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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Ford Exposition: 1939

Ford Exposition: 1939

May 12, 1939. "New York World's Fair, Ford Motor Building. Entrance." The stainless steel sculpture of a V8-brandishing Mercury was by Robert Foster. Large-format acetate negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Fate of the Statue

I asked the experts on the World's Fair Facebook page and the statue's whereabouts are unknown. They think it was more then likely melted down for scrap.

1930s Ford buildings

San Diego's current Air And Space Museum in Balboa Park is housed in the only remaining former Ford building of the several Ford Motors built for 1930s Fairs and Expositions across the country. A sleek circular Art Deco Streamlined building, it has a fountain in the inner courtyard designed to resemble the Ford's company's V-8 logo, and a circular indoor mural depicting the history of transportation, both now-restored elements of the building's 1935 construction. Located very near SD International Airport at Lindbergh Field, you've flown over the museum if you've ever come into San Diego by air.

Re: Smudge Pot

Although slang called those warning lamps smudge pots, they were known as highway flare torches. A smudge pot is an entirely different device. These highway flares were designed to burn kerosene or very similar fuels with a simple wick as it is easy to use, safe and especially in the early years, available everywhere. Kerosene is also known as coal oil (another slang), heating oil and various other names. Kerosene certainly is considered an oil and is derived from petroleum as opposed to actual coal oil, also used in lamps which is very similar to kerosene. A heavier oil, such as motor oil is difficult to light without preheating and facility to keep it hot, then a lighter weight oil or fuel gets dangerous. A search for Dietz Highway Flare Torch will provide much more info. The attached picture is of a K-D brand highway flare torch in my collection.


I used to work in this park, the site of the Worlds Fairs. It's now a ghost town of sorts, with a few remaining buildings here and there, and some cool artifacts. Was this the site of what's now the art museum/skating rink? I should know but I don't!

Smudge Pot

Under the "Bus Road" sign is an old smudge pot or whatever they were called. I think they burned kerosene to mark hazards on the road at night.

[They burned oil. -tterrace]

That looks like the Trylon behind it

The tall spire behind the Ford Pavillion is the Trylon (of Trylon and Perisphere fame).

Eye of the Beholder 2

I love that statue. I think it must have been so unique and moderne for 1939. Lovely and interesting.

Not So Big

The 1940 engines from Ford weren't that big. The V8 was 239 CID or 3.9 liter for you metric enthusiasts. The V12 was
only a bit larger at 292 or 3.9 liter

V-8 Flags

I was puzzled by the flags in front of the Ford building. At first, all I could see was what seemed to be a variation of the Japanese flag, which would have been ironic, given what happened a year and a half later. But it finally dawned on me that they are stylized versions of Ford's famous V-8 symbol, as held in Mercury's right hand.


"The Mercury sculpture was generated by Mr. Robert Foster who is considered as one of the most talented and gifted sculptors in the world. Mr. Foster often referred to this type of work as “Structural Sculpture”. The Mercury symbol clocked in at 25 feet high and weighed over three tons. The most stunning feature was that it provided its own support with no supporting pillars. The weight of the sculpture was carried from the shoulders to the draperies and building structure. The Mercury sculpture contained the V-8 emblem in one hand and the V-12 emblem in the other hand. The V-8 symbolized the Ford models while the V-12 symbolized the beautiful designs of the Lincoln-Zephyr automobiles." Source

That sculpture

is one ugly thing.


Anyone done a repop of that scuplture - or even just a T shirt or something?

Albert Kahn, architect; Walter Dorwin Teague, designer


Eye of the beholder

Beautiful building but that is one ugly statue.

Big V

He has a V12 in his other hand. Ah, the days of big engines.

Where is that statue now?

It must be sitting somewhere? Does anyone have any idea?

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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