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Tomorrow-Land: The 1964-65 World's Fair And The Transformation Of America Hardcover – January 7, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When New York’s Parks Commissioner Robert Moses began planning the 1964–65 World’s Fair in 1961, he enjoyed the support of President John F. Kennedy and many wealthy businessmen. Styled as the Master Builder, 73-year-old Moses constructed highways, bridges, and parks. But his bullying ways ran up against a new generation of political activists who threatened traffic “stall-ins” and sit-ins when the fair opened just five months after Kennedy’s assassination. While other pavilions showcased Goya, El Greco, and Michelangelo’s La Pieta, the art establishment scoffed at the New York pavilion’s pop artists Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. Tirella’s story flows with a wealth of historical content that reveals how strongly the World’s Fair reflected the times. He covers, for example, the rise of Malcolm X, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles, and how the fair highlighted new inventions, including color TVs and shiny Ford Mustangs. Walt Disney even introduced concepts there that ended up in his nascent Florida theme park, including a ride-around-the-world exhibit filled with tiny singing dolls. Yes, it was a small world, after all. --Laurie Borman


A New York Times Bestseller!

“Tirella explores the contrast between the purported idealism of the 1964 World’s Fair and the conflict and compromise that surrounded the event…. The Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, rising urban crime and racial strife provide the backdrop for Tirella’s detailed history.”
     —The New York Times Book Review

“In an interesting and original way, Joseph Tirella has used the storied setting of the 1964–65 World’s Fair in New York to describe the entrepreneurial spirit, the criminal nature, the egalitarian tendencies, and inevitable compromises that characterized a complex and important period in the history of the city and the nation.”

     —Gay Talese, author of The Kingdom and the Power, The Bridge, and A Writer's Life

“Literary lovechild of: Robert A. Caro’s The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York and Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America.


“Just in time for the 50th anniversary of opening day, Joseph Tirella, in this carefully detailed account, explores the fair itself and, perhaps more important, uses that extraordinary event as a lens through which to view one of the more critical junctures in American history…. [A] a fascinating trip back to what the fair’s mastermind, Robert Moses, dreamed would be the “greatest single event in human history,” during one of the most tumultuous periods in recent memory.”

     —The Weekly Standard

“As much a history of mid-Sixties America as it is a history of the World’s Fair in Queens, New York, Joseph Tirella’s entertaining and impeccably researched Tomorrow-Land brings the forces and players of that turbulent era crackling to life.”

     —Emily Raboteau, author of Searching for Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora

“With Tomorrow-Land, Joseph Tirella makes a riveting case for Queens, New York, as the origin of all that is great and modern in today’s America. If you’ve ever wondered what Robert Moses, Andy Warhol, and Malcolm X have in common, this book connects the dots and more. Tirella breathes in all the tumult and cultural vertigo surrounding the 1964 World’s Fair, and exhales an intoxicating swirl of pure possibility.”
     —Alec Foege, author of The Tinkerers: The Amateurs, DIYers, and Inventors Who Make America Great

“This book is filled with fascinating stories about global political contests between the Soviet Union and the United States, domestic protests against social inequality, the politics of massive resistance waged by conservatives of both major parties, corporations playing social engineering games, America becoming a multicultural nation, and New York City experiencing massive physical change. Joseph Tirella’s Tomorrow-Land takes us back in time fifty years and documents through thorough research and wonderful narrative how the World’s Fair fell short of its goal to promote, ‘Peace Through Understanding,’ but still managed to give America an accurate vision of its future self.”
     —Brian Purnell, Africana Studies and History, Bowdoin College, and author of Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings: The Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn

“First-time author Tirella, a former reporter for the New York Times, adroitly switches focus from [Robert] Moses and the fair to external events in the city, nation and world and back again, following several disparate threads—the civil rights dialectic between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., a New York City obscenity crusade that targeted Lenny Bruce and the gay bohemian subculture, the parallel paths of the Beatles and Bob Dylan, the escalation of the Vietnam War—and never losing control of the narrative’s forward momentum…. [T]he World’s Fair provides an excellent perspective on the 1960s in America…. Top-notch popular history.”
     —Kirkus Reviews

"A model of accessible narrative, showing the author’s immersion in archival research, this book will be appreciated most by those who love reading about Sixties or New York City history or, of course, world’s fairs."
     —Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762780355
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762780358
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #474,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joseph Tirella is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Vibe, Esquire, People, Reader's Digest, the New York Post, the Daily News,, and Fortune Small Business.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By David C. Klinger on February 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I'm one-third of the way through "Tomorrow-land/The 1964-65 World's Fair and the Transformation of America" and am finding it fascinating.

Its insights into the planning of the fair and the heavy-handed management by Robert Moses are valuable, and complement Robert Caro's pioneering work about Moses, "The Power Broker."

This book, however, is sloppily edited and proofread. Too bad Lyons Press apparently didn't supply either form of editorial oversight. Contractor Del Webb and New York Senator Jacob Javits have their names misspelled repeatedly in the book (the Javits Center in New York City is only the largest convention center in that city; how hard would it be for a New York City author to get that right?). Ed Sullivan's TV show wasn't "the most important half-hour of television in show business," it was an hour. Little errors and grammatical mistakes follow, and compromise what could have been an exceptional new history of the World's Fair.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Tom Cat on April 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It's a book that can't decide whether it wants to be a history of the 1964-65 World's Fair or a summary of American and New York City cultural history in the early 1960s. It swings back and forth jarringly between the two. The chapters covering race relations, music, the civil rights movement, etc., are all basically summaries of material that has been covered extensively by other writers, and I found that they could easily be skipped or skimmed. I would have preferred that Tirella stick to the book's raison d'etre--the fair itself.

On the positive side--and this is why I still give the book a thumbs-up--Tirella provides extensive detail about Robert Moses's role in creating and developing the fair and the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to the development of some of the pavilions. He also covers some of the public reaction, both positive and negative, to the fair. These sections are very valuable and make the book essential reading for anyone interested in this fair, and worthwhile for those interested in New York City history or fairs and expositions generally.

As other reviewers have noted, the book is rife with factual and typographical errors. I get the sense that it would have benefited from another year or two of reflection and editing, but I suspect it was rushed out to maximize sales in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the fair. Perhaps the author has a second edition in him?
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bob W. on May 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Others have mentioned the multiple errors, misspellings, etc. The reason I give only 1 star is that somewhere down the line, someone will actually consider this a work of history! Here's a few that jumped out at me:
Ken Kesey returning to his "ranch in La Jolla, California". While hardly a ranch, his house in the woods was in La Honda, south of San Francisco (and mentioned as La Honda later in the book).
The amphitheater was not built for the 1994 fair, but for 1939 - and Billy Rose's Aquacade was put on there well into the 1950's. One doesn't have to be an expert in eastern religion to know that Richard Alpert's (called "Robert Alpert" in the book), new name of Baba Ram Dass was not a "Zen moniker".
Worst of all, he decides that the decision to strip Muhammad Ali of his title and ban him from boxing was reversed by the Supreme Court - of course what they reversed was his conviction for refusing the draft, and had nothing to do with boxing.
All of these and many others could have been fixed with 30 seconds on Wikipedia!
Having spent many enjoyable days at the fair as a teenager (and sneaking through a hole in the fence behind the AT&T pavilion a few times), I was looking forward to something much better - and at least somewhat accurate!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Cerrato on January 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have never written a book review before but I was so pleased with Tomorrow-Land I felt compelled to write this review. Joseph Tirella has written a history of the 1964 World's Fair and tied it to the cultural upheavals of the sixties in an entertaining but informative way. I was 13 when the Fair opened in the Spring of 1964; old enough to appreciate the wonders of the fair but too young to understand the history that was evolving in front of me. This book recaps the important events of the times and explains the politics of the era while not neglecting the important impact the Beatles, Dylan and pop art had on the baby boomer generation. The book also gives the reader some insights into who Robert Moses was and his place in New York's history. I enjoy reading history especially when a book (such as this one) does not read like a textbook. Tomorrow-Land succeeds on multiple levels. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading about the civil rights movement and the changing times that were occurring in the mid sixties.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Larry Teller on January 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I expected to read more about the Fair itself, including photos and maps. The back stories re civil rights and the arts were more interesting than the description and evaluation of the Fair. There were also numerous editing goofs and some factual errors, which always makes me wonder about overall validity. I'm nevertheless glad that I read the book.
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