Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Westinghouse at the World's Fairs

This week I am working on the Westinghouse script and edit full time. As I've said before in my blog, my next documentary film is on George Westinghouse and his legacy. I am still fairly early on in the production cycle so I have no idea when this will be released yet. It is being filmed in High Definition and features tons of "never before seen on screen" pictures and motion picture footage from the George Westinghouse Museum archives and private collections. The following images on this blog are from the Library of Congress or Inecom Entertainment Archives.

George Westinghouse vs. Thomas Edison… battle of the currents!

The primary focus of the film is the genius and good nature of George Westinghouse. He is considered by many to be America's greatest inventor and America's greatest industrialist. He invented, pioneered or collaborated on everything from the air brake to alternating current electric power, natural gas distribution, railroad switching and interlocking and the marine turbine engine. He went head to head with Thomas Edison in the Battle of the Currents and won. He invented air springs for automobiles and founded dozens of companies, many of which are still around. And through all of this he was a good and decent human being who didn't exploit his workers, ruin their lives for his gain or rip off his shareholders... we could all use a role model like him today.

1939 New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows

Another part of the film is extremely interesting and recounts Westinghouse's participation in World's Fairs, starting with the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. In fact we have some photographs of the Westinghouse exhibit there where air brakes were on display. Does the item in the following picture look familiar?

1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia

Westinghouse Electric made a dramatic performance at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago where they won the contract to power the fair with alternating current electricity, beating out Edison's direct current electricity. This is covered in my film, Expo: Magic of the White City (which was released on DVD in 2005 and broadcast on television in 2006) but will be shown in much greater detail in the Westinghouse documentary. Including shots in and about the various Westinghouse exhibits that I don't think have ever been published anywhere.

1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in St. Louis, 1904 World’s Fair

Pictured above is the 1904 fair. And Westinghouse was there again, in force, at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. This fair was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803... one year late. Of course the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 was to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus discovering the Americas in 1492... it was also one year late.

1933 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago

Although there were some other fairs it wasn't until 1933 at the Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago that Westinghouse pulled out all the stops and made another amazing demonstration of electric power and mechanical design. To contrast the "White City" of the Columbian Expo, this fair was colorful and designed in an art-deco manner. The Westinghouse mushroom lamps are something to see. The company paid homage to fairs of the past and to their founder, George Westinghouse, who died years earlier in 1914.

Another unique show was put on at the 1936 Great Lakes Exhibition in Cleveland. I’d never even heard of this fair, but the HD pictures are incredible. Westinghouse again displayed its line of electric washing machines, dryers, stoves, vacuums and water heaters. Westinghouse also celebrated their 50th anniversary Golden Jubilee there.

1939 World’s Fair in New York with Elektro and the Battle of the Centuries with Westinghouse

The 1939 World’s Fair in New York is a rather famous one for many great reasons. It’s theme was “The World of Tomorrow!” and featured the Perisphere, the Lagoon of Nations, the Futurama (maybe Leela and Bender were there!), Futuretown, Elektro the Moto-Man, Sparko, Nimatron, the 1939 Time Capsule and the Battle of the Centuries dishwasher contest with the 1937 Miss Missouri, Helen Bennett. The stories and photos from 1939 and 1940 are amazing, as are the unpublished photos of Elektro and the behind the scenes assembly of the Lagoon of Nations.

That’s all for today. This is just the tip of the iceberg with this film. Its going to be something really “swell” as they would have put it in 1939. I’m also working with 1964 World’s Fair footage in 16mm film format but that will be a different post.

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