Once upon a time — in 1939 to be exact — the world of tomorrow was unveiled in New York. Spread over 1200 acres, the New York World’s Fair radiated outwards from the Trylon and Perisphere, sparkling white icons that promised a bright future. Over 44 million people attended the fair during its two season run.
Imagine how those visitors felt walking through streets of wonder that ranged from art treasures to new inventions to spectacular shows like the Billy Rose Aquacade, starring Olympic gold medalist Johnny Weissmuller of Tarzan fame. A country just beginning to emerge from the Great Depression was introduced to television, air conditioning, milking machines, View-Master slides and Smell-O-Vision, a technology that the world has yet to embrace.
General Motors wowed the crowds with Futurama, a ride through a city of tomorrow, complete with miniature highways, towns, and vehicles, including a half million homes and a million tiny trees of different species. At the ride’s conclusion, each passenger received a small blue and white button that read, “I have seen the future.”
Of course, 75 years later we know that 1939 also saw the start of World War II in Europe, but that dark shadow is not apparent in this accordion-fold postcard from the fair. Instead, it spills out a host of modern buildings in pristine settings, the inside flap proclaiming, “… it contains a promise for the Future built with the tools of Today upon the experience of Yesterday.” They knew how to cover their bases!
The postcard folder is unused — no writing, stamp or postmark. Did the fair-goer who purchased it intend to send it to someone, but became too tired at the end of the day to address and mail it? Or perhaps a visitor bought it as a souvenir, to be able to relive a once-in-a-lifetime journey to tomorrow.
Whatever its intended fate, I have the folder now, a vibrant vision from the past of what someone imagined might be my present.