Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World's Fair on the Brink of War


The summer of 1939 was an epic turning point for America—a brief window between the Great Depression and World War II. It was the last season of unbridled hope for peace and prosperity; by Labor Day, the Nazis were in Poland. And nothing would come to symbolize this transformation from acute optimism to fear and dread more than the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

A glorious vision of the future, the Fair introduced television, the fax machine, nylon, and fluorescent lights. The ...

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N.Y. 2010 Hard Cover First Edition New/Fine Dust Jacket 9780345512147 BRAND NEW BOOK OFF OUR WAREHOUSE SHELVES. 401 pages, with index, bibliography and several illustrations. A ... fascinating look at American life in 1939, an epic turning point in history, through the lens of the New York World's Fair, the "World of Tomorrow", with its colorful characters and incredible dramas. Read more Show Less

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The summer of 1939 was an epic turning point for America—a brief window between the Great Depression and World War II. It was the last season of unbridled hope for peace and prosperity; by Labor Day, the Nazis were in Poland. And nothing would come to symbolize this transformation from acute optimism to fear and dread more than the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

A glorious vision of the future, the Fair introduced television, the fax machine, nylon, and fluorescent lights. The “World of Tomorrow,” as it was called, was a dream city built upon a notorious garbage dump—The Great Gatsby’s infamous ash heaps. Yet these lofty dreams would come crashing down to earth in just two years. From the fair’s opening on a stormy spring day, everything that could go wrong did: not just freakish weather but power failures and bomb threats.

Amid the drama of the World’s Fair, four men would struggle against the coming global violence. Albert Einstein, a lifelong pacifist, would come to question his beliefs as never before. From his summer home on Long Island, he signed a series of letters to President Roosevelt urging the development of an atomic bomb—an act he would later recall as “the one great mistake in my life.”

Grover Whalen, the Fair’s president, struggled in vain to win over dictators Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin, believing that his utopian vision had the power to stop their madness. And two New York City police detectives, Joe Lynch and Freddy Socha, who had been assigned to investigate a series of bomb threats and explosions that had terrorized the city for months, would have a rendezvous with destiny at the Fair: During the summer of 1940, in a chilling preview of things to come, terrorism would arrive on American shores—and the grounds of the World’s Fair.

Yet behind this tragic tableau is a story as incredible as it is inspiring. With a colorful cast of supporting characters—including Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Robert Moses, and FDR—Twilight at the World of Tomorrow is narrative nonfiction at its finest, a gripping true-life drama that not only illuminates a forgotten episode of the nation’s past but shines a probing light upon its present and its future.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

It is inevitable that James Mauro's book on the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair will be compared to The Devil in the White City. In fact, its subtitle mirrors that of Erik Larson's bestseller (Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America) and both books are about much-ballyhooed world fairs. That said, Twilight at the World of Tomorrow stands on its own. In fact, in ways, it turns the other book's subtheme on its head. As Mauro presents it, this fair didn't change America; instead, events in Europe put a horrific new slant on the fair's original slogan of "Dawn of a New Day." To sustain his panoramic narrative, Mauro intertwines three running stories: one about Einstein; another about a deadly bombing; and the third, about the progress of the fair itself. He succeeds because his extensive research is never a dead weight. By the book's end, my only regret was that I hadn't asked my parents (who visited the fair several times) more questions about it. —R.J. Wilson, Bookseller, #1002, New York NY

Publishers Weekly
Former Cosmopolitan executive editor Mauro tries to underscore the irony of the 1939–1940 New York World's Fair, with its theme of world unity, opening on the brink of world war. But Mauro has multiple narratives, moving erratically between the evolution of the fair, with its slogan “Building the World of Tomorrow”; war brewing in Europe; and Germany gobbling up territory (Hitler refused the invitation to have a pavilion at the fair). As, one by one, European nations closed their pavilions, due to the war, the fair's theme rang increasingly hollow. During the fair's run, Einstein famously wrote to President Roosevelt expressing concern over Germany's stockpiling of uranium, giving rise to the Manhattan Project. To this unwieldy narrative Mauro adds the story of two NYPD bomb squad detectives killed when a bomb detonated on the fairgrounds on July 4, 1940. Aiming for another Devil in the White City, Mauro fails to pull all his threads together coherently, falling short of the mark. Photos. (July)
From the Publisher
“Mauro spices his story with tales of visiting presidents, kings, queens, politicians, sports heroes and movie stars … he wonderfully elaborates on the fair’s movers and shakers … Mauro’s story will likely appeal to fans of Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City … a delightful time capsule, skillfully unpacked.” —Kirkus, starred
Library Journal
Mauro, a former editor of Spy magazine, artfully explains how a mountain of garbage in a desolate area of New York City was transformed into the site of the 1939 World's Fair in spite of the plagues of extreme weather, cost overruns, missed deadlines, labor union problems, and even sabotage, not to mention the looming threat of war. With almost 45 million visitors during its two-year duration, it lost money continually up until it closed, foreshadowing the identical fate 24 years later of the 1964 World's Fair in the same location. While much of this history is already well known, Mauro does shed light on lesser-known aspects of the fair, including Albert Einstein's involvement with it and the terrible bombing that took place there on July 4, 1940, unsolved to this day, killing two New York City police detectives. More subjectively, the author briefly ponders the rhetorical question concerning the success of a fair whose original goal of promoting scientific progress in a futuristic setting was possibly compromised by the "selling" of gadgetry and gimmickry in a tawdry carnival-like atmosphere. VERDICT Enriched by many firsthand reminiscences, this rousingly good story about the origins and aftermath of the 1939 World's Fair will delight students of American cultural history. Highly recommended.—Richard Drezen, Brooklyn, NY
Kirkus Reviews
With the Great Depression subsiding and Europe headed for war, New York City threw a party. It didn't go well. The theme of the 1939 World's Fair was "The World of Tomorrow." Plagued by ferocious rain storms, withering heat waves, labor disputes, power outages, lower-than-expected attendance and weak revenues, the fair's glittering vision of the future nevertheless managed to amaze most of its 45 million attendees, even as they nervously consumed the news from overseas. Recounting the exposition's wonders and woes, former Cosmopolitan executive editor Mauro spices his story with tales of visiting presidents, kings, queens, politicians, sports heroes and movie stars. He wonderfully elaborates on the fair's movers and shakers: feisty Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, imperious and scheming Parks Commissioner Robert Moses and businessman Harvey Gibson, whose feckless application of "homey touches" to the proceedings embarrassed the city's official greeter and fair president, the pretentious and beleaguered Grover Whalen. Demonstrating how real-world events intruded upon the fair's assertions of sweetness and light, Mauro follows the careers of two policemen killed removing a bomb from the British Pavilion, and he tracks the activities of Albert Einstein, a three-time Fair visitor. Voluntarily in exile from Germany, the physicist abandoned his well-known pacifism, authoring a letter to Franklin Roosevelt warning about Hitler's atomic-bomb program, a notification that eventually inspired the Manhattan Project. Before the end of the fair's first season, many of the countries represented on its grounds were at war. Mauro's story will likely appeal to fans of Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City (2003), but readers should know that the crime element plays less heavily here. A delightful time capsule, skillfully unpacked. Local author promotion in the New York area. Agent: Scott Mendel/Mendel Media Group
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345512147
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/22/2010
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

James Mauro is a former editor of Spy magazine and executive editor of Cosmopolitan. Most recently he was editorial director for Moffly Media, publishers of the Connecticut periodicals Greenwich, Stamford, Westport, New Canaan Darien, and AtHome. His writing has been featured in Radar, Details, Spy, Psychology Today, and a host of other publications. He lives in Connecticut, where he is at work on his next book.
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Read an Excerpt

Twilight at the World of Tomorrow

Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World's Fair on the Brink of War
By James Mauro

Ballantine Books

Copyright © 2010 James Mauro
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780345512147


 When a fair is over, there is frequently the devil topay. For often as not World's Fairs result in thumping deficits.-Time magazine, 1939

"Why Don't You Do It, Daddy?"

 By all accounts, 1934 was a remarkable year: Flash Gordonmade his first appearance in the comic strips, and Frank Capra's It HappenedOne Night, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, would go on to win everymajor Academy Award. In May, one of the worst storms of the Dust Bowl sweptaway massive heaps of Great Plains topsoil; in August, Adolf Hitler becameGermany's new Führer. Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie and Clyde, andJohn Dillinger were all gunned down in spectacular, tabloid-titillatingfashion. On Broadway, Ethel Merman opened in Cole Porter's big new hit,Anything Goes; while farther uptown, in Harlem, seventeen-year-old EllaFitzgerald made her singing debut at the recently christened Apollo Theater.

 But savvy New Yorkers, sophisticated or streetwise, hadsomething much more important on their minds. The repeal of Prohibition theprevious December had made it easier and cheaper, if somewhat less fun, tospend an evening socializing over a glass of beer or a highball. Almostovernight, some thirty thousand-plus speakeasies in the city closed their doorsfor good, to be replaced by everything from the neighborhood saloon to thetony, upscale supper club. In the late summer of that year, at a cocktail partyheld in an unremarkable tavern in Kew Gardens, Queens, that was neither saloonnor salon, a small group of would-be swells mingled and chatted amiably. Theywere by no means the cream of society (the Kew Gardens location could attest tothat), but some could claim proximity, or at least relation, to it.

 One in particular was Edward Roosevelt, a stout, balding,bespectacled man whose round face and weak chin gave him the look of anelementary school principal or a henpecked husband. He was, however, a secondcousin of Eleanor Roosevelt and a sixth cousin of her husband, the president.The association wasn't doing him much good at the moment, though; like a lot ofother people in the country at that time, he was looking for work. He'd spentmost of his adult life in Europe as an executive at Ford and InternationalHarvester, but now that he was back in New York, he was living at a YMCA onWest Twentieth Street that catered mostly to the merchant marine. Despite hisportly physique, he paid for his room and board by working as a recreationalinstructor. Leading ancient, long-retired sailors in meaningless exercisesseemed like the depths of misery, and Roosevelt kept mostly to himself andwaited for something better to come along.

The party was in full swing when a friend tappedRoosevelt on the arm and introduced him to an energetic, sophisticated-lookingman who seemed particularly anxious to meet him. Edward squinted over hiswireless glasses and tried to decide exactly who would benefit whom over thisintroduction.

"Mr. Roosevelt, this is a Mr. Shadgen," hisfriend stated, adding, "Who has some distinct ideas about finewines."

 Edward, having lived for quite some time in France, haddeveloped an interest in wines and decided to give this stranger his fullattention. At forty-three years old, Joseph Shadgen was broad-shouldered andstood six feet tall, a somewhat impressive figure compared with Roosevelt.Moreover, he was neatly dressed and impeccably well groomed. With the highsweep of his neatly combed, distinguished gray hair and the little swoosh of asilvering mustache that barely exceeded the width of his nose, he looked like amiddle-aged Charles Boyer. Before Shadgen opened his mouth to speak, Rooseveltprobably sensed he was European. The little bow he gave as they shook handsconfirmed it.

The two men, approximately the same age, shared aremarkable economic history, each having achieved an impressive degree ofsuccess early in life, only to find themselves thrust into financialuncertainty as a result of the Depression. The major difference between themwas that Roosevelt was an American who had sought his glory in Europe, whileShadgen was a European who had tried to seize the day in America.

 As they spoke, casually at first, Roosevelt must havenoticed that Shadgen carried with him, in his manner and his carriage,something of an aristocrat, deserved or not. Although raised as a citizen ofBelgium, Shadgen had been born in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and when onehas had a grand duke as monarch, a little touch of nobility remains. In 1915,he had immigrated to America, and for the last ten years he'd worked as a civiland mechanical engineer for the firm of C. H. Smoot & Company. He liked todescribe himself as an "idea man" and often boasted that he had oncemade as much as $150,000 a year.

This, unfortunately, was not one of those years. WhenCharles Howard Smoot died in 1933, Shadgen abruptly left the company and movedhis wife and young daughter from their oceanfront home in Brooklyn to a modesthouse in Jackson Heights, Queens-a sparsely populated area hard hit by hardtimes. He drove an old Packard that he kept in cold storage because it hadrecently refused to run.

When the conversation finally got around to wine,Shadgen's Belgian accent added a distinctly continental air of sophisticationto his pitch. For the last few months, he said, he had been working as atechnical consultant for the Rockefeller Liquor Study, which had beenanticipating all sorts of calamities now that the public was allowed to drinkthemselves silly again. And with the repeal of Prohibition, the trading andpurchasing of fine wines would surely regain its popularity with the Manhattanelite. But since most of them lived in apartments, however large, where onearth were they going to store it?

His idea was to form a company; rent a large, undergroundspace somewhere on Manhattan's Upper East Side (around twenty-five thousandsquare feet, he reckoned); and divide the area into mini-wine cellars. Then allhe had to do was rent the units, make sure the proper temperature wasmaintained, etc., etc., and he could sit back and rake in the money. All heneeded, Shadgen said, was a partner who could help him rope in a few key investorsto get it off the ground.

 Edward nodded and listened intently. The fundamentals ofShadgen's wine storage idea seemed sound. With sufficient start-up money, therewas indeed no limit to the number of subterranean wine lockers they couldsublease.

From the start, it was an unlikely partnership. Shadgenwas a good talker who needed a door opener; Roosevelt was a (currently, atleast) poor relation who needed a project to which he could attach himself andthe meager connections his name brought with it. Miraculously, when the effectof their drinking wore off the next morning, Roosevelt still thought it was agood idea, and one that required immediate action. Shadgen and his new partnerspent the better part of the next several weeks almost inseparable-scouringsuitable storage locations, sketching out plans, and hunting down investors tofund the whole thing. They even rented desks in a cramped real estate officefrom which they would run their little company until the profits startedflowing in. It was all going well except for one small detail: Nobody elsethought the idea had merit, and no one would invest.

 After weeks of frustration, watching his savings dwindleand his hopes of turning his friendship with a bona fide Roosevelt into his much-deservedfortune, Shadgen decided to give the partnership one more try. Privately, hehad another idea in mind-one much larger in scope and scale than the winestorage concept. In fact, it was so huge that he'd been reluctant to share itwith anyone, let alone his new partner.

It had come to him earlier that year, on a warm springevening while he waited for dinner and made small talk with his twelve-year-olddaughter, Jacqueline, who had just returned home from school. As she enteredthe room, still wearing her uniform from the nearby Blessed Sacrament Convent,Shadgen pulled her up next to him and asked, "Well, what did you learn inschool today?"

Jacqueline was probably too old for the question, but sheanswered it anyway. "I learned that the United States is a hundred and fifty-eightyears old this year," she told him.

Her father simply stared at her in silence. "Becausethe Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776," she explained.

Shadgen thought this over. He had a surprising grasp ofAmerican history for a foreigner, or perhaps because of it. This didn't makesense to him. The Declaration of Independence was merely that, he told her adeclaration, the signing of a document that spelled out only what the FoundingFathers intended to do. The nation, he believed, wasn't really "born"until it elected its first president, George Washington, in 1789.

Jacqueline gave him a suspicious look, and the two beganto argue. It was the word of the sisters at Blessed Sacrament versus herfather, who hadn't even been born here and who still spoke with an accent. TheFourth of July 1776 had been drummed into her head for as long as she couldremember as the nation's birthday.

 "Oh no," he answered firmly. "The UnitedStates would be only a hundred and fifty years old in 1939."

When Mrs. Shadgen called out that dinner was ready, thetwo of them dropped the discussion and headed quietly for the dining room.Still, something had clicked in that stubborn, persistent brain of his.

The idea to host a World's Fair in order to boost NewYork City's economy at the end of the 1930s should have come from the minds ofits great community leaders. It didn't. "Don't get the idea that I wasdoing any of this for civic good will," Shadgen would later remark."I was working for two things-money and reputation."

To date, there had been exactly fourteen officiallyrecognized World's Fairs, and all but four of them had lost money. The veryfirst, London's Crystal Palace in 1851, had been managed by Prince Alberthimself and advertised its global status as "the Great Exhibition of theWorks of Industry of All Nations." Punch magazine described it as"the only National Building that an Englishman is not ashamed of."More than six million people visited from all over the world, and the ideacaught on-in no small part due to the fact that it had also managed to turn aprofit of over $500,000.

The French tried to top it just four years later at theirExposition Universelle of 1855, which introduced the Singer sewing machine,then went hog wild with World's Fair fever, repeating the effort in 1867, 1878,and, most notably, 1889-the Fair most famous for its construction of the EiffelTower.

 America had gotten into the act when New York copycattedLondon and held its own Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1853. Although it washoused in a single iron-and-glass building on a four-acre plot of land,* therewere four thousand exhibitors when it opened on July 14, and before it closed inNovember of the following year, more than one million people came to see it.Yet despite the mass influx of tourism into the city, the Fair was a financialflop, losing about $300,000 and leaving a visible legacy of failure when thestructure burned to the ground in 1858.

In 1876, Philadelphia (supporting young Jacqueline'sassertion) commemorated the nation's birth with its Centennial Exposition,erecting seven magnificent palaces and outspending New York by six times. ButAmerica's crown jewel was Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893 (named inhonor of Columbus's so-called discovery of America four hundred years earlier),more famously known as "the White City." Looking to "out-EiffelEiffel," this Fair presented George Ferris's magnificent wheel and becamefamous as a symbol of architectural classicism that influenced a generation ofbuilders and designers to come. It also had a profound effect on the country'sbreakfasting habits, introducing Aunt Jemima pancake mix, Shredded Wheat, andQuaker Oats, and on its snacking preferences with Cracker Jack and Juicy Fruitgum.

 At over six hundred acres and featuring nearly twohundred buildings, the White City for a time served as a model for the 1939 NewYork World's Fair: Most of its buildings were temporary structures, there werespecially constructed canals and lagoons, and the entire enterprise served toshow the world that beauty could be built upon ashes, in this case those leftfrom Chicago's Great Fire, which had destroyed so much of the city some twodecades earlier. At a time when the country's total population was sixty-fivemillion, more than twenty-seven million visitors passed through its gates,netting the Fair a handy profit of more than $1 million.

 The United States continued its elaborate celebrationswith the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. No longer content to have itsexposition be considered merely a World's Fair, the city of St. Louis decidedto up the ante by calling its Fair a "Universal Exposition." Althoughit was indeed huge-at twelve hundred acres, it was almost twice the size of theWhite City-and while sixty-two foreign nations and forty-three (out of forty-five)of the United States participated, there is no documentation to support thefact that any other representatives of the universe actually showed up.

 The Fair also contributed to the world one of the most brain-stickingtunes of all time, "Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis," and claimed to bethe birthplace of American staples such as the hamburger and hot dog, peanutbutter, and cotton candy. It wasn't, but it was nice to think so, and somehowthe myth stuck.

 Yet the World's Fair that was on everyone's mind in the1930s was Chicago's second triumph-the Century of Progress exposition of 1933and 1934. Its signature attractions were the Sky Ride, built in part by theOtis Elevator Company, and a scandalous fan dancer named Sally Rand. Chicagoalso boasted to its brethren on the Hudson that its Fair had paid off all ofits investors and even turned a modest profit, and that a good many hotelsalong the city's famous Loop had been rescued from receivership by thereigniting of its Depression-starved economy.

 Those numbers were key ingredients that lay behind theaudacious dreams of Joseph Shadgen. They would also spur the even more feverishvisions of the dreamers yet to come.

The next morning, Jacqueline and her father continued todebate the anniversary issue. Shadgen decided to end the debate once and forall by taking her to the one spot he thought would settle the matter. Afterbreakfast, they rode the Second Avenue elevated train down to Federal Hall onWall Street, to the very place where Washington had been inaugurated. Together,they read the inscription at the base of his statue, miraculously unharmed in theWall Street bombing fourteen years earlier:

 On This Site in Federal Hall, April 30, 1789, GeorgeWashington Took the Oath as the First President of the United States ofAmerica.


Excerpted from Twilight at the World of Tomorrow by James Mauro Copyright © 2010 by James Mauro. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Interviews & Essays

Q&A with James Mauro

What led you to write Twilight at the World of Tomorrow? Where did the original idea come from?

For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated by the 1939 New York World’s Fair. And for whatever reason, I found that very little had been written on the subject. I mean, we’ve had books and movies on every historical event from the Civil War to the Titanic to the quiz show scandals of the 1950s, but no one had written a comprehensive, nonfiction narrative about this amazing World’s Fair. And when I found out that a time bomb had exploded there, on the Fourth of July in 1940, I knew I had a story there.

You mention in your Author’s Note that no one who had been to the Fair remembered that a terrorist act had occurred there. Why do you think it’s been all but forgotten?

That’s a tough one. I remember finding the plaque on the grounds of Flushing Meadows Corona Park that commemorated the event, and being completely floored by it. And the fact that it went off on the Fourth of July just absolutely stunned me. Today, it would be like a bomb going off on New Year’s Eve at Disneyworld or at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but when I began researching it I was amazed again that, after a day or so, there wasn’t much coverage in the newspapers. There may have been some attempt to downplay the disaster because the Fair was already doing poorly in terms of attendance. But even as I dug deeper into the archives it seemed to me that everyone just wanted the case to go away, that there wasn’t enough investigation into who did it and why.

You also said that police interest is still pretty high, and that some detectives you spoke to requested to remain anonymous.

Again, it’s very curious. One high-ranking detective has a replica of the bomb in his office, and I got the feeling, speaking to him, that he knew more than he was telling me. I can’t possibly imagine why the complete truth hasn’t come out about it, but maybe the book will spark enough interest that more questions will be asked.

Your book also goes into great detail about Albert Einstein’s involvement with the World’s Fair during the same period when he was writing letters to President Roosevelt urging him to look into the possibility of atomic weapons.

The Einstein angle intrigued me because I wanted to know why the world’s most famous pacifist would advocate the development of a terrible new weapon. What was the thought process that took him from hating all forms of war to helping unleash a force that would prove incredibly destructive? And in all the Einstein books and articles, I found a lot of material about his letters to FDR, but not much about the motivation behind them. I came to the conclusion that his dedication of the Palestine Pavilion, coming right after the British White Paper that limited Jewish immigration to Palestine, must have awakened in him the need to address the threat of Nazism in a more drastic way than speeches and scientific thought.

In fact, the World’s Fair became a kind of symbol of the coming war.

Tragically, yes. When it was first seriously conceived, in 1936, the idea of a “World of Tomorrow” seemed hopeful and joyous—a celebration of an easier life through technology. But throughout the Government Zone, where all the foreign nations were represented, the pavilions representing European countries were gradually overshadowed by the fact that Hitler was plucking them one by one off the map. By the second season, in 1940, you could see it in the way that Poland’s pavilion was draped in black, the USSR pavilion had disappeared altogether, and other nations like Czechoslovakia, Belgium and Portugal came to represent the war in miniature.

Overall, despite the fact that the Fair ended in bankruptcy, do you think it was successful in what it tried to accomplish?

There’s no doubt in my mind. World’s Fairs almost always lose money in the end, and it’s unfair to judge them based on finances alone. Grover Whalen, another forgotten figure in history, created what may have been the most glorious celebration of mankind before or since. The 1939 World’s Fair turned the city’s most notorious garbage dump into a magical city of the future; it introduced television to America. And, at least for a brief window of time, it represented the sum total of what we can achieve in the face of adversity—from economic hardship to war. This summer marks the 70th anniversary of the second season, and it’s important to look back at the Fair’s promises and visions and take comfort in the fact that, whatever trying times we find ourselves in today, we are at our best a resilient and hopeful nation. Our own “world of tomorrow” may not look as naively blissful as it did in 1939, but our greatest strength lies in our ability to rise up from hard times and war and forge ahead.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good Historical Information but Falls Short of Erik Larson's Classic

    This book was billed as the next Devil in the White City. It does have a lot of interesting historical information about the development of Flushing Meadows Park in New York that would generally interest a New Yorker. However, a lot of that information would probably bore anyone not from the area.

    While Erik Larson had a magical way of describing how a miracle of building was pulled off to develop the Chicago Fair and having a compelling tale of one of the first US serial killers, this book is more akin to a history textbook. The writer of this book seems to lack the flair of turning history into a compelling tale.

    The book's main suspense is around a bomb that was accidentally detonated which in itself is as interesting as a passing news story. The author does hint at some of the injustice done to Einstein when he tried to return to the United States but even that was just a short chapter of the book. Robert Moses is always an interesting personality and the portions that included his wheeling and dealing as the Corona dumps are transformed to a workable solution to having a fairgrounds is another part of the book that provides some interest.

    The author did not describe the fair itself with the excitement that it could have had. Having been to the 1964 World's Fair at the same site, there was not a lot of differences between the two fairs even though they were 25 years apart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2010

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