Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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General Motors building at the New York World's Fair, at night
Ca. 1939

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Norman Bel Geddes (American, 1893-1958)
Futurama car
Ca. 1939
Mixed media

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Gjon Mili (Albanian-American, 1904-1984)
Geddes, holding blueprint, standing on a section of the soon-to-be-assembled Futurama model
1939
Gelatin silver print

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Norman Bel Geddes Database

Job 381, General Motors Building at the New York World's Fair, 1938-1952

Summary: Bel Geddes’s design of the Futurama exhibit was the culmination of his holistic approach to design that fused architecture and theater. In the exhibit, the audience experience was choreographed from entrance to exit as people traveled over a huge model of 1960 America, complete with highways that bisected cities and wove through mountains and valleys, bringing people breathtakingly close to nature. The model’s national roadways also anticipated the 1950s interstate highway system, representing a vision of an egalitarian America that was shaped to the last detail.

The ride ended at a full scale 1960 street intersection with the Frigidaire Exhibit Building, Apartment House Building, Automobile Display Building, and Science Auditorium Building on opposite corners. On the lower level were the Diesel Exhibit and Railroad Engine Entrance.

Job 381 consolidates the files for Futurama Model (job 387), Traffic Plan (job 386), 1940 New York World's Fair (job 408), and a 1949 prospect General Motors Consumer Building.

Related jobs are Magic Motorways (job 384), a book describing Futurama; Futurama Caravan (job 405), a road show version after the Fair closed; and the New York World's Fair Sky Ride Concession (job 394).

(click image for full description)

Box/Location Folder Description
box 19a 381.1-2 Client correspondence Apr1938-Jun1940, 1951. Agreements 1938 & 1940 (Job 405). NBG's Concessionaire's ID.
box 19a 381.3 Proposal to client Apr1938. Condensed Jun1938.
box 19a 381.4-5 Meeting minutes, memos, specifications Jan1938-Feb1939.
box 19a 381.6 Legal --- Contract NYWF & GM purchase order May 1938. Specification. Cost estimate. Rules for Exhibitors.
box 19a 381.7 Production Specifications --- Highways and Horizons production requirements, lists of drawings.
box 19a 381.8-9 Production Specifications --- Design Schedule and assignments.
box 19a 381.10-12 Production Specifications --- Specifications & GM Building Cost Estimates.
box 19b 381.13 Production Specifications --- Correspondence architect, contractor 1938-1939.
box 19b 381.14-20 Production Specifications --- Architectural, Electrical, Hardware, Floor, Lighting, Painting, Sound.
box 19b 381.21 Production Specifications --- Traffic Control Exhibit - Full Size Intersection - Memos, presentations.
box 19b 381.22 Production Specifications --- Science Auditorium - Memos, specifications.
photo box 9 381.1 Production Specifications --- Science Auditorium - 4 Photographs of theatre interior.
photo box 9 381.2 Production Specifications --- Science Auditorium - 9 Photographs of auditorium building & street intersection.
box 19b 381.23-26 Drawings --- 32 Sketches - 14 Highway and Horizons, 1 store front, 8 ramps or flow diagrams, 9 viewing platforms.
box 19b 381.27 Description of Building and Exhibit.
box 19c 381.28a-e GM Building Specifications (13 parts).
box 19c 381.29 Building Model Construction Progress Charts 1938-1939.
box 19d 381.30-32 Spectator Conveyor System --- Description, specifications, memos, sketch, press release, sound system 1938-1939.
flat file 381.1a-e Drawings --- 95 Preliminary - Section 'A' Main Ramp and Map Lobby, 'C' Apartment Building, 'D' Theatre, 'E' Exhibition Space, 'F' Diesel Entrance, 'G' Frigidaire Building.
flat file 381.2a-b, 3 Drawings --- 96 Working Drawings of buildings no. 100-199.
flat file 381.4 Drawings --- 27 Working Drawings of building layouts & lettering no. 1001-1031.
flat file 381.5a-b Drawings --- 36 Drawings and blueprints of Section 'B' Highway Model - model buildings, animation for super highway.
flat file 381.6a Drawings --- 20 Drawings & Blueprints - Topography of Highways and Key Plan & Description for Model Tables (folder 1 of 2, 13 drawings).
oversize flat files, drawer 1 381.6b Drawings --- 20 Drawings & Blueprints - Topography of Highways and Key Plan & Description for Model Tables (folder 2 of 2, 7 blueprints, ca. 49 x 40 inches).
flat file 381.7 Drawings --- 53 Drawings and Renderings - Conveyor System, model buildings, Vision Study, landscape.
flat file 381.8a Drawings --- 29 Blueprints - Albert Kahn, Architect of building, NBG's plans & details (folder 1 of 2, 27 items).
oversize flat files, drawer 1 381.8b Drawings --- 29 Blueprints - Albert Kahn, Architect of building, NBG's plans & details (folder 2 of 2, 2 items, 51 1/4 x 35 3/4 inches and 37 1/2 x 48 inches).
flat file 381.8c Drawings --- 3 Topographical plans for Highway model. 2 Blueprints of conveyor, mechanical and electrical.
oversize flat files, drawer 1 381.8d Drawings --- 1 Blueprint of key plan and descriptive tables for Highway model (encapsulated, 43 1/4 x 49 3/4 inches).
flat file 381.9 Drawings --- 6 Photocopies GM Bldg. floor plan.
flat file 381.10 Drawings --- 6 renderings - Lettering on Buildings.
flat file 381.11 Drawings --- 5 Photos of renderings for Highway Model Exhibit.
box 19d 381.33-36 Photographs --- Record Copy Book captions, record sheets. Garrison photo captions.
photo box 9 381.3 Photographs --- 77 Record Copy Photos of presentation model, GM executives, building construction, Futurama model construction, exhibit and viewers.
photo box 9 381.4 Photographs --- 95 Record Copy Photos of Futurama model construction (includes images of the "Toledo Tomorrow" model exhibit).
photo box 9a 381.5 Photographs --- 49 Record Copy Photos of Futurama model.
photo box 9a 381.6 Photographs --- 23 Futurama photos by Gjon Mili.
photo box 9a 381.7 Photographs --- 7 Photos of NBG at Work.
photo box 9a 381.8 Photographs --- 1 Photo of rendering building and exhibit.
photo box 9a 381.9 Photographs --- 8 Photos of Futurama --- GM Press Guide.
photo box 9a 381.10-13 Photographs --- 24 Photos of City of 1960, Farming Scene, Bridge (folder 381.10 includes images of the "Toledo Tomorrow" model exhibit).
damaged flat box 9 381.1 Photographs --- 2 Photographs of model and NYWF.
box 19d 381.37 Photographs --- Easter Gag with Futurama model.
photo box 9a 381.14 Photographs --- 4 Photos of Easter Gag with Futurama model.
box 19d 381.38 Photographs --- Construction photos - Photograph Record Sheets.
photo box 10 381.15-16 Photographs --- GM Construction Documentation photographs Aug1938-Mar1939 by Mills and Baker.
photo box 10a 381.17 Photographs --- 6 Photos of Diesel Entrance model.
photo box 10a 381.18-27 Photographs --- 146 Futurama photos of Farming, Mountains, Air Terminals, Bridges, Highways, Streets of the Future, Metropolis, model construction.
photo box 10a 381.28 Photographs --- 29 Photos of Frigidaire Building and Exhibit.
box 19d 381.39 Photographs --- Negative ms. note.
negative box 6 381.1 Photographs --- 42 Negatives: 5 Farming, 8 GM Building model, 7 Futurama, 18 Futurama and fairgoers. [13 damaged]
negative box 7 381.2 Photographs --- 42 Negatives. (continued)
negative box 7 381.3a Photographs --- 42 Negatives (continued). [1 damaged]
negative box 43 381.3b Photographs --- 42 Negatives (continued). [nitrate]
negative box 7 381.4 Photographs --- 42 Negatives (continued).
box 19d 381.40 Photographs --- Futurama Model Construction Progess Photo List.
photo box 10b 381.29-46 Photographs --- 310 Photographs of Futurama model construction.
negative box 7 381.5a Photographs --- 240 Negatives and developing notes.
negative box 43 381.5b Photographs --- 240 Negatives and developing notes. (continued) [nitrate]
negative box 43 381.6-7 Photographs --- 240 Negatives and developing notes. (continued) [nitrate]
negative box 7 381.8a-11a Photographs --- 240 Negatives (continued). [4 damaged]
negative box 8 381.12a-14a Photographs --- 240 Negatives (continued).
negative box 43 381.8b-14b Photographs --- 240 Negatives. (continued) [nitrate]
negative box 8 381.15-16 Photographs --- 240 Negatives (continued). [5 damaged]
negative box 9 381.17-18 Photographs --- 240 Negatives (continued). [5 damaged]
negative box 9 381.19 Photographs --- 15 canisters of 35 mm negatives, labeled A-O, of Futurama construction.
box 19d 381.41 Photographs --- GM Building Photograph Record Sheets.
box 19d 381.42 Photographs --- Data - Fairchild Aerial Photograph Inventory.
photo box 10b 381.47-48 Photographs --- 112 Photographs of GM Building Model.
photo box 10c 381.49-52 Photographs --- 112 Photographs of GM Building Model (continued).
photo box 10d 381.53 Photographs --- 2 rolls of strip contact prints showing NBG presenting GM Building model to GM executives [removed from photo box 10c].
photo box 10c 381.54-55 Photographs --- 21 Photographs of GM Building Model.
photo box 10c 381.56-64 Photographs --- 64 Photographs of GM Building and publicity events.
photo box 10c 381.65 Photographs --- Album containing 19 photographs of models under construction (photos by Mili, Garrison, GM, Huxtable).
photo box 19d 381.42a Photographs --- Original binder for record copy book photographs of Exposition Building by John Mills, Jr.
photo box 19d 381.42b Photographs --- Original binder for record copy book photographs of Exposition Building, Turner Construction, by Eric J. Baker.
negative box 9 381.20-21 Photographs --- 64 Negatives of GM Building and fairgoers. [2 damaged]
flat file 381.21-22 Publicity --- 2 Photo montages (mounted as if for presentation, each ca. 45 x 34 inches).
box 19d 381.43-44 Publicity --- Complimentary letters rec. Nov1938-Jul1940, 1952.
box 19d 381.45 Publicity --- Complimentary correspondence Luce Geddes re Life article Jun1939.
oversize box 8 381.1 Publicity --- Clipping "Life Goes to the Futurama".
oversize box 8 381.2a Publicity --- Souvenir Book for Dinner Oct1939, copy 1 of 4: Inscribed "Copy #6."
oversize box 8 381.2b Publicity --- Souvenir Book for Dinner Oct1939, copy 2 of 4: Inscribed "Library copy #1."
oversize box 8 381.2c Publicity --- Souvenir Book for Dinner Oct1939, case for copy 2.
oversize box 8 381.2d Publicity --- Souvenir Book for Dinner Oct1939, copy 3 of 4: #561 of "limited edition of 1,000 copies"; purchased by W. H. Crain.
oversize box 8 381.2e Publicity --- Souvenir Book for Dinner Oct1939, copy 4 of 4: With negative tucked inside front cover.
box 19e 381.46 Publicity --- Complimentary correspondence Luce Geddes re Life article Jun1939
box 19e 381.47 Publicity --- Publicity Writing - Memos, press release, presentation book pages, photograph record sheet 1938-1939.
box 19e 381.48 Publicity --- Press releases & transcripts of articles 1938-1939.
box 19e 381.49 Publicity --- "Highways and Horizons" brochures.
box 19e 381.50 Publicity --- Press guide 1939. "New Horizons of Industry through Research" 1939.
box 19e 381.51 Publicity --- "Futurama" Exhibit Guide c1940.
box 19e 381.52 Publicity --- Futurama Exhibit - "World Horizons" by Gardner Harding.
box 19e 381.53 Publicity --- Press Guide General Motors Highways and Horizons Exhibit 1940. Photo ms. notes. [See also photo box 9a, folder 381.7 above.]
box 19e 381.53a Publicity --- "Map of the New York World's Fair, with a New Transit Map of Greater New York."
negative box 9 381.22 Publicity --- 2 Negatives Street Intersection.
negative box 9 381.23 6 Negatives (should be interfiled?).
flat file 381.12 Publicity --- Press Guide - Panoramic photograph of General Motors building (10 x 42 1/4 inches).
flat file 381.13-14 Publicity --- Press Guide - 12 photographs, presentation model by Garrison.
oversize box 8 381.3 Publicity --- Press Guide - 3 photostats.
flat file 381.15 Publicity --- Frigidaire Building Exhibit - 1 Photo.
flat file 381.16 Publicity --- City of 1960 - 9 Photos.
box 19e 381.54 Research - "City of Tomorrow" Reports 1938.
box 19e 381.55 Full Sized Street Intersection - Memo.
box 19e 381.56-57 Case History of the GM Intersection 1941 --- Conveyor system, subsidiary exhibits, "Parade of Progress" caravan exhibit.
box 19e 381.58 Perpetuation of Futurama after the World's Fair --- Meeting minutes, letter rec. from Sloan Apr1940-May1940. See also Job No. 405, GM Futurama Caravan.
box 19e 381.59 Futurama Caravan "A Presentation of Various Plans for Continuing the Use of Futurama" Apr1940.
box 19f 381.60 Prospects --- Idea for article on Futurama Building Farms.
box 19f 381.61-67 Publicity --- Clippings 1938-1940.
box 19g 381.68-72 Publicity --- Clippings (continued).
damaged box 11 381.1 Publicity --- 4 Photostats.
box 19g 381.72a Publicity --- "I Have Seen the Future" souvenir button. On verso: "General Motors Exhibit World's Fair 1940 in New York".
flat box 11b 381.1 Publicity --- Presentation book with TLS addressed to Franklin D. Roosevelt, 21 July 1939 (copies 1-2 of 4).
flat box 11b 381.2 Publicity --- Presentation book (copies 3-4 of 4).
flat box 11b 381.3 Publicity --- Loose presentation book leaves (5).
flat box 11b 381.4 Publicity --- Loose presentation book leaves (2).
box 19g 381.73 GM Consumer Building --- Copy of letter from Alfred P. Sloan Jr. to NBG, 19 May 1950; presentation book, "Suggestion for a Ford Motors Consumers' Building at Rockefeller Center New York."
oversize box 8a 381.4a-b GM Consumer Building --- Presentation book, "Suggestion for a Ford Motors Consumers' Building at Rockefeller Center New York" (3 copies).
flat file 381.17 GM Consumer Building --- 3 Renderings GM Consumer Building 1949; 2 photostats of renderings.
flat file 381.18 GM Consumer Building --- 23 Drawings & sketches, 6 photostats.
flat file 381.19 GM Consumer Building --- 55 Blueprints of sketches.
flat file 381.20a-b GM Consumer Building --- 3 Renderings GM Consumer Building 1949.
oversize box 8a 381.5 GM Consumer Building --- Clipping - GM Tech Center, Saarinen arch. 1949.
object 381.1 Models --- Bus, "GM 99" (gray, 4 3/4 x 12 x 4 1/2 inches).
object 381.2 Models --- Bus, "GM 99" (silver, 4 3/4 x 12 x 4 1/2 inches).
object 381.3 Models --- Bus, "GM 99" (white, 4 3/4 x 12 x 4 1/2 inches).
object 381.4 Models --- Transcontinental bus (green, 3 3/4 x 13 x 3 1/2 inches).
object 381.5 Models --- Bus, "W II" (gray, 4 1/8 x 13 3/4 x 4 1/4 inches).
object 381.6 Models --- Streamlined bus, "N 24" (brown, 4 1/4 x 13 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches).
object 381.7 Models --- Futurama car (yellow, 3 x 6 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches).
object 381.8 Models --- Futurama car (blue, 3 x 6 1/4 x 3 1/2 inches).
object 381.9 Models --- Futurama car (green, 3 x 8 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches).
object 381.10 Models --- Futurama car (olive, 2 1/2 x 5 1/8 x 3 1/4 inches).
object 381.11 Models --- Miniature streamlined cars (ca. 100) used in 1940 animated Futurama model and on cover of Magic Motorways.
object 381.12 Models --- Streamlined motor coach (plaster with beige paint, 5 3/4 x 20 1/2 x 5 1/4 inches).
object 381.13 Models --- Bus, labeled "Motor Coach No. 4" by Ransom Center staff (silver, 4 x 13 1/4 x 3 1/4 inches).
object 381.14a Models --- Taxi, "GM" (silver, 2 3/4 x 5 x 3 1/8 inches).
object 381.14b Models --- Taxi (yellow, 2 3/4 x 5 x 3 1/8 inches).
object 381.14c Models --- Taxi (brown, 2 3/4 x 5 x 3 1/8 inches).
object 381.14d Models --- Taxi (plaster with beige paint, 2 3/4 x 5 x 3 1/8 inches).
object 381.15 Models --- Truck, "The Bromby" (silver, 4 x 8 x 3 3/4 inches).
object 381.16a-c Models --- Train/trailer truck, in 3 segments (plaster with beige paint, 4 1/8 x ca. 23 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches when assembled).
object 381.17a Models --- "Pleasure Car" (silver, 3 x 6 1/4 x 2 3/4 inches).
object 381.17b Models --- "Pleasure Car," in two pieces (silver, 3 x 6 1/4 x 2 3/4 inches when assembled).
object 381.18a Models --- Motor car (plaster with beige paint, 2 3/4 x 8 x 3 1/4 inches).
object 381.18b Models --- Motor car (plaster with beige paint, 3 x 6 x 3 1/4 inches).
object 381.19 Models --- Train (black, 2 1/2 x 15 1/2 x 2 1/4 inches).
object 381.20 Models --- Truck, "GM 24 E" (brown, 4 x 8 x 3 3/4 inches).
object 381.21 Models --- City bus (plaster with beige paint, 4 1/4 x 13 1/2 x 4 1/4 inches).
object 381.22 Models --- Truck, "GM 129" (olive, 4 1/8 x 8 x 3 3/4 inches).
object 381.23 Models --- Pick-up truck with miniature cars stored in bed of truck (truck: plaster with beige paint, 3 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 4 inches).
object 381.24 Models --- Pick-up truck, "GM 600" (gray, 2 1/4 x 6 5/8 x 2 1/2 inches).

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