Incredible Photographs of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair

The Century 21 Exposition, also known as the Seattle World’s Fair, was held from April 21, 1962, until October 21, 1962. Over 10 million people attended the fair. The Space Needle and the Alweg monorail are relics of this historical exposition.

The Century 21 Exposition was originally planned in 1955 to honor the 50 anniversary of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition,  but there was not enough time for preparation. Instead, amidst the space race, with Boeing having turned Seattle into a major city, a major theme of the fair was to show that “the United States was not ‘behind’ the Soviet Union in scientific development.” Space, science, and the future trumped the earlier conception of a “Festival celebrating the West.”

The grounds of the fair were divided into:

  • World of Science centered on the United States Science Exhibit. It also included a NASA Exhibit that included models and mockups of various satellites, as well as the Project Mercury capsule that had carried Alan Shepard into space. These exhibits were the federal government’s major contribution to the fair.
  • World of Century 21 (also known as World of Tomorrow), had exhibits of future transportation (centered on a monorail and high-speed “air cars” on an electrically controlled highway). There was also an “office of the future”, a climate-controlled “farm factory”, an automated offshore kelp and plankton harvesting farm, a vision of the schools of the future with “electronic storehouses of knowledge”, and a vision of the many recreations that technology would free humans to pursue.
  • World of Commerce and Industry contained exhibits ranging from 32 separate furniture companies to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Vogue produced four fashion shows daily alongside a perfumed pool. The Ford Motor Company, in its pavilion, presented a simulated space flight and its vision for the car of the future, the Ford Seattle-ite XXI. The Electric Power Pavilion included a 40 feet (12 m)-high fountain made to look like a hydroelectric dam, with the entrance to the pavilion through a tunnel in said “dam”
  • World of Art contained art from many prominent contemporary national and international artists as well as 72 “masterpieces” ranging from Titian, El Greco, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Rubens through Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, and Turner to Klee, Braque, and Picasso.
  • World of Entertainment was a $15 million performing-arts program at the fair which ranged from a boxing championship to an international twirling competition.There were many nationally and internationally famous performers, especially at the new Opera House and Playhouse.
  • Show Street was the ‘adult entertainment’ section of the fair.
  • The Gayway, a small amusement park.
  • Boulevards of the World was “the shopping center of the fair”. It also included the Plaza of the States and the original version of the International Fountain.
  • Exhibit Fair was another shopping district.
  • Food and Favors, which ranged from vending machines and food stands to the Eye of the Needle (atop the Space Needle) and the private Century 21 Club.
  • Food Circus, which had 52 concessionaires in all, nine of them with exhibits in addition to their food for sale.
Gov. Albert D. Rosellini of Washington State gives New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, right, a briefing on the Seattle World’s Fair at a site model of the fair during the just concluded National Governor’s Conference in Hawaii. Rockefeller gave his strong support to the Seattle fair. seattlepi
Civic Leader Eddie Carlson, left, and Ewen Dingwall, Vice-President and Executive Director of the Century 21 Exposition, go over fair revenue projections. Carlson was the first President and Chairman of the Board of the Century 21 Exposition. seattlepi
Here, 21 21-year-old women pose for a publicity photo in front of the Coliseum construction on April 21, 1961. MOHAI photo
The first two of six supporting columns for the World’s Fair Space Needle are shown being connected to the needle’s center core, 100 feet from the base. The 50-ton legs are 90 feet long and are connected to the core by 30-foot crossbars. The Space Needle will rise 600 feet and will feature a revolving restaurant at the top. seatlepi
Scenes of last-minute construction of the Seattle World’s Fair, early 1962. seattlepi
Scenes of last-minute construction of the Seattle World’s Fair, early 1962. seattlepi
A worker completes finishing details on Gayway ride at the Seattle World’s Fair on April 18, 1962. Seattle Post-Intelligencer photo
International Fountain construction. April 23, 1962. seattlepi
World’s Fair construction, 1961. seattlepi
Elvis Presley came to Seattle in 1962 to star in “It Happened at the World’s Fair.” The P-I reported the New Washington Hotel was “under siege by an army of starry-eyed teenage girls.'” National critics said the flick was forgettable, but the title said it all about the 1962 fair. Ten million people did come. (This picture of Presley was from his Sept. 1, 1957, visit to Sicks’ Stadium in the Rainier Valley. MOHAI/Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection
Elvis Presley visited Seattle to make his 11th motion picture, “It Happened at the World’s Fair.” Colonel Tom Parker (second from right) accompanied him. At the Westlake Monorail station, Elvis posed with Governor Albert Rosellini (left) on September 5, 1962. The ham was reportedly from Presley’s Tennessee farm. Other individuals in the photo are Ted Richmond (second from left), the producer of the movie and Norman Taurog (right), the director. seattlepi
The color guard during World’s Fair opening ceremonies, April 21, 1962. seattlepi
Anne Merbury, a 21-year-old Californian woman, is tapped by Pinkerton guard C.E. Frazier as the millionth visitor to the Million Dollar exhibit at the Seattle World’s Fair. Merbury was given 100 silver dollars by Walter D. Behlen, the exhibit’s sponsor. June 12, 1962. seattlepi
World’s Fair President Joseph E. Gandy gives trade dollars to kids at the fair. seattlepi
Workmen complete work on the roof of the igloo-shaped Alaska exhibit building at the base of the Space Needle, 1962. seattlepi
The Space Needle had a post office, which was dedicated April 25, 1962, the day this photo was taken. searttlepi
Senator Warren G. Magnuson and Postmaster General of the United States J. Edward Day mailed the first letter from the Space Needle post office, April 25, 1962. The letter was to President John F. Kennedy, asking him to come to the World’s Fair. Kennedy was scheduled to visit later in 1962 but canceled saying he had a cold. It was later revealed he was dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis. seattlepi
The restaurant at the top of the Space Needle, April 3, 1962. seattlepi
Here, a helicopter buzzes past the needle in 1962. (Seattle Municipal Archives
The Space Needle was pained Galaxy Orange when it debuted in 1962. Seattle Municipal Archives
The Space Needle, early 1962. Note the flames coming from the antenna; the Needle was equipped with natural gas, which was burned at the top periodically for dramatic effect. seattlepi
The Pacific Science Center during the 1962 World’s Fair. Pacific Science Center
A 1962 Firestone illustration of the Seattle Monorail showing how the tires ride on the concrete tracks. seattlepi
Sen. Warren Magnuson speaks to the crowd gathered for the re-opening of the Pacific Science Center following the World’s Fair, Oct. 22, 1962. A model of the Mariner Space Craft is suspended above the podium. seattlepi
A vision of the future at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. seattlepi
A futuristic car at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. seattlepi
GM’s Firebird III. Wikipedia