Scope and Contents
This material consists primarily of guide books, souvenir books, catalogs, brochures, maps, general images, lithographs, advertising cards, postcards, commemorative stamps, tickets and correspondence created for the World's Fairs. A few trade catalogs (Chicago, 1893), magazines, bubble gum cards (Chicago, 1933-1934) and photographs are also included in the materials. One remarkable item in the world exposition's material is a "peephole" paper toy viewer from the New York 1939-1940 fair.
The amount of material for each fair varies widely. Most of the fairs including Paris 1855, Lausanne 1857, Boston 1883-1884, Bordeaux 1895, Philadelphia 1899, Milan 1906, Albuquerque 1908 and Seattle 1962 have very little information. The Philadelphia 1876 and Chicago 1893 expositions, however, contain a substantial amount of material. A number of expositions are not included among the materials. The container list indicates which fairs the Archives Center has information on in this collection.
A number of the expositions were given a nickname, mostly as a result of the architecture dominating the fair. Examples of those nicknames include the White City (Chicago 1893), the Magic City (Omaha 1898), the Rainbow City (Buffalo 1901), the Ivory City (St. Louis 1904), the Jewel City (San Francisco 1915), and Treasure Island San Francisco 1939-1940).
The World Expositions tend to have a theme or celebrate a special event. "The Age of Steam" was the theme for the first world exposition, held in London in 1851. In 1876, the Philadelphia exposition celebrated a century of American independence. The common name was the "Philadelphia Centennial." The Chicago 1893 fair celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America and was referred to as the "World's Columbian Exposition." The Omaha exposition in 1898 is known as the "Invitation to Renewed Expansion of the West." Buffalo's theme in 1901 was "All Americas Exposition", demonstrating the cultural, commercial and technical progress of the Western Hemisphere. Expanding the West was the theme for the St. Louis fair in 1904 to celebrate the lOOth anniversary of the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France. In 1915, San Francisco celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal. American independence was celebrated again in Philadelphia in 1926 marking 150 years. Chicago's fair in 1933-1934 was called "A Century of Progress" it was incorporated as a city in 1833. The exposition in New York in 1939-1940 had two themes: "Building a World for Tomorrow" in 1939 and "For Peace and Freedom" in 1940. San Francisco's world's fair in 1939-1940 also had two themes: "Dawn of a New Day" in 1939 and "Fun in the Fourties" in 1940. The theme for New York's exposition in 1964-1965, "Peace Through Understanding", celebrated the 300th anniversary of the naming of New York by the British and the 15th anniversary of the United Nations in New York City.
Researchers interested in women's history will find little information on that subject. Most of the expositions had a Women's building, however, there are only a few items referring to them in this collection. Such materials include a book from the Philadelphia 1876 fair which discusses women's work. Another book from the Chicago 1893 fair examines the art and handicraft in the Women's building. A pamphlet also from the Chicago fair contains the official minutes of the Board of Lady Managers.
The materials in boxes one through seventeen are organized in chronological order by the name of the location of the fair. A number of manufacturers and distributors of various products created advertising for the expositions. Such materials remain with those created about the fair. A photocopy of product advertising has been filed in the appropriate subject category in the Warshaw Collection. Box eighteen contains miscellaneous items that could not be identified with a particular exposition. Such materials include photographs, advertising cards and souvenir books.
Other collections in the Archives that relate to world expositions are the Orth and Zimm collections. The Edward J. Orth Memorial Archives of the New York World's Fair 1939-1940 primarily documents the general organization of the New York fair and specific national or corporate pavilions. Holdings include advertising and promotional literature, press kits, maps and official guides, photographs and brochures. Additional material includes scrapbooks, photo album, diaries, postcards and posters. Among the personal papers of Mr. Orth are correspondence and copies of the newsletter, Exposition Collectors and Historians Organization (ECHO). ECHO was organized by Mr. Orth in 1976 for collectors and historians of world's fairs and disbanded upon his death. This collection is stored off site. Researchers are requested to make an appointment to use the materials. The Zimm Collection contains materials from a number of the world's fairs. These materials are also stored off site and researchers will need to make an appointment.
Materials in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History that relate to the world's fairs can also be found in its Library. The Library has both primary and secondary sources. All of the primary materials have been microfilmed. The library also contains a comprehensive collection of secondary sources on the expositions. Among the secondary sources is a publication The Book Fairs, Materials about World's Fairs, 1834-1916, in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries (1992).
Special collections (Dibner Library) contains about thirty very rare items from various world expositions mostly dating from the 1851 fair and those occurring in the 1880s. Such items are mostly coffee table books created about the fairs. All items can be searched in SIRIS (Smithsonian Institution Research Information Service.) located in the library or the Archives Center's reference room. Researchers will need to contact the Dibner library to make an appointment to see original materials.
The Museum's curatorial divisions hold a number of three dimensional objects relating to the fairs. For information on the objects researchers should contact the divisions.