Remembering 170 years of innovation at the World’s Fair

The World’s Fair has long been a stage for innovation and achievement, putting host countries on the map as global leaders.


The World’s Fair (officially, the International Registered Exhibition) is where the present meets the future. Since its debut in London in 1851, these global gatherings have served as a glimpse into the world of tomorrow, showcasing never-before-seen science and technology and offering a platform for countries to exchange ideas, connect and collaborate.

This year, the United Arab Emirates is on the global stage hosting the Expo 2020 Dubai – the first-ever World’s Fair in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region. According to the Passport Index, the country has been a rising star in the Gulf in recent years, maintaining its remarkable passport power even throughout the pandemic, and recently triumphing at the top of the ranks in 1st place as the world’s most powerful passport.

Set to welcome over 25 million visitors from across the globe, Expo 2020 Dubai launched its six-month exhibition with a lavish Opening Ceremony on October 1st 2021, celebrating 170 years of innovation and global exchange. To mark the occasion, here’s a closer look at some of the most ingenious, influential inventions to emerge from various world expos across the last two centuries.



The United States, which currently has one of the strongest passports, has earned a reputation as a hub of big, life-altering ideas. Not surprisingly, America has also been home to some of the most famous world’s fairs.

Take the World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893, for example. This legendary event unveiled inventions like the Ferris wheel, the moving walkway, the zipper, and the dishwasher.

But it was the fairgrounds that were the star attraction at this show, illuminated at night by electrical light bulbs instead of kerosene lamps for the first time, much to the amazement of the American public – and the world.


Mobile phones

Another global leader noted for its technological prowess and sustained passport strength is Japan. The country’s second-largest city, Osaka, played home to the World’s Fair in 1970, showcasing advancements in automation (think sushi conveyor belts), transportation (magnetic levitation train systems) and entertainment (IMAX theatres).

The expo also introduced the novel concept of mobile phones, although many fair-goers overlooked the device’s potential at the time. Many reports suggested that a moon rock brought back from the 1969 Apollo mission overshadowed most of the other exhibits that year.


The Eiffel Tower

There’s hardly a landmark in the world more iconic than France’s Eiffel Tower, unveiled at the 1889 Exposition Universelle to mark the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Workers built the 1,000-foot-tall tower in record time – just two years, two months and five days.

While expo visitors regarded the wrought-iron lattice structure as a technical triumph, the residents of Paris disagreed, and many lobbied for its demolition. Thankfully, it survived the public outcry and is now among the most iconic towers in the world.


Air conditioning

The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis has gone down in history as one of the most exciting World’s Fairs. This is the event where innovators introduced delectable treats such as the ice cream cone, hamburger, hot dog, cotton candy and peanut butter to the hungry masses.

The fair also debuted several other life-changing innovations, including the X-ray machine and baby incubators. It was also the first time people experienced the chilling wonders of air conditioning – exhibitors installed an air-cooling unit inside the Missouri State Building to keep attendees comfortable in the sweltering summer heat.


Self-driving cars

Self-driving vehicles aren’t quite ready to hit the streets just yet, but most futurists agree that they’re not too far off, either. And when the technology is ready for public use, it’s likely to change the world in countless ways.

Decades before Tesla and Google would devote billions to autonomous driving technology, General Motors presented the idea at the Expo 1939 New York alongside other new-fangled inventions at the fair, like nylon, computer games, pencil sharpeners and the American diner.

GM’s autonomous car prototype didn’t function – it was more of a concept – but it certainly planted a seed for future generations.

Looking forward to seeing what technologies and innovations are unveiled at Expo 2020 Dubai this autumn and winter? Book your tickets here and join Arton Capital at the Mobility Pavilion, where we’ll be exploring new ways of connecting across borders and cultures.