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  • On the Cover

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The image that appears on the cover of volume 6 of Comparative Technology Transfer and Society shows an aerial view of the main exhibit buildings at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915. The exposition was one in a long line of world's fairs that began during the 19th century, each seeking to outdo the previous exposition. The San Francisco world's fair filled 635 acres along San Francisco Bay, and hundreds of buildings were constructed. The largest was Machinery Hall, in which elevators, steam, oil, and gas engines, and other equipment were displayed and in some cases operated. Thus William Randolph Hearst ran a giant color press that printed the San Francisco Examiner newspaper. Electricity, then still an exciting and relatively novel technology, was a prominent feature of the fair as well, General Electric designing a lighting scheme that placed hundreds of hidden spotlights to illuminate the buildings at night almost magically. A barge with 48 searchlights sat in the bay, adding to the effect as the lights reflected off the frequent fog.

The editors of CTTS believe the scene from the fair is appropriate for the journal, because the agenda of almost every world's fair has included the advancement of technology transfer activities. The concept of such fairs seems to have begun with several international expositions held in France under Napoleon, but for most scholars, the 1851 Crystal Palace Exposition in London was the first fair in the modern vein. That fair sought to boast of British accomplishments during the Industrial Revolution and let native manufacturers show off their products with the clear goal of advancing sales. The British invited the rest of the world to join them for this celebratory event, which was held in a massive iron-and-glass palace erected specially for the fair in Hyde Park. The Crystal Palace launched an explosion of such events that did not slow down until relatively recently. Indeed, a Bureau of International Expositions was created to track and regulate the process of holding such fairs around the world.

The 1851 exposition also showed the British that inventors and manufacturers in other parts of the world concurrently were making impressive progress in harnessing industrial technology. Many observers commented on the American efforts to introduce quantity production, typified by the exhibit of Samuel Colt. So impressed by this were the British, they made a special point of attending the first U.S. fair in New York City two years later, mainly to learn what the Americans were up to in the manufacturing arena. The British commissioners labeled the processes they witnessed the "American System of Manufactures." They later acquired examples of the American machine tools being used in quantity production firms and shipped them back to England.

Stories like these are part of the reason we have selected this image to grace the journal's cover. Most world's fairs have been held for a variety of motives, but technology transfer is always high on the list of goals. The fairs celebrated the most modern technologies and have provided opportunities for manufacturers to observe and learn what others were doing, to copy, to borrow—and even to buy. The San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 was designed to mark the completion of the Panama Canal and to celebrate the city's recovery from the 1906 earthquake. It also highlighted the strong interest of the United States in the Pacific region, as this exposition looked west across the Pacific rather than east to the Atlantic. Yet among the most popular exhibits were those showing torpedoes, submarines, and mines, since the fair opened in the year that World War I began.

In a world of instant digital communication, the idea of bringing the world together to view the latest technologies may seem old-fashioned, and today, world's fairs do not seem to possess the same capacity to astonish that they once did. Yet Walt Disney's EPCOT Center in Orlando grew from this model, for Disney envisioned that EPCOT would be a permanent world's fair. Moreover, the world continues to show interest in massive trade shows, such...


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