Phantoms

Everyone wanted to "Come to the Fair!" After all, it was going to be the New York World's Fair. New York was the center of the universe in the mid-twentieth century. Headquarters to the United Nations, it was the world's capitol. Headquarters to the largest financial institutions and corporations, it was the economic center of the universe. A twelve-story globe in the middle of the Fairgrounds was no small boast. To be a part of New York's World's Fair was an expression of power and prestige. And the opportunity to sell a message, a product or a nation to 70 million projected visitors was a tantalizing prospect indeed.

The press reported with great fanfare the announcements of the Fair Corporation. Week after week new countries, states, companies and organizations were signing on with the Fair. Steadily, the huge site map at the Administration Building began to fill with the names of exhibitors who had agreed to lease space. By the autumn of 1962, the map boasted such names as General Motors, the Soviet Union, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, Argentina, Mexico, Kodak, The World of Food, The World of Toys, the Heartland States, Japan, Ecuador and the State of Georgia, to name just a few.

Exhibiting at the Fair would be an expensive proposition. Site rental and import duties on construction materials and exhibits had to be considered. Architectural and engineering fees, landscaping costs, and union labor to construct pavilions were another consideration. Then there were the costs of operation once the Fair opened: staffing and grounds upkeep and refuse removal. These weren't Topeka costs. These were New York costs.

The Bureau of International Exhibitions (BIE) had denied official approval of the Fair and the thirty (mostly western European nation) members of the organization were banned from officially participating. The Fair Corporation was forced to solicit trade and commerce organizations within these countries to host exhibits in lieu of official government participation. If Switzerland was barred from displaying her national culture because of membership in the BIE, perhaps the Swiss watch industry could be persuaded to exhibit their goods to represent Switzerland in her place. Or perhaps not. The stronger the trade or commercial industry, the more likely the participation of the international state. Nations who were not a party to the BIE were often poor or just emerging from years of colonial rule and found it difficult to secure funding for representation at the Fair despite eagerness to show their pride in new-found nationhood. And while New York's unofficial World's Fair was trawling the world for participation, official BIE sanctioned World's Fairs in Seattle (1962) and Montreal (1967) were vying for a piece of international budgets as well.

In the case of the American states, legislative approval had to be gained and appropriations made from tax revenue to host a pavilion. Some legislatures met for only a few months out of the year and lacked time to enact legislation. Many had to budget for participation and sell the idea of being a part of the Fair to constituents. If official state government sponsorship couldn't be gained, perhaps a trade or commerce organization within the state would sponsor a state's pavilion. Or perhaps not.

The 1939 World's Fair had constructed "halls" where multiple industrial firms could rent exhibit space at a nominal fee from the Fair. Many of these Fair-sponsored pavilions had gone half-empty and were money losers for the first New York World's Fair. This World's Fair vowed not to make the same mistake. Smaller companies who wished to participate would have to sign on with private organizations looking to put up such structures as "The Transportation & Travel" pavilion and the "Marine Center." However, these structures could only be constructed if enough clients could be found to make the enterprise profitable for the sponsor.

Small Business Pavilion

Small Business Pavilion model
A proposed multi-exhibitor, the Small Business Pavilion would have consisted of five connected geodesic domes housing exhibits of smaller American businesses in a mall-like atmosphere. The pavilion was never constructed.

In the final analysis, the high costs, the BIE fiasco and the aversion of the Fair to provide little if any financial support to any exhibitor made it virtually impossible for many eager participants to come to the Fair. Exhibiting at the New York World's Fair was the dream of many. In reality, it was simply too expensive for all but a few. It is no wonder then that the map of the Fair began to fill with "phantom" pavilions as this reality sunk in. Major exhibits, announced with great flourish, would quietly disappear from the site map with little or no comment. The Fair was not as anxious to share their disappointments with the public as they were their successes. Thus, the pavilions of Russia, France, Israel, the Netherlands and Italy; the Graphic Arts pavilion and The World of Toys; the Michigan, Georgia and Alabama pavilions; the Grayson-Robinson Stores and Aero Space pavilions, along with many others, simply disappeared leaving behind only a press clipping, a name on a map or a few architectural renderings.

Pavilions that never were...

This list of pavilions that "never were" is compiled from the pages of the New York World's Fair Corporation's Progress Reports. These phantom exhibitors had selected sites for pavilions at the Fair which were never constructed or never opened to Fairgoers.

Industrial Exhibitors

  • Arnold Bakeries
    • Among the first industries to express an interest.
  • Frontier Town
  • America Fore
  • Graphic Arts
    • An early entry to the Fair that was still attempting to secure financing one year prior to the opening of the Fair.
  • Heineken Brewing
  • Camp Cayuga
  • Hall of Medicine
  • Hall of Labor
  • World of Food
    • Pavilion was partially constructed and demolished prior to the opening of the Fair
  • Data Patterns
  • Project '64
  • Corn Products
  • National Dairy Products
  • Revlon
  • Pittsburgh Plate Glass
  • Ballantine
  • Small Business Pavilion
  • Beech Nut
  • Metropolitan Life
  • Synagogue Council of America
  • Country Fair
  • Brown & Williamson Tobacco
  • World of Toys
  • Grayson-Robinson Stores
  • Piel Brothers

International Exhibitors

  • West Germany
  • Organization of American States
    • Arch of the Americas
  • Columbia
  • Nepal
  • Islamic Center
  • USSR
    • One of the first nations to sign-on with the Fair. Withdrew after fourteen months of preparation
  • Afghanistan
  • Mali
  • Brazil
  • Yugoslavia
    • Chose Expo '67 over New York's Fair
  • Argentina
    • Constructed a pavilion and never took occupancy
  • France
    • Broke ground, never completed construction
  • Iraq
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Kuwait
    • Chose Expo '67 over New York's Fair
  • Yemen
  • Libya
  • Monaco
    • Chose Expo '67 over New York's Fair
  • Nigeria
  • Tunisia
    • Chose Expo '67 over New York's Fair
  • Israel
    • Pavilion designed. Decided to focus on participation in Expo '67 due to cost constraints.
  • Italy
    • Participation announced with much fanfare

 International Exhibitors (continued)

  • United Nations Agencies
    • Occupied the vacated Sierra Leone Pavilion in 1965
  • UNICEF
  • Senegal
  • Ethiopia
    • Chose Expo '67 over New York's Fair
  • Ghana
  • Trinidad & Tobago
    • Chose Expo '67 over New York's Fair
  • Uruguay
  • Ecuador
  • Australia
  • Haiti
    • Chose Expo '67 over New York's Fair
  • Peru
  • Turkey
  • Cambodia
  • United Kingdom
  • Poland
  • Syria
  • Arab League
  • World of Youth
  • Netherlands
  • Chile
  • Jamaica
    • Chose Expo '67 over New York's Fair
  • Bolivia
  • Algeria
    • Chose Expo '67 over New York's Fair

American States & Territories

  • Puerto Rico
  • Virgin Islands
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Heartland States
  • Delaware
  • Arkansas
  • Pennsylvania
    • Hosted a small exhibit in 1965
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Kansas
  • California
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia

Transportation Exhibitors

  • Marine Center
  • Mobile Homes
  • Union Tank Car
  • Aero Space
  • BOAC (airline)
  • Air France
  • National Trailways
  • Pan Am

Amusement Area Exhibitors

  • Las Vegas East
  • Fisherman's Wharf
  • Century Showcase Theater-Nightclub
    • Possibly evolved into Angus Wynne's "Texas Pavilions & Music Hall"
  • American Indian Pavilion
  • Monkey Speedway
  • Bozo World
  • Jai Alai Arena

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