The Century 21 Exposition: Fascinating Historical Photos from the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair

In 1962, the Century 21 Exposition – also known as the Seattle World’s Fair – was held in Seattle and drew almost 10 million visitors. This fair was the brainchild of Seattle City Councilman Al Rochester and was a defining moment in Seattle’s history. After generating positive interest from state and city decision-makers in 1955, the councilman obtained $5,000 to form a commission to research the feasibility of holding such an exposition in Washington. The project gained further momentum in 1957 when Seattle voters approved a $7.5 million fairground bond, which was subsequently matched by the state legislature.

A World’s Fair certification was granted to Century 21 by the International Bureau of Expositions in 1960 following considerable lobbying by the Century 21 Commission. Fair representatives needed international confirmation among various funders and exhibit-builders they sought to attract. Several American business giants, including Ford Motor Company, Boeing, and Bell Telephone, promoted exhibits in the market section of the Exposition because of the potential publicity they could deliver from the millions of fair-goers expected to attend.

A lavish opening ceremony was held on April 21, 1962, to celebrate the doors opening to the public. President Joseph Gandy opened Century 21 for business with 538 clanging bells, 2000 balloons, and 10 F-102 fighters swooping overhead. The following six months would feature various musical acts, orchestras, dance groups, art collections, singers, comics, and other shows touring the area during the fair. Elvis Presley, known as ‘King of Rock and Roll,’ arrived to shoot a film, It Happened at the World’s Fair, adding to the star-studded atmosphere. Several celebrities attended the Exposition as tourists, including Vice President Lyndon Johnson, Walt Disney, and Prince Phillip of Great Britain. According to official reports, the fair saw a total of 9,609,969 visitors by its closing day on October 21.

Below are some historical photos by  Cardboard America Archives from the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair

#3 A sailor walks by as a man on crutches enters the Pavilion of Electric Power at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair

#14 The fairgrounds at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. The building on the left in the very front is the Christian Pavilion

#15 The interior of Washington State Coliseum (now known as Key Arena) during the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair

#20 Tourists wander the grounds of the Century 21 Exposition at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, Washington

Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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