How the ‘World’s Fair’ Has Celebrated International Achievements for Over 150 Years

The Exposition Universelle of 1889

What is the World's Fair History

Photo via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

For the grand entrance of the Exposition Universelle in Paris, Gustave Eiffel and his firm, Eiffel et Compagnie, designed a three-leveled, 1,063-foot wrought iron tower. Selected from over 1,000 entries, the Eiffel Tower was built in homage to the French Revolution.

In addition to the avant-garde edifice, the Exposition Universelle also featured a Galerie des machines (“machine hall”), Wild West shows, and architectural models of sites around the world. The event lasted from May 6 through October 31, 1889.

Paris Exhibition (Exposition Universelle): Invalides Bridge and Street of Nations


The Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915

Panama-Pacific International Expo

From February 20 through December 4, 1915, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition was held in San Francisco. Though officially intended to mark the completion of the Panama Canal, this fair also celebrated the city's remarkable recovery following a devastating earthquake in 1906.

When they weren't marveling at the first transcontinental telephone call or admiring the on-loan Liberty Bell, visitors spent their time “strolling down wide boulevards, attending scientific and educational presentations, ‘traveling' to international pavilions and enjoying thrilling displays of sports, racing, music and art” (National Park Service).

Tower of Jewels, Panama Pacific International Exhibition, 1915


The 1964 World's Fair

New York World's Fair 1964-1965

In 1964, the World's Fair was held in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, New York. Thematically based on “Peace Through Understanding,” the spectacle showcased the achievements of 80 nations and 24 US states. It also featured pools, carnival rides, and fountains.

1964 New York Worlds Fair

This edition of the world's fair is where Walt Disney debuted his Audio-Animatronics. These technologically-advanced robots were featured in four shows: ‘Ford's Magic Skyway,' ‘Progressland,' ‘Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,' and ‘It's a Small World.' Disney would eventually bring all of these attractions to Disneyland, with the particularly popular ‘Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln' and ‘It's a Small World' remaining at the resort today.

The World's Fair Today

Every few years, the world's fair continues to inspire the public through two types of events: small Specialized Expos and the larger World Expos. Though the attractions have undoubtedly changed since London's Great Exhibition, these spectacles continue to highlight industrial advancements, entertain audiences, and unite individuals from cultures all around the world.

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
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