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The World's Fair Collection of Alfred Heller at Christie's
STAEHLE. New York World's Fair 1939. Lithograph in colors by Grinnell Litho. Co., N.Y. 30¼ x 20 in. (765 x 510 mm). Estimate: $1,500 - 2,500.
NEW YORK.-The largest and most diverse collection of mementos connected to World’s Fairs will be presented on October 11 when Christie’s offers The World’s Fair Collection of Alfred Heller. The collection consists of books, posters, stereoview cards, paintings, photographs and ephemera from virtually every fair since and including the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, which attracted crowds to the magnificent Crystal Palace. Additional fairs represented in the collection are such illustrious events as the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the 1889 and 1900 Paris Universal Exhibition and the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

World’s Fairs were the historians of progress and the best showcases to show off the latest advancements in technology and architectural design. One of the most famous examples was the Eiffel Tower, created for the 1889 Paris Exposition. Among the many pieces in the collection documenting this major event is a two volume textbook written by Gustave Eiffel entitled, La Tour de Irois cents metres. (Paris, 1900) (estimate: $15,000-20,000). This book served as the main resource for subsequent studies on the architecture of 19th century metal structures and is a gem for collectors searching for one of the only five hundred printed copies.

Not to be outdone by other international venues, American cities such as Chicago and San Francisco lobbied for the honor of hosting these monumental events. Chicago hosted the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, which celebrated the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas and boasted the construction of a group of white, regal buildings dubbed the ‘White City.’ A number of souvenirs from this fair will be available, including a three dimensional pop-up illustration of the ‘White City,’ which is expected to fetch anywhere from $2,000-$3,000.

Moving west, San Francisco hosted the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition commemorating the completion of the Panama Canal and the 400th Anniversary of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean. Despite taking place during World War I, the fair boosted the morale of the Bay Area and gave birth to the prismatic ‘Tower of Jewels,’ named after the faceted cut glass that hung over the building’s surface. A well-rounded selection of paintings, postcards and viewbooks will be available for those interested in capturing a keepsake from this fair.

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