Earlier this month the President signed the “U.S. Wants to Compete for a World Expo Act” into law, setting the stage for Minnesota to make its case to host the Fair in 2023. If Minnesota is successful in securing the honor of hosting the World’s Fair it would be the first World’s Fair in the United States in almost 40 years. The last World’s Fair on US soil took place in New Orleans in 1984 and proved to be financially ruinous for the organizers. There was an attempt to bring the fair to Chicago in 1992 but the plan was cancelled before it ever came to fruition.
The financial woes that plagued the World’s Fair even lead Congress to pass a law banning any federal funds from being spend on World’s Fairs in 1999. Despite its less than glowing reputation in recent years, the World’s Fair has a rich history of being held in the US. Some of the most infamous world fairs of all time took place in US cities, such as the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair: Columbia Exposition.
The exuberant history of the World’s Fair in the US can is on beautiful display in Smithsonian Collections Online: Worlds Fairs and Expositions: Visions of Tomorrow. The collection contains over 600,000 documents covering World’s Fairs from 1840-1940 and captures the spirit, technology, design, and innovations that influenced the modern world. The official programs and pamphlets for the World’s Fair contained in Smithsonian Collections Online have beautiful full color illustrations that bring vibrant history of the World’s Fair to life.
Below are several samples of the amazing primary sources available to researchers and students in Smithsonian Collections Online: Worlds Fairs and Expositions: Visions of Tomorrow.