From the history of world EXPO: Seattle -1962
February 04. Kazpravda
By foreign media
The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, otherwise known as Century 21, gave visitors a glimpse of the future and left Seattle with a lasting legacy. The exposition gave Seattle world-wide recognition, effectively “putting it on the map.” Years of planning went into the fair through the hard work of visionaries, go-getters, civic boosters, and dreamers. Many of the concepts and icons of Century 21 remain ingrained in Seattle culture, even as the “real” 21st Century begins.
The fair was originally conceived in 1955 to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1909 Alasks-Yukon Pacific Exposition, but it soon became clear that that date was too ambitious. With the Space Race underway and Boeing having “put Seattle on the map” as “an aerospace city”, a major theme of the fair was to show that “the United States was not really ‘behind’ the Soviet Union in the realms of science and space”. As a result, the themes of space, science, and the future completely trumped the earlier conception of a “Festival of the American West”.
In June 1960, the International Bureau of Expositions certified Century 21 as a World’s Fair. Project manager Ewen Dingwall went to Moscow to request Soviet participation, but was turned down. The Baltic states (then occupied by the Soviet Union) were not invited, nor was the mainland People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, nor North Korea.
As it happened, the Cold War had an additional effect on the fair. President John Kennedy was supposed to attend the closing ceremony of the fair on October 21, 1962. He bowed out, pleading a “heavy cold”; it later became public that he was dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The fair’s vision of the future displayed a technologically-based optimism that did not anticipate any dramatic social change, one rooted in the 1950s rather than in the cultural tides that would emerge in the 1960s. Affluence, automation, consumerism, and American power would grow; social equity would simply take care of itself on a rising tide of abundance; the human race would master nature through technology rather than view it in terms of ecology. In contrast, 12 years later-even in far more conservative Spokane, Washington Expo-74 took environmentalism as its central theme.
The ground of the fair was divided into twelve sectors. The 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.
The United States Science Exhibit began with Charles Eames’ 10-minute short film The House of Science, followed by an exhibit on the development of science, ranging from mathematics and astronomy to atomic science and genetics. The Spacearium held up to 750 people at a time for a simulated voyage first through the Solar System and then through the Milky Way Galaxy and beyond. Further exhibits presented the scientific method and the “horizons of science”. This last looked at “Science and the individual”,”Control of man’s physical surroundings”, “Science and the problem of world population” and “Man’s concept of his place in an increasingly technological world”.
The Washington State Coliseum, financed by the state of Washington, was one of Thiry’s own architectural contributions to the fairgrounds. His original conception had been staging the entire fair under a single giant air-conditioned tent-like structure, “a city of its own”, but there were neither the budgets nor the tight agreements on concept to realize that vision. In the end, he got exactly enough of a budget to design and build a four-hundred-foot-square building suitable to hold a variety of exhibition spaces and equally suitable for later conversion to a sports arena and convention facility.
During the festival, the building hosted several exhibits. Nearly half of its surface area was occupied by the state’s own circular exhibit “Century 21-The Threshold and the Threat”, also known as the “World of Tomorrow” exhibit, billed as a “21-minute tour of the future”. The building also housed exhibits by France, Pan American World Railways, General Motors, the American Library Association and a Washington state tourist center.
In “The Threshold and the Threat”, visitors rode a “Bubbleator” into the “world of tomorrow”. Music “from another world” and a shifting pattern of lights accompanied them on a 40-second upward journey to a starry space bathed in golden light. Then they were faced briefly with an image of a desperate family in a fallout shelter, which vanished and was replaced by a series of images reflecting the sweep of history, starting with the Acropolis and ending with an image of Marilyn Monroe (but, again, including a mushroom cloud).
The exhibit continued with a vision 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.
The World of Commerce and Industry was divided into domestic and foreign areas. The former was sited mainly south of American Way (the continuation of Thomas Street through the grounds), an area it shared with the World of Science. It included the Space Needle and what is now the Broad Street Green and Mural Amphitheater. The Hall of Industry and some smaller buildings were immediately north of American Way. The latter included 15 governmental exhibitors and surrounded the World of Tomorrow and extended to the north edge of the fair.
Among the features of Domestic Commerce and Industry, the massive Interiors, Fashion, and Commerce Building spread for 500 feet (150 m)-nearly the entire Broad Street side of the grounds-with exhibits ranging from 32 separate furniture companies to the Encyclopedia 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”. The Forest Products Pavilion was surrounded by a grove of trees of various species, and included an all-wood theater. Standard Oil of California celebrated, among other things, the fact that the world’s first service station opened in Seattle in 1907. The fair’s Bell Telephone was featured in a short film called “Century 21 Calling…”, which was later shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Foreign exhibits included a science and technology exhibit by Great Britain, while Mexico and Peru focused on handicrafts, and Japan and India attempted to show both of these sides of their national cultures. The Taiwan and South Korea pavilions showed their rapid industrialization to the world and the benefits of capitalism over communism during the time of cold war era. Other pavilions included one featuring Brazilian tea and coffee; a European Communities Pavilion from the then six countries of the European Economic Community; and a joint pavilion by those countries of Africa that had by then achieved independence. Sweden’s exhibit included the story of the salvaging of a 17th-century man-of war from Stockholm harbor, and San Marino’s exhibit featured its postage stamps and pottery. Near the center of this was the DuPen Fountain featuring three sculptures by Seattle artist Everett DuPen.