|Coca-Cola - New York World's Fair 1939|
The 1939 World's Fair and Disneyland
by Todd James Pierce
There were many crucial business relationships essential to the development of Disneyland--among them Walt Disney's chance referral to the Stanford Research Institute (who located the park in Anaheim and oversaw the purchase of the original 17 family farms), the hiring of Joe Fowler who oversaw park construction in 1954 and 1955, and the financial investment of ABC (who guaranteed loans large enough to pay for 30% of the park). But there's one relationship that I've never seen explored anywhere in print. The influence of the 1939 New York World's Fair on leased space and corporate exhibits at Disneyland.
|Kodak - New York World's Fair 1939|
|Bank of America - 1939 New York World's Fair|
The problem: these invitations were an utter failure. According to early Disneyland executive, Fred Schumacher, no companies signed up for leased exhibition space after receiving one of Walt's initial letters. With this Walt again hoped to build Disneyland without significant outside investment--but the money problems only continued as the lumber went vertical at the construction site. Understanding that Disneyland would need significantly more money than initially planned, Walt returned to the idea of sponsorships, this time putting C.V. Wood and Woody's friend, Fred Schumacher in charge of the project.
|Swifts' Bacon Packing Exhibit - NYWF 1939|
Here is yet another little piece of luck that fell upon Disneyland. C.V. Wood had hired his friend Fred Schumacher because they had worked together in the aircraft industry: specifically, Schumacher used to be Woody's boss at Consolidated Vultee (later known as Convair); now Woody was Schumacher's boss at Disneyland, Inc. But before Schumacher worked for Consolidated Vultee, he had worked for General Motors--or to be more exact, he had helped set up and run the GM pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. It was now, in part, Schumacher's job to develop a list of companies that might be interested in leasing exhibition space at Disneyland.
Now comes the part that is simply my theory. Fred Schumacher passed on years ago. I do have a recorded interview with him in which he talks in detail about the meetings he took with company presidents (such as men from Swifts) to lure them to Disneyland; however, Schumacher never talks about how he identified a list of companies that might have been interested in spending their advertising dollars on outdoor amusements. But if you look at the list of original Disneyland sponsors (Swift's, Coca-Cola, Kodak, Bank of America, etc.), you'll find that a fair number of these companies also took exhibition space at the 1939 World's Fair. It appears that C.V. Wood and Schumacher consciously targeted those companies.
According to Schumacher, the first company to sign on to Disneyland was Swift's. Soon after, other companies followed Swift's lead. But without Schumacher's connection to the 1939 World's Fair, this second round of corporate invitations (or more accurately, pitches) might've failed as well. One cannot underestimate the importance of these early lessee and exhibit arrangements. Without the money from these contracts, Disneyland Inc. might've fallen into bankruptcy in 1955 and never opened at all. Up on the blog today are a few photos of exhibits at the 1939 New York World's Fair featuring companies that would soon come to Disneyland.
Here's hoping the week is good to you. See you next Monday. - TJP
|Swift's - New York World's Fair 1939|