my 1964-65 NY World’s Fair collection
The New York 1964-65 World’s Fair | Flushing Meadow, Queens
So I know a lot of my friends think me insane for this ever-growing collection, but i’d like to give you a little background on the WHY behind it all.
Growing up in Queens just minutes from where the fair was held, the Unisphere was something I always saw – practically on a weekly basis. I used to go ice skating there (when there was an indoor rink) once a week. Despite my skating skills never improving and once falling & crying loud enough that the whole rink stopped to come over to look (–not TOO embarrassing but I sprained my ankle) I still always looked forward to going. There was something just so COOL about that giant globe which you have no doubt seen on your way to Citi Field or LaGuardia Airport.
To add to that, some of my first memories are tiny little snippets of actually GOING to the fair when I must have been around 3 years old (do the math, figure out my age and you get a gold star.) I recall the helicopter ride, the puppet show (which gave me the creeps ), The Tower Of The Four Winds (perhaps fueling my Disney obsession as well?) and little bit of Futurama.
I used to look through the guide book my parents saved over and over reading all about the exhibits, always hoping it would somehow all reappear. Through the years I kept those guide books, as well as a few minor souvenir items.
Flash forward to around 1996 when eBay was in its infancy. I would spend HOURS obsessed thinking about random items or old toys I had and discovering them on there. One day somehow I came across World’s Fair items, and the lunacy began. Hundreds and hundreds of things i’d never seen before all right there on eBay in one giant list! It was like discovering a hidden treasure chest.
Shortly after that I started going to Brimfield in MA about twice a year to go antique shopping. There I would fine World’s Fair pieces hidden amongst the glassware and paper goods, my eyes becoming trained to search out the signature Orange and Aqua colors.
As my collection slowly grew, I found out about a show held every Memorial Day weekend at a hotel in Queens put on by the World’s Fair collectors society. As much cool stuff as I thought I had, going to this put my collection to shame. Here were hundreds of item, many of them rare one-of-a-kind pieces, the likes of which i’d never seen before. This event sparked my interest in hunting out ‘oddball’ pieces; ones that were not as easy to find as the postcards and glassware that seemed plentiful.
In recent years I have slowed down on this habit, since I have SO much and generally only buy things that are, at least to me, pretty unusual. When I bought this house 10 years ago, I told myself that while I wanted to display everything, I didn’t want it spread all over the house like a hoarder. I carved out a little cabinets worth of space in my living room and until just recently that display went untouched.
Realizing that I basically had NO idea HOW much stuff I really had (there was a bin of even MORE in the attic), I disassembled my semi-permanent display (it REALLY needing cleaning too and was pretty gross) and decided to photograph it all, the result of which you see here.
There is quite a bit here and i’ll explain some of them as needed – but I hope you get a kick out of this trip into the past as much as I do!
a super cute pop-up book.
unused sheet of stamps
this was a piece my Grandmother actually had!
believe it or not this is supposed to be used for crackers of all things!
this was a personal favorite as a kid (this is a re-purchased one as mine got a hole in it and wouldn’t hold air)
I should show up at a wedding with this.
the black plates are cool since they’re a matching front/back set.
I’m not sure WHAT you;re supposed to be stirring with these little pitchforks.
now THIS I feel guilty about. The NY State Pavilion still designed by Philip Johnson stands as a crumbling ruin, yet has a loyal group of volunteers attempting to restore it. There is even a Facebook group behind the effort. There have been rumors about it becoming a air and space museum, outdoor concert space etc etc. Apparently its unsafe for use as it is, but would cost more to tear down–so it stands unused and decaying. Anyway, back in the early 90’s you could still wander around inside if you got lucky, and these are a few loose pieces I found that were from the original huge map (which was the entire floor of the space) of NY State.
So now I feel bad that I snagged a couple of piece knowing how hard they are in trying to restore it!!
I swear I can still remember the smell of hot plastic as the machine pressed these out for you on demand!
pretty hideous salad tongs and weird little cocktail picks
this is actually a bank – you put a coin in and it SHOT it up into the Unisphere!
this was one of those collectors society finds I longed or and finally got. At the time I probably paid close to over $200 for this.
this was not inexpensive either!
note the WF logo on the back of the bus.
these guys I picked up in Maine!
still sealed napkins and coasters.
another pretty ugly item.
how cute is this? A child’s clip on bow tie.
unused paper placemat.
an entire box of matches.
some random pins. The Futurama one is unused.
I have a feeling this may be a knockoff–it’s in too good a shape.
this game is cool but looks incredible boring!
this I don’t want to fully assemble since it would be kind if ruined, but its a paper 3-d ‘pop-up’ board game.
this is one of those weird pens where when you tip it the thing inside the liquid moves. You have probably seen the saucy ones where the woman top comes off!
now I know this is silver plate since it tarnishes really quickly, but the thing is you can’t tell from the photo is that it’s REALLY small – like maybe 4 inches. So i’m uncertain as to whether it’s for condiments or an incredibly small child.
another vinyl tote bag.
so this was a toy I had as a kid and LOVED. Sadly mine disappeared (as in got thrown away) so this is an eBay find I probably paid WAY too much for.
now this I had been hunting for practically FOREVER. It’s one of the metal signs used on the highway to direct people to the fair. Many of them had arrows painted on them (to designate exits), so i’m not sure if this was was somehow unused so simply a sort of guidepost one.
boy scout scarf.
this is rather large–maybe 2 foot across or so.
so the guidebook on the left is the TWA one my Dad got from work that I used to look through for hours. What a strange child I was….
this is kinda cool as that’s my Moms writing on the top one.
that’s me on the right having drinks at the fair 🙂
quite the elaborate Futurama souvenir book!
who’s up for Hot Dutch Tuna Buns?!
unused paper bags and a shopping bag.
I know everybody says they HATE this song but I must have played this 45rpm a gazillion times.
a silk (or polyester perhaps) ladies scarf.
one of those awful linen ‘towel’ calendars.
this is cool and pretty new to the collection – a child’s umbrella. (I guess kids then were too weak for full-sized)
lots and LOTS of postcards!
So there you have it – in probably more detail then you care to witness. If you are at ALL interested THIS SITE is incredibly comprehensive in regards to everything World’s Fair!
Very nicely done! As a former employee of the New York 1964/1965 World’s Fair while a student in College (as a “Golden Girl”, named for the color of our uniforms & serving as Fair Tour Guide & Information Booth Staffer), I enjoyed the trip down memory lane & viewing all the mementos!
Great collection. I went 13 times and still have a box of memorabilia. Want to buy my Heinz pickle pin or irradiated dime? – Jeff
Just found what I assume is a bracelet charm while cleaning out the rust/insulation/carpet from under the backseat of the 1966 Olds Starfire I am restoring. I didn’t see one in your collection.
Oh gosh no–I don’t think I have one of those!!!
Nice display of items.
My parents brought me the inflatable “Dino” when they came back from the fair…my cousin sat on it as soon as it got inflated, and popped it…I don’t think I’ve ever forgiven Ralphie for that…
omg- that’s both really funny and sad!!
Your website was a wonderful trip through memory lane! My dad was involved in the early construction projects and I have a few pictures I took with my Kodak Brownie. I was luck to tag along on some of the days. I have a child’s World Fair watch inscribed outside the metal holder with ELECTRONICALLY TIMED / ANTI MAGNETIC / CASE SWISS MADE. Sadly the plastic crystal is so rough that nothing can bring it back to a clear example. The mechanism no longer works as I obviously rewound it beyond use! The face has the conventional one half red / one half blue with silver raised numbers, silver hour and minute hands and a thin red seconds hand. On the back of the mechanism you can barely see ONE JEWEL UNADUSTED and a name BERGER. Any suggestions? I have not yet seen this watch in any catalogue. Many thanks in advance! Philippe Maurice, Canada.
Wow- thats so cool!! We lived about 10 minutes from the fair grounds, so I basically are up with it right in my neighborhood! I have VERY blurry memories oof visiting when I was about 3 years old – god how I wish I could hop back in a time machine!!
Oh gosh- I really dont know about that piece!!!
Hello Robert – I was a friend of the late David Oats, journalist and member of the World’s Fair Collectors Society from Flushing, Queens. He introduced me to Peter M. Warner at the Mighty Fair exhibition they co-curated in 1985. This is a terrific collection of images. I share your fascination with the 64-65 fair. Is the Society still active? I’d be happy to connect, if you are so inclined.
I actually do not know if they’re still around or not!!
So many items! Very nice! I have a cobalt blue swizzle stick (drink stirrer). I didn’t see one in your collection. Do you think you can tell me if it Very collectible or not. Maybe an estimated value? Thanks for sharing your collection.
Gosh, i’m really not sure! Have you looked for it on ebay?
Hello. My parents took me to the fair when I was young and I remember enjoying it. I still have a few pieces from that visit. I remember watching my green Sinclair dinosaur being made! I still have the little battery operated lantern that you had to wear in your breast pocket because of the battery.
I’m actually writing to ask for your help. Do you have any pictures of the interiors of the house in Tomorrow Land? We went to the Fair just before it was closing and they were selling off the furniture in the rooms and my father bought a few pieces. I still have 2 danish modern looking side tables with hidden slide out Formica surfaces for drinks. I remember one of the side tables arrived with a blue marble ashtray and a wine glass stuck to the wood that my mum had a hard time getting off. The receipt used to be in the draw but that disappeared after my mum died and my dad was on his own. A pity it was lost. There were also 2 chairs and round tables that I think also came from the Fair. That’s why I am asking if anyone has any photos of the interiors of that help I would greatly appreciate seeing them. Thank-you for your time. Sincerely, Lizbeth
I visited the Fair both years for a total of 29 days, one after closing. Seven of those days were working in one of the pavilions as a member of the Scout Service Corps. I was chosen to guide handicapped persons to four pavilions, plus was a member of the honor guard at the United States Pavilion and a member of an honor squad that welcomed Mayor Robert Wagner to the fair and enjoyed a handshake with him. My duties at our Pavilion were to demonstrate artificial respiration, fire kindling, and knot typing. I was also an honor guide for Explorer Island. I served during the first Fair year, 1964. My personal collection of souvenirs includes several of those pictured above, although there are much more that I don’t possess. Not surprising, as there must be hundreds that could be had. However, I collect from all Fairs, American and otherwise. Thanks for posting your collection. It’s way more than interesting, very engrossing.
I just found this post and as the former official artist of the fair summer of 1965, it is a joy to look through your collection. I was hoping to see one of my paintings but did not. I spent that summer posted next to the Unisphere creating quick paintings called “impressions of the Fair.” They were splashes of colors and black marker drawings of various pavilions from my perspective. They were signed Lisa Davis. I never kept any of them and have always hoped one would turn up someday. I created hundreds of them that summer and had a wonderful time dressed up as an artist with my beret and smock. When I wasn’t painting I worked at the NEngland pavilions Millstone Restaurant.. they are all great memories!
THAT is amazing!! I wonder if i’ve seen some over the years not realizing what they were?! I was only 3 years old at the time but weirdly have a few snippets of memories of going there!
Great collection, just beautiful…..I have pretty good one myself….Keep going at it !!
Thanks so much!!!
This website is spectacular. The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair is definitely worth remembering.
The amazing sights and sounds that could truly be seen only once in a lifetime. I am one of the members of a website called the World’s Fair Community. The World’s Fair Community is a website where world’s fair enthusiasts share memories of the world’s fairs, and expos that they went to.
Many of us on the website post pictures, videos, website links and many others related to different world’s fairs. The website also has many topics from different world’s fairs, which go back as far as the first world’s fair , which was the Crystal Palace Exposition of 1851 in London, England.
To join the World’s Fair Community is free, no gimmicks, or credit card needed. Step 5 just consists of fill in the blank statements that revolves around the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. We welcome all people from all walks of life to become a new member. I am GoGreyhound on the World’s Fair Community. Bill Cotter is the lead administrator on the World’s Fair Community, along with his other website https://www.worldsfairphotos.com.
The registration page to the World’s Fair Community is http://www.worldsfaircommunity.org/register/
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How cool- thank you so much!!!
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Such a cool site. I went in 65 when I was 7. We stayed in someone’s home in Queens -they rented us a room for a couple of nights Dad was a Bell Telephone employee, so we got a fast pass into their exhibit (I was appalled at first, thinking that we butted into line!) My green Sinclair brontosaurus is long gone, and my brother’s t.rex melted in the hot sun when he out it on the rear deck if our car. My hubby went with his Long Island family. His ever-thrifty dad spotted some janitors throwing out a very large cardboard barrel at the GE Pavilion, figured it would make a great workshop trash barrel, and asked if he could take it. It has been in their various houses until this year, when his widow moved to a retirement home We realized that the printing on the barrel showed a picture of the pavilion and other W.F info. , And thought that it might have value as a one of a kind thing It was just purchased a by a collector on ebay for a pretty astonishing amount of money. Anyway, thanks for the memories. I’m pretty sure I had that beach ball!
Oh wow – that iS so cool!! We lived near the site and I was about 3 when I went, but believe it or not have snippets of memories!!
What a trip down memory lane!! Thank you for sharing. My grandparents lived in Corona on 108th street. I was at the fair almost everyday. I also remember the smell of the plastic dinosaurs being made. Then I would take my nail and take off all the over pour from the edges. I am now a 60 year old grown woman and I still get so excited going on It’s a small world in Disney. I thought I was the
cat’s meow wearing my felted hat with the tall feather, embroidered with my name. Loved going to the Lowenbrau. My father loved going there a bit too much! Lol.
Thanks for the memories!!!!
wow, great site! I still have a “souvenir” that my Dad gave me. He drove the Deputy Mayor at the time, and his car had a” NY Worlds Fair Member” medallion clipped to the bumper!!!