The 1939 Worlds Fair was financed primarily by private enterprise. While the fair definitely depended on government action to be constructed, etc., not a penny of public money was used in its construction and operation.

The organizers of the fair created the Fair Corporation, a non-profit entity to raise money for the construction and operation of the fair. After a careful study, they estimated that the cost of the fair and all the related improvement projects would run approximately $150 million dollars. A large portion of this money was invested in general infrastructure in New York – roads, sewers, bridges, etc. and was spent by the city as an acceleration of projects already planned for city improvements. The cost of these improvements to the city of New York (and paid by the city of New York) exceeded $20 million dollars.

Various government entities around the workd invested over $30 million for various exhibit buildings and exhibits at the fair and the Fair Corporation invested approximately $42 million dollars on the fair. Additionally a bond issue raised $27,829,500 to help with other aspects of making the fair a reality.

As you can see, that was quite an expensive undertaking for a country in the depression.  As an interesting side note, it is believed that the activities surrounding the fair resulted in the circulation of approximately one billion dollars – revenues sorely needed by the businesses of New York City at this time. These acitivities include things like lodging for the guests, food and merchandise bought both at the fair and in New York City, transportation costs and all the other related revenue streams created by any large event.

However, from a financial point of view, this the worlds most famous fair, was a failure as when all the dust cleared, the Fair Corporation lost money and was forced to go into bankruptcy after it was all over.

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