1964 5¢ New York World's Fair
US #1244 pictures the fair’s iconic Unisphere – a 12-story stainless-steel model of the earth.

On April 22, 1964, the New York World’s Fair opened at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, New York.

Long before Flushing Meadows was built, the site of the park was a natural wetland that would flush the runoff from the nearby bay. It had also housed a Dutch Settlement named after the village of Vlissingen, which means flushing.

1939 3¢ New York World's Fair
US #853 was issued for the 1939 World’s Fair.

In the early 1900s the area was made into the Corona Ash Dumps, which F. Scott Fitzgerald called “a valley of ashes” in The Great Gatsby. Eventually plans developed to turn the area into a grand park, and the site was overhauled to house the 1939/1940 World’s Fair. (This the second World’s Fair held in New York, the first being held in 1853-54 in present-day Bryant Park.) The three New York World’s Fairs were the only international expos to span two years, while all others were just for one.

1939 World's Fair - #853 - Art Craft's First Cachet - Limited Stock!
US #853 – First cachet created by Art Craft for the 1939 World’s Fair stamp

Businessmen with fond childhood memories of the 1939 World’s Fair developed plans for the 1964/65 World’s Fair. They gained support with promises of an economic boom and surge in tourism. While the fair received approval from the Eisenhower Commission, it was not officially sanctioned by the Bureau of International Expositions (neither was the 1939 fair). In fact, the BIE requested that its member states not participate, and resulted in the absence of Canada, Australia, and the Soviet Union, among other nations. However, several countries with smaller economies were honored to join, including Spain, Vatican City, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Thailand, Philippines, Greece, and Pakistan, and Ireland.

1973 8¢ Lyndon B. Johnson
US #1503 was issued on Johnson’s 65th birthday.

The fair officially opened on April 22, 1964. The day’s festivities included speeches from the fair’s organizers, Nelson Rockefeller, and President Lyndon B. Johnson. As President Johnson stated, “The Fair represents the most promising of our hopes. It gathers together from 80 countries the achievements of industry; the health of nations; the creations of man. This Fair shows us what man at his most creative and constructive is capable of doing. But unless we can achieve the theme of this Fair, ‘Peace Through Understanding’; unless we can use our skill and our wisdom to conquer conflict, as we have conquered science – then our hopes of today, these proud achievements, will go under in the devastation of tomorrow.”

One of the fair’s most popular international exhibits was Michelangelo’s Pietà, on display at the Vatican Pavilion. There was also an ancient column from Jordan that still stands today.

1964 5¢ New York World's Fair Fleetwood First Day Cover
US #1244 – Fleetwood First Day Cover

The fair’s US Pavilion focused on President Johnson’s “Great Society” and included a 15-minute ride through history and a tribute to John F. Kennedy who had broken ground for the pavilion before his death. The US Space Park sponsored by NASA had several full-scale models as well as actual spacecraft, including a Gemini capsule, Aurora 7, an X-15 aircraft, a Lunar Excursion Module, as well as Mariner and Explorer probes.

1964 5¢ New York World's Fair Classic First Day Cover
US #1244 – Classic First Day Cover

Twenty-four US states were represented at the fair, with Wisconsin bringing the “World’s Largest Cheese” and Florida bringing an array of wildlife. There were also New York City and Bourbon Street Pavilions.

1964 5¢ New York World's Fair First Day of Issue Leaflet
US #1244 – First Day of Issue Leaflet

A major part of the fair was the presence of American industry. Ford introduced its Mustang and IBM offered many people their first interaction with a computer. The Sinclair Oil Corporation sponsored a Dinoland exhibit featuring nine life-size dinosaur replicas. And Walt Disney created four animatronics shows, including the popular “It’s a Small World,” which was a salute to UNICEF and the children of the world.

1999 33¢ Celebrate the Century - 1960s: Ford Mustang
US #3188h – from the Celebrate the Century – 1960s sheet

More than 51 million people attended the 1964/65 World’s Fair, far less than the estimated 70 million planners hoped for to cover the costs of its operation. However, the site of the fair, Flushing Meadows Park, was seen as a major improvement to the city. Several of the fair’s buildings still stand and serve as museums.

Click here for pictures and stories from the fair.

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  1. Thanks, Mystic, for the PDF versions!

    I print them out, attach the stamps (in mounts) over the corresponding samples in each article, and put the pages in clear protectors. I am in the process of assembling an album.

    Naturally, I have to purchase the stamps I don’t already have, but I don’t mind; I don’t feel tricked into making extra purchases. In fact, I think it speaks to the marketing genius behind these articles. You should take it one step further:

    It would be great if you were to produce a three-ring binder specifically for these–with “This Day in History” printed on the front and spine–just like you do for the “First Day Covers”, “Heritage Collection”, “Voyager”, etc.

  2. I attended this fair as a gung-ho jayhawk electrical engineering student ( 22 yrs of age)! It was everything as advertised and well attended. I had $25 cash in my pockets and my hotel (in Times Square), tickets to the fair and transport from Lawrence, Kansas bus station all paid for. My mother told (suggested) I should eat at the Italian restaurants if possible and have the pasta tp fill me up at the best price! All in all a great fair and a great trip!

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