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The Perisphere: 1939

"Perisphere and ramp at 1939 New York Word's Fair." Corpulent counterpoint to the trimmer Trylon. Uncredited acetate transparency, possibly by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.

"Perisphere and ramp at 1939 New York Word's Fair." Corpulent counterpoint to the trimmer Trylon. Uncredited acetate transparency, possibly by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.


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Dave delivers

An admirably concise and alliterative caption.

Legend has it

That the Trylon and Perisphere still exist in Queens!

Coarse surface

I'd only seen distant (and perhaps slightly edited) images of the Perisphere before this and it was an eye-opener. I went looking for the construction details and discovered this:

The original plans for the Perisphere called for it to be covered in a smooth and seamless layer of concrete. However, due to the high cost of that material, gypsum was used instead. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts to smooth it out, the gypsum created an uneven texture and had visible seams. Also, surrounding fountains damaged the fragile coating and their arches of water had to be lowered.

The fair in color

"Get out of my head!"

Am I the only one seeing a giant, screaming face in the cutaway sphere?!?


Here's a look at the interior. Click to go to a page with more info and a bigger photo.

Cutaway view of the Perisphere

Utopian Promises

1939-40 World's Fair Democracity Re-Creation (The New York Pubic Library)


Doug, I think that big round shadow is nothing more than the dark side of the big round Perisphere.

[Incorrect. Below left, the "dark side" and, on the right, the "dark side" overlaid with the shadow of the Trylon. - Dave]

Hmm ...

That's no moon.

Not So Smooth

Central pieces of the 1939 New York World's Fair known as the 'Theme Center', the Perisphere and accompanying Giant Trylon Tower were to be covered in smooth concrete, however due to the high cost, gypsum was used instead. Gypsum caused an uneven texture and visible seams on the structures, although that didn't stop them from projecting moving images onto the Perisphere from nearby buildings at night.

For the cost of a quarter, which first included a walk through the Giant Trylon Tower, visitors could ride on one of the Perisphere's two rotating balconies, which encircled a miniaturized ideal city of the future called Democracity. Slick recorded narration and glow-in-the-dark lighting completed the effect.

Visitors left the Perisphere via a 950-foot curved ramp called the Helicline, the first thirty or so feet of which are pictured above. The Helicline had a mirrored underside, creating the illusion of invisibility from below. At the base of the globe, eight supporting pillars were also hidden by mirrors and fountains which gave the Perisphere an appearance of floating in midair.

Both the Perisphere and Trylon Tower were demolished in 1940. The Unisphere, central piece of the 1964 New York World's Fair, was erected on the exact same spot as the Perisphere, and is still standing to this very day.

I bet it included flying cars

Here is a little information on what the Trylon and Perisphere consisted of. Inside, visitors traveled on a moving platform while watching a six-minute show focusing on a futuristic, utopian City of Tomorrow. Obviously, in 1939 the show's creators did not anticipate urban flight to the suburbs that actually happened and the adverse ripple effects which left no utopian cities I can think of.

I can't figure out what is casting a big, round shadow on the big, round Perisphere.

[The tall, straight Trylon. - Dave]

Thanks, Dave. I'll confess I'm still trying to visualize how that worked.

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