July 25, 2007

1939 New York World's Fair Apron

At a junk store housed in a dusty barn in Elberta, Alabama, my mother-in-law and I unearthed one of my most exciting thrift finds to date. After our shopping spree, we returned to the house and began to pore over each piece in the large assortment for which the proprietress of the sale, "Miss T", had charged me sixteen dollars. As I began to take a closer look at the handful of vintage aprons we had snagged off a hook in a dirty corner, I was beside myself with excitement when I realized exactly what I was holding- an authentic souvenir from the 1939 New York World's Fair. The apron is actually a map of the magnificent fair grounds designed to introduce the public to the "World of Tomorrow".

The 1939 World's Fair, despite being a colossal financial failure, was one of the most important and influential world events of the 20th century. It was here that the public was first introduced to television, the electric typewriter, an electronic speech synthesizer, a precursor to the computer, and all the latest in electronics, agricultural science, food production, home construction, architecture and more.

The "Theme Center" of the grounds contained two astounding structures named the Trylon and Perisphere.

The image of the Trylon and Perisphere make up the deco-ish border design of the apron, as well.

One would enter the buildings on a futuristic moving stairway and then exit on a huge curved ramp called the Helicline, pictured in action in this Greyhound ad I found here, along with several other images from postcards of the day. The fountains seen at the base of the Perisphere were part of an optical illusion which also involved mirrored supports at the base, giving the effect that the structure was floating on a giant pool of water.

The grounds were an experimental architectural fantasy come to life, as the firms hired to design the buildings were encouraged to let their imaginations soar. I can scarcely wrap my mind around how beautiful and awe-inspiring the spectacle must have been, even by today's standards. From the central, all-white Trylon and Perisphere, the avenues stretched outward into different "zones", each with a different progression through deeper and deeper shades of one color, all lit up magnificently at night with various types of lighting, including neon, which had only recently become widely used.

The illustrations on the apron are surprisingly detailed and accurate. Above you can see the Corona Gate depicted on the apron, and below is an image of that same structure from a 1939 postcard.

Below, near the apron's border, in the Community Interests Zone, is the Cosmetics Building.

The Maison-Coty sponsored building was designed to resemble a cosmetic jar of the time.

You know how I love my vintage beauty products, Dollfaces, so you know this will be my first stop when I finally get my hands on a time machine and head to New York circa 1939. I found this photo on this informative site, which I highly recommend.

The fair was not exclusive to New York, this was, after all, the World's Fair. Sixty foreign countries participated in the event, each contributing a pavilion highlighting their own particular cultural offerings and commercial products. Central to the Government Zone, was the Lagoon of Nations.

Each night, over the lagoon, there was an elaborate show featuring fountains, flames and colored lighting effects, all synchronized to special music. It must have been truly breathtaking.

Sadly, only one of these beautiful buildings exists today in what is now known as Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. Most of the structures were demolished and later another World's Fair, this time in 1964, was held on the site. My thrifted souvenir apron is about as close as I'll ever come to experiencing what must have been a magical, once in a lifetime event, but it's certainly a pretty fabulous consolation prize, especially for an apron collector such as myself.


Wendy said...

Oh my goodness, what a prize! I think I'm drooling. I hope it's because of excitement and not old age.

bgirl said...

What a treasure! Oh, cruel envy!

Feathers said...

That is an amazing apron, I have never seen one like that. Bet you were jumping with joy to find that treasure!!

jungle dream pagoda said...

Supremely amazing find!!!!...and Child,what a fun history lesson!

tikiranch said...

I am so happy you found one , I remember you telling me you want to find one.