1939 World’s Fair Pamphlets

Some of these are on the blog already, but I though I’d put them all up, because they’re so beautiful, and because I was asked about them.  So, all 54 of these pamphlets were written by Soviet leading lights in their respective fields, and beautifully, beautifully designed.  Most of the books, along with the box they came in, were sold to me by one book seller, with another two or three I found on ABEbooks.  I don’t have them all, and know of at least one that’s missing, ‘Crime Recedes in the USSR’ by A. Y. Vyshinsky (!).

Harvey, who contacted me through this blog, and who also has a collection of these books as well as other printed matter from the fair, wrote this:

The New York World’s Fair spanned two years; 1939 & 1940. It’s grand opening was on April 30, 1939 and closed for the first year on October 31, 1939. It reopened the following year with a number of changes on May 11, 1940 and closed forever on October 27, 1940.
The Soviet Pavilion was built on a grand scale using white marble with carved bas relief portraits of Lenin and Stalin on the front faces of the semi-circlular pavilion sweeping around a tall pylon faced in red quartzite and topped by a 79 foot tall stainless steel statue of a Soviet worker holding a 12 foot illuminated red star. It was the second highest structure at the fair after the trylon and perisphere theme center.
For some reason, the Soviet pavilion was completely razed before the reopening of the fair in 1940 and was replaced by an open area called “The American Common” which was used for occasional gatherings and celebrations. I am assuming the reason for getting rid of the Soviet presence at the fair was political but am not sure about the actual reason why this happened.

Here is a youtube video of footage from the fair, featuring a montage of the Soviet Pavillion:

I also found this book in San Francisco, it was also distributed at the fair, but was not a part of the set of small pamphlets.

Harvey also forwarded me the great covers of these pamphlets from the Soviet Pavilion at this fair:

Art From the Hands of Soviet Peasant Craftsmen. Pavilion of the Soviet Union New York World’s Fair 1939. A large 12 page illustrated booklet describing the the peasant handicraft industry in the Soviet Union along with a catalog of the items available for sale at the fair.

Soviet Russia Today. Lavishly illustrated with color and black & white photos, this 78 page booklet describes the USSR pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair along with many articles and facts about the Soviet Union. A color photograph of the Soviet Pavilion adorns the cover.

Union of Soviet Socialists Republics. A two-color 12 page stapled booklet describing the Soviet pavilion in great detail including floor plans. Meant to be used as a guide while visiting their exhibits.

The large collection of pamphlets I own, images below, came in a cardboard box, which looks like this:

Written in pencil (twice) on the label is ’47 ok’ and the name ‘Walter Criclin’ I think, I guess Walt had only 47 of these pamphlets. The box was not printed in the USSR, the little sigil at the bottom indicates that is was made with American union labour.

These images are thumbnails, click on them to see the image full size!


PS Harvey has added these five books I do not have to the collection.  Along with ‘Crime recedes in the USSR’ mentioned above, we now think there are 60 pamphlets to this collection.  (the ‘Food Industry’ pamphlet was written by V.M. Molotov’s wife, who was famously arrested and sent to a camp all while her husband was still in office as Stalin’s foreign minister.)



8 thoughts on “1939 World’s Fair Pamphlets

  1. Hello,
    I am an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, and I am researching Soviet visions of the future from the 1939 World’s Fair. I would be extremely grateful for any information you might have on looking through copies that might exist of your extraordinary pamphlets from the fair for my research. Thank you, and I am very impressed by your collection.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Unfortunately I am not in Vancouver [where my collection is] at the moment. What are you looking for specifically? When do you need this info?

      1. Thank you for your message! There is no rush on this information, since I will be working on this project at least for the next year at university: in fact, I just started the project. I am specifically looking for depictions of what the Soviet Union envisaged for its own and perhaps the globe’s future; this could be obviously shown, or more subtle, requiring analysis of the Soviet pavilion. But unfortunately, since I have just started this project (I am also starting in the fall at UChicago), I am still in the exploratory phase. As I move along, I will be getting more precise in my research goals, and thus can provide a more specific topic then, if that is alright. In any case, I am extremely grateful for your help.

  2. I am interested in seeing the inside of the “Art from teh Hands of Soviet Peasant Craftsmen”. I am trying to research a wooden statue that was reportedly shown inside the Soviet pavilion at New York World’s Fair in 1939. I need to know if it is from the fair or just a nice wooden staue. Can you post the complete 12 page brochure ? I can send you some pictures of the stautue if you like.

  3. Hello, this is an unrivaled pamphlet collection, congratulations! I am also researching the Soviet Pavilion at the NYWF 1939 and I greatly desire to see the inside of “Art From the Hands of Soviet Peasant Craftsmen.” Is there any way that it can be posted or otherwise conveyed? This pamphlet is quite rare and your effort would be a tremendously beneficial service to scholars. Thank you in advance for your consideration. Please email me?

  4. Hi Philip, I came across your collection here and am thrilled to finally be able to identify this large collection of pamphlets left to me by my father as being from the World’s Fair…Thank you! just for your interest, appears there are two titles in my collection not present in your listings: “Work and Wages in the Soviet Union” by I.Gudov, published 1939 and “The Greater Volga” by S.Zhook also from 1939. I am in the process of scanning them in and if you like I will send you a copy. Great work on your collection, look forward to exploring it a bit more!

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