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World's Fair Gardens - Shaping American Landscapes

As showcases for dramatic changes in garden style and new technology, world’s fairs offered leading landscape designers and nurserymen the chance to tempt visitors to try new garden trends in backyards across the nation. From horticultural innovations to new landscape styles, the wonders displayed at these fairs had a distinct influence on America’s largest urban parks.

In World’s Fair Gardens, Cathy Jean Maloney offers a lavishly illustrated exploration of the gardens and grounds of America’s nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century world’s fairs. Maloney describes the landscapes of nine of America’s great fairs from the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia to the 1940 World’s Fair of Tomorrow in New York, many of whose legacies are still evident. 

The fairs also created an arena for intense competition among nations. Foreign plant introductions included English rhododendrons in Philadelphia, Mexican cacti in New Orleans, and Japanese gardens at nearly all the fairs, a feat considering the formidable challenge of shipping live plants great distances in those times. Maloney also explores innovations from the "glazeless putty system" greenhouse in 1884 and cold storage systems in 1904 to modernistic glass fences in 1940.

Complete with more than 50 color and 70 black-and-white illustrations, World’s Fair Gardens will appeal to historians, gardeners, urban planners, landscape architects, public park advocates, preservationists, and anyone interested in the history of these global festivals.

(Please continue to scroll for reviews of World's Fair Gardens)

Reviews for World's Fair Gardens

It is no secret that world's fairs exerted a powerful influence on architectural styles and building techniques. What is less well known is that these spectacles of modernity had an equally powerful impact on the way Americans thought about landscapes and gardens. World's Fair Gardens is an original work that foregrounds an important and long-neglected subject.

(Robert W. Rydell, Montana State University )

It is a pleasure to encounter a design-history book written so clearly. This is an original, substantial, and eminently sensible contribution to the history of landscape architecture, gardening, and allied disciplines. From a very broad range of subjects (a great many world’s fairs), the author selects a handful that illustrate the progression of design, plant-material choices, contemporaneous criticism, and visitor evaluation.

(John Stilgoe, Harvard University ) 

World's Fair Gardens is supported by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts