluminum was no longer available for domestic manufacturing, and production of aluminum souvenirs came to an end.

M. Eaton & Co. Inc., Textile Print Works, Scarf: New York Worlds Fair 1939, 1939. Linen. Gift of M. Eaton & Co., 1941.781

M. Eaton & Co. Inc., Textile Print Works, Scarf: New York Worlds Fair 1939. New-York Historical Society. Gift of M. Eaton & Co.

The one I most covet is this souvenir linen scarf, showing a map of the whole fairgrounds. But of course if you didn’t like that design there were plenty of others to choose from. But visitors had to be sure to get one then, because the next World’s Fair didn’t come to New York until 1964.

2 thoughts on “Great Souvenirs From The 1939 World’s Fair

  1. Richard

    We have a Glass Center glass block penny bank from the 1940 session of the Fair. We went to the 1964 Fair, but don’t seem to have any mementos from it.

    Reply

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