Kodak billed it as “the greatest show of color photography on earth.” The New York World’s Fair Official 1939 Guidebook described it as “the world’s most spectacular show of color photography.” It was also the first wide-screen, fully automated, multi-media color slide program ever presented to the public.
Kodak’s “Cavalcade of Color” was intended to showcase Kodachrome, Kodak full-color, fine-grain transparency film, which had been introduced in 1936. Kodak advertisements emphasized that the slides used in “Cavalcade of Color” presentations were identical to those that any amateur could make using 35mm Kodachrome film. (Kodak’s first 35mm cameras had been introduced in 1938.)
“Cavalcade of Color” performances took place continuously from twelve noon until ten at night in the Eastman Kodak Building’s Great Hall of Color. Eleven custom-built, precision-engineered projectors, each weighing more than a ton, simultaneously projected eleven 35mm Kodachrome slides side by side onto a huge curved screen 22 feet high by 188 feet in width. Each projector had two lenses and held 192 glass-mounted slides that had been bolted to a large drum. Illumination was provided by powerful 2500-watt lamps, which required that the projectors’ optical systems be cooled with water cells and blasts of chilled air to keep them from overheating. The eleven projectors were synchronized to each other through an elaborate electric interlock system that could change the slides at speeds ranging anywhere from half a minute to four times a second and produce fades, dissolves and motion effects. 2,112 slides were shown in a performance that lasted about 12 minutes. In addition to the slides, there was a spoken commentary and a special musical accompaniment that had been pre-recorded onto a notched sound film that kept everything in perfect synchronization. Periodically, the whole show would be changed overnight.
A twelfth projector was displayed at the entrance to the Great Hall of Color so that visitors could better appreciate the mechanical ingenuity that had made the “Cavalcade of Color” show possible. Those who viewed this custom-built projector had indeed “seen the future.”
Thirty-two years later, Kodak would introduce its revolutionary line of “Carousel” slide projectors, which showed 35mm slides that had been loaded into round trays. (For professional multi-media presentations in major venues such as museums, theme parks, convention centers and World’s Fairs, a special line of electrically interlocked “Ektagraph” Carousel projectors was developed.) Kodak discontinued manufacturing Carousel projectors in 2004, some 65 years after the system’s prototype had first appeared at the New York World’s Fair.
Among the images that were shown during “Cavalcade of Color” presentations was this one of a Ringling Bros.- Barnum & Bailey Circus tiger.
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