ROBERT W. RYDELL
Montana State University, USA
The world's fairs that swept the planet between London's Crystal Palace Exhibition (1851) and Shanghai's World Expo (2010) attest to the globalization of consumerism. The hundreds of expositions presented on the global stage during this period can be seen as overstuffed theaters of agricultural and technological commodities intended to promote the definition of the good life as being synonymous with the accumulation of consumer materials. Through towering displays of surplus fruits and vegetables, fashion shows and “pest-free” gardens, television sets and dishwashers, automobiles and model homes, world expositions have served as key vehicles for the rapid modernization of the world from the Victorian era through the present.
In addition to the displays of “things” themselves that occupied enormous pavilions dedicated to machines, electricity, agriculture, household products, and the like, world's fairs have also played a pivotal role in the development of saturation media advertising and tourism – both central components of consumerism. The 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition organized an enormous publicity department that generated newspaper copy and broadside advertising that made its way across the Atlantic Ocean to Russia and the Middle East. Subsequent expositions followed suit and, as a result, tens of millions of people made these fairs into ...