From April 1964 to October 1965, some 52 million people from around the world flocked to the New York World's Fair, an experience that lives on in the memory of many individuals and in America's collective consciousness. Taking a perceptive look back at "the last of the great world's fairs," Lawrence R. Samuel offers a thought-provoking portrait of this seminal event and of the cultural climate that surrounded it. Samuel counters critics' assessments of the fair as the "ugly duckling" of global expositions.
As World War II dawned in Europe, General George C. Marshall, the new Army Chief of Staff, had to acknowledge that American society-and the citizens who would soon become soldiers-had drastically changed in the previous few decades. Almost every home had a radio, movies could talk, and driving in an automobile to the neighborhood soda fountain was part of everyday life. A product of newly created mass consumerism, the soldier of 1940 had expectations of material comfort, even while at war.