Great Lakes Exposition

Obverse of commemorative half dollar showing Moses Cleaveland
Reverse of commemorative half dollar showing the exposition logo

The Great Lakes Exposition was held in Cleveland, Ohio, in the summers of 1936 and 1937, along the Lake Erie shore north of downtown.[1] The fair commemorated the centennial of Cleveland's incorporation as a city.[2] Conceived as a way to energize a city hit hard by the Great Depression, the exposition drew 4 million visitors in its first season, and 7 million by the end of its second and final season in September 1937. Dudley S. Blossom, a local philanthropist, became chairman of a civic committee that contributed $1.5 million to transform the idea into reality. The exposition was housed on grounds that are now used by the Great Lakes Science Center, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Burke Lakefront Airport, among others.

A prominent entrance was at the north end of East 9th Street. The fairgrounds stretched from Public Hall to Lake Erie, and as far east as East 22nd Street, and covered 135 acres (0.55 km2). Fair attractions included a floating stage on the current site of the Great Lakes Science Center; the stage was home to jazz concerts by the Bob Crosby Orchestra.

The fairgrounds reopened May 29, 1937, with Wallace Trevor Holliday, President of the Standard Oil Company, acting as President. The floating stage became the setting for Billy Rose's Aquacade, a water music and dance show produced by Billy Rose. It starred Johnny Weissmuller and Eleanor Holm. The Aquacade later traveled to New York City for the 1939 New York World's Fair. Some exhibits were secured from the Century of Progress. 1937 attendance was estimated at 3 million visitors.


In October 2010, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. opened an exhibition titled Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s.[3] This exhibition, which was available for view until September 2011, prominently featured the Great Lakes Exposition.

Other performers


  1. "Great Lakes Exposition". The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Case Western Reserve University. March 30, 1998. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  2. Trickey, Erick (July 2006). "Sex, Celebrity & Carnival Charm". Cleveland Magazine. Retrieved 2009-02-17.
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