World's Fairs as History

It is curious that in our current age of globalization, world's fairs have largely disappeared. Since World War II, there have only been four official world's fairs: in Brussels, Belgium, in 1958, Montreal, Canada, in 1967, Osaka, Japan, in 1970, and Seville, Spain, in 1992.

NOTE: The Bureau of International Expositions (or Bureau International des Expositions) is the organization responsible for sanctioning World's fairs. It is based in Paris, France and was established as an international convention in 1928. However, many fairs take place unsanctioned, e.g. the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair. (see http://www.bie-paris.org)

Although there would be influential world's fairs in the 20th century - such as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904 and the 1939 New York World's Fair, centered on "the world of tomorrow" - the second half of the 19th century was the golden age of world's fairs. The prototype for later fairs was the Crystal Palace Exposition in London in 1851, which drew more than 6 million visitors who came to celebrate the industrial revolution and view some 13,000 exhibits. The symbol of the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle was the Eiffel Tower.

Three late-nineteenth century American expositions were of particular significance. The Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876 commemorated a century of American independence. The World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 marked the 400th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of the New World. The Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta in 1895 sought to attract northern investment into the New South three decades after the end of the Civil War.


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