Messmore & Damon created unusual spectacles: full-size mechanical elephants, mammoths, and dinosaurs; highly detailed dioramas illustrating "The History of American Transportation," Niagra Falls, and Washington D.C.; animatronic humans and cows; even a miniature Shangri-La for the Frank Capra movie The Lost Horizon. Established in the 'teens, Messmore & Damon were the original "Imagineers," crafting one-of-a-kind attractions for industrial clients such as The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, American Oil Company, International Harvester, among others. While they earned their reputation for building amazing displays for world's fairs such as Chicago's 1933 Century of Progress Exposition, the public was probably most impressed by their giant monsters. Audiences at the Roxy Theatre in New York City, for instance, could enjoy watching a 50-foot long brontosaurus walk across the stage, pluck a scantily clad cave woman into its maw, and take her away (no doubt for dinner). The company was able to create such beasts with an uncanny degree of movement: electric motors would create the illusion of breathing and hip movements while operators inside would control the jaws and tail. Truly, they were ahead of their time in devising three-dimensional entertainment.
Here is a brochure describing the many abilities of this most unusual company. It was published to lure in clients for the 1939 New York World's Fair, which promised to be a bonanza for builders of public displays. "The World of Tomorrow will be a large and seemingly endless spectacle staged in a splendor far beyond the dreams and imaginations of millions of potential customers," reads the brochure's copy. "It is an opportunity of a lifetime. You cannot afford to stay out! You must participate!" This was no hypethe fair of 1939 was truly a wonder. Messmore & Damon contributed Old New York, a life-size reproduction of the previous century's NYC covering three acres.
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