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April 13, 2024

Swing Dancing at the 1939 New York World’s Fair

There is a remarkable bit of film, taken some time in 1939 or 1940, from the New York World’s Fair. It is silent, in color and features numerous couples, black and white but mostly all female, swing dancing and fox trotting to the music of Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra. It comes from a wonderful series of amateur films taken by a fellow named Medicus that documents nearly all aspects of the Fair.

The 1939 New York World’s Fair was a remarkable place that drew huge crowds during its existence. It resonated with the people of New York and of the world at a time when the world was still weary from World War I and the great depression and didn’t want to hear about the rumblings of World War II.

In spite of the planners best efforts for an enlightened event, they couldn’t fight the need of the masses for fun entertainment. As a result, the amusement area was the biggest hit of the fair – which surprised the planners as it was just thrown in there because fairs needed amusement areas. It was not a highly organized affair like the exhibit zones were.

One of the great past times of fair goers was the dancing that went on in the amusement zone. It was so popular that even as the NY World Fair was winding down, they were still promoting the dancing at the fair in the streets of New York including Wall Street and they brought out the big guns like Mister Bo Jangles to help in the promotion.


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