World's Fairs

The study of world's fairs and international expositions allows historians to understand the development of invention, innovation, and the global marketplace. As an internationally regarded research institution focused on the history of business and technology, the Hagley Library necessarily collects in the area of world fairs.

Books, pamphlets, posters, trade cards, and other ephemera from more than 100 international expositions (all American world's fairs and many of those held in other parts of the world) are found throughout the library collections. There are more than 1,600 published volumes related explicitly to world's fairs. In addition, the library holds one of the nation's finest collections of trade catalogs. These trade catalogs are complemented by pamphlets and other printed material from companies that exhibited at these fairs.

Hagley's extensive corporate archives contain considerable information on business exhibits at world's fairs as firms and trade associations used those venues to promote products and present a positive image to the public. Visual images of these displays sometimes supplement paper documentation on business exhibits at world's fairs. Some collections particularly rich in world's fairs related information include:

The American Iron and Steel Institute collection contains publications and photographs regarding the steel industry's participation in the fairs. The construction of major exhibition buildings and the Unisphere are among the highlights of this collection.

The Centennial Exposition Photograph Collection documents the exposition held in Philadelphia in 1876 and includes oversized photographic albums and large, folio-sized scrapbooks filled with printed ephemera.

The Color Association of the United States records document the color coordination for the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Cravath, Swaine & Moore, a Wall Street law firm, pioneered the development of the modern corporate law office and developed a system that paralleled the trends toward professionalization and bureaucratization occurring elsewhere in the business world. Their records include information on financing the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition and the Iranian exhibit at the 1939 (New York) World's Fair.

The Helen Cushman Collection, 1933-1984, includes research files on and printed images and ephemera from world's fairs.

The Dallin Aerial Survey Company specialized in aerial photography and documented the landscape and urban development of the mid-west and northeast United States; their records include images from the 1926, 1933, and 1939 (New York) world's fairs.

Du Pont family correspondence documents several fairs. Beginning in 1853 with Sophie du Pont's letters describing construction delays of New York's Crystal Palace, family attendance at subsequent fairs is described in the correspondence of Samuel Francis du Pont, Lammot du Pont, T. Coleman du Pont, and Louisa D'Andelot du Pont Copeland.

DuPont Company records for the Executive Committee and the Public Affairs Department are particularly rich and include documentation of product information, photographs, press releases, exhibition notebooks, and correspondence for 1933, 1939 (San Francisco), 1939 (New York), and the 1964 world's fairs.

The Lippincott & Margulies records include their work "Johnson Wax Goes to the Fair," 1964.

Raymond Loewy's designs for the 1939 (New York) World's Fair are found in his papers.

Domenico Mortellito created sculptures for the DuPont exhibit at the 1939 (New York) and 1964 fairs and designed the company's pavilion for the 1964 exhibition; his papers document this work.

Remington Rand's records include information on their 1876 Centennial exhibit and the introduction of the typewriter.

The Charles L. Reese papers contain postcards and a trip narrative for the 1933 Century of Progress exposition.

The Singer Company records include trademark information and memoirs of exhibition experiences from the 1876 Centennial and the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

The Society for the Plastics Industry records contain press releases, photographs, and brochures for the 1964 World's Fair.

The Sperry Gyroscope collection documents the aviation industry's participation in the 1939 (New York) and 1964 fairs.

Walter Dorwin Teague designed the 1939 DuPont Pavilion, and the collections include his presentation books for New York and San Francisco.

Hagley's Museum Division also holds related materials. Beginning with the 1853 and ending with the 1964 World's Fairs, the Museum Division holds more than 140 artifacts from thirteen different fairs.


For general questions about using any of these materials, please use our Ask Hagley online form or call 302-658-2400 ext 227.

The Hagley Center for the History of Business, Technology and Society awards travel grants for visiting scholars. Some housing is available on the property. The Center also organizes conferences, research seminars, and academic programs. For more information, email