It was the costliest, most attended fair in history. Some
predict it will be the last great fair where industrial giants
invest untold millions for elusive publicity gains.
The 51 million who visited the New York World's Fair were
19 million short of expectations. The general disillusionment
and charges of mismanagement dulled the glitter of Flushing Meadows
as surely as did wide-spread pilfering by visitors the last weekend.
On closing day, one group of exhibitors were content with
their lot: the religious at this most religious of world's fairs.
Cardinal Spellman was reluctant to get involved at first,
but the Roman Catholic Church scored a smashing box office coup.
It offered, for free, a priceless show: Michelangelo's world-traveling
"Pieta" and other art treasures. The Vatican Pavilion
drew half the people who came to the fair. It was second only
to General Motors in attendance.
GM's pavilion cost it $2 per visitor. Although the Vatican
had the most expensive religious pavilion, it spent only nineteen
cents per head. The posh Christian Science effort cost $1.56
per visitor. The religious pavilions as a whole spent over $13
million to draw 42 1/4 million people. In Madison Avenue terms,
they notched a cost per thousand of $315.
Source: Estimates from Exhibitors
The two cults with pavilions at Flushing Meadow, Christian
Science and Mormonism, report their experiment in pavilion evangelism
paid off in thousands of converts. More modest results were claimed
by two Christian evangelistic efforts, Billy Graham's pavilion
and "Sermons from Science."
The low-budget, low key Wycliffe Bible Translators presentation
gave the fair its foreign missions element. Wycliffe squeezed
into the fair after the deadline and despite some financial strain
won unusual notice on TV networks, in the press, and from iconoclastic
radio essayist, Jean Shepherd.
The four pavilions not backed by a single church depended
on donations to break even. Only Billy Graham managed to do it.
The biggest debt was at the Protestant and Orthodox Center,
which is behind $250,000. mostly because churches failed to meet
It is counting on its controversial drawing card, the Parable
film, to make up the difference at $35 per showing. Sponsors
report more than 5,000 rental requests have come in, nearly half
of them from Catholics.
At the fair, the film drew only half a million customers at
fifty cents a seat -- this despite pre-fair publicity in damnation
from fair czar Robert Moses and continued notoriety through a
diatribe at the nearby Singer Bowl from youth evangelist Jack
Wyrtzen. The free Graham film, twice as long, attracted twice
as many customers.
Free shows helped to draw the masses. Location was another
key factor. On this score, the Mormon, Protestant-Orthodox and
Billy Graham pavilions had choice sites near the main subway-railroad
Here are the religious results of the fair reported by pavilion
BILLY GRAHAM -- (Dan Piatt): More than a million saw the film,
which called for commitment to Christ. About 5 per cent of the
viewers sought counseling, a higher percentage than at most crusades.
Those responding came from fifty five nations and follow-up
work was often difficult. The usual procedure is to refer the
person to a near-by church, but in some cases it was hundreds
of miles away. An impressed Catholic priest from Belgium told
Piatt he would try to persuade his colleagues to invite Graham
for another European crusade.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE -- (Admiral Richard C. Renfro): "The
pavilion was one of the finest things the movement has done in
many a year. Its efforts have been widespread and indeterminable."
The pavilion aimed to explain Christian Science to the outsider,
but also succeeded in producing new members (how many, like all
membership data, is a state secret).
With the self-assurance typical of his church, Renfro said
the pavilion was the "only one which dared mention God and
explain who he is, what he is, and what we believe him to be."
The church recently recruited the Protestant Pavilion's Dr. G.
B. Rich to praise the beauty of the Christian Science effort
in a publicity film.
MORMON -- (Bernard P. Brockbank): The pavilion is credited
with reaping thousands of converts, more than 1,000 in the New
York area alone. The full results can't be known for years, because
it will take that long for Mormon missionaries to contact the
backlog of 750,000 persons Bronkbank says asked for counseling.
"It changed the attitude toward the church in many parts
of the country, especially the eastern seaboard. They are more
tolerant toward the Latter-Day Saints, more ready to make an
inquiry about us."
Dismantling the Wycliffe "2,000
Tribes" pavilion (Photo by Sam Tamashiro)
PROTESTANT-ORTHODOX CENTER -- (Leonard Moreland): The impact
was "excellent," the attendance higher than expected.
Moreland thought that Parable was provocative but that
its symbolism went over the heads of many viewers. One professional
fairgoer claims to have seen it 101 times and to have gotten
something different out of it each time.
Polls showed Catholics liked the film better than Protestants
and Jews liked it more than Catholics. Aside from the film, Moreland
questions whether the twenty-two variegated booths at the pavilion
did anything more than reinforce the constituencies of their
SERMONS FROM SCIENCE -- (W. Scott Nyborg): "We are thrilled
. . . the acceptance by non-Christians was amazing."
Among the 125,000 who entered the counseling room after the
Moody Institute of Science shows, 3,300 indicated decisions for
Christ. While most pavilions, and the fair as a whole, drew smaller
crowds the second year, "Sermons" audiences were up
35 per cent.
A large corps has contacted decision-makers, in some cases
to find Mormons had already dropped by. Many nuns, intrigued
by the four-step salvation process borrowed from Campus Crusade,
asked for copies to present to their Catholic school classes.
VATICAN -- (Monsignor John J. Gorman): "It was with some
apprehension that the powers-that-be accepted the invitation
to the fair. But I'm sure there are no regrets now. We had an
opportunity to present the Church, and good reception from the
Protestant, the Jew, and the atheist . . ."
WYCLIFFE 2,000 TRIBES -- (Francis B. Dawson): "It was
definitely worthwhile. We expect it to pay off for ten years
or more. We had a chance to meet young folks and counsel them
about our missions. Many people hadn't heard about Wycliffe before."
There were some heated discussions with people hostile toward
missions, but many left with a different view, Dawson said.
Wycliffe, like most, ended up spending more than it expected,
and the gap between cost and gifts for the pavilion is $155,000.
All bills have been paid, by shifting funds; but it is the first
financial bind of this size Wycliffe has ever been in and there
has been some controversy about it within the organization. The
key problem: Wycliffe had planned to charge admission but soon
found that if it did this, nobody would come.
Today, November 5, 1965