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INTERVIEW WITH JACOB PERSOFF SEPTEMBER 14 

Q. What do you remember about the 1939 World's Fair? 

A. Well first I should say that I had friends who lived in 

Sunnyside and I would visit them from time to time and Sunnyside 

at that was across the river and into the woods. It was a very 

quiet section and if you went out at night people even said hello 

to you on the street. Subsequent to that I had gone to Europe 

and I didn't come back for two years and when I came back the 

fair was open. And the first thing that amazed me was this 

tremendous area that had been redeveloped and that all this thing 

had taken place while I had been away. I think I came into the 

fair by the Long Island Railway at that time. There had been 

this big ramp that had been specially constructed. Being in 

europe incidentally influenced me to a large extent of what I saw 

at the fair because toward the end of my stay there had been talk 

about war and the question of Fascism came up in everyday talk in 

France where I was at the time, so that when I came to the United 

States, to the fair when I saw the Italian building and it was a 

beautiful building, I so resented Italian fascism that I wouldn't 

even go into the building. I remember that wonderful Gothic 

statue of Jaghgillo with crossed swords that has since been 

transplanted somewhere in Central Park. 

At that time the Soviet Union was for some sort of semblance 

of peace from what I heard in France at the time so when I saw 

the Russian pavillion, I really jumped when I saw this big statue 

and boy and girl with hammer and sicle indicating equality I 

think. 

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And I was quite impressed. Actually the inside of the Russian 

Pavillion was more disappointing. I think I found that the stuff 

that they had on display was not inferior but somethiung we had 

done 20 years before. 

The Pylon and Perisphere was plastered all over New York and 

it was an interesting thing, and the display of the endless 

automobiles going along these toy roads looked like something 

that H. G. Wells might talk about. But only last Thursday we 

came upon the very same thing at some intersection where we saw 

the same endless row of automobiles traveling on roads that wind 

and twist. 

The was one exhibit I think put out by Eastman Kodak that was 

very popular and I thought awfully inane. They were going to 

show you I think something about taking a picture of a hammer 

hitting a bottle and at the moment of imact when the hammer hit 

the bottle a flash lamp went on and everybody had their shutters 

of their camera open so when the flash went on and they closed 

their shutters everytbody had a chance to catch a hammer smashing 

a bottle and I saw this particular print because my friend took 

it, and sure enough it was a hammer smashing a bottle. And it 

was always packed, this particular display and I thought it was a 

very pointless thing. 

I had a reason to be distracted at the time I went to the 

exhibit and that was I was courting my wife at the time so I 

don't know if I paid too much attention to many of the exhibits. 



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The display at night was absolutely magnificent, the lights 

and the fountains up this long walk. I think at the far end of 

the walk was a statue of George Washington but I don't remember. 

I'm afraid that I can't remember much more. 

Q. How old were you at the time you visited the fair? 

A. I must have been 27. 

Q. Do you feel the fair has left any impact on you? 

A. It's left the impact to this extent: That I have seen other 

fairs but none of them ever compared to this one. This was the 

greatest. The one that was here in New York later was a good 

carbon copy, but a carbon copy and I had seen small fairs in 

Barcelona and Paris, and of course they were nothing compared to 

this. 

q. So to you the most memorable exhibit at the fair was the 

Russian Pavillion? 

A. I'm afraid I was stuck with Jaggiello's statue because I 

always seemed to come back to it. In fact I got such a charge 

when I came up on it inadvertently walking through Central Park 

one day and I thought that was the gratest find I ever made 

Q. Do you feel the fair was wasted effort? 

A. Oh, no, how could it be? Right off the bat it reclaimed 

hundreds of acres right here in Queens for ourselves and aside 

from that I remembver I went into the Italian pavillion and I 

remember they had airplane motors and I really was taken by the 

high technology of their airplane motors. 



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I think it was the greatest thing. Of course it made us 

conscious of other nationalities. In 1939 people really didn't 

do too much traveling. If you'd get to Europe at that time it 

took you five days on a fast boat. I think it only cost $100 but 

who had $100? So people didn't travel at that time. If you knew 

somebody who went to europe it was a rare thing and here all of a 

sudden you came in contact with all these countries at one time. 

I think it was a wonderful thing. 

Q. Did it inspire you to travel more? 

A. Maybe not me because I had already put in two years running 

around europe at the time and I had always wanted to travel, and 

I've since then traveled. To say what inspired me further I 

don't think it's necessary to say that. 

Q. Do you have any anecdotes about the fair or the time you'd 

like to close with? 

AW. I vistited the fair in 1939 and I don't remember if I 

visited in 1940. It seems that if you weren't doing anything 

that particular year or that summer people would say let's go to 

the fair. It was a lot of money--75 cents you remember to get in 

and at time I was making abvout $18 a week at the time. It 

wasn't a very good job I had at the time I'll admit but I think 

the average must have been about $30. And I had come back after 

doing nothing for two years. 


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