Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization Search this
New York World's Fair (1939-1940 : New York, N.Y.) Search this
130 Cubic feet (417 boxes, 25 map-folders)
Motion picture film
Flushing Meadows Park (New York, N.Y.)
New York (N.Y.)
Collection documents the 1939 New York World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. Also includes material relating to other fairs, the Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization (ECHO), New York City tourism and The Walt Disney Company.
Scope and Contents:
Collection primarily documents the conception, planning, construction, management, and operations of the 1939 New York World's Fair located in Flushing Meadows, New York. Materials provide historical context and cultural significance as recorded in publications, artwork, photographs, ephemera, postcards, maps, plans, exhibitor's literature, souvenirs, and motion picture film. Most of the materials were primarily created for people who attended the fair. Some of the materials include scrapbooks created by fair visitors to document their experiences. There is a significant amount of material relating to other fairs, New York tourism, the Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization (ECHO) and the World's Fair Collector's Society. Other forms of entertainment such as festivals, the Olympic games, and Disney World are also found among these materials. There is little information relating to Edward Orth's personal and professional life as a city planner. The collection is arranged into eleven series.
The collection is arranged into eleven series.
Series 1, Edward J. Orth Personal Papers, 1915-1989, undated
Subseries 1.1, Correspondence, 1939-1989
Subseries 1.2, Other Materials, 1915-1989, undated
Series 2, Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization (ECHO) and World's Fair Collector's Society, Incorporated Records, 1942-1990, undated
Subseries 2.1, General Information, 1960-1988, undated
Subseries 2.2, Correspondence, 1942-1990, undated
Subseries 2.3, Classified and Wanted Advertisements, 1956-1988, undated
Edward Joseph Orth grew up with a strong interest in history, particularly the history of the 1939 New York World's Fair. Orth's visit to the fair as a twelve-year-old boy led to a life-long passion of collecting. At the time of his death, he had amassed enough materials to fill two homes in California. Orth also collected materials from several other fairs. In addition, he saved some of the records of the Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization (ECHO) and the World's Fair Collector's Society.
Orth was born April 19, 1927, to Andrew Joseph Orth and Florence Minnie Gordon Orth in Glendale, New York. In the 1930s, the Orth family lived in several locations in New York including Ridgewood, Brooklyn, Glendale, and Queens. The home that made the most impact in young Orth's life came in 1935 when the family moved to St. Albans, Queens seven miles from Flushing Meadow Park, the future site of the 1939 fair. Sadly in 1939 there were several deaths in the family including three grandparents. The severe loss of life limited family social activities but a drive by the future site of the fair provided Orth a glimpse of the Trylon and Perisphere. He would later remark that the sight appeared to be magic. In the summer of 1939, he went to the fair with his classmates from Public School 136. The next summer Orth and his father purchased a 10-admission ticket from an elementary school in Hollis, Queens, New York. He saved every souvenir and any information he could find about the fair. He filled scrapbooks with images from newspapers and postcards from the Curt Teich and Manhattan Postcard companies. When his family moved from an apartment to a house, he acquired a fair bench which was kept in the backyard.
In 1941, Orth attended Newton High School in Elmhurst, and Queens, New York. The high school offered a college preparatory program with heavy emphasis on mathematics, science, mechanical drawing, and workshop courses. Orth's education and training combined with the knowledge he gained from motion picture films viewed at the fair, including Thomas Edison's "The City of Light," Ford Motor Company's "Road of Tomorrow," "Democracy," and General Motors' "Futurama" provided the foundation and inspiration for a career in architecture and landscaping. He ultimately became a city planner for the state of California. By 1943, Orth was exploring used magazine and bookstores in New York City to acquire more fair materials before enlisting in the United States Army in 1945. Upon his discharge he resumed buying and trading fair postcards. From 1948-1953, Orth attended the University of California and the University of Connecticut where he studied architecture and landscape design. During these years he posted advertisements in various publications in his continued pursue for fair materials.
In March 1953, Mr. Orth moved to Los Angeles, California. There he formed lasting friendships with other collectors. By 1967, Orth and several of his closest friends including Peter Warner, Oscar Hengstler, David Oats, Larry Zim, and Ernest Weidhaas conceived the idea of a fair collector's organization. By the summer of 1968, the group had formally created the Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization (ECHO).
As time passed Orth became increasing concerned about the welfare of his collection. He wanted it to go to a museum rather than be sold in parts. In his will he stipulated that the collection would be given to the Smithsonian Institution upon his death. Jon Zackman, former Smithsonian employee, interviewed Orth's brother George and fair collector Peter Warner. Orth and Warner corresponded and traded objects over many years. Mr. Orth primarily covered the west coast area while Peter Warner was his east coast counterpart. Edward Orth died on September 6,1989 in Los Angeles, California at the age of sixty-two.
Materials in the Archives Center
New York World's Fair Collection, NMAH.AC.0134
Landor Design Collection, NMAH.AC.0500
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Subject Category, World Expos, NMAH.AC.0060
Larry Zim World's Fair Collection, NMAH.AC.0519
Alice R. Hillis World's Fair Film, NMAH.AC.0531
Borden Company 1939 New York World's Fair Collection, NMAH.AC.1063
Memories of the New York World's Fair, NMAH.AC.0592
Archives Center World Expositions Collection, NMAH.AC.0825
Daniel H. Meyerson World's Fair Collection, NMAH.AC.0745
Division of Community Life World's Fairs Collection, NMAH.AC.1132
Princeton University Posters Collection, NMAH.AC.0433
Smithsonian Speech Synthesis History Project, NMAH.AC.0417
Messmore and Damon Company Records, NMAH.AC.0846
Thomas Norrell Railroad Collection, NMAH.AC.1174
William L. Bird Holidays on Display Collection, NMAH.AC.1288
Wurlitzer Company Records, NMAH.AC.0469
Victor A. Blenkle Postcard Collection, NMAH.AC.0200
Materials at Other Organizations
New York Public Library The New York World's Fair 1939 and 1940 Incorporated Records, 1935-1945, MssCol 2233.
New York City 1939 World's Fair architectural drawings, circa 1935. Museum of the City of New York. Museum of the City of New York.
New York City 1939 World's Fair Collection, 1939-1940. Museum of the City of New York. New York World's Fair 1939/40 Collection. Queens Museum.
1939 New York World's Fair Postcards, Identifier: 1972-320, Audiovisual Collections Repository, Hagley Museum & Library
Materials at the National Museum of American History
Artifacts from the collection include several thousand souvenirs and examples of memorabilia commemorating the fair to include buttons and badges, ceramics, glassware, clothing, costume jewelry, coins and medals, commemorative spoons and flatware, toys and games, and philatelic material which are all part of the Division of Home and Community Life's holdings (now Division of Cultural and Community Life).
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves. Researchers must use reference copies of audio-visual materials. When no reference copy exists, the Archives Center staff will produce reference copies on an "as needed" basis, as resources allow. Viewing film portion of collection requires special appointment, please inquire. Do not use when original materials are available on reference video or audio tapes.
Contact the Archives Center for information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-633-3270.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Exhibitions -- 1930-1940 -- New York (State) -- New York Search this
Step right up! : amusement for all : show business at the turn of the century : an exhibition / by the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum, June 3-September 25, 1977, at the Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, N.Y