skip to main content
Gallup Vault
Gallup Vault: Futurama and the World's Fair of 1939
Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: Futurama and the World's Fair of 1939

by Art Swift

In 1939, a nation struggling to recover from the Great Depression looked toward the future at the World's Fair in New York City. Titled "Dawn of a New Day," the fair during its two-year run hosted more than 44 million people, who were treated to expositions about the "world of tomorrow." Gallup found that General Motors' "Futurama" exhibit was the most popular display at the fair, a ride that introduced Americans to the concept of the expressways and streets of the future.

Most Popular Exhibits at the 1939 World's Fair
Asked of those who visited the 1939 World's Fair: Which exhibit did you like the best?
Most popular exhibits
1. General Motors "Futurama"
2. Theme Center "City of Tomorrow"
3. AT&T "Telephone and Telegraph Exhibit"
4. Ford Motor Co. Exhibit
5. Soviet Building
6. British Building
7. Railroad Exhibit
Gallup, May 1939

Futurama envisioned the America of 1960, as it predicted there would be many more cars on the highway, with expressways flowing from skyscraper-filled metropolises to suburbs. This exhibit proved so popular that President Franklin Roosevelt asked the designer of Futurama, Norman Bel Geddes, to advise the nation on transportation issues, with the results culminating in the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944. Many of the concepts Bel Geddes put forward became law; therefore, the futuristic dream introduced at the 1939 World's Fair became reality.

The second-most-popular attraction at this world's fair was "the 'city of tomorrow' exhibit within the 200-foot perisphere, showing immense skyscrapers surrounded by verdant parks and broad roadways." Gallup also noted that the "third-most-interesting exhibit, according to a cross-section of those who have seen the Fair, is the telephone and telegraph exhibit, where the spectators can listen in on telephone conversations between visitors to the Fair and their friends back home."

General Motors would update the most popular exhibit when the world's fair returned to New York in 1964, titling it "Futurama II."

Read the original Gallup poll release.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

Read more from the Gallup Vault.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030