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A Space-Themed Expo for a Space Age World: Seattle 1962

In my last post I briefly mentioned the Seattle World’s Fair of 1962, officially named the Century 21 Exposition.  Expos have always had a tendency to look toward the future. But the theme of “Man in the Space Age” was conceived as a rebuttal to the Soviet Union. By launching Sputnik in 1957, they were ahead in the space race, and refused an invitation to participate in the fair.  The USA Pavilion at Expo 2020, by contrast, celebrates cooperation in space as the first UAE astronaut heads to the International Space Station on September 25th 2019, accompanied by Russian astronauts aboard a Soyuz spacecraft.

A space age theme required space age architecture, hence, the Space Needle was born. It took 400 days to build the 605-foot structure with the “flying saucer” on top.  Skeptics soon embraced this new symbol of the city, and lines were long for the gourmet meals served with the rotating view.

The site of the fair was where Seattle Center is now located. When it became apparent that it was too far away from downtown to be convenient, the monorail was conceived and built.

There were five distinct areas of the fair:  The World of Science, The World of Tomorrow, The World of Commerce and Industry, The World of Art, The World of Entertainment. Along with 24 participating countries, exhibits included Ford Motor Company’s “Adventures in Outer Space”, and Boeing’s “Spacearium”.  Both were popular with fairgoers.  

Prince Philip of England, flying his own plane from Kamloops, British Columbia, became the first British royal to visit Seattle.

Elvis Presley came to town to make the film It Happened at the World’s Fair, using the fair as a backdrop.

Walt Disney also paid a visit. Perhaps he received inspiration for his 1967  overhaul of Tomorrowland? 

Joan Thompson,  Expo Sales Executive
Ya’lla Tours USA

Posted on September 17, 2019


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