World's Fair Photographs Series

Biographical / Historical Note

Ford Motor Company began displaying its products at non-automotive exhibitions as early as 1904, becoming a leading exhibitor in world's fairs and other events by the mid 1930s and into the 1960s. In 1915, Ford Motor Company demonstrated the mass assembly...

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Ford Motor Company began displaying its products at non-automotive exhibitions as early as 1904, becoming a leading exhibitor in world's fairs and other events by the mid 1930s and into the 1960s. In 1915, Ford Motor Company demonstrated the mass assembly of automobiles at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, California. In 1933, Henry Ford boycotted the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago and instead held his own exhibition in Detroit and New York called the Ford Exposition of Progress.

Due to the success of 1933 exhibits, Ford joined the Century of Progress International Exposition in 1934. Ford Motor Company hired Albert Kahn to design a building to house exhibits. The building, a circular pavilion which was later called the Ford Rotunda, resembled graduated internally meshed gears standing twelve stories high. Exhibits in that year included a soybean processing display, a collection of new and historic Ford vehicles, an exhibit on the conversion of raw materials into finished parts, an industrialized barn, replicas of nineteen famous highways, and exhibits from twenty-one Ford Motor Company suppliers. A similar large circular building erected in 1935 in San Diego for the California Pacific International Exposition was donated to the city of San Diego after the fair.

For the 1939 New York World's Fair of Tomorrow, designers anticipating elevated roads developed an exposition building that featured a "road of tomorrow." Visitors were driven down a spiral ramp in brightly painted Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln-Zephyr automobiles.

In 1964-1965, New York was again the site for a world's fair with the theme "Peace Through Understanding." Ford Motor Company hired Welton Becket and Associates to build the Ford Pavilion, a rotunda building reminiscent of the original 1933 Ford Rotunda. Walt Disney's design firm, WED Enterprises, was also hired to create a Magic Skyway where visitors boarded convertibles for a twelve minute ride through time featuring life sized audio-animatronic figures. Other exhibits highlighted the international scope of the company.

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Scope and Content Note

There are four subseries in the World's Fair photographs series. Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, Illinois subseries, 1933-1934 (1.2 cubic ft.) is comprised of images numbered from 1 to 310. There are also several folders...

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There are four subseries in the World's Fair photographs series. Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, Illinois subseries, 1933-1934 (1.2 cubic ft.) is comprised of images numbered from 1 to 310. There are also several folders arranged alphabetically, primarily documenting exhibits. The California Pacific International Exposition subseries, 1935 (1.2 cubic ft.) is arranged numerically, 2 to 671. Dallas Centennial Central Exposition subseries, 1936-1937 (1.6 cubic ft.) is also arranged numerically, 1 to 816. The New York World Fairs subseries contains material for both the 1939-1940 fair in New York and the 1964-1965 fair. The 1939-1940 New York World's Fair subsubseries, 1939-1940 (10.4 cubic ft.) is the largest and includes images both topically and numerically arranged. A numerical run begins with 1 and ends at 3,463 (with a few gaps). Among the topics are typical American families, exhibit details, Ford Motor Company employees and dealers, Ford Day, good driver's awards, visiting celebrities, and special events. There is also an index to the images in this subseries. The final subsubseries, 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, 1960-1964 (0.8 cubic ft.) is comprised wholly of photographs gathered together to create a mural entitled "Decades of Progress" for the 1964-1965 New York fair. The mural depicted the evolution of the Ford Motor Company from its inception into the 1960s. All items are black and white photographic prints, 8 x 10 inches in size.

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Collection Details

Object ID: 64.167.232.0
Creator: Ford Motor Company. Photographic Department 
Inclusive Dates: 1933-1964
Bulk Dates: 1933-1940
Size: 15.2 cubic ft.
Language: English

Collection Access & Use

Item Location: Not Currently On Exhibit

Access Restrictions: The series is open for research.

Credit: From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Digitized Artifacts From This Collection

In many cases, not all artifacts have been digitized.
Contact us for more information about this collection.

Replica of U.S. Route No. 1, Roads of the World, Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, Illinois, 1934

  Details

Replica of U.S. Route No. 1, Roads of the World, Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, Illinois, 1934

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Summary

Ford Motor Company recreated 21 sections of different historic and modern roadways outside the Ford Exhibition Building at Chicago's Century of Progress Exposition in 1934. Fairgoers could tour these reproduction "Roads of the World" in courtesy vehicles.

Object ID

64.167.232.615

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Replica of U.S. Route No. 1, Roads of the World, Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, Illinois, 1934

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Mary Pickford at the Ford Exposition Building, Opening Day of New York World's Fair, May 11, 1940

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Mary Pickford at the Ford Exposition Building, Opening Day of New York World's Fair, May 11, 1940

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Mary Pickford at the Ford Exposition Building, Opening Day of New York World's Fair, May 11, 1940

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What is The Henry Ford?

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Walter Dorwin Teague and Celebrities at Opening Day of New York World's Fair, May 11, 1940

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Walter Dorwin Teague and Celebrities at Opening Day of New York World's Fair, May 11, 1940

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Walter Dorwin Teague and Celebrities at Opening Day of New York World's Fair, May 11, 1940

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What is The Henry Ford?

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150-Ton Turntable at Ford Exposition, New York World's Fair, 1939

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150-Ton Turntable at Ford Exposition, New York World's Fair, 1939

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Artifact

Photographic print

Summary

Ford Motor Company poured resources into the 1939-40 New York World's Fair, spending more than $5 million to construct and maintain its elaborate and well-attended exposition space. Ford's massive exhibition building attracted fairgoers with industrial demonstrations and informative displays. The huge, revolving "Ford Cycle of Production" - which explained how raw materials became Ford automobile parts - particularly impressed visitors.

Object ID

P.O.19719

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

150-Ton Turntable at Ford Exposition, New York World's Fair, 1939

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What is The Henry Ford?

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  Details

'More than 150,000 Parts in One Ford Car', Ford Exhibition Building, Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, 1934

  Details

'More than 150,000 Parts in One Ford Car', Ford Exhibition Building, Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, 1934

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Summary

Chicago's 1933-34 Century of Progress Exposition used the theme of progress to encourage optimism during the depression. The Ford Exhibition Building, which sat on eleven acres at the fair and featured industrial demonstrations and informative displays like this, became the most talked-about exhibit of 1934.

Object ID

64.167.232.509

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

'More than 150,000 Parts in One Ford Car', Ford Exhibition Building, Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, 1934

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Ford Model 157 Truck on Roads of the Pacific Exhibit, California Pacific International Exposition, San Diego, 1935

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Ford Model 157 Truck on Roads of the Pacific Exhibit, California Pacific International Exposition, San Diego, 1935

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Artifact

Photographic print

Summary

"Roads of the Pacific" was part of the Ford Exhibit - the most popular attraction at the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. Visitors rode in brand new Ford V-8s over 14 reproductions of famous roads. This photograph shows a Ford truck on a section of "Roads of the Pacific" representing Australia's stone and gravel Great Western Highway.

Object ID

64.167.232.296

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Ford Model 157 Truck on Roads of the Pacific Exhibit, California Pacific International Exposition, San Diego, 1935

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What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

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  Details

Henry Ford and Edsel Ford at Rouge Plant Tool & Die Building Construction Site, June 16, 1938

  Details

Henry Ford and Edsel Ford at Rouge Plant Tool & Die Building Construction Site, June 16, 1938

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Artifact

Photographic print

Object ID

64.167.232.1698

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Henry Ford and Edsel Ford at Rouge Plant Tool & Die Building Construction Site, June 16, 1938

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What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Notarized 1902 Automobile Speed Records, on Display at Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, Illinois, 1934

  Details

Notarized 1902 Automobile Speed Records, on Display at Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, Illinois, 1934

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Summary

In December 1902, Barney Oldfield tried to crack the mile-a-minute barrier on a circular track in the Henry Ford-designed race car "999." This photograph of the notarized document chronicles that attempt -- he didn't make it, though he did set a new speed record. And it wasn't his first time behind the wheel -- he had raced the "999" in October.

Object ID

64.167.232.568

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Notarized 1902 Automobile Speed Records, on Display at Century of Progress International Exposition, Chicago, Illinois, 1934

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

Frank Guy Armitage with First Ford Model A (1903), Ford Exposition, New York World's Fair, 1939

  Details

Frank Guy Armitage with First Ford Model A (1903), Ford Exposition, New York World's Fair, 1939

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Artifact

Photographic print

Summary

Ford Motor Company poured resources into the 1939-40 New York World's Fair, spending more than $5 million to construct and maintain its elaborate and well-attended exhibition space. Numerous celebrities joined Ford's 15 million reported exposition guests. This photograph shows Frank Guy Armitage, a well-known ventriloquist and impersonator of Charles Dickens characters, at a display featuring Ford's first automobile.

Object ID

64.167.232.1169

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Frank Guy Armitage with First Ford Model A (1903), Ford Exposition, New York World's Fair, 1939

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details