You are here

World's Fair Gardens

Shaping American Landscapes
Cathy Jean Maloney

BUY Cloth · 256 pp. · 8 × 9 · ISBN 9780813933115 · $39.95 · Nov 2012

Garden Book Awards, American Horticultural Society (2012)

As showcases for dramatic changes in garden style and new technology, world’s fairs offered leading landscape designers and nurserymen the chance to tempt visitors to try new garden trends in backyards across the nation. From horticultural innovations to new landscape styles, the wonders displayed at these fairs had a distinct influence on America’s largest urban parks.

In World’s Fair Gardens, Cathy Jean Maloney offers a lavishly illustrated exploration of the gardens and grounds of America’s nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century world’s fairs. Maloney describes the landscapes of nine of America’s great fairs from the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia to the 1940 World’s Fair of Tomorrow in New York, many of whose legacies are still evident.

The fairs also created an arena for intense competition among nations. Foreign plant introductions included English rhododendrons in Philadelphia, Mexican cacti in New Orleans, and Japanese gardens at nearly all the fairs, a feat considering the formidable challenge of shipping live plants great distances in those times. Maloney also explores innovations from the "glazeless putty system" greenhouse in 1884 and cold storage systems in 1904 to modernistic glass fences in 1940.

Complete with more than 50 color and 70 black-and-white illustrations, World’s Fair Gardens will appeal to historians, gardeners, urban planners, landscape architects, public park advocates, preservationists, and anyone interested in the history of these global festivals.

Supported by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts


It is no secret that world's fairs exerted a powerful influence on architectural styles and building techniques. What is less well known is that these spectacles of modernity had an equally powerful impact on the way Americans thought about landscapes and gardens. World's Fair Gardens is an original work that foregrounds an important and long-neglected subject.

Robert W. Rydell, Montana State University

It is a pleasure to encounter a design-history book written so clearly. This is an original, substantial, and eminently sensible contribution to the history of landscape architecture, gardening, and allied disciplines. From a very broad range of subjects (a great many world’s fairs), the author selects a handful that illustrate the progression of design, plant-material choices, contemporaneous criticism, and visitor evaluation.

John Stilgoe, Harvard University

Maloney, of Riverside, traces in detail the history and influence of fairs from 1976 in Philadelphia to 1939 in New York.

Chicago Tribune

"Very well produced with a sophisticated design," notes W. Gary Smith of this book, which offers a unique view of garden history through the lens of nine U.S. world’s fairs. It chronicles each event’s "impact on not only the landscaping and city planning of the host city but also on national gardening practices and landscapes," says Brandy Kuhl. "It’s a must-read for those interested in the history of American landscape design."

American Horticultural Society website

Well-researched and enjoyable, World's Fair Gardens preserves some of the most significant horticultural milestones and marvels - many of which are reflected in gardens of today - of the past for new generations to appreciate.

The American Gardener magazine

In today’s linked world, new ideas speed around the globe at a fantastic rate, regional differences are losing their sharpness, and international events all seem to share the same homogenous corporate veneer. Editor and author Maloney (Chicago Gardens: The Early History) chronicles a time when international exhibitions such as world’s fairs were crucibles of innovation. It’s hard to imagine any single event being so influential today. Those interested in the history of American landscape design will find Maloney’s tour an illuminating guide.

Publishers Weekly

This book will interest landscape architects, gardeners, landscapers, urban planners, and historians, as well as anyone who loves public parks or this kind of history....Richly illustrated, as they say, with great stories.

Interested in this topic?
Stay updated with our newsletters:

Related Books