The 1964-65 World's Fair and the Transformation of America

Book - 2014
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Baker & Taylor
Explores how the New York World's Fair embodied the cultural and political changes in New York, the United States, and the world during the decade of the 1960s.

Globe Fearon Co

Motivated by potentially turning Flushing Meadows, literally a land of refuse, into his greatest public park, Robert Moses—New York's "Master Builder"—brought the World's Fair to the Big Apple for 1964 and '65. Though considered a financial failure, the 1964-65 World' s Fair was a Sixties flashpoint in areas from politics to pop culture, technology to urban planning, and civil rights to violent crime.

In an epic narrative, the New York Times bestseller Tomorrow-Land shows the astonishing pivots taken by New York City, America, and the world during the Fair. It fetched Disney's empire from California and Michelangelo's La Pieta from Europe; and displayed flickers of innovation from Ford, GM, and NASA—from undersea and outerspace colonies to personal computers. It housed the controversial work of Warhol (until Governor Rockefeller had it removed); and lured Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Meanwhile, the Fair—and its house band, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians—sat in the musical shadows of the Beatles and Bob Dylan, who changed rock-and-roll right there in Queens. And as Southern civil rights efforts turned deadly, and violent protests also occurred in and around the Fair, Harlem-based Malcolm X predicted a frightening future of inner-city racial conflict.

World's Fairs have always been collisions of eras, cultures, nations, technologies, ideas, and art. But the trippy, turbulent, Technicolor, Disney, corporate, and often misguided 1964-65 Fair was truly exceptional.

This New York Times bestseller is a vivid account of the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York City, a spectacle that embodied the innovation, lunacy, hope, and fear of a dramatic twenty-first century decade—and one that pitted Robert Moses vs. Andy Warhol, brought the vision of Walt Disney together with the Merry Pranksters, featured an Audio-Animatronic Abraham Lincoln and real-life LBJ in the midst of the Civil Rights struggle, and featured much, much more. Tomorrow-Land entertains, informs, and illustrates how the 1964-65 World’s Fair—inside its gates and just outside its gates—represents the cultural and political pivots taken by New York City, America, and the world during the 1960s.

Publisher: Guilford, Connecticut : Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press, [2014]
ISBN: 9780762780358
Branch Call Number: 607.34747 T515t 2014
Characteristics: 355 pages, 8 pages of unnumbered plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Alternative Title: Tomorrow land


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Dec 29, 2017

The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair was an exhibition of a bright shining future that promised “Peace through Understanding” Built on the site of the 1939-1940 World’s Fair (itself a promise of world peace), the Fair was a wonder to this reviewer’s much younger self. However as author Joseph Tirella tells us not all was well with the Fair or the country and world as a whole. While not the earth shattering events which overshadowed the Fair’s predecessor, there would be rumblings and tears in the social, cultural and political order which reverberate to this day. Little remains of the Fair today but the UNICEF pavilion’s main attraction has been recreated around the world. It’s theme? Sing with me; “It’s a small world after all.”

ernstblofeld Dec 11, 2014

When the author sticks to Robert Moses, and the planning and logistics of the Fair, he does well enough (especially in conveying Moses' monstrous character).

However the book suffers greatly due to the author's tired, boiler-plate Cold War narrative that cheerleads for USA and it's allies at the expense of any actual political analysis beyond "those evil Commies/Arabs."

The civil rights movement in the U.S. rightly is featured a great deal but there is little effort or success at contextualizing it in relation to the international facade of the Fair.

Beyond the scope of such a project? A, uh, "fair" point if it were not for the devolvement of the end of the book into unadorned worship of Bob Dylan.

The importance of his efforts and influence are overstated, seemingly due to the fact that he played the Singer Bowl at the Fair.

If there is room for that, there would've been room for more substantive analysis of various other topics.

Oct 12, 2014

I grew up in Long Island and made many trips to the 1964-1965 Worlds Fair. Based upon what I had heard about this book, I was looking forward to hearing in detail about the attractions I saw. Unfortunately, the Worlds Fair seems to be just an excuse to write about the political atmosphere surrounding that period in time. While that might be a fine topic, it was not what I was looking for, so I have been very disappointed with this book. If I had known what I know now about this book, I would have totally skipped it. Frankly, it was boring.


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