Opening Day

Fifty-five years ago today the Seattle World’s Fair opened. It was the first World’s Fair held in the U.S. since 1939, and only the third fair held after the end of World War II.

Seattle Councilman Al Rochester first proposed the idea for a Seattle World’s Fair in the early 50s. By January 1955, so much interest had been generated that the state legislature rounded up $5,000 for a group to study a fair’s feasibility. Smart advertising caused public interest to explode, and in 1957 Seattle voters passed a $7.5 million bond for the development of a Civic Center/fairground.

The goal was to host a fair in 1959 in honor of the 50 year anniversary of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Expo, a fair hosted at the University of Washington to celebrate the first shipment of Klondike Gold Rush gold through Seattle. When it became apparent that the 1959 deadline was too ambitious, the fair was pushed back to 1962.

In addition to the funding from the citizens from Seattle and the state legislature, the federal government, local businesses, and civic boosters helped to fund the fair.

To commemorate the 55th anniversary of opening day, I have an envelope to share with you. Scroll down to check out what’s inside.

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Four cents to ship a spoon First Class!

This packet, which contains two pieces of paper and a souvenir spoon, appears to have been sent to fair boosters as a thank-you gift.

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The pink sheet reads as follows:

“Dear World’s Fair Booster… As a BONUS for your patience and public spirit, we are making available additional World’s Fair Souvenir Spoons at a cost of fifty cents (50c) per spoon. We now have a sufficient supply to make possible IMMEDIATE DELIVERY…on ANY NUMBER you order…IF YOU ORDER WITHIN THE NEXT THIRTY DAYS! This offer also includes World’s Fair literature and each spoon will be individually packaged. Have them sent to yourself or your friends. Send to: “Invitation Spoons” PO Box 919 Seattle 11, Washington”

The price of 50 cents is equivalent to about $4 today. As for the address “Seattle 11, Washington”, it made use of the postal district/zone numbers introduced in 1943. Zip codes were not introduced until 1963.

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This second sheet is basically an advertisement, enticing the booster to attend the fair he/she helped make possible. Interestingly, it focuses on attractions that are now Seattle Center landmarks: The Science Pavilion (now Pacific Science Center); the Coliseum Century (now Key Arena); and Seattle’s most famous landmark, the Space Needle. The Monorail gets special attention, as does “The World of Entertainment”, which included Gracie Hansen’s “Paradise International.” The building that housed Gracie’s show is now a multipurpose building in Ravensdale, Washington.

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On the flip-side of the advertising letter are paintings of what was to come. Check out the one of the monorail. It doesn’t look much like what Alweg actually built.

The metal spoon features an Space Needle-styled handle adorned with the words “Seattle World’s Fair ’62.” The spoon itself is engraved with the official ’62 World’s Fair logo.

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A Charming New Year

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful end of 2016 and a great start in 2017! To kick off the year on the blog, I thought I’d share one of my Christmas gifts with you:

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I’ve seen many variations of these charm bracelets online, featuring different varieties and styles of charms. Mine features six distinct charms–The 1962 World’s Fair logo, Chief Seattle, a dugout canoe, an airplane, the Monorail, and the Space Needle– but other bracelets include totem poles, a ferry boat, The Science Pavilion, The Coliseum, a salmon, and a Washington State logo. Seattle World’s Fair bracelets exist in both gold and silver and range in quality from inexpensive to high-end.Some of the charms featured tiny gems and colored enamel (including a Galaxy Gold Space Needle charm!)

 Although versions of completed bracelets exist still attached to their original cards, I believe charms could also be bought separately, allowing visitors to augment existing bracelets or start from scratch.

Many World’s Fair souvenirs commemorate only the fair itself, but these bracelets also nod to Seattle’s character, history, and economy.

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Century 21 Logo: This blue enamel charm features the official logo of the 1962 World’s Fair. Running from April 21 to October 21, the fair’s official name was “Century 21 Exposition”, and its theme was science and how it would change life in the next century.

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Chief Seattle: Although not in his exact likeness, this charm represents Seattle’s namesake. Chief Seattle, also known at Chief Sealth, was a member of the Suquamish Tribe who lived near the shores of Elliott Bay. When members of the Boren-Denny party arrived to scope out the area, Chief Seattle welcomed them and sent men to show them around. He is well-known for his welcoming attitude toward white settlers and for his speeches, which are oftentimes regarded as pro-environment and pro-Indigenous rights. He was christened Noah when he was baptized into the Catholic church.

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Dugout Canoe: The indigenous Washingtonians enjoyed the bounty of salmon, shellfish, and cedar trees available in their land. They used cedars to build longhouses and canoes. The dugout canoes produced by the Suquamish people were prized for hunting and transport and traded all along the West Coast.

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Boeing: This Boeing jet (a 707?)  looks ready for takeoff! From mail carriers to bombers to commercial airline jets,  Boeing has been filling the sky with an assortment of aircraft for 100 years. By the time of the fair, Boeing was actively involved in the Space Race and employed thousands in Washington and Alabama. Although Boeing’s president hated fairs, the company’s Spacearium was a popular attraction at Century 21.

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Alweg Monorail: Known simply as “The Monorail”, this futuristic train was built in Germany by Alweg. While officials briefly considered using the monorail to link Seattle with Sea Tac Airport, its red and blue trains linked the fair to downtown. Alweg won the bid for the train when they offered to underwrite the costs of construction, but within six months, over 8 million riders had generated much more than the 3.5 million construction costs. Following the end of the fair, Century 21 Corporation gained ownership for free. They sold it to the City of Seattle for $600, 000 in 1965.

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The Space Needle: What part of the fair is more iconic than the Space Needle? Built in a mere 400 days, this 605-foot tall structure offered panoramic views of Seattle and fine dining among the clouds. Along with the Monorail, it opened in March 1962, almost a full month before the opening of the fair.

Farewell to the Fair

53 years ago today was the last day of Century 21, the fair that brought the world to Seattle. While people were discovering Belgian waffles, witnessing technological wonders in the GE Pavilion, and riding the Bubbleator, towering above it all was a 605-foot wonder, built in a mere 400 days.

The Space Needle.

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The Space Needle with the fair and Seattle in the background.

Architect John Graham, architect responsible for the trailblazing Northgate Mall, created the final designs for the Space Needle. Steel parts for the Needle were produced off-site, and the foundation was laid in May 1961. Construction continued steadily through the year, and the Space Needle opened to the public in March 1962, almost a month before the fair opened on April 21st.

This postcard, purchased at the fair, shows the helicopter that fair visitors could take for an outside view of the Needle and the fair. Here, the Needle shows off its original colors: Galaxy Gold for the top, Re-entry Red for the halo, Astronaut White for the legs, and Orbital Olive for the core. It was repainted in its famous gold and white color scheme in 1968.

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Space Needle, Seattle, U.S.A.