“I think that this paper helped to remind me that we were not just learning about history in this class. We looked deeper into the intentions of the actors in 1939, and we saw the American ideals and the symbolism in the World’s Fair.” -Conrad
“In order to find the significance of the World’s Fair, I had to consider everything we had covered in the class. From the first reading Depression Modern and the discussion of new aesthetic styles to Richard Overy’s 1939: Countdown to War, everything in between was relevant to the Fair and its historical importance. The first thing I noticed about the Fair as a whole was the changes that took place from its planning in 1937 to the conclusion of its first year in October of 1939, beginning with Germany’s withdrawal. The Fair changed in order to reflect the world around it, so it embodied the fact that 1939 was a year of changes and transitions. Hence, I found my thesis.” -John
This exhibit represents the work of students in the 1939 seminar, a SAGES course at Case Western Reserve University.
In 1939, people in the United States and Great Britain were invested in creating an active and lush fantasy world. There were debutant balls, the World’s Fair, college sports, The Big Sleep, Gone With the Wind, and The Wizard Of Oz. Meanwhile, Hitler was also conceiving of his dream world. The history of 1939 is the history of these competing fantasies and their collision.
As you navigate through our work you will see how we interpreted and examined the juxtaposition of the World’s Fair and the move toward war in Europe. To achieve an understanding of the year that birthed the modern world, we combined traditional historical sources, such as newspapers, with “sandbox tools,” like Minecraft.
In many ways, our work is an experiment in digital humanities. By making films, scrapbooks, papers, and representations of the fair, we believe we have gained an understanding of what it was like to live at the time.