I Saw It At The World’s Fair

Come on in, and join your ole buddy Muscleheaded for a fascinating look at some interesting surviving structures from World’s Fairs and Expositions since 1851.

No admission fee required!

(Donations of Sour Cherry Pie are, of course, gratefully accepted. )

Sometimes, something starts out as a chore, and ends up as a treasure hunt.

I was looking through the junk I’ve got piled up in my attic the other day, and came across something from my childhood.

I hardly remember it, but I do know that I attended the 1964 World’s Fair in New York with my family.

And, I got this here thingee to prove it.

It’s a souvenir dime bank — you put a dime in it every day, and it changes the day for you.

The tricky part is that once you put your first dime in it, it locks itself, and won’t let you open it again until you’ve saved 5 bucks.

Now, I don’t like to do math, so I don’t know how much time it would take ya to build up $5 in dimes….

But to a kid, especially to a kid like I was ,
………….. any answer would sound like a very, very long time indeed.

I’m sure the designer meant well, and all….
……….. teaching kids how to save, ya know.

Not that I’m saying that it taught me to save.

What it basically taught me was NOT to put money into something- if you couldn’t get it out again when you wanted it.

Until they invented ATM cards, I never even considered opening a bank account.

Thrifty, I ain’t.

Oh well…
…. at least I have this neat-o souvenir to remind me of the Fair.

World’s Fairs are pretty interesting things….

……. and it’s amazing the kinds of sights, sounds, and cultures you can see there !

The last one around here was “Expo 86” Vancouver in the mid 80′s…
( If you call 3000 miles away ‘around here’ )

I remember they had a very cool futuristic monorail –

Once the Fair was done, it got moved all the way over the pond to Staffordshire, England— to the Alton Towers Amusement Park, where it still operates.

Talk about a souvenir !!!


I also very much enjoyed the World’s Fair in Knoxville in 1982

………. I brought home a lot of cool stuff from that one.

It was a large, very modern, very elaborate fair.

And, the city of Knoxville got to keep the biggest Fair souvenir of all –

– the Sunsphere .

Ok.. the girl I went to the Fair with seemed to imply that there was some deep, dark symbolism behind the rather… errrr….. phallic look to the thing…

but, if I had one that size I’d never leave the house, (except to show it off at parties), never mind park it where anyone, ( well, almost anyone) can just walk away with it.

Wait… that didn’t come out exactly right.


the Sunsphere serves as a well known and well loved landmark for the city of Knoxville.

That’s one of the advantages of holding a World’s Fair in your city..

…. you get to keep whatever goodies you want to after it’s over.

And why not?

The “Unisphere” , the 12 story high, stainless steel globe pictured on my 1964 World’s Fair souvenir, and which still stands in Flushing Meadows , Queens, New York is a good example.

Cities will tear down most of the body of the fair, but leave something behind, as a momento, or souvenir, if you will.

That tradition started early—

Most people consider the first World’s Fair to have been the Great Exhibition of 1851 , in Hyde Park, London.

Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, spearheaded the effort to hold a Fair that would showcase the new technologies coming on line at the time — and demonstrate Britain’s leadership in industry and trade.

The idea was originally conceived by Henry Cole , an artist and inventor.

It was actually quite controversial at the time –

Most of the British Upper Class thought it was to be a huge waste of money, and bring a lot of ‘riff-raff’ into the city, but the gleaming highlight of the fair– “The Crystal Palace“– convinced many to change their view.


The architectural masterpiece that was the “Crystal Palace” , was designed by Joseph Paxton, and was sort of a huge greenhouse.

It was 1851 feet long, 454 feet wide, and about 80 foot high in places– almost a million square feet, covering 18 acres — with glass everywhere supported by a cast iron frame.

There were trees, statues, art, and all the new technologies of the day.

The first floor housed the heavier and bulkier industrial exhibits like steam engines, power looms, stamping machines…

While the second floor was dedicated to “philosophical, musical, and surgical instruments” ranging from pipe organs to microscopes.

Cyrus McCormick’s reaper was there..

Samuel Colt’s pistol was there, too.

So was one of Queen Victoria’s most prized possessions — The Great Diamond of Runjeet Singh, called ‘Koh-i-Noor,’ or Mountain of Light.”

Sounds like something to see alright…

And over 6 million people did go to London to see it.

(As well as to check to see if they ‘ had Prince Albert in the can ‘ …)

When the Exposition was over, the Crystal Palace remained in Hyde Park until 1854, when it was moved to Sydenham Hill in southeast London.

For 82 years, it was a instantly recognizable landmark of London, until a fire completely destroyed the structure in 1936.

Still, it was quite good value for money for London, and drew an immeasurable amount of tourism to the city.

Unlike London’s long-lost Crystal Palace……..,

Some World’s Fair landmarks are still standing and very much in use……..


Probably the most famous World’s Fair survivor in the world is the 1000 foot tall iron La Tour Eiffel — the Eiffel Tower, in Paris.

It was built as the gateway arch for the 1889 World’s Fair , and must have presented visitors with quite ‘an entrance’.

It is the tallest structure in the world’s most beautiful city, with a spectacular view, and it is simply a must see.

It takes 300 steps to ascend to the first level, and 300 more to the second.

And just when you are completely wore out from climbing, an elevator mercifully takes you to the third and highest platform.

There are restaurants on the first and second levels, so you can take your time.

An interesting piece of trivia about that third level…. during World War II, the French Resistance cut the cables for the elevator after the Germans invaded France, so that Hitler would have to climb the steps.

He decided not to try it.

But he did order the German Military Governor Von Choltitz to blow it up as the Germans were retreating from Paris…..

That order was disobeyed, and La Tour Eiffel still serves as Paris’s most famous landmark.

( And, it just goes to show ya, it’s not just me–
……. almost EVERYBODY loves Paris.)


The magnificent Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park was originally built for the California International Exposition of 1894.

The gates to the garden, as well as the Pagoda, are also from a World’s Fair — the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915.

It is the oldest public Japanese Garden in the United States, and covers 5 acres with elaborate pathways, intricate bridges, rare and unusual plants from Japan and China, beautiful sculptures, a Zen garden, and the 9000 pound Lantern of Peace .

And interestingly enough, the first “fortune cookies” in the U.S.
(they originated in Japan around 1880) were served here.
fortune cookie
The one I always get was probably made about that time, too.

There are actually a surprising number of surviving structures left from World’s Fairs around,

……… in the United States and Europe particularly…


In Seattle, three survivors of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair are still very much in use today….

The Space Needle , an icon for that fair and the city itself , stands 605 feet tall, giving a breathtaking view from it’s observation deck ( at 520 feet) of Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, Elliott Bay, and downtown Seattle.

And, wow….. what a view.

Then, there’s the famed Monorail – which still runs daily.

And the U.S. Pavilion — which is now the Pacific Science Center.

In Montreal, Canada, a fitting tribute to the genius of Buckminster Fuller remains from ‘EXPO 67′, in the form of the famous Montreal Biosphere, now a museum dedicated to the environment.

This Icosehedron shaped sphere is 200 feet high, and 250 feet in diameter, and originally contained the world’s longest escalator, and a monorail.

One of the oldest World’s Fair survivors is in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia — the Centennial Exposition of 1876′s main entry building — now the Please Touch Museum .

And a favorite of mine, in Brussels, left over from ‘Expo 58′ – is the Atomium — a 102 foot tall structure built to emulate the cell of an Iron crystal.

I’d love to show you what this thing looks like, but apparently, some litigious idiots involved in renovating the thing have been taking people to court for ‘copyright’ violations for publishing pictures of it —


I know…..


2 thoughts on “I Saw It At The World’s Fair

  1. thank you… I appreciate that, and I appreciate you– :-)
    my blog is for a certain type of person who can enjoy it, and it has limited appeal, I know.
    So I don’t worry much about numbers… not much, anyway. :-D

  2. reocochran says:

    This took a lot of work to put this post together. I hope you know eventually you will get more comments and appreciation for what you present here! I look back at my post “beginnings” and have not really built a lot in numbers since then… But I have some nice commenters, like you !I wish you had some but maybe due to the way people are busy? Not sure but want to give you kudos and encouragement!

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