1939 New York World’s Fair Photograph Collection
211 albums, many in duplicate and some in triplicate, 3,031 unique images
Touted as the largest and most magnificent exposition of all time, the New York World’s Fair opened at Flushing Meadow in April 1939. In the Court of States, one exhibition was strikingly different from the rest: the Virginia Room, “an island of quiet” amid the fair’s raucous and more sensational attractions. Leslie Cheek, Jr., designer of the Virginia Room, and his team of artists developed a plan for a spacious circular lounge with the visitor’s focus drawn to an ornamental fountain theatrically lit from above and below. Around the fountain’s statue—an allegorical representation of the “Spirit of Virginia” drawing water from the clouds—were clipped boxwoods and a series of deep cushioned seats and low tables. Cheek remarked that a visitor to the Virginia Room should find “an intelligently arranged display, free of ballyhoo and high pressure salesmanship.” The design offered tired fairgoers a place to sit, a chance to enjoy a complimentary glass of ice water served by a white-jacketed waiter, and an array of large photograph albums prepared by the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce.
Taken together, the Virginia Room albums can be thought of as a sprawling infomercial for the state, promoting it as a place not just of historic shrines and natural beauty, but as one of scientific, … Read the rest