The 1964 World’s Fair

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1964 was a year near the end of a golden age of LDS public relations, and the Church’s participation at the World’s Fair held in Queens, N.Y. goes down in history as one of our most celebrated efforts.

The church sponsored The Mormon Pavilion, described in the 1964 World’s Fair official guide book as:


A striking pavilion, dominated by an artificial cloud and set amid ever-blooming gardens … A white cloud, visible for a great distance, hovers around three towers — replicas of the east tower of Salt Lake City’s famed Mormon Temple.

October_2006_65-xx-10-18_Mormon_PavilionThe pavilion was opened in April 1964 by David O. McKay, then 90 years old. The pavilion’s three towers were illuminated by lights at sunset.

A gilded angel Moroni was placed atop the center spire. The pavilion was set amidst flower gardens, and a reflecting pool stood in front of the building. Two twin exhibition halls containing 135 seat theaters alternately showed 15 minute films on Mormon history and the Church. A nine-ton replica of The Christus stood in one wing. Two 110 foot murals told the story of Christ and the Saints.



The main film shown, entitled “The Mormon Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair,” combined “Man’s Search For Happiness” with an introduction with scenes shot at the fair including interested visitors touring the World’s Fair Mormon Pavilion. Questions concerning the theme of the pavilion were posed in this film.

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The theme of the Fair was “Peace Through Understanding.” There were a number of religious pavilions at the Fair, including a Billy Graham pavilion and a pavilion from the Vatican, which displayed Michaelangelo’s Pieta. But the Mormon Pavilion had the second-most visitors of all the pavilions, and claimed significant numbers of converts from the experience.


Attendance over 19 months tallied at 5,805,835 visitors. Following closure of the Fair in 1965, the Mormon Pavilion reportedly became a church on Long Island.






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Comments

  1. p.s. this post may or may not have something to do with the fact that THE METS RULE!!!!!! YEAAAAAAAAHH!!!!!

  2. ummm . . . 1964 . . . last time the Mets won a The Series?

  3. An interesting overview of the Fair with more photos from a contemporary issue of National Geographic is available here.

  4. Nice trivia though about the Mormon Pavillion and the world’s fair. That’s a lot of visitors, I would think for back in the early 60’s. What pavillion had the first most visitors?

  5. 1986, Guy. Maybe you’re thinking 1969, the time before that?

    Anyhoo, the connection: Shea was built for the Fair as part of the Robert Moses development of Flushing Meadows, all around the fairgrounds.

  6. The Vatican Pavilion had the most — tough to beat a Michaelangelo, even if you’ve got one of them Christuses handy.

  7. Can anyone confirm if the paviliaon really was converted into a church and what church and if it still is in place today?

  8. Not just a rumor, Steve. Those panels that appear directly behind the SLC temple facade are now part of the exterior walls of the Plainview Stake Center, which is in Long Island.

    1964 was another mediocre year for the Mets (53-109, just 13 more wins than their record setting 40-120 first year). For the next four years, they won 50, 66, 61 and 73 games, respectively, which made the miracle of 1969 (100 wins, a 3-0 sweep of the hated Atlanta Braves in the League Championship series and a 4-1 triumph over the Baltimore Orioles –109 wins that year–in the World Series) all the sweeter!

    But 1964 did bring the opening of a new ballpark, Shea Stadium (maybe it seemed nice back then)–at least the Mets had a home then, instead of the leftovers of the Polo Grounds.

  9. Yeah — Mark B. to the rescue! 2007 is our year, man!

  10. Yeah — Mark B. to the rescue! 2007 is our year, man!

    We’ll see . . . that road leads through Los Angeles first!

  11. Guy, so far so good. Dodgers haven’t been much of a challenge. Maybe they should reconsider their move to the west coast, and come back where they belong. You see, the Mets are really sockin’ that ball, hitting those home runs over the wall…….

  12. One reason for the high attendance at the Mormon Pavilion can be found in the “map” of the fair in the National Geographic issue you linked to, Steve.

    The map is in two pieces–look at the piece at the left end of the second row of photographs. At the lower left is Shea Stadium, then the No. 7 elevated subway line (made famous by one of the infamous of the Braves relievers, John [off his] Rocker), then a long covered walkway that crossed the Long Island Railway Station and finally delivered people to the front gate of the fair. And then, just ahead and to the left was the Mormon Pavilion (no. 84 on the map key).

    After 20 minutes standing on the no. 7 train, then a half-mile or more walk from the subway to the fair, then the wait in line to get inside, it’s hardly surprising that people were ready to sit down, rest their legs, enjoy air conditioned comfort, even if it mean watching some religious film for 15 or 20 minutes. Just the right amount of rest!

    As the real estate guys say here, it’s all Location, Location, Location.

    Let’s go Mets!!

  13. I’ll take that road through L.A., Guy. Especially with a 2-0 lead.

    The Mets biggest troubles the second half were with left-handed pitchers. And Kuo beat the Mets back on September 8, shutting them out for six innings and allowing only three hits. But, glory be! the Mets scored 2 off Kuo, and 2 off the pitiful Dodgers’ bullpen last night, while Tom Glavine pitched a masterpiece, shutting out the Dodgers for six innings.

    Greg Maddox ain’t what he was 7 years ago, and he’s a right hander. Look for Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, Floyd, Green and Valentine to feast on his pitching.

    Did you say something about the World’s Fair?

  14. Guy, so far so good. Dodgers haven’t been much of a challenge.

    yes . . but one game does not a series make.

    Maybe they should reconsider their move to the west coast, and come back where they belong

    where then would the mets go? ;-)

  15. What happened to those murals?

  16. make that 2 games . . .sorry

  17. Guy, New York’s a big place. We have the Yankees in the Bronx, the Mets in Queens. Plenty of room still in Brooklyn for our Dodgers.

    The murals, John? No idea. I would hazard a guess that they got trucked off to some warehouse where they sit next to the wagonload of plates and the Ark of the Covenant.

  18. I’ll take that road through L.A., Guy. Especially with a 2-0 lead.

    certainly it’s better than 0-2 . . . still have you ever had a Dodger Dog?

    Did you say something about the World’s Fair?

    only that I was too young to attend in ’64 . . . .though the pavillion trivia and photos were pretty cool.

  19. Thanks.

    Were the murals copies of the CCA Christensen (sp?) murals that used to be toured around as a history lesson in the nineteenth century?

  20. I have never heard anything about the murals–don’t know who did ‘em, or where they are now.

    I didn’t attend the World’s Fair in ’64 either. Too much city (Los Angeles) for my parents the first two months, and two high a likelihood of Kindermord if they’d put us in the car for the cross country trip.

  21. Actually, I think the Cardinals will represent the NL in the series this year.

    But what do I know. I’m just an ignorant midwesterner who thinks this is still 2006.

  22. Ahh — Mark IV, yes, you’re right — heh, hadn’t noticed the typo.

  23. Here’s some info on the Christensen panoramas. I am curious as to whether they formed the basis for the murals used in the exhibition, perhaps a picture of the exhibition murals exists somewhere.

  24. Hey, this is one of my favorite topics! The 1964 World’s Fair was a major turning point for the birth of modern Mormonism.
    1. The program for the tour was the basis for the visitor’s centers for the next two decades.
    2. Missionary nametags were first used here.
    3. This was the first mixed language mission in the world since they realized that 1/4 of their visitors were Spanish speaking.
    4. The Christus was purchased for this event, as well as many of the other famous statues in LDS iconography were commissioned for this.
    5. The video “Man’s Search for Happiness” was produced for the FAIR.
    6. There was a special edition of the Book of Mormon produced.
    7. The church membership was about 2.5 million, so almost 3 times as many visitors to the site (6.5 mil) as members!

  25. TT, I’ve corrected my post: apparently there were “only” 5.8 million visitors.

  26. The following article has an interesting history of the Mormon Pavilion and World Fair (sorry I do not know how to hyperlink to lds.org): Brent L. Top, “Legacy of the Mormon Pavilion,” Ensign, Oct. 1989, 22

  27. Left Field says:

    I served a mission in NYC about 15 years after the fair. Anywhere I went in NY or NJ, if I asked a member how they came to join the church, there was a good chance they would respond, “Well, the church had a pavillion at the World’s Fair…”

  28. Just to follow up on Mark B’s comment in #8, the exterior cement slabs of the Mormon Pavillion were incorporated into the construction of the chapel of the Plainview, Long Island Stake Center, and it still stands to this day. The facade of the SLC Temple used at the Pavillion was not incorporated into the Plainview Stake Center.

    The construction of both the Mormon Pavillion and the subsequent Plainview Stake Center was deliberately done in concert by the local Church leadership.

  29. The question is, with such a great success with introducing people to the church, why don’t we do this anymore? I went to the last world’s fair last year in Japan. The next one I think will be in Shanghai (2010). Seems like a great missionary tool.

    Go Giants.

  30. I agree with Meems. That would really be something in a place such as Shanghai.

    Talk of the fair brings back memories. I was just a kid when my family got into a pickup with camper and drove from the Seattle area and drove all the way to New York, seeing places such as Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore along the way. I haven’t been on as long of a ground trip since.

    I can’t say I remember the Mormon pavilion (my family wasn’t LDS, and I’d be surprised if we went to see it). I do remember the “Sermons from Science” exhibit, which was put on by a Protestant organization, the Moody Bible Institute, and featured films and demonstrations showing the compatibility of science and faith.

    I also remember a few of the exhibits, such as the Pepsi “It’s a Small World” ride (the one with the obnoxious tune) that eventually ended up at Disneyland, and an exhibit by Ford that took a driving tour in dinosaur country.

  31. “The murals, John? No idea. I would hazard a guess that they got trucked off to some warehouse where they sit next to the wagonload of plates and the Ark of the Covenant.”

    … and my mom’s good china that the moving company lost in the same year.

    What was the wagonload of plates?

  32. (1) Unfortunately the murals were not CCA Christensen. Rather they were the Church’s first major commission to the Seventh-day Adventist “artist” Harry Anderson, and led to the many other commissions which made Anderson the leading painter of official “Mormon” art in the following decades. I don’t know what became of the physical murals themselves, but the paintings appeared frequently in Church publications.

    (2) Probably the most comprehensive single source for the New York Worlds Fair Mormon Pavilion is at:

    http://www.mormonstoday.com/nyc-lds-history/V3N2Newslet.pdf

    (3) Undoubtedly the Mets’ success to date is due to the very warm and cooperative reception they gave to the Church for Mormon Day this summer. If the Yankees lose, we may probably ascribe that to their frosty reception to the same event at Yankee Stadium last year. But since both have had Mormon Days, it bodes well for that greatest of all baseball events — a Subway Series. Go New York!

  33. This has been a really informative post, but begs the question as to why the FAIR wasn’t even mentioned in David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. It seems quite a bit more interesting that quoting Paul Dunn….

  34. “The theme of the Fair was “Peace Through Understanding.”

    Maybe it’s time we did the fair again with the same theme. I would like to see my church set an example to Christianity as a whole regarding what “peace” really means. I haven’t seem much of an effort toward “understanding” among the participants in the Middle East conflicts of late. It’s much easier to just invade a sovereign country. I hope the time will come when we can feel confident enough to say what we really believe, as SWK did in 1976. He was the last one to take a stand on behalf of the Church.

  35. I don’t think the US even participates in the World’s Fairs anymore. Wiki notes they were removed from the group that puts on the Worlds fair in 2002 for no longer giving funds to it…

  36. It should also be noted that the 1964 World’s Fair was also unique in that it was not sponsored by the normal group who does the Fair, the BIE, but was initiated by a group of New York Business Men. The BIE do not even consider it an official world’s fair. So Perhaps the Church had an easier time getting involved do to these unusual conditions.

  37. Ok, for further, I just learned that the Church had a pavilion at the ’68 Hemisfair in San Antonio as well. I don’t know much about it yet, but it looks like it was sponsored by the BIE in some way.

  38. And they had a booth at the 74 world’s fair… http://expo74.brandx.net/otherpav.html

    This one actually is a little embarrassing to me…

  39. Texas_tyrant8 says:

    This past July I toured the conference center in downtown SLC with my family (we’re from San Antonio) and I recall seeing several larger-than-life murals on display in the foyers. The tour guide mentioned that several of these had been commissioned for the world’s fair. I can only assume that it was the NY ’64 fair. She also said they had been in storage since then. I’m sure next to the wagonload of plates.

  40. I’ve also found some evidence that the church had a presence at the World’s Fair in the 1890s in Chicago…

  41. The Young Ambasadors performed at the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans(which was the last one in the U.S.). I’m not sure if there was a Pavilion or not, but there was definitely an LDS presence. The 1984 Fair is hard to find information on, as the only memory of it seems to be that Michael Jackson did bad things to a minor in the back of a limo.

  42. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism doesn’t mention the Fair in New Orleans, but states that after the success of the New York World’s Fair, the Church had exhibits in “Montreal, Canada; Osaka, Japan; San Antonio, Texas; and Seattle, Washington.” We also know that they had a major exhibit at the Spokane Washington World’s Fair.

    It should be noted that the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville was the last worlds Fair. Starting in 1984, they’ve been World Expos. Also, The 2005 World Expo, the most resent, was themed “Nature’s Wisdom” At this point, I can find no evidence of any church having a pavilion there….

  43. If the Encyclopedia of Mormonism says that “after the success of the New York World’s Fair, the Church had exhibits in . . . Seattle, Washington,” then the Encyclopedia of Mormonism is wrong. I don’t know who the editors/fact checkers/authors for that article are, but they (if they said what mw* says) should hang their heads in shame. (Just like the editors of Dialogue (and, if reports are accurate, the editors of the Pres. McKay biography) over a jaw-dropper in the part about Pres. McKay and Communism–but that’s another story for a different post.)

    Why? Because the Seattle World’s Fair, which bequeathed us the monorail and the Space Needle, was in 1962. Even the inspired leadership of the church would have had difficulty in arranging for an exhibit in Seattle in 1962 after the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

  44. Mark B.
    here is the EOM article:

    http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/daily/missionary/exhibitions_eom.htm

    I think the EOM may have meant the Spokane world’s Fair, but you are definitely correct regarding the incorrect cause/effect relationship regarding the Seattle World’s Fair. Of course, there is that time travel machine they keep in Vault 52, but let’s not discuss that.

    I am interested in why there appears to be no religious pavilions at the World’s Fairs (or Expos as they are now called anymore) Is this just another example of the nations exercising their “freedom from religion” seperation clauses?

    In other World’s Fair news, The San Francisco World’s Fairin the 30s had a major Mormon exhibit, and it looks like the last world’s Fair with major religious pavilions was in 1982 at Knoxville, which had 1 pavilion for religion sponsored by 13 different churches(Including the Catholic Church) called “The Power” which was very popular, but is allegedly ignored by historians.

    Why would the Catholics have to share with 12 other churches?

  45. Steve Evans says:

    Guy (#18) how you like them apples now? Heh heh heh.

  46. D. Fletcher says:

    My mother led a chorus of Singing Mothers at the LDS pavilion. I vaguely remember that time (I was 6 in ’64).

  47. Guy (#18) how you like them apples now? Heh heh heh.

    Steve, would those be “Big Apples”? ;-)

    I’ll have to see how the rest plays out . . I may end up rooting for the Mets afterall.

  48. mw* – Also, The 2005 World Expo, the most resent, was themed “Nature’s Wisdom” At this point, I can find no evidence of any church having a pavilion there….

    This is the world’s fair I went to (oops – world expo…). You’re right, no church had a representation there, but the American Pavilion was okay and we were represented (all high-tech and showman style stuff on Ben Franklin). Canada’s was a little better I am forced to admit… But still, artists had exhibits, shows, installations, and companies had huge pavilions, etc. There’s no reason why a church or our church couldn’t have representation. It pulled in tons of people. My family and I went about 5 different times total and it was always packed.

  49. Meems, I guess it seems odd to me that the Churches would not try torepresent at the expo, especially when compared to something like the 1964 expo. Maybe the cost of doing an Expo has gone too high. I read that this 2005 expo cost Billions (Though it earned 11 Billion Yen profit, unlike the 64 expo, which made negative millions)

    At any rate, I envy your chance to be in Japan and see such a grand exhibit, some of us can only dream… :)

  50. Thanks for this post. I served in the NYC Mission in the mid-70’s. In fact, the Plainview Stake was in my greenie area. As someone mentioned earlier, it was a common response for investigators to mention having attended the Mormon Pavillion but I never saw a picture of it until now.

    I’d also like to bear my testimony that the Yankees are the only true baseball team ;)

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