Friday, April 8, 2022

My Great-Grandmother's Trip To New York & The 1939 World's Fair (Without Photographs!)

Eighty-three years ago this month, the 1939 World's Fair opened in New York.  My great-grandmother (who I was lucky enough to have in my life, until I was 35!) used to tell the story about a trip that she took to New York, back in 1939.  There weren't a lot of details given about the trip, but I'll relay what I know/remember.

She and her husband (my step-great-grandfather), took the train from California to Detroit.   He worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad, and they had railroad "passes," so I think the train ride was free.  Once they arrived in Detroit, they bought a new 1939 Studebaker.  If I am remembering correctly, she said it was cheaper to buy a car "at the source".....practically right off of the assembly line.  From there, they drove to New York.  Below, is a picture they took of their new car.  Written on the back of the photo is, "1939 Studebaker - taken in front of 430, 61st St., Brooklyn."

I don't know for sure, but maybe they were visiting or staying with someone they knew, who lived in Brooklyn?  Since I had the specific address, I looked it up on Google "street view."  Here's the current view:

There are only a few other photos that they took during that trip.....or at least ones that still exist.  Here's a photo of the two of them.  Written on the back of this one is,  "Waiting for the boat to the Statue of Liberty."

This next one is labeled, "On the boat to the Statue of Liberty."  There is a little boy in the background, who also appears in the following two photos.  I don't know who he is.  I'm just taking another guess, but I would say that he must have been a friend's child.

This photo shows my great-grandmother and that little boy, posing at the base of the Statue of Liberty.  Gauging from the position of the boy's tie, it must have been pretty windy!

This one is labeled, "On the balcony of the Statue of Liberty."  There's that little boy again, but now there is a man holding him by the arm.  I don't recognize the man, either!

Having never been to the Statue of Liberty, myself, I had to search for a photo, that would show me where they were standing.  This current-day photo shows the balcony they were standing on.

Now, there was only one more photo in this batch.  It showed my great-grandmother in front of what looked like the turret of a castle.  The back of the photo was labeled, "Lambert Castle Observatory Tower, Paterson, New Jersey."

Once again, I turned to the internet to do a search.  It turns out (according to Wikipedia) that Lambert Castle was a private residence built in 1892, by Catholina Lambert, the owner of a prominent silk mill in Paterson, New Jersey.  After Lambert's death in 1923, the property was sold to the City of Paterson, and then to Passaic County, and has since been turned into a library and museum.

In 1896, Lambert constructed a 70-foot observatory tower on his property.  The tower was open to the public for years, but closed in the 1960s, due to disrepair.

The observatory tower was renovated in 2014, and reopened to the public.  This modern-day photo shows how it sits on top of a mountain.

Here is the photo of my great-grandmother, posing at the base of the tower.  I'm glad she had written the location on the back of the photo, otherwise I never would have known where it was taken.

While searching for information about the property, I found this photo, and realized it was taken from pretty much the same angle, but just a little further back.

I decided to play with the image a little, and "paste" my great-grandmother into the modern-day photo.

I made several versions, but couldn't decide which one I liked the best.

Well, as stated in the title, this blog post will not have any family photos from the 1939 New York World's Fair, unfortunately.  While my great-grandmother told me that she did actually go to the World's Fair during that trip, there are no photos.  I don't know if they just didn't take any pictures while they were at the fair, or if the photos they took have just been lost over time.

About 30 years ago, I purchased some postcards from the Fair, in an antique store.  I am including them here, to fill in for the lack of Fair photos from my great-grandmother's trip.

First up, is this nice aerial view of the fairgrounds:

Everything was grand, according to Mary:

The Corona Gate was one of the entrances into the Fair:

Nice penmanship!

The Perisphere and Trylon were the official symbols of the Fair.  The Perisphere sat in the exact same spot as the Unisphere, which was the symbol of the 1964/65 New York World's Fair.

Marie and Al were there, with Harry's boat.  What did they do with his boat, while they were at the Fair?

The Life Savers Parachute Jump tower is depicted on this next postcard, but the giant Life Savers that were mounted on the side of the tower are missing.  Maybe they didn't want to give the Life Savers company any free advertising?

Here's Mary, again.  Her feet were tired!  I wonder what a "gord play game" was?

The fountain underneath the Perisphere, was designed to make it appear as if the structure was floating.

This one is signed, "Love from Mommie," so it might have been from Joan Crawford.

These last two postcards are actually postmarked 1940, after the Fair had reopened for it's second season.

There was a special World's Fair postmark, featuring a little silhouette of the Perisphere and Trylon.  Phil thought the Fair was just "O.K."  And he's another one who was complaining about his feet!

As described on the back of this postcard, the New York City Building was intended to be a permanent structure.  It was not demolished after the Fair, and was even used again in the 1964/65 New York World's Fair.  It remains standing to this very day!

This person hardly wrote any details about her visit to the Fair.  And that makes me ask the question, "What was the matter with Helen?"

I have a collection of souvenir items from various World's Fairs, but most of them are from the 1961 Seattle World's Fair, and the 1964/65 New York World's Fair.  Here are the only other items I have, from the 1939 New York World's Fair.

A friend gave me this near-mint condition pictorial souvenir, about 30 years ago.  It has 48 pages.  I can try to scan some of them for a future post, if anyone is interested.

 The back cover:

A few years ago, another friend of mine gave me this framed item.  He found it at an antique mall, so we don't know how long ago the matting and framing were done on it.  We weren't even sure what this piece was, but we thought that it might have been a lid from some sort of box, like maybe a box of candy.  Well, upon scanning it for this post, I noticed the "Sayford Co. Brooklyn" name in the upper left hand corner, for the very first time.  It turns out that company made place mats/trivets.  The details on the mat are all embossed, and covered in a silver foil-like material.

Here are some similar mats that turned up in my internet search.

I hope everyone enjoyed this little trip back to 1939!


****Post Update (10-12-22)****

I just came across two postcards, which belonged to my great-grandmother and were souvenirs of her 1939 trip to New York.   Both of them are from Niagara Falls.

The first postcard shows one of the famous "Maid of the Mist" boats.  There have been many boats with that name, over the years.  The boats take passengers on a scenic trip of the Niagara River and travel very close to the base of Niagara Falls.  This particular version of the "Maid of the Mist" ran on steam power, and and was retired in 1955.

This postcard shows the view of the Niagara River, from Goat Island.  Goat Island is located at the top of the falls and separates Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls.  It is a part of the U.S.'s Niagara Falls State Park.

*****Post Update (03-01-24)*****

I just found another photo of my great-grandmother and her husband, taken during their 1939 New York trip!  It's an additional photo showing their brand new Studebaker, which they had picked up in Detroit, earlier in the trip.  This one is labeled on the back, "Binghamton, New York, May 1939."  I had to look up that town, because I had never heard of it before.  It looks like Binghamton is roughly half-way between Niagara Falls and New York City.  I have no other information like if they stopped and did anything in Binghamton, or if they were just "passing through."