A Vintage Photo Tour of Famous World's Fairs

The World's Fairs were all things—beautiful, obscene, capitalist, futuristic—and now all we have are the photographs and the memories.

In 1851, London hosted the first major world's fair. Titled The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, the fair featured industrial achievements from various nations around the world. Hosted in London's opulent custom-made Crystal Palace, it featured a glittering array of new technologies, from an early fax machine to a telescope to the world's largest diamond.

This world's fair project was, in a way, an early triumph of liberalism. Its success promised (among other things) that free trade and capitalism would not only save us—they'd launch us into a brave new future. In addition to highlighting great inventions that promised to elevate humanity to new heights, the 1851 world's fair promised that nations could cooperate on the basis of shared human ambition instead of tearing each other apart.

Around 100 world's fairs and two world wars later, we've landed in the era of neoliberalism, the Internet, and climate change (the end result of cutthroat capitalism). The world's fairs have become world expos, and their scale has been compressed alongside technology itself.

But once upon a time, the world's fairs were glorious and highly dangerous occasions. Today, they are both relics and omens that can teach us about the mistakes of the industrial revolution while also embodying the beauty of human creativity.

World's Fair Community

Encyclopedia Britannica

After the great success of London's fair, the world saw an explosion of fairs. Between 1880 and the start of World War I, over 40 fairs took place in nations around the world, including Australia, Guatemala, and Hanoi (which was located in then-Indochina, now Vietnam).

Postcard from the Hanoi Exposition Wikipedia

The United States' first world's fair was actually not a notable success. It took place in 1853, in New York City's Bryant Park. It featured its own Crystal Palace and included displays like those featured in London, as well as a new sculpture collection. Walt Whitman wrote a poem about the event, titled "Song of the Exposition":

"... a Palace,
Lofter, fairer, ampler than any yet,
Earth's modern wonder, History's Seven out stripping,
High rising tier on tier, with glass and iron facades,
Gladdening the sun and sky - enhued in the cheerfulest hues,
Bronze, lilac, robin's-egg, marine and crimson
Over whose golden roof shall flaunt, beneath thy banner, Freedom."

Still, the US's first World's Fair ended up losing money. The Crystal Palace burned in 1858, and the US wouldn't host another fair for 20 years. Today, the Palace is remembered fondly by some, though The New York Times called it a "fleeting monument to conspicuous consumption"—something that could perhaps be said of all world's fairs.

Bryant Park's Crystal PalaceWikipedia

Bryant Park's Crystal PalaceReddit

The New York Times

1855's Paris world's fair was more successful than its New York counterpart. Though it also lost money, it had such a positive influence in France that Paris would hold four subsequent world's fairs in 1867, 1878, 1889, and 1900.

The 1855 event saw the unveiling of some fascinating inventions, including the Loysel percolator, which could make 2,000 cups of coffee per hour. The washing machine and the Colt six-shooter revolver both debuted. It was boom-town for product-sellers.

The 1889 fair would also see the installment of Paris's most iconic attractions—the Eiffel Tower.

The Paris World's Fair 1889Culture Trip

Views from the Eiffel Tower in 1889Atlas Obscura

The Interior of the Grand Palace in 1889Brown University Libraries

By 1900, industries across the world had exploded, and the Paris fairs were unveiling the latest money-making attraction: spectacular talking films that combined image and recorded sound to create the experience we now call "the movies."

Le Palais de l'Électricité and the Château d'Eau at the 1900 Paris World's FairBIE

The Grand Palais at the 1900 Paris World's FairBrown University Library

The Palace of Illusions at the 1900 Paris World's FairBrown University Library

Les Courses de Ballons at the 1900 Paris World's FairAtlas Obscura

By 1893, New York City was back in the World's Fair game. Known as the World's Columbian Exposition, the US's first truly great fair was a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's violent takeover of what would become America.

The Columbian Exposition occurred 28 years after the American Civil War, and as usual, the nation was trying to cover its bloodstains with crystals and lights, attempting to unify by rallying around industry. It was the Gilded Age, and extreme economic inequality allowed Chicago to drop tons of money on fairs while leaving its people on the street.

Electrical Building, 1892Pinterest

"With many Americans wondering if sectional conflict had given way to class conflict, American political and economic leaders followed the example of their peers in Europe and turned increasingly to the medium of the world's fair to provide the cultural cement for their badly fragmented societies," Robert W. Rydell writes. Underwritten by industrial titans like J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and William Waldorf Astor—who collectively gave $15 million to the fair—as well as major Chicago titans like Cyrus McCormick and Marshall Field, the fair began to come together around 1880.

At the time, women and African Americans fought mostly white male-led committees to ensure they had a place at the fair. At the time, African American artists and inventors were given a separate day to showcase their work, and women were granted a few rooms of their own, so to speak. (It's interesting how much—and how little—has changed).

The Chicago World's Fair occupies an honored position in American memory, but it was a truly gory occasion in many respects. At the end of the fair, the city's beloved mayor was killed in his home. The book Devil in the White City tells the story of America's first serial killer, who tortured and killed up to 200 unsuspecting victims in a castle-like homed before and during the fair. (Admittedly, whether Christopher Columbus and his colonial ilk could be counted among serial killers should be discussed in a different article.)

The Great Fire at the Chicago World's Fair, the destruction of the Manufactures and Liberal Arts Building, 1894 lookandlearn.com

Another famous American exposition happened in 1915 in San Francisco. During this fair, which marked the completion of the Panama Canal, visitors were able to witness the first transcontinental phone call. The occasion also officially marked San Francisco's recovery from a devastating earthquake in 1906. The fairs could be healing forces, opportunities to channel decay into forward movement.

In 1939, New York hosted its own World's Fair in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens. Its theme was "The World of Tomorrow." Attractions included a brand new subway line, dozens of massive pavilions, and an Albert Einstein speech about cosmic rays. The fair was conceptualized as a way to lift the city out of the Great Depression, and it eventually collapsed due to the onset of a little conflict known as World War II.

Postcard from the 1939 New York World's FairEtsy

New York's World's Fair in 1939The Atlantic

Then in 1964, the fair returned to Flushing Meadows. In keeping with the spirit of the 1960s, the festival's slogan was "Peace Through Understanding."


The Atlantic

The 1964 New York fair featured some of the more futuristic architecture ever seen.

The General Motors Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's FairFlickr

For their first few centuries of existence, world's fairs were typically Western endeavors, but Japan broke this trend in 1970 when they hosted a fair in Osaka. The fair featured hovercrafts, early mobile phone prototypes, and plenty of space-race technology.


The Japan Gas Association Pavilion (which was filled with laughing gas)messynessychic.com

Osaka will actually be hosting the next World Expo in 2025, with the theme "Designing future society for our lives." According to the event description, "Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai will be a place to co-create a sustainable society that can support the aspirations of all through the sharing of new ideas from each participant." Maybe the world's fair is growing alongside the times.

The original world's fairs are never coming back, which is probably for the best. They were emblems to a capitalist dream and an ideal of endless progress, which was usually paid for by colonial efforts in the first place. But they sure look beautiful in the photos.

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It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.

Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).

Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!


So You Want to Try Workaway

Want to travel cheap, meet locals and kindred spirits, live off the land, and possibly change your life? It might be time to try Workaway.

Sitting in a house on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, watching the sun set and listening to the sound of music coming from the house in which I was staying almost rent-free, I wondered how I had gotten this lucky.

Actually, it was really all thanks to one website—Workaway.info.

Workaway Workaway

Workaway is a site that sets travelers up with hosts, who provide visitors with room and board in exchange for roughly five hours of work each weekday. The arrangement varies from host to host—some offer money, others require it—but typically, the Workaway experience is a rare bird: a largely anti-capitalist exchange.

I did four Workaways the summer I traveled in Europe, and then one at a monastery near my home in New York the summer after. Each experience, though they lasted around two weeks each, was among the most enriching times of my life—and I'd argue I learned almost as much through those experiences as I did in four years of college.

There's something extremely special about the Workaway experience, though it's certainly not for everyone.

Workaway Isn't for Everyone: What to Know Before You Go

I loved all the Workaways I went on, but the best advice I can give to anyone considering going is: Enter with an open mind. If you're someone who doesn't do well with the unexpected, if you're not willing to be flexible, if you're a picky eater or easily freaked out, then it's likely that you won't have a good experience at a Workaway.

There are exceptions to all of this. At the Workaway I stayed at in Italy, one of the travelers was suffering from stomach bloating, and the host helped cure her with a diet of miso. (I'm not saying you should go Workawaying if you're ill—this traveler's mother also came to oversee everything—but still, you never know what you'll find).

Workaway WoIsango.com

You should also probably be willing and able to actually work at your Workaway. These aren't vacations, and some hosts will be stricter and less forgiving than others regarding your work ethic. If you're someone who has no experience with difficult farm work, for example, it might not be a good idea to do a Workaway on a farm.

How to Choose a Host

The Workaway website boasts a truly overwhelming number of hosts. You can narrow your search down by location, but you can also search key terms that can help guide you in the right direction. You might search "music," for example—that's how I found the Italy location. You'll find hosts in busy cities and in the most remote mountains of India; you'll find opportunities to tutor and explore. You'll find shadiness, too, so trust your instincts.

Take time to actually read the host's entire bio before reaching out. Read all the comments, too, and if you're nervous or a first-timer, only reach out to hosts who have exclusively glowing reviews. I had the best experiences with hosts that had left extremely detailed bios—that showed me they were likely going to be dedicated hosts.

I also chose hosts whose bios gave me a good feeling, something like a spark of electricity or recognition. This instinctual method might not work for everyone, but it certainly led me in the right direction in all of my Workaway experiences. My Workaways gave me some of the best memories and deepest relationships of my life, and that was partly thanks to the fact that I chose places that were good fits for me.

For example, I chose to stay alone with a wizened academic in France. Something about his bio and descriptions resonated with me enough to trust him. (I also read some of his many thousand-page-long treatises on peace and compassion and decided that if someone could write this and be a psychopath, this wasn't a world I wanted to live in anyway). It was the right decision—and the two weeks I spent there were some of the most enlightening of my entire life.

When you reach out to a host, particularly if it's someone you really want to stay with, it's a good idea to frame your initial contact email as a cover letter of sorts—make sure you explain who you are and personalize your letter to fit each host.

Ixcanaan A Workaway painting experienceWorkaway

Travel Safely

Especially if you're traveling alone, it's always a good idea to choose a host whose page has tons of good reviews. Aside from that, a quick Google search and a scan of any social media pages related to your potential host can't hurt.

Ultimately, Workawaying requires a certain amount of trust and faith on both the host and the traveler's parts—you're either trusting someone to stay in your home or trusting a stranger to host and feed you.

But that trust, in my experience, also results in rapid and deep connections unlike anything I've experienced in the "real world." When you go and share a home with someone, you're also sharing yourself with them, and in that exchange there are the seeds of a powerful bond.

Participate Fully

Wherever you go, you'll want to open your mind and participate fully. Adjust yourself to your host's lifestyle, not the other way around, and take time to get to know your host and the others around you.

You might find that you become someone you never knew you were. As a lifelong introvert, I somehow managed to develop close relationships with many of the people I was staying with.

This might be because most people who are at Workaways are seeking something for one reason or another. In my experience, you find lots of people who are at junctures in their lives, seeking connection and meaning. With the right Workaway, you might just find it.

Workaway The Broke Backpacker - WorkawayThe Broke Backpacker