The Fair's planners intended the Trylon and Perisphere not only as a visible theme but also to house "The World of Tomorrow's" principle exhibit within the Persiphere. To that purpose, they hired Henry Dreyfuss, an industrial design engineer.
As a relatively new profession, Dreyfuss explained industrial design in his own terms: improving an object's appearance, "eye appeal," and convenience for a consumer through the symmetry of form and beauty in color.
Dreyfuss defined the parameters of his six – minute presentation, utilizing urban planning's most modern concepts. "This is not a city of canyons and gasoline fumes; it is one of simple functional buildings - most of them low - all of them surrounded by green and clean air. A city where no streets for pedestrians actually intersect and therefore where no traffic accidents occur." A green belt of farms and parks would separate Dreyfuss' utopian metropolis from the out-lying industrial towns.
In Democracity, as it was now titled, 1½ million residents supposedly lived in an 11,000 square miles radius. While Dreyfuss insisted this was not a blueprint of a dictated city, the layout looked astonishingly familiar - the basic plan for the present day "World of Tomorrow." Centerton acted as the business, social and cultural focal hub. Forty Pleasantvilles, residential communities sixty miles from Centerton, and 30 Millvilles, the industrial municipalities, radiated from the main metropolis. Farms dotted the surrounding region.
Dreyfuss envisioned a living environment where the "idea of haste will be removed." Music and motion pictures would be piped into each individual's home. (In fact, Edward Bellamy, in his 1888 popular masterpiece Looking Backward, foresaw "music coming through the walls of a house at all hours of the day and night, regulated by turning a lever.") Dreyfuss predicted his emphasis on leisure would eliminate nervous diseases.
Being a true showman, Dreyfuss conceived a spectacular finale representing human interdependence encircling the globe. Out of the clouds projected on the Perisphere's dome, ten groups of one hundred figures each morphed from mere pinpoints to mammoth proportions finally joining together with upraised hands. Dreyfuss envisioned a symphonic arrangement of the fair's theme music, along with a heavenly chorus, accompanying the climaxing moments.
Fair officials knew Dreyfuss' futuristic vision would entice visitors to the Persiphere. However, practically, the exhibit could only handle 4,000 persons an hour. Their solution to crowd control? An entrance fee! Ten cents seemed too little, so the planners settled on a quarter per patron. (This would be a little over $4.00 in 2016.)
Fairgoers were outraged. Even the most spectacular and popular exhibits on the fairgrounds were offered free. However, news columnist Henry Beckett explained his position, however unpopular it may be. If he had not paid an entrance fee, Beckett realized he would feel the same disappointment "on first seeing Niagara Falls as a child. People had waxed so eloquent over its splendor that I had imagined a whole world of water tumbling out of the sky."
To some degree the fair officials were correct. During the first seven days, 180,000 visitors coughed up the quarter to view Democracity. However, word-of-mouth soon decreased the attendance.
Having paid their twenty-five cents, patrons entered the Trylon through chromium doors into a tiny lobby. Everyone selected between two elevators, one 96 feet in length and the other 120 (the longest escalators ever built in the United States to that time), for the near silent ride between gleaming steel walls into the Perisphere.
Arriving at the top a solution even more ingenious than Barnum's "This Way to the Egress" awaited. To avoid congestion caused by people stopping too long to gaze down upon Democracity, fairgoers stepped onto one of two "magic carpets" that transported them around the exhibit area, eventually depositing them at the exit. Two seemingly unsupported balconies, fifty-two feet in the air and the other sixty four feet, revolved in opposite directions.
The six minute show covered a full twenty-four hour day in Democracity. During the daylight cycle and into the early evening, radio commentator H. V. Kaltenborn described the utopian wonder spread out below the visitors. To achieve this masterful undertaking, Dreyfuss carefully broke the entire six minutes down into second-by-second segments.
"In this show the seconds become the actors - each second has something to do. Thus at the 99th second the daylight starts fading; at the 101st second the city night lights go on, by the 110th second the sunset appears; and by the 120th second the first star appears in the heavens." The constellation shown in the Perisphere's "heavens" was the same as the one overhead at Flushing Meadows on May 1, 1939.
Three seconds later Dreyfuss' wondrous finale took over.
William Grant Still composed the musical accompaniment for Democracity, including the rousing final anthem "Rising Tide."
A committee chose Still after an intense competition. Prospective composers submitted a piece of sheet music and two recordings, one a piano piece and one an orchestral work, for consideration. After wading through over a thousand individuals' works, the committee chose two anonymous entries. They were shocked to discover one was "Lenox Avenue" by William Grant Still for the Columbia Broadcasting System and the second was "A Deserted Plantation," by the same composer, for Paul Whiteman's orchestra.
The New York Age, one of the most influential Black newspapers of the time, exalted: "Do you know that the theme song of the Fair was written by a colored boy? If there is an art in which this race excels, it is music."
Still felt the pressure of creating a balanced composition with themes, variations and development for a six- minute presentation supposedly covering twenty-four hours. Yet, he insisted his composition must appeal to the thousands who came to the Perisphere and not be straining for new or strange musical sensations. Still only included a jazz theme, his true genre, in the brief nighttime segment.
As the show ran continuously from 10:00 A.M. to 10:00 P.M. visitors entered the revolving balconies at various times during the presentation but always experienced the full twenty-four hour cycle before exiting.
Dreyfuss designed the exhibit to appear as if the viewer were flying 7,000 feet above Democracity in an airplane. To achieve this he scaled the model sixteen feet to an inch. However, Henry Beckett complained: "All the time I was aware of being exactly where I was and clearly the city and country below me were a model, and not two miles down."
The reviews for Dreyfuss' great effort were decidedly negative. "The layout of the central city is a theoretical pattern and one which is not likely to be duplicated in actual practice." "The commentary and musical accompaniment add nothing but confusion to the excellent original idea." "The lack of detail and distance from the display create a feeling of unreality." "Here, masquerading as the future, is the stale conception of the capital city developed by the centralized despotisms of Europe."
Perhaps most devastating of all, one of the nation's most read columnists expressed her disinterest in Democracity. After a visit with friends to the Perisphere, Eleanor Roosevelt informed her "My Day" readers: "I did not feel that, as yet, one saw a very clear picture of the world of tomorrow. There was more space in the city and it did seem to merge more easily with the country, but I am sure in the world of tomorrow our airplanes will have changed and there will be many more inventions than are suggested by the present projection in the Perisphere."
After exiting Democracity and walking down the Helicline, most fairgoers still had one unanswered question on their minds - what was inside the Trylon?
Bill Morris, the Fair's official photographer who often used one of the Trylon's top-most portholes to his advantage, explained the inner workings - mainly a steel skeleton with a ladder. The first 320 feet the ladder was inclined while the final ascent was straight up. Small platforms existed at 320 feet and 575 from the ground.