Thursday, April 24, 2014

50 Years Ago: 1964 New York World's Fair

U.S. Space Park at the World's Fair in 1964: Showing off American space efforts to the world.

Fifty years ago an excited world gathered in New York to see exhibits from all over the globe displayed for visitors to see, to touch, and take pictures to share with folks back home. Each participating country wanted to show off their best and brightest developments, and so it comes as no shock that the Americans wanted to show off their advancing space programs.

Centerpiece of the World's Fair: the Unisphere, which is still in that same position in New York today.

With the Mercury manned space program completed, NASA was starting Project Gemini and developing the Apollo program to land on the Moon. While the Soviets still seemed to be ahead in their space program, America was catching up and the people wanted to see more of it. The US Space Park included a full-scale mockup of the bottom section of the Saturn first stage and its five giant motors; a Titan rocket with a Gemini Capsule; an Atlas rocket with Mercury capsule; a Thor-Delta rocket; The Mercury capsule Aurora 7 flown by Scott Carpenter; a full-scale model of an X-15 research rocket plane; an Agena upper stage; a mockup of the Gemini capsule,; mockups of the Apollo COmmand and service modules and LEM lander; and more than a half dozen mockups of important space probes and satellites.

Closer view of the US Space Park displays.

Astronaut Gordon Cooper receives an award from World's Fair dignitaries. Cooper was the last of the astronauts to fly a Mercury mission.

Full-size mockup of the Saturn V first stage bottom and the 5 main engines.

Program guide cover. In the foreground is the Apollo command and service module mockup.

Model of the Fair.

Now I move off on a slightly different tangent. The 1964 World's Fair was not only noticeable for its US Space Park. Many other American manufacturers we present, showing off the latest technology and how it would impact American society. IBM, Coca-Cola, Bell Telephone, and dozens more set up exhibits, pavillions, and built buildings and entertainment rides to display their leadership in American technology. ANd some of them asked for help to make their displays more memorable. For some, they turned to the master of showmanship, Walt Disney. And Walt used the opportunity and the funding to create some truly innovative rides and exhibits. This new entertainment technology would be used later as he rebuilt them in Disneyland after the Fair closed at the end of 1965. See how many you've interacted or seen yourself, years later!

Yes, that's right - "It's A Small World" is now 50 years old this month. Sponsored by the Pepsi-COla company. If you're a fan of IASW, go have a Pepsi today.

From GE's Progressland guidebook. GE sponsored and funded the "Carousel of Progress" which featured the use of Disney's new "Animatronic" robots used in place of actors. The Carousel of Progress can be found today only in Magic Kingdom in Florida. I made SURE to ride the moving stage when I last visited there in March. 50 Years old and still awesome!

The pinnacle of animatronics. Sponsored by the state of Illinois, "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" was a stage show which featured parts of Lincoln's speeches. The robot stood up, moved, talked, and seemed life-like. The exhibit was quickly duplicated at Disneyland before the World's Fair ended, and lasted many years. When the Disney company closed the event, public outcry was so much that it was soon reopened with improvements. Today you can see a newer, first ever, electric Autonomotronic figure in "The Disneyland Story Featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" in the Disneyland Main Street. Lincoln can also be seen in the "Hall of Presidents" in Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom in Florida.

Excited fair-goers ride the "Ford's Magic Skyway" in an actual Ford convertible (without actual motor). The car is controlled underneath the "skyway" by a prototype of what would later become the PeopleMover ride system (which is still today in the Magic Kingdom in Florida, one of my favorite rides). 50 FOrd automobiles including Ford Mustangs moved along a track featuring scenes exhibiting full-size animatronic dinosaurs and cavemen. Those robots would be later moved to Disneyland, where they feature in a musical diorama  joining the original Grand Canyon as Primeval WOrld. The Disneyland Railroad brings passengers slowly through the exhibit while the "Grand Canyon Suite" plays in its respective scene, and the Rite of Spring music from the movie Fantasia played in Primeval World. Though the dinosaurs look dated, at the time they were as correct as they could be for 1964.

The automated car ride moves passengers into the Skyway tunnel. I haven't figured out yet why it was called a skyway.

The cars moved through the Skyway tunnel. Courtesy

Passengers are greeted by scenes from the world of Dinoasurs. There were several exhibits at the Fair featuring dinosaurs including life-size dinos exhibited by the oil company Sinclair, which uses a dinosaur as it's logo.

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