Illinois couple devoted to World’s Fair memorabilia

Hall China Co. produced this teapot exclusively for sale at the 1939 New York World's Fair. The decoration represents the fair's   Perisphere and Trylon. Image courtesy Kaminski Auctions and Archive.

Hall China Co. produced this teapot exclusively for sale at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The decoration represents the fair’s Perisphere and Trylon. Image courtesy Kaminski Auctions and Archive.

DANVILLE, Ill. (AP) – The popular 1944 movie Meet Me in St. Louis, starring Judy Garland, portrayed the world’s fair of yesteryear as an exciting and dressy extravaganza, filled with romance and intrigue. People traveled for miles by train and automobile to see all the new and
fascinating discoveries exhibited at these highly anticipated events.

This is the image of a world’s fair that Bob and Sherri Hous of Danville want to recreate through their extensive collection of world’s fair items.

“It’s the romance that surrounded world’s fairs through the years that fascinates me,” Sherri said. “That’s why we’re not interested in attending
a present-day fair. There would be so much emphasis on technology that it would spoil the fantasy that we’ve built up surrounding those spectacular events from years ago.”

The first world’s fair was the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. The next world’s expo is scheduled for 2010 in Shanghai, China. Both San Francisco and Houston may submit bids to host a world expo in 2020.

“It’s surprising how many world’s fairs that were scheduled had to be canceled for one reason or another,” Bob said. “Usually it was because a
war broke out or they couldn’t get the funding.”

The best-known world’s fairs held in the United States include the World’s Columbian Exposition held in 1893 in Chicago; the Louisiana Purchase International Exposition, which combined with the Summer Olympic Games at St. Louis in 1904; and the Sesquicentennial Celebration held in Philadelphia in 1926.

Other famous fairs included the Century of Progress International Exposition set in Chicago in 1933; the New York World’s Fair in 1939; the Century 21 Exposition held in 1962 in Seattle; and the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans.

Most fair buildings are usually razed afterwards, but a single, noteworthy landmark is traditionally left standing. For example, the Space Needle was constructed for the Seattle exposition; the art museum and parts of the zoo in St. Louis are a byproduct of its 1904 fair; and the Eiffel Tower was constructed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris.

Bob and Sherri’s interest in world’s fairs comes from his family.

“Apparently, a number of my relatives attended the world’s fairs that were within a reasonable traveling distance,” he said, “like the ones in
Chicago and in St. Louis.”

The Houses inherited a number of world’s fair collectibles from Bob’s parents, and over the years they have expanded the collection.

Bob enjoys relating one particular anecdote about his great-aunt and great-uncle, Maggie and Robert Morris. Apparently the couple had attended
the 1893 fair in Chicago and had purchased matching ruby-flash glass goblets, with their respective first and last names engraved. Robert’s
goblet was eventually sold in an auction, but Maggie’s glass stayed in the family.

In 1979, Bob’s mother was at an auction, where she bid on and purchased back Robert’s engraved goblet. These two glasses are now among the most prized of fair items on Bob and Sherri’s shelf.

Sherri explained, “We don’t really have anything exquisite in our collection, but just items that were sold as souvenirs.”

One of their treasured items is a framed, embroidered pillow slip from the 1933 fair in Chicago. They also have a large collection of books and other reading material covering the history of world’s fairs.

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