Trylon and Perisphere in World’s Fair 1939

Image of the Base of the Theme Center at night,
Hugh Ferriss (1889 – 1962),
Charcoal drawing on board

The Trylon and Perisphere are the well known symbols for the World’s Fair. They have been turned into many different kinds of souvenirs including salt and pepper shakers. During this fair, they were turned into the Theme Center. The Perisphere was 180 feet (55 m) in diameter and the Trylon was 610 feet (190 m). These symbols from the 1939 fair interest me because people were able to go inside of them to see a special exhibit. Inside, there was a diorama of a utopian city of the future.

Each day, the Theme Center was open for 12 hours. To enter, visitors would go into the Trylon and up the two largest escalators in the world at the time (pictured above). The escalators turned into moving sidewalks that took visitors around the Perisphere. Inside was the “Democracity” exhibit that showed a futuristic city. Visitors watched a 6 minute show featuring a spoken program that was narrated by a radio commentator. The narrator took them on a visit to the city like they were coming from the country side. The story features what a perfect city would like 20 years in the future, 1960. The city was said to house more than 1,000,000 people while being safer and having less traffic then before.

Image of the Theme Center lobby and escalators.

I was able to find a PDF version of a 24-page brochure explaining the city in greater detail. Thanks to Cathy Scibelli, you can view the brochure here for free.

Image of a diagram showing the different parts of the Theme Center

I find the Trylon and Perisphere interesting in particular because they were able to build these massive structures and decided to make them interactable. The wording that was used to describe the city was hopeful and factual. The narrator made it seem like they had plans to start work on the city in real life in the coming months.

As I looked through the details of the plans, two topics stood out to me. They talked about safety and traffic control in many different ways. One example of both topics is that they wanted to move sidewalks up. Moving the walk ways to the tops of buildings would provide more space of cars to move. It would also be safer for people that wanted to walk because there would not be any cars to worry about. Very interesting overall.

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