- Building the World of Tomorrow
- Pictures from the 1939 New York World's Fair
- Text by Nancy Levinson. Photographs by Frank Navara
- Tweeting Hoosier History
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Building the World of Tomorrow
Pictures from the 1939 New York World's Fair
TIME for Kids. Reprints and Permissions.
Text by Nancy Levinson. Photographs by Frank Navara
Log In Sign Up. Daniel London. Downloaded from juh. As a result, the public space and discourse of a fair nominally devoted to social interdependence was appropriated by a variety of other interests, particularly those of corporate America. Millions of Americans found their visits marred by exorbitantly inflated prices, delayed by strikes, and disappointed by cancelled exhibits. In the face of outside pressure, and with labor groups unable to address hostile critiques within the fair itself, the exposition administration withdrew its public support for unions while dramatically restricting their workplace rights.
Email: dlondongc gmail. Woll saw the Fair as something more than just another construction project, however. Such complacent self-congratulation no longer seemed appropriate for a city and nation still wracked by the Depression.
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The Fair Corporation reached out to the most powerful labor unions in the city for their support, demonstrating their goodwill through lenient union contracts and a relatively progressive Advisory Committee on Labor Relations. In contrast to labor contracts in previous and future fairs, which banned strikes of any kind and gave unions far less leeway in negotiating work rules and benefits, this was a decidedly liberal document.
Labor and Capital may here in this com- mon undertaking find a way to improve relations both in the nation at large and in the wider world. The day before the fair, several of the largest labor organizations in the country ran full-page advertisements in the New York Post, a relatively union-friendly newspaper. They want more equitable wages; they want the shorter workday so they may have more time with their families, for rest and recreation. Whereas officials at the Fair defined progress in the hazy language of cross-class cooperation, laborites saw progress in class-specific terms.
Unions were unable to make a physical impression on the fair except on isolated and temporary occasions, such as parades and special days. Instead they encountered a space that was dominated by the structures of American corporations—Ford, GM, Wonderbread, and several other large concerns. On the one hand, Fair officials had prevented more frequent labor appropriations of their space by banning radical worker groups from the site, even temporarily.
This was partly out of Downloaded from juh. In the season of the fair Walter G. These articles can only be released extolling the virtues of the American Federation of Labor and, I believe, would only lead to pressure to unionize the entire project such as Porters, Janitors, Groundkeepers, Cashiers, Ticket Takers, Landscape workers, etc. If the fair is not percent union where classification for that type of help exist, the fair might be accused of hypocrisy or would have to unionize those particular classes of help.
This, however, was not entirely the fault of admin- istrative ambivalence.
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Having become an established part of the American work- place through the Wagner Act, the AFL leadership was shifting its attention from popular organizing to negotiating workplace benefits. It is unsurprising, then, that the conservative leadership of the American Federation of Labor was unwilling to spend millions of dollars to establish a pavilion at a pleasure exhibition. Each offered a profoundly different perspective on the role of unions in American life.
The AFL held a Downloaded from juh. In contrast, the CIO sought to unify workers across craft lines within broad industrial unions while explicitly aligning them- selves with political parties—most notably the Democratic Party.
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The differences between these organizations were thus not only political and economic but cultural. The CIO envisioned an active and participatory place for workers in the American polity whereas the AFL stuck close to a more interest-group approach. Never in the history of the country has the organized labor movement attained such impor- tance in the eyes of the public, and because of this sudden prominence we are faced with wide- spread misunderstanding of the character, the purpose and the background of our labor movement.
To have a CIO-affiliated union involved in construction at the fair was bad enough, let alone to do so in order to project their own, separate account of U. To accept this particular proposal might alienate the Fair administration from local, regional, and national AFL bodies. In addition, Teague served on the official Design Board, the lone industrial designer among a group of architects.
One might assume that with so much on his plate, Teague would have moved towards a more hands-off approach at the fair. However, he was deeply involved in the conceptualization process. Du Pont, the company responsible for developments such as Kevlar, Teflon, neoprene, and Freon, had high expectations for their exhibit. The essential element of animation was incorporated through lights and bubbles that flowed through the test tubes and brought the structure to life. Displays followed the production process from raw materials to laboratory testing, and finally to manufacturing.
Still other exhibits featured technicians weaving rayon, making cellophane, and demonstrating various techniques used in producing Du Pont materials. Inside the exhibition hall, a foot-high moving mural made of automobile parts, planned by Teague and designed by Henry Billings, welcomed visitors to the Ford building. On the bottom tier, small animated figures harvested raw materials such as cotton, wool, and wood. On the next tier, figures processed those raw materials into cloth and boards. Finally, on the top tier, those products were incorporated into the final product — the wildly popular Ford V-8, a finished version of which adorned the top of the turntable.
Even more so than in the Du Pont exhibition, Teague incorporated a plethora of entertainment elements into the Ford pavilion.