Some people think world’s fairs are dead, because television and the internet have made them obsolete. “Most Americans aren’t aware that there have been ten world’s fairs since the Louisiana World Exposition in 1984.” (http://www.expomuseum.com)
I became interested in the topic of world’s fairs when I started reading “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson for a Goodreads’ book club I’ve joined. I’m behind in my reading and haven’t finished the book yet, but think it is an interesting read. Larson presents two parallel story lines of historical events that occurred in the time leading up to the 1893 world’s fair in Chicago. He follows the head architect Daniel Burnham through the challenges of building this “white city” on the lake to impress the world and outdo the last world fair held in Paris in 1889. The second story line is about a serial killer Dr. H.H. Holmes who sees the world’s fair as an opportunity to lure young women into his house of murder.
According to “The Devil in the White City,” the amount of money that is spent on buildings and landscaping to put on the fair is mind-boggling. I had no idea hosting a world’s fair was such a huge undertaking. And like most Americans, (according to http://www.expomuseum.com) I did not realize that world’s fairs are still being held.
My dad took our family to Expo ’67 in Montreal, Canada, when I was ten. Mainly I remember that we camped in a gravel lot where campers were lined up side-by-side, and inside the exhibit there was a large globe that today I identified as The United States of America Pavilion. I think I also bought an over-sized pencil with “Expo ’67” printed on it. I believe this same pencil may be squirreled away in one of my memory boxes that collect dust in the basement.
I remember my parents went to the world’s fair in Knoxville in 1982. Otherwise I really haven’t heard much about them.
The first world’s fair was hosted by London in 1851. The most recent one was held in 2010 in Shanghai, China. In between, the fairs were held every two, three, four, five or more years apart. The United States hosted them in New York (1853), Philadelphia (1876), New Orleans (1884), Chicago (1893), San Francisco (1894), Atlanta (1895), Buffalo (1901), St. Louis (1904), Seattle (1909), San Francisco and San Diego (1915-1916), Philadelphia (1926), Chicago (1933), New York (1939), San Antonio (1968), Spokane (1974), Knoxville (1982), and Louisiana (1984).
Other years the fairs were held all over the world in places like London, Paris, Vienna, Dublin, Antwerp, Melbourne, Brussels, Montreal, and others. Most recently the fairs were hosted by Hanover, Germany in 2000, Aichi Prefecture, Japan in 2005, Zaragoza, Spain in 2008, and Shanghai, China last year. Yeosu, Korea is schedule to host the world’s fair in 2012, and Milan, Italy in 2015. The 2017 or 2018 and 2020 dates are open to bids.
“World’s Fairs are by their nature temporary events. Because of that, their buildings are among the most dynamic and ground breaking ,” (www.expomuseum.com).
London’s Crystal Palace came from the 1851 fair.
Paris’ Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 fair.
The German Pavilion (The Barcelona Pavilion) was the showpiece for the Barcelona 1929 fair.
Seattle’s Space Needle is a result of the 1962 fair.
And the Hungarian Pavilion was built for the 2000 fair in Hanover.
Designing, planning and building world’s fairs’ venues and exhibits is not unlike Olympics for the architects, engineers, and inventors world-wide. I believe we, collectively as a civilization, have learned and broken new frontiers in the efforts put on show-stopping events. I know the fairs are expensive, but they also make a lot of money. I hope they continue. I hope they don’t become obsolete.
What do you think? Are world’s fairs worth the trouble? Have you ever been to one?