Thomas writes about ‘last great World’s Fair’

By Staff

David Thomas
David Thomas, CU Denver assistant professor attendant, has written about the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair – what he calls “the last great one” – for a chapter about the aesthetics of fun for a new anthology on World’s Fairs, “Meet Me at the Fair” (Carnegie Mellon University ETC Press, 2014), edited by Laura Hollengreen, Celia Pearce, Rebecca Rouse and Bobby Schweizer. His chapter (7.3, page 423) is titled, suitably enough, “Fun at the Fair.”

The 1964-65 New York World’s Fair goes down in the record books as the most popular and one of its most contentious, said Thomas. “It was simultaneously the most fabulous and ambitious of the World Fairs. It was also a money loser and, ultimately, not even sanctioned by the World’s Fair authority.”

In the chapter, Thomas explains that fun as "a term has its roots around 300 years ago in the English concept of a cheat, trick, or hoax, reaching its more contemporary meaning of amusement or frivolity during the past 100 years. And while fun as frivolity remains a popular sense of the term, for Americans the notion of fun seems to have been elevated into an aesthetic category of its own. Rather than act as a synonym for the frivolous, fun signals a break from the ordinary, a gentle revolt against the orthodox, a mild transgression and a pleasure unique to itself."

According to Thomas, the fun was a result of multiple attractions designed and developed by Disney as well as other elements built by companies such as AT&T and IBM. This fair laid the groundwork for more permanent fun places -- most notably Disney’s EPCOT Center. And Thomas noted, the fair’s fun was entertainment unlike the kind of entertainment the American public would expect at that time.