The 1939 World's Fair in New York City celebrated the future—“The World of Tomorrow”—while also commemorating the one-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of George Washington's inauguration as first president of the United States. (His swearing-in ceremony had taken place in the city.) This essay examines the odd juxtaposition of imagery depicting both events on a blue-and-white transfer-printed ceramic souvenir plate from the fair. In the central portion of the plate, a god-like Washington, seen from behind, stands on a neoclassical balcony gazing out over the fairgrounds toward the iconic Trylon and Perisphere; around the rim small illustrations show several of the significant structures at the fair. Using the plate as a starting point, this essay considers the contemporary significance of and enduring interest in the fair. It explores the role of food and food-related displays at the fair, and it offers an explanation for the style and form of this particular plate, and other souvenir plates, intended for display yet also referencing the everyday functionality of the common household dinner plate.

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