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The Richard Eisenhour Collection, no. 10 - Texas Centennial Exposition (1936)

Richard Eisenhour

Silent | 1936

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  •  Art Deco architecture 
  •  The Hall of State Building 
  •  Ripley’s Believe It or Not exhibition 
 
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This home movie from 1936 captures the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas’s Fair Park. The first world's fair south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the event celebrated the 100th anniversary of Texas’s independence from Mexico. This film includes footage of many of the Art Deco statues and buildings built for the Exposition, including the Hall of State Building and the Spirit of the Centennial, as well as the Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Paris exhibitions. These films are courtesy of native Galvestonian and current Austin resident Richard Eisenhour, who discovered and bought them on Ebay. The family in the film and the person who shot the footage are unknown.
The Texas Centennial was a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of Texas independence from Mexico. Events all over the state commemorated the milestone, such as the Texas Frontier Centennial in Fort Worth and Galveston’s Mardi Gras.  Several existing buildings were commissioned for the centennial, including the Texas Memorial Museum, The Sam Houston Memorial Museum, The Panhandle-Plains Memorial Museum, and the Alamo Museum, among others. Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio all vied for the chance to host the main exposition, but Dallas won due to its financial commitment.
 
The Centennial Exposition in Dallas was heralded as the first World’s Fair held in the Southwest. It ran from June 6 to November 29, 1936, and again from June 12 to October 31, 1937. The festival’s most visited attraction was the “Cavalcade of Texas,” a pageant of Texas history. Another draw was the Hall of Negro Life, which was the first acknowledgement of black culture at any World’s Fair. In the midst of moralistic and educational efforts, the midway also served as a space for drinking, gambling, and strippers, a sure way to make money at the height of the Great Depression. One of the most appealing parts of the exposition was the nightly lightshow where 24 multicolored searchlights that could be seen from miles away. 
 
Famous visitors included President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Gene Autry. The exposition served as a filming location for The Big Show, a 1936 western in which Gene Autry played himself. Over 6 million people attended the fair, and while that was below the projected figures, organizers were ultimately pleased with the boost to the economy and the recognition it brought Dallas.