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Copyright: Parkhurst, 1959

The Century 21 Exposition in Seattle was partly a reaction to the Sputnik shock. A few days after the Soviets sent their first satellite into space in 1957, scientists of the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defence met to discuss countermeasures for the States’ loss of prestige. A world exhibition seemed exactly right to demonstrate industrial and scientific achievements to the whole world.

In Seattle, city planners had been trying to obtain funding for a cultural centre; additionally an international exhibition on the occasion of the 50. anniversary of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 1909 was to be organised. The projects in Seattle and New York were combined. At the end of 1956 a corporation organising the world exposition started working and developed a concept for the Century 21 Exposition. The American Congress approved the plan in July 1959 and President Eisenhower invited the nations of the world.

In September, the government made available 9 million dollars for the Theme exhibition “World of Science” and another 3.5 million dollars for the pavilion of American science. 4.5 million dollars were raised with bonds and guarantee funds. The City of Seattle and the state Washington contributed for longer-term investment projects 15 million dollars all in all. The sale of advance entry tickets raised another 8 million dollars. With this amount of money the Century 21 Exposition had a financially sound basis. (The American government stipulated though that not only technological achievements were to be shown but also the contribution of science towards progress and peace was to be demonstrated.) To comply with B.I.E. regulations the exhibition, planned for 1961 and 1962, was limited to the year 1962.

Robert Moses, responsible for the 1964/65 New York exhibition, insisted on a second season. The B.I.E. refused registration on the grounds that a second season was contradictory to international regulations – and at any rate, according to the rules, two world exhibitions were not permissible so shortly one after the other in one country. While most European countries sent their exhibits rather to Seattle, the Asian threshold countries went to New York and some African nations jointly presented themselves in pavilions.

The World Exposition of 1964/65 was a modern copy of the 1939 Fair: It took place on the same site, Flushing Meadows in the city district Queens and was as commercially orientated as its precursor. A theme for the exhibition was not developed. Neither the occasion – the 300. anniversary of New York’s foundation – nor the motto ‘Peace through Understanding’ were expanded with exhibits or theme shows. Just the technological progress was to attract the masses: Moses and his team counted on 73 million visitors. Only just a little more than 50 million came. They turned the non-registered exposition into a big show but not a profitable one. Eleven exhibitors went bankrupt during the World’s Fair, so the organisers had to lay down their own money to keep the pavilions open. It was taken amiss that project money went to subcontractors without tenders and that participants had to pay exorbitant prices for services like insurance, transport and trash collection. The World’s Fair had a bad press throughout, not even a costly PR campaign of the participating companies with the motto “Come to the Fair” could improve on the negative image.

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The Seattle World Exposition 1962 and the New York World Exposition 1964
Sputnik Shock and a Modern Copy
Year: 1962City: SeattleCountry: USA
Duration: 21th April - 21th October 1962



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