General Electric Pavilion

General Electric's Pavilion, under a huge flattened dome suspended from spiral pipes, presented "Progressland" depicting the history of electricity from its beginnings to the mighty bang of nuclear fusion. Its multi-part show, produced by Walt Disney, used a unique theater. Separate auditoriums, each holding 250 people, circle the various stages set in the middle, and stop to watch life-sized 3-D audio-animatronic people act out the story of electricity in the home from the 1890's to the present.

The General Electric Pavilion.

The show began in a late 19th century home where its inhabitants struggled with the latest luxuries; telephone, gas lamps, gramophone (record player), kitchen pump, a hand-cranked clothes washer, and a hand-pumped, air suction vacuum cleaner. On the next stage was the home of the 1920's with cofeemakers, sewing machines, refrigerator, and a homemade cooling device for hot weather - an electric fan that circulated air over a cake of ice. The 1940's were recalled with a little, round television screen, plus some odd applications of electricity - a housewife mixing wallpaper paste with a cake mixer. Finally the glories of today (1964) glittered in a living room at Christmas time. The home had a kitchen that all but ran itself.

The Carousel Theater - a home in the 1920's.

Inside the pavilion was the first demonstration of controlled thermonuclear fusion to be witnessed by a large general audience. A magnetic field squeezed a plasma of deuterium gas for a few millionths of a second at a temperature of 20 million degrees Fahrenheit. There was a vivid flash and a loud report as atoms collided, creating free energy (evidenced on nearby instruments).

A demonstration of nuclear fusion - cheap energy thought to be available within a decade or two.

General Electric also displayed the latest electric innovations for the home, public buildings, industry and space exploration.

Copyright © Jeffrey Stanton 1997
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