Monday 23 March 2020

Railroads on Parade 1939-40

This card covered publication was published to accompany Railroads on Parade, a musical pageant celebrating the early days of American railroads at the New York World’s Fair of 1939-40. The Railroad Building was the largest in area at the entire Fair. On the wraparound cover illustration we are shown how the power of steam left the ponies and oxen far behind - at the top an exotic streamliner represents the peak of contemporary technology. Famous mural painter, William A Mackay was the cover artist - it was his misfortune to die of a heart attack on a New York subway train in July 1939, less than 3 months after the Fair opened its doors on April 30th. It sets the tone for the anachronistic folksiness of the theatrical presentation. Kurt Weill was commissioned to compose the music. Since arriving in America in 1933, Weill had immersed himself in the American Songbook and mastered the idioms of the Broadway musical and popular song - this was his first opportunity to compose for a mass audience. Tickets were sold for only 25 cents and the auditorium could seat 4,000 spectators at up to 4 shows a day. The fair was a massive corporate jamboree designed to dazzle the American consumer with visions of future plenty. Major firms competed to offer the most architecturally extravagant pavilions in which to present the technology of the future. The railroad industry looked to the past and devised a historical pageant that catered to the public appetite for nostalgia as well as displaying the latest in locomotive development to build the market for future travellers. Please follow the links below for past posts on the World’s Fair.

World of Tomorrow
Meet the Middletons

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