Did You Know in Texas History: Texas Centennial Exposition

By Caroline Jones, Library Assistant

On June 6th, 1936 the Texas Centennial Exposition opened at Fair Park in Dallas, TX. The Texas Centennial Commission was created in June 1934 with Dallas outbidding Houston and San Antonio as the exposition grounds and construction to expand Fair Park was underway by October of 1935. The expansion included 180 acres of park grounds and 50 new buildings. In total the exposition cost 25 million dollars, and an estimated 6,345,385 people attended the Centennial Exposition in Dallas.

Aerial black and white photo of the Texas Centennial.

From “Texas Centennial and Dallas Exposition: over 100 illustrations” from TSLAC-Main Collection.

The exposition was open from June 6 to November 29, 1936. Although centennial celebrations were happening across the state, the Handbook of Texas Online states the event at Fair Park as the “central exposition.” One of the highlights of the Texas Centennial Exposition was the Hall of Negro Life. According to the Handbook of Texas Online, this was the first instance of the recognition of black culture at a world’s fair. It is estimated that over 400,000 people came through the hall, viewing the contributions of thirty-two states, the District of Columbia, and works from individuals like W. E. B. Dubois and Samuel A. Countee. The hall exhibited advances in economics and industry, murals, music, literature, performances, and more.

Black and white photo of a building titled "Hall of Negro Life."

From “Texas Centennial and Dallas Exposition: over 100 illustrations from TSLAC-Main Collection.

It was important to the Texas Centennial Exposition Commission and their financial backers to advertise the wonders of Texas to visitors from across the nation and throughout the world. Visitors could purchase a wide variety of memorabilia from pamphlets, maps, commemorative pins, children’s toys, and more. The pin featured below was purchased by Beryl O. Paschich at the exposition. It is a recent artifact donation and can be found through our catalog.

Texas Centennial Club lapel pin.

“Paschich, Beryl M. Owens. Texas Centennial Club pin and Texas Centennial Exposition Souvenir booklet with purchase receipt, 1936; Hardin-Simmons University pin, about 1940.” 2017 Accession Box (2017/013).

 

The advertisements below demonstrate the promotion of the exposition as a world’s fair for visitors from all over the globe to see. They boast the many achievements of Texas industry and the beauty of the land itself.

Old Man Texas postcard featuring a cartoon depiction of Earth in a tuxedo and a man in a cowboy hat in the shape of Texas.

Old Man Texas postcard, recto Centennial Materials, Texas Commission of Control for Texas Centennial Celebrations Records. Archives and Information Service Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

 

Color image of a woman waving a cowboy hat.

“Pictorial Parade of Texas,” 1936, Centennial materials, Records, Texas Commission of Control for Texas Centennial Celebrations. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Collage of black and white printed images of a bridge, trees, streetcar.

“Pictorial Parade of Texas,” 1936, Centennial materials, Records, Texas Commission of Control for Texas Centennial Celebrations. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Collage of color images depicting various Texas vegetation and plant life.

“Pictorial Parade of Texas,” 1936, Centennial materials, Records, Texas Commission of Control for Texas Centennial Celebrations. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Images of Texas icons like the missions of San Antonio and the cowboys of the plains were all throughout the Centennial Exposition grounds, as exemplified by the images below. Reproductions of these posters can be found in the Tocker Learning Center in the Lorenzo de Zavala State Library and Archives Building. These posters follow the art deco style of the exposition’s buildings with their use of bright colors and sharp angles.

Poster of people in front of a mission facade.

Poster of people in front of a mission façade, Texas Centennial Celebrations 1836-1936, #638, Broadside collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Poster of a man and woman, bluebonnet and three flags.

Poster of couple, bluebonnet and three flags, Texas Centennial Celebrations 1836-1936, #639, Broadside collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Poster of cowboys on horses carrying three flags.

Poster of cowboys on horses carrying flags, Texas Centennial Celebrations 1836-1936, #640, Broadside collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Collage of images depicting the diverse environs of Texas.

Poster of Texas – Land of Vacation Contrasts, Texas Centennial Celebrations 1836-1936, #641, Broadside collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Poster of musician playing accordian.

Poster of musician playing accordion, Texas Centennial Celebrations 1836-1936, #642, Broadside collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Poster of cowboy.

Poster of cowboy, Texas Centennial Celebrations 1836-1936, #643, Broadside collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

With its emphasis on history and progress, the exposition was full of art, performances, and exhibits for visitors of all ages to enjoy. Its lasting legacy gives us a glimpse into our Texas past through the vibrant art, memorabilia, and architecture left behind.

Further Reading:

TITLE CALL NUMBER COLLECTION
Texas Centennial: the Parade of an Empire 607.34 C378T MAIN
The official guide book Texas Centennial Exposition, June 6, 1936 Nov. 29 607.34 ST29fdw 1936

 

MAIN
Texas centennial and Dallas exposition : over 100 illustrations 606.34 T312pa

 

MAIN
The Texas Centennial and Dallas Exposition, 1836-1936 607.34 T312c 1936

 

MAIN
Dallas, Texas centennial exposition center, 1936 976.42811 D161te OVER-T MAIN

2 thoughts on “Did You Know in Texas History: Texas Centennial Exposition

  1. I’m interested to learn if anyone has knowledge about the very large concrete dolphins, or possibly seals that were allegedly stolen frrom the 1936 World’s Fair that was held at The Centennial Fair Park in Dallas, Texas. I know that there were originally four of them that adorned the fair ground; one exists today at White Rock Lake in Dallas behind one of that lake’s administration office houses; and one supposedly exists somewhere in West Dallas, and one exists in the heavily wooded area of Crawford Memorial Park in Dallas.

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