Tag Archive | World’s Fair

Century 21 Exposition

April 21, 2020

… All Roads lead to Seattle

Century_21_Exposition_logo1The year was 1962. The space race was a real thing. And Americans everywhere were awed by the spectacle of extra-terrestrial travel to the moon and beyond.

And no event summed up America’s love affair with technology, space, and the future more than the Century 21 Exposition in Seattle which opened on April 21st.

The idea had been hatched seven years earlier. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The fair was originally conceived at a Washington Athletic Club luncheon in 1955 to 8130b5bdb8adfdbd937324996d49da37mark the 50th anniversary of the 1909 Alaska-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’.”

Science and technology became the primary focus of the fair. Companies from around the U.S. exhibited a variety of ‘future’ products with a push, particularly, focused on the home of the future. For 13 minutes of pure Seattleite amusement, you can take a trip back in time in this video from Bell Telephone touting how easy communication would one day be. Had they only known…


But it was the space race between the United States and the USSR which was the story which coalesced into my hubby’s family lore.

Gherman Titov was a Soviet cosmonaut and the second man to orbit the earth in outer space. Think of him as the Russian equivalent of John Glenn; a hero in his country. HistoryLink.org – a Washington State history site – chronicles that visit:

“May 5 was incredibly hectic at the Century 21 Exposition, thanks to a visit from Russian cosmonaut Major Gherman Titov, who attracted some of the largest crowds the fair had seen since its opening on April 21. At times, the diminutive 5-foot 4-inch Titov found it hard to see anything other than the Space Needle, as taller spectators gathered around him, hoping to glimpse or photograph one of the few men that had been in outer space. Scores of news reporters compounded the crush.


Gherman Titov with a few Camp Fire Girls who were there on May 5, 1962.

The Russian cosmonaut wasn’t the only one to gather crowds. More than 10,000 Camp Fire Girls were on hand to dedicate the World’s Fair flagpoles, funded by candy mint sales. An estimated 20,000 people — more than a quarter of the day’s total attendance of 75,758 — were there to take part in Camp Fire Girl celebrations. Because of the large crowds, Century 21 Exposition manager Ewen Dingwall (1913-1996) announced that starting May 12, the fair would open an hour earlier each day, at 9:00.

Throughout the day Titov signed autograph books and handed out color photos of himself, especially to children. At one point he handed his photo to a baby in a stroller.”

The baby in the stroller? My husband’s younger sister, Liz!

Back in the 1980’s – when I heard this story for the first time – I contacted the Seattle PI and was able to get a photo of Liz with the cosmonaut. We then framed it and gave that to her as a present. Unfortunately, the photo is stowed away in a box in the attic of the family home… and no one is brave enough to navigate the bat guano to go find it. I will be looking through my physical archives to see if I kept a copy.

In speaking with my Mother in Law, Jean, yesterday, she shared the following:

“We were there that day because I took our older daughter’s Campfire Group. We heard the Cosmonaut was on the grounds and we went out of our way to avoid all that, but ran right in to it. He bent down and talked to Liz who was in a stroller. She was little at that time (editor’s note – she was a few days shy of her first birthday). Normally, I would not take that many in a crowd – there were at least 10 Campfire Girls with us.”

My Mother in Law is looking to see if a copy of the newspaper article and photo might be in their file cabinet. Of course Liz remembers nothing of that day.

As I was putting together the story for this week’s blog, I was reminded of how there are days in our lives which become significant but we do not recognize it at the time. Family events like these highlight how crucial it is to stop and reflect on events which impact our lives.

I was six that year and I know that my family traveled to Seattle from Yakima for the event. But I cannot recall what we did or any specifics about it. I do know that the day it opened was my dad’s 39th birthday…now 58 years ago. Just last year on April 21st, all my siblings, their spouses, and two of my nieces, gathered together at the Adult Family Home where my dad had recently moved, to celebrate his 96th birthday. It was a lovely day and perfect weather.


My Dad’s 96th birthday, April 21, 2019, with his four children

Dad had told me that he didn’t want to celebrate his birthday. But my sister and I insisted and promised it would be ‘just’ family. We ignored his protests and proceeded anyway.


Dad (and my sister) with his last birthday cake

Dad rallied for the event and seemed to enjoy the cake, the cards, and a few small presents. Turns out that we were all glad we did. Six months and three days later he was gone.

Carpe Diem!



Salt and Pepper

I have a few items of memorabilia from the Century 21 Exposition. My most prized is a pair of aluminum salt and pepper shakers shaped like the Space Needle. The top of one is shown here.

Meet Me in St. Louis

Meet Me in St. Louis… Meet Me at the Fair

April 30, 2019

Festival Hall St. Louis.jpg

Festival Hall at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition

The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition – also known as the St. Louis World’s Fair – is considered by some to be the most significant world’s fair ever.  It was an exposition unlike any the world had ever seen and featured pavilions, gardens, electric light displays, and introduced a number of modern marvels. It opened April 30th and ran through December 1st that year; it drew just shy of 20 million people.

Fair goers marveled at communication wonders like the wireless telephone and also an early fax machine. The x-ray machine was introduced at the fair and two other life saving medical inventions were prominently featured: the Finsen light and Infant Incubators. In the world of transportation, air travel and electric streetcars were both highlighted, but it was the first showing of the personal automobile which created the most buzz.

Yet there was one innovation which, more than any others, captured the imagination of a nation and was destined to be steeped in controversy and take on the qualities of an urban legend. The invention: the ice cream cone.

According to the Infallible Wikipedia, here’s the story:

“Edible cones were patented by two entrepreneurs, both Italian, separately in the years 1902 and 1903. Antonio Valvona, an ice cream merchant from Manchester, UK, patented a biscuit cup producing machine in 1902, and in 1903, Italo Marchioni, an italian ice cream salesman, filed for the patent of a machine which made ice cream containers.

Ice_cream___2A.jpgAt the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, a Syrian/Lebanese concessionaire named Arnold Fornachou was running an ice cream booth. When he ran short on paper cups, he noticed he was next to a waffle vendor by the name of Ernest Hamwi, who sold Fornachou some of his waffles. Fornachou rolled the waffles into cones to hold the ice cream – and this is believed by some (although there is much dispute) to be the moment where ice-cream cones became mainstream.

Abe Doumar and the Doumar family can also claim credit for the ice cream cone. At the age of 16, Doumar began to sell paperweights and other items. One night, he bought a waffle from another vendor transplanted to Norfolk, Virginia from Ghent in Belgium, Leonidas Kestekidès. Doumar proceeded to roll up the waffle and place a scoop of ice cream on top. He then began selling the cones at the St. Louis Exposition. His “cones” were such a success that he designed a four-iron baking machine and had a foundry make it for him. At the Jamestown Exposition in 1907, he and his brothers sold nearly twenty-three thousand cones. After that, Abe bought a semiautomatic 36-iron machine, which produced 20 cones per minute and opened Doumar’s Drive In in Norfolk, Virginia, which still operates at the same location over 100 years later.

While the Ice Cream cone does not appear to have been ‘invented’ at the fair, it certainly gained a foothold in popular culture. With the advent of electricity, ice cream – once a delicacy only for the wealthy – became a mainstay for the average person; an affordable treat during a Saturday outing.

Over the years, of course, refrigeration – one of the top 3 inventions ever (the other two are electricity and flushing toilets) in my opinion – made it possible for people to have ice cream stored in their freezer at home. The ability to buy the ice cream and commercially made cones at the local grocer completed the deal.

Personally, I love ice cream cones. I will always choose to have my ice cream in a cone if one is available. As a child I recall that my mother used to purchase the cake style cones and we usually had a choice between vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream.

waflet conesThen, probably in the early 1970’s, my mother came home from the store one day with colored cake cones. In addition to the boring beige, there were the exciting colors of green, pink, and brown. But even more exciting was the ice cream. It was called chocolate marble and it was an instant favorite. Swirled into the vanilla were ribbons of chocolaty fudge. Now that was an ice cream cone.

Over the years I’ve tried various flavors when at an ice cream shop: Blueberry, Huckleberry, Strawberry cheesecake to name a few… and those are all delicious. But nothing can ever beat a Vanilla chocolate swirl waffle cone. It’s the best.

The links for today: