Remembering the 1964/65 World’s Fair

While the fair may have been controversial and a financial failure, a generation of visitors still looked back fondly on their time at the 1964/1965 World’s Fair. Further, while it fell far short of the seventy million visitor goal and failed to recoup its costs, the 1964/65 fair actually attracted more visitors than any other fair to date. Millions remember the 1964/65 fair as a moment of happiness amid a turbulent era.

Family Photo at the 1964/65 World's Fair, 1965. Via the Knoetgen Private Collection.

Family Photo at the 1964/65 World’s Fair, 1965. Via the Knoetgen Private Collection.

Harper’s Weekly eloquently summarized this idea in its October 1965 article “ Goodbye to World’s Fair:” “Gone were the expectations that the fair would break even… what was not gone, however, was the patently evident fact that a great many people were, in the semi-dazed manner of the fairgoer, having a magical experience.”

The fact that fair dazzled so many, may explain the event’s continued appearance in advertising, film and television. The sixties are often remembered for violent civil rights clashes, growing tumult and loss of life in Vietnam and the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. In offering visitors a temporary escape from political upheaval, the fair became, and continues to serve a symbol of gaiety.

We can thank this positive reputation for prompting a mass impulse to save and collect fair related artifacts. Tokens like the ones in the City Reliquary’s collection exists in jewelry boxes, attics, garages and private collections across the world because for many a fairgoer, the Worlds fair was indeed a magical experience.

Related Collections and Media