One of the most intriguing
facts about the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair is that it wasn't
really an official World's Fair!
Bureau of International
Expositions makes the rules
The Paris based Bureau
of International Expositions (B.I.E.) sanctions World's Fairs.
Unlike Olympic Games, World's Fairs are not held at regular intervals.
The B.I.E.'s purpose is to prevent too many Fairs from being
held too close together and to settle disputes between venues
wishing to host expositions.
Like the International
Olympic Committee member nations of the B.I.E. appoint representatives
to the organization. It is virtually certain that a B.I.E. member
nation would have a presence at a B.I.E. approved Fair.
The B.I.E. has two categories
for World's Fairs:
- Second Category Expositions center around a specific thematic
idea such as "Tomorrow's Fresh New Environment"
or "Energy Turns the World." Spokane's Expo
'74 and Knoxville's 1982 World's Fair were such expositions.
They are generally smaller Fairs where the host builds the pavilions
for the exhibitors.
- Universal and International
around a broader theme such as expo67's "Man and His
World" or "Progress and Harmony for Mankind"
as at Expo '70. These are large Fairs where countries design
and build their own pavilions.
In addition to categorizing
World's Fairs the B.I.E. sets forth rules that govern their operation.
- A World's Fair may operate
for no more than six months.
- Exhibitors may not be
charged rental fees for exhibiting.
- A Universal and International
Exposition may be held only once within a ten year span.
When the New York Fair
was being planned, the United States was not a party to the organization.
However New York, seeking the "official nod" from the
B.I.E., applied to host the Universal and International Exposition
At the time of New York's
application the B.I.E. had already granted Canada permission
to host the Universal and International Exposition of 1967 in
Montreal (expo67) following the collapse of earlier plans by
the Soviet Union to host a 1967 World's Fair in Moscow. Preliminary
plans were also underway for the Universal and International
Exposition of 1970 to be held in Osaka, Japan (Expo '70). New
York was actually third in line for approval and their Fair would
end only two years prior to an already approved Universal
and International Exposition.
Robert Moses breaks the
of the corporation that ran the Fair, was determined not to repeat
the mistakes his predecessor had made in operating the 1939/1940
To Moses, former Parks
Commissioner for New York and the city's "master builder,"
Flushing Meadow Park was the great urban park he'd always dreamed
of for New York. The park had been constructed from a former
ash dump in the 1930s to host the 1939/1940 New York World's
Fair. That Fair ended its two year run in the red and there had
never been enough money available to finish the park to his liking.
He envisioned the 1964/1965 Fair, to be held on Flushing Meadow
park land, as the vehicle to provide the infrastructure improvements
and monies to complete the park. Moses would make his
Fair a success and it would make a profit.
In order to accomplish
his goals Moses had determined that the Fair must operate for
two seasons. Additionally he would charge exhibitors rental fees
for the site they would occupy at the Fair. These plans were
a direct violation of B.I.E. rules. That and the fact that a
Universal Exposition was already sanctioned within the ten-year-span
limit put the B.I.E. and the New York World's Fair Corporation,
in the formidable form of Robert Moses, in direct conflict.
SOURCE: Pre-Fair Planning Report,
dated August 15, 1960
EXHIBIT AREAS RENT SCHEDULE
$4.00 per square foot per
$3.00 per square foot per
FEDERAL AND STATES
$4.00 per square foot per year
$4.00 per square foot per year
(Special exhibits not listed above
are under consideration)
IT IS TO BE NOTED THAT THE CHARGES
AND THE CONDITIONS RELATING TO THE VARIOUS AREAS LOOK TO PRUDENT,
CONSERVATIVE FINANCING OF FACILITIES CHARGEABLE TO THE FAIR SO
AS TO ASSURE THE HIGHEST STANDARDS OF EXHIBITION CONSISTENT WITH
PAYING ALL FAIR COSTS AND HAVING A BALANCE AT LEAST SUFFICIENT
TO RESTORE AND COMPLETE FLUSHING MEADOW PARK.
FROM TIME TO TIME WHEN DEFINITE
COMMITMENTS AS TO SPACE HAVE BEEN MADE AND LEASES SIGNED, THE
FAIR MANAGEMENT WILL ANNOUNCE THEM. IT SHOULD BE NOTED, HOWEVER,
THAT THE MANAGEMENT DOES NOT VOLUNTEER RECOMMENDATIONS AND HAS
NO PREFERRED LIST OF ARCHITECTS, ENGINEERS, BUILDERS OR OTHER
FIRMS AVAILABLE AND INTERESTED IN CONSTRUCTION WITHIN THE FAIR
GROUNDS. THIS IS A MATTER ENTIRELY FOR THE EXHIBITORS.
50% OF YEAR'S RENT ON SIGNING CONTRACT.
ADDITIONAL 50% OF YEAR'S RENT BEFORE
START OF CONSTRUCTION.
Perhaps the B.I.E. would
have been able to come to a compromise with New York had not
Mr. Moses decided to make an issue of their differences. His
insulting comments to the press regarding the B.I.E. and their
rules so angered B.I.E. officials that they not only took the
action of denying New York official permission to host
the Fair in 1964; they specifically requested their member
nations not to participate in the New York World's
This created a rather awkward
situation back in New York. How can it be a World's Fair
if the world can't come? As a result of the B.I.E. decision
the list of International participants contains some noticeable
absences with Canada, Great Britain, Italy, Germany and Australia
among those choosing not to exhibit. To be sure, in the end,
there were many International participants. However most were
hosted by industrial or tourist interests in lieu of official
Robert Moses and his Fair
promoters were masters in securing private sponsorship of pavilions
and thus saved the Fair from oblivion. And the fabulous exhibits
sponsored by America's industrial giants provided the basis for
an exciting exposition. But the heavy influence of national and
international commercial interest at the fair helped to
foster charges of "crass commercialism" -- the most
frequent criticism leveled at the '64 Fair.
The 1964/1965 New York
World's Fair has become, over the years, a cultural icon of a
by-gone era and a landmark event for millions of people. However
the Fair will always have the dubious honor of being the only
World's Fair in modern times that was not sanctioned by the B.I.E.
-- making it the only World's Fair that wasn't really a World's