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The Worlds Fair and Exposition
Information and Reference Guide

1962 Seattle Worlds Fair




  • Over 114 facts and trivia nuggets with 18 links to more resources.

  • The World's Fair and Exposition Information and Reference Guide is now on CD.
    11,216 facts and 1,362 web links covering 24 World's Fairs and Expositions.
    Further information can be found here.

  • To Convert Dollar Amounts to the Year 2003: divide the amount by .182 



The following are on the CD

High Resolution Images (11)
 Timeline 1962 (41)





  • Dates: April 21 - October 21, 1962.

  • Theme: Century 21.

  • Symbol: Man in Space and Space Needle.

  • Total Area: 30 hectares (74 acres).

  • Cost: $47,000,000.

  • Net Profit: $100,000.

  • Nations Represented: 23+.

  • Attendance: 9,639,969.

  • Parking: $1 a day

  • Admission: $2 for adults, $1 for children. Season tickets were $50 each.

  • Hours: 10AM to 10PM for exhibits. 10AM to 1AM for Gayway and Show Street

  • Type of Exposition: Category 2. 

  • A Category 2 exposition has no national pavilions, the ground's do not have to be leveled after completion and exhibit facilities are provide by the hosts or sponsors.

  • Overall, there were 5 main theme areas or "Worlds": World of Art, World of Century 21, World of Commerce, World of Entertainment, and World of Science. 

  • Opened on April 21, 1962 by John F Kennedy who was on vacation in Florida. He did it by wire using the same "nugget encrusted" telegraph key which William Taft used to open the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Expo in 1909. Whereas Taft sent a "pulse" to Seattle, John F Kennedy's touch sent a signal to a computer in Andover, Massachusetts that focused a telescope on the star Cassiopeia A. Which picked up a radio signal and sent it to Seattle.

  • Cassiopeia A is 60,000,000,000,000,000 miles form earth and it takes 10,000 years for a signal to reach earth.

  • The symbol that resembles the sign for mars with a globe and Century 21 in lettering is called the "Man in Space" emblem and was originally designed as a letterhead. It was registered as an official trademark and brought in an estimated 4 million dollars in revenue.  The fairgrounds Post Office used a modified version for cancellations.

  • The Fair was originally planned for two years - 1961 and 1962.

  • The Seattle Worlds Fair was also known as the Century 21 Exposition.


Facts and Trivia 



  • This was the first federally subsidized International Exposition since the 1939 World Fair's in New York and California.

  • It was the First World's Fair to be financially successful in it's first season.

  • The State of Washington's World's Fair Committee first met in August, 1955. Six people in a small converted closet.

  • Some of the proposed sites for the exposition was a garbage dump on the University of Washington campus and the creation of a 105 acre man-made island in Lake Union.

  • In 1961, State Senator Reuben Knoblauch complained that too much space and emphasis had been placed on the Art Exhibit and not enough on "skin shows" that would attract more people. State Representative Len Sawyer added that " a cadaver at a medical exhibit in Canada was drawing more attention than an Art Exhibit". A Show Street featuring Sally Rand and Little Egypt, and a Midway were added.

  • Ironically, Whistler's Mother did draw a bigger crowd than the strip show on show street.

  • Most Exhibitors or sponsors were so leery of the Fair and it's success that they waited until the last minute to take advantage of the 'low rent' space. And in the beginning, large crowds that were anticipated did not show up.

  • Due to the 1962 Seattle Fair being officially sanctioned, the 1964 New York Worlds Fair would not be officially recognized. 

  • One of the reasons for Dwight D Eisenhower approving $12,500,000 in appropriations was that international exhibits would rent office space instead of constructing new buildings. This was to prevent an unregulated competition between nations like that at the 1958 Brussels International Exposition. 

  • President Eisenhower sent out invitations to 84 foreign nations before money was federally approved. And invitations listed the official theme as "World Science-Pan Pacific Exposition (Century 21 Exposition)". 

  • Even with federal funding, it was the underwriting by local business men that brought the Fair to fruition ... and at 6% interest to those who advanced money. 40 cents out of every general admission ticket was set aside to amortize the underwriting. 

  • In additional to the 40 cent amortization, another 20 cents of every general admission ticket was set aside to amortize site development costs. That's a total 60 cents of every ticket sold to benefit the two trusts. 

  • One of the Fairs Presidents, Jim Gandy, was a Ford car salesman. 

  • Jim Gandy attempted to acquire the WWII era ship Liberte as a floating hotel. Liberte was the French name for the captured German ship Europa, which was slated for the scrap pile. The resultant publicity was a public relations windfall, however negotiations broke down and the ship was sold for scrap. 

  • Peru and Argentina signed up for the Fair but their presidents were replaced before Jim Gandy returned to Seattle. 

  • While negotiating in Venezuela, Jim Gandy and the finance minister were interrupted twice by gunfire. Venezuela concluded "that conditions were too unsettled to warrant spending time and money in Seattle". 

  • Jim Gandy was the last American to talk with Brazilian President Janos Quadros. He resigned unexpectedly after agreeing that Brazil should be represented at the Fair. Gandy had to return later to renegotiate with the new president. 

  • Whistlers Mother was big at the Arts Exhibition, and living Pacific Northwest (local) artists and sculptors were added late into the Fair to boost sales. 

  • The "nugget encrusted" telegraph key that was used by John F Kennedy and William Taft was also used by 6 other Presidents on ceremonious occasions. 

  • President Kennedy visited the Fair only once ... during it's construction. A visit scheduled for later in the season was cancelled because of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

  • Celebrities and famous visitors included: Astronaut John Glenn, Russian Cosmonaut Gherman Titov, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II, Adalai Stevenson and Elvis Presley.

  • General Motors displayed the futuristic Firebird III. It had a gas turbine engine and a control stick above the center arm rest for steering, moving forward and braking.

  • Among the "unusual" product ideas in the General Electric Pavilion: color projection TV, movies that can be shown after they are taken and the home computer.

  • One display in the IBM Pavilion describes how "an orbiting astronomical observatory will search out knowledge about the universe and spaceships will be flown theoretically before they are built with the aid of computers". You could also 'type' a postcard using the new IBM selectric typewriter.

  • The IBM Pavilion, Bell Systems Pavilion, Douglas Fir Plywood Association's Home of the Future and the Electric Utilities displays drew over 3,000,000 visitors each.

  • One of the most popular activities at the Fair was people watching. And the Fair attracted bigger crowds on cloudy and overcast days than sunny ones.

  • The four cent stamp featuring the Space Needle and Monorail was unusual because US postal regulations forbid the use of stamps to advertise products. Both were privately owned.

  • The smallest European exhibit was from San Marino. They displayed their only products, postage stamps and pottery ... in a 1,444 square foot area.

  • The largest European exhibit was from France. It occupied an area of 15,200 square feet. They were also the only exhibitor to suggest that the future will generate a variety of human problems along with scientific advancements.

  • The publicity department recorded 876 magazine articles about the Fair.



  • Advanced ticket sales topped 4 million.

  • The United States was not a signer of the original 1928 treaty creating the Bureau of International Expositions. And still wasn't when it sought sanctioning for the Fair. 

  • A fashion show was presented in the Interiors, Fashion and Commerce Pavilion 4 times a day. It was staged around "a 24 by 40 foot pool of perfume".

  • 98.4% of attendees interviewed had favorable opinions about the Fair.

  • It was one of the smallest expositions of the 20th century. The smallest being the 1951 Festival of Britain ... held on a mere 28 acres of land.

  • One of the few failures of the Exposition was the quarter million dollar Interbay parking lot. It received less than a dozen cars and had buses running on ten minute schedules.

  • The New York Worlds Fair had an exhibit in the Interiors, Fashion and Commerce Pavilion.

  • A simulated space journey was the highlight of the Ford Pavilion.

  • The Washington State Coliseum cost $4.5 million and was in the shape of a "hyperbolic paraboloid" with no interior roof supports. It was 11 stories high and covered 4 square city blocks. After the Fair it became the Seattle Civic Center.

  • The Standard Oil Pavilion displayed a replica of the worlds first gas station (Seattle, 1907).

  • You could join the Century 21 Club. Only $250 for the 6 month duration.

  • A Univac computer was displayed in the American Library Association Exhibit.

  • The Horiuchi Mural was an enormous 60 by 70 foot ceramic outdoor display.

  • Among the exhibits in the Bell System Pavilion: a demonstration showing how satellites will be used for telephone service, how push button telephones may replace rotary dial phones, direct distance dialing, and how solar batteries will power space satellites.

  • Ninety-one gas distributors sponsored the American Gas Association Pavilion.

  • The exterior of Nalley's Pavilion was constructed without a straight line or sharp angle.

  • The Bekins Company exhibit (Hall of Industry) demonstrated moving day in the year 2000.

  • The United Airlines exhibit (Hall of Industry) displayed an electronic reservation machine.

  • The Northwest Airlines exhibit featured the new Boeing 720B aircraft.

  • ElectriCabs gave 15 minute guided tours of the Fair grounds for 75¢ a person.

  • Over 60 museums contributed 72 works that were displayed in the Masters of Art exhibit in the Fine Arts Pavilion. The exhibit featured works from: Michelangelo, Renoir, Cézanne, Rembrandt, Guardi, Fragonard, Monet, Homer, and Van Dyke.

  • Entertainment in the Performing Arts Pavilion featured: Igor Stravinsky, Edwin R Morrow,  Ed Sullivan TV Show, Victor Borge, Billy Graham, Hal Holbrook, Roy Rogers, Shriner's Circus, Liberace, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Bill Cosby, Ringling Brothers Circus, Shipstads and Johnson Ice Follies, Lawrence Welk, Helen Reddy, The Carpenters, Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and the Benny Goodman Orchestra.

  • The World of Entertainment Section contained: a 3,100 seat Opera House, a 5,500 seat Arena, an 800 seat Playhouse and a 12,000 seat Stadium.

  • The Japanese Village contained 1000 hand-made Dolls and miniature reproductions of 24 Japanese Shrines. It supposedly took 54 men 24 years to produce everything at a cost of $2.5 million.

  • The Gayway cost $2 million to build and had 20 rides that ranged in price from 25¢ to 50¢. The Skyride, which began in the amusement zone, ended in the International Mall on the other side of the park. Each car had a capacity of three people and the cable ride was 1,400 feet long.

  • The official telephone number on the fairgrounds was: CEntury 5-2121.

  • Jim Gandy closed the Fair with a bang of the gavel.

  • Seattle retained several buildings after the Fair: the Civic Center, Opera House, and Science Museum. The Space Needle and Monorail are privately owned.

  • Only one other World's Fair had repaid it's debenture holders the full amount of their subscriptions ... the 1909 Alaskan-Yukon-Pacific.


US Science Pavilion 



  • The US Science Pavilion covered 6 acres and contained 6 major sections.

  • The six major areas are: The House of Science, The Development of Science, The Spacearium, The Methods of Science, The Horizons of Science and Doing Science.

  • Doing Science was a small area of the Pavilion that contained a junior-sized laboratory and was restricted to children under the age of 14.

  • One of the ideas for a scientific exhibit in the US Pavilion was "a building size model of a cancer cell in which spectators could roam" ... it was never built.

  • A projector in the US Pavilion had the worlds largest wide angle lens.

  • The Science Pavilion was one of the most popular attractions. Mainly spurred by the launching of Sputnik I and II years earlier. Two out of three people at the Seattle's World's Fair visited the US Science Pavilion, which ironically was projected to be one of the least visited. That's 6.7 million visitors.


Space Needle 



  • The Space needle was based on a TV tower in Stuttgart, Germany. The Tower featured a restaurant at the top with a view of the city. Not only did people have to pay for dinner, but they had to pay for the elevator ride.

  • One of the proposed sites for the Space Needle was the old Nile Temple. The Masons agreed to sell it for half a million dollars, but engineers discovered a large storm drain underneath and cancelled plans.

  • The Space Needle was built on a plot of land that once housed a fire station.

  • Ground breaking was one year and four days before opening day.

  • The Space Needle is 606 feet tall and is supported by 3 curved steel legs 500 feet in length.

  • The United States Steel Company supplied the 90 foot long beams for the Space Needle. The beams weighed 90,000 pounds each and were originally cast straight and then bent to specifications.

  • Excavation went 30 feet deep and was laced with 250 tons of reinforcing rods and 72 steel anchor bolts. The bolts were 4 inches thick and over 31 feet in length.

  • It took twelve hours to dump 2,800 cubic yards of concrete. That's 470 continuous dump truck loads.

  • The tower weighs over 3,500 tons with the center of gravity below ground.

  • Once out of reach from ground based cranes, a temporary crane was put in the 11 foot wide interior which lifted itself up as building progressed. When finished, it was taken down in pieces on the outside.

  • Contrary to popular belief, the entire restaurant did not rotate. The only part that actually rotates is a 14 foot diameter ring (turntable) next to the windows, the inside 66 1/2 feet of the structure is stationary.

  • The "turntable" weighs 90 tons when loaded and is so balanced that a man can start it spinning with his hand. It is powered by a one horsepower motor with 18,850 pounds of force. In 1962, it cost 2 1/2 cents an hour to operate.

  • Since the kitchen is stationary with the dining room spinning, a clock device was installed in the kitchen to mark locations for the waitresses.

  • The admission charge to the observation deck was $1 and an average lunch was $5.

  • Besides two elevators (walled in clear plastic), there's also two sets of zig-zagging stairways. Each stairway had 832 steps.

  • The Eye of the Needle restaurant can accommodate 260 diners and rotates 360 degrees every 60 minutes.

  • The strange looking Space Needle was the center of many a satirical cartoon. Especially from New Yorkers.





  • Both Boeing and Lockheed turned down requests to build the monorail.

  • Wegematic Corporation owns the patent rights for the Swedish designed Alweg Monorail.

  • The Monorail was 1.9 kilometers long (1.2 miles) and moved passengers between downtown Seattle and the World's Fair site in 94 seconds. 

  • Tickets fares were: 50¢ one-way, 75¢ round-trip for adults. And 35¢ one-way, 50¢ round-trip for children.

  • There were two high speed monorail trains, each 120 feet in length and 10 feet wide.

  • The cars were made from a light metal alloy in West Germany and weighed 20,000 pounds empty.

  • Each train had four cars and could transport 125 seated passengers or up to 450 passengers sardine-style.

  • Each car rides on top of the concrete tracks on 8 rubber tires. With another 32 horizontally placed rubber tires on the outside of the track for balance.

  • The mono-rail is supported by 54 ton, T-shaped cast concrete pylons every 60 to 85 feet.

  • The "pre-stressed" concrete rails are 3 feet wide and 5 feet deep. The rails were made by Concrete Technologies Inc of Tacoma and varied in length from 76 to 90 feet and weighed between 47 to 60 tons each.

  • More than 15,000 tons of steel were used in it's construction.

  • The trains were powered by 32 volt, 6,500 rpm GE electric engines capable of 70 mph speeds on the straightaway.

  • The Monorail received more attention abroad than the Space Needle.


Links, Online Resources 



Books, Sources, Resources 


  • Art Since 1950. Seattle World's Fair 1962. Joh. Enschede en Zonen, Haarlem. Netherlands.

  • Century 21, The Story of the Seattle World's Fair, 1962 by Murray Morgan. Acme Press. 1963.

  • Northwest Coast Indian Art. Seattle World's Fair, 1962. Erna Gunther. Century 21 Exposition, Inc. 1962.

  • Official Guide Book, Seattle World's Fair 1962. Acme Publications. 1962.

  • Official Guide to the Pacific Northwest and Century 21 Exposition. Lane Book Company, Menlo Park, California. Sunset Discovery Book. 1961.



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