The New York Times reports that after a hiatus of several years, America is getting back in the trade fair game. We’ve got a large pavilion going to the Aichi, Japan, World’s Fair.

Thom Filicia, best-known as the interior decorator on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," will be designing the interior. Yes, you read that right the first time.

Having spent some time looking at the history of trade fairs, I found this news very interesting. Just for comparative purposes, I’ve attached notes from a couple 1954 Office of International Trade Fair documents outlining how these fairs should be organized. I could have sworn I had notes about a fair in Osaka, but I can’t find them at the moment. If I find them, I’ll put them up. They’re quite a little window on the age.

 

RG 489 Records of the International Trade Administration, "OITF
Correspondence and Reports, 1954-1958," Box 1, File "Ad-Hoc Group
Records"

Second Interagency Advisory Group Report, typed ms, 8 December 1954

Assumptions and Philosophy: "Our material well-being is an evolutionary product of our ideological concepts."

"American private enterprise founded on the right of pursuit of
profit is the greatest example and proof of a way of life dedicated to
concern for the rights, welfare and happiness of the individual….
Only to the extent that it serves the needs and wishes of individuals-
the consumers- can the individual private enterprise flourish or
grow…. The workings of our private enterprise system- our American
capitalism- are thus a constant tangible expression and reinforcement
of our national obesiance to the supremancy of man." Since war ruins
consumer markets, capitalism hates war.

Second Interagency Advisory Group Report, typed ms, 15 December 1954

Exhibit Objectives: Attract visitors, generate "sympathetic
respect for the kind of people we are, the basic phil we hold to, and
the kind of life which results;" cause identification w/ America, and
"give each viewer the single, lasting conviction that AMERICA IS
MOTIVATED BY A MORAL PRINCIPLE: RESPECT AND CONCERN FOR THE RIGHTS,
WELFARE AND GOD-GIVEN DIGNITY OF INDIVIDUAL MAN ON EARTH."

Govt role should be "carefully limited" by maximizing private
participation, work w/ industry. Teach about private enterprise– what
it is, what it provides (dignity, welfare, pleasure, happiness), that
"American industry depends on peace… stability and growth."

Emphasize "complete orientation of everything in American private
enterprise toward the individual’s desires…. By its cultivation of
the inventiveness, initiative, improvement, well-being, and best
efforts of all of its individual citizens." Stress increased role of
labor and owners in managing companies.

Basic Rules: Must appeal to general public, be easy to grasp,
simple but not condescending; adjusted to audience’s culture and
background; appropriate to limits and purposes of trade fair (e.g,., to
buy and sell, make contacts) and trade fair medium; focus on production
methods, product history, R&D, mgmt-labor relations, sales methods,
consumption. Cannot be used for "achieving reforms abroad but for the
purpose of inducing individuals everywhere to follow our championship
of the cause of furthering the welfare and dignity of the individual."

"Stick to simple facts" in individual exhibits to "cumulatively,
cause the visitor to form the desired- but unspoken by us- impression
or conclusion in his mind."

Media: Complete exhibits better than partial; moving objects
better than still, pictures better than signs and text; life-size
rather than models; visible at distance, in passing, or overhead.

Psychological Approaches: "The most important message we have
to get across is that our material well-being, and everything about our
government’s actions, springs from a motivating power of moral force.
This moral force, still a revolutionary idea abroad, is faith in common
men." Problems have been created with enthusiasm for American ways and
culture. "Reassertion of our respect for the individual– including his
traditions– is a step in the right direction. This is particularly
true of the non-intellectual non-sophisticated Near Eastern audience."

Emphasize human scale– better one person and anecdote than generalities.

Be humorous, emphasize Yankee traits, foreigners interests in the American commonplace.

Show "high standard of living presented as the inevitable result of
a system of life founded on a moral principle" makes displays "a source
of hope, faith, and strength… reassurance to populaces seeking only
hope." Stress that US was once underdeveloped, but became strong.

"Don’t do anything which would reinforce damaging cliche that
Americans have a "gadget conscious" or purely materialistic or "dollar
conscious" civilization– in opposition to our basic philosophy of
dignity of the individual."

Company Exhibitors: Get as many as possible either to submit
own displays or collaborate w/ govt planners. Ask them to work Statue
of Liberty into their own exhibits, since its familiar symbol.