EVEN THOUGH the 1964 World's Fair captivated 12-year-old Bill Cotter, who was awestruck by the seemingly endless array of attractions, his enthusiasm failed to rub off on his mom and dad.
"They felt it was more commercial," said Cotter, 57, of Los Angeles. "They felt if you lived through the '39 fair, during the Depression, it was such a breath of fresh air."
His parents' stories of the first fair - held, like the 1964 expo, at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park - fascinated Cotter, whose book "Images of America: The 1939-1940 New York World's Fair," will be released June 15.
Featuring more than 200 never-before-published photos that Cotter bought online and at auctions and souvenir shows, the book separates sites into sections of the fair - called "centers" or "zones" - where they sat.
Perhaps the best remembered is the Theme Center, home to the fair's side-by-side icons, the 610-foot-tall Trylon and 180-foot-wide Perisphere, surrounded by fountains and walkways.
One of the book's most memorable images shows the Perisphere lit as a giant jack-o'-lantern on Halloween 1939, the final day of the fair's first season. Cotter notes the occasion was bittersweet because it was unclear if the fair would return in 1940.
In another shot, crowds are packed into the Amusement Area's New York State Amphitheater - torn down in 1996 - for a popular music, dance and swimming show called "Billy Rose's Aquacade."
"I wanted to use candid photos, and that's what 99.9% of them are," Cotter said. "I want to do this from the view of, 'What would the average person find special about the fair?'"
Visitors who couldn't afford admission to "Aquacade" or the Perisphere's futuristic diorama, called "Democracity," could still enjoy outdoor sights, including an 80-foot-tall sundial or a 60-foot-tall statue of George Washington.