[N.p., likely New York. early 1939]. Panoramic photograph, 19 3/4 x 204 inches. Some chipping, creasing, minor staining, and occasional closed tears, with repaired tears to each vertical edge, and minor loss to right edge. Still, a good image considering its size. Item #WRCAM55096
An extraordinary and obscure seventeen-foot panoramic photograph highlighting the modernist architecture of the international zone of the 1939 New York World's Fair. The photograph presents a 360-degree view around the Lagoon of Nations, starting at the Belgian Pavilion at left, scanning across the statuary-filled fountains in Constitution Mall (with the Heinz 57 exhibit and the Trylon and Perisphere at the Theme Centre in the background), past the French Pavilion, the first Foreign Pavilion, across the Court of Peace (with the U.S. Government building in the deep background), the second Foreign Pavilion (with mounted lettering for Romania and a banner for Japan hanging on the front), and ending at the Czechoslovakian pavilion at far right. The Soviet Pavilion is not pictured, as it was one of the last exhibits completed before the opening of the fair on April 30, 1939; this fact also helps us date the photograph. Several workman and men in suits, and a handful of automobiles are pictured, with some of the people taking notice of the camera. A printed notice, which appears twice near the bottom edge of the photograph reads, "This is the largest direct photograph ever made! It is not an enlarged or pieced picture, but the actual negative size. It was made by Charles F. & Gabriel Allen and they have specialized in panorama photography since 1892." Few specifics are known about the Allens, though the Library of Congress holds six panoramic photographs by Charles F. Allen dated between 1919 and 1935, all in the New York area, including two 1919 panoramas of the ringside crowd of a boxing match and two showing the attendees of the American Ornithologists' Union's annual convention at the American Museum of Natural History. The Naval Historical Center also holds a 1918 panoramic photograph showing the personnel of the Fleet Supply Base in Brooklyn which is captioned in the negative "Chas. F. Allen 216 West 104th St. New York City." The present photograph was likely the crowning achievement in a long career for one New York- area panoramic photographer, and Gabriel Allen was likely Charles's brother or son. They may, in fact, have sold copies of the panorama at the fair itself, since they took the image some months before the fair opened. The New York World's Fair of 1939-40 was a worldwide event, with dozens of countries participating. The fairgrounds covered over 1,200 acres in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Long Island. The fair was the second-most- expensive world's fair ever executed, but a successful one, drawing over 44 million visitors. The structures built for the fair were a feast for the eyes, with almost every building reflecting the modernist influence, as the theme for the fair was "the world of tomorrow." This reflection on the future, anticipating the Atomic and Space ages just around the corner, can be seen in the present photograph, in the pavilions of the international government zone. We can find no other copies or even mentions of the present photograph in auction records, the trade, or in institutions. Due to the epic nature of the printing process just to produce one copy of this massive panoramic photograph, the Allens could not have produced many examples. A remarkable surviving photographic record of a seminal New York historical moment, and one of the most astounding panoramic photographs we have ever encountered.