The Quick 10: 10 World's Fairs
Forty-seven years ago today, the Century 21 Exposition opened its doors to the public. You're probably saying, "The what?" I would be, anyway, if I hadn't researched this - the Century 21 Exposition was also known as the Seattle World's Fair. So, in honor of the historic event that gave us the Space Needle, we're going to check out 10 notable World's Fairs today.
1. The 1962 Seattle World's Fair is why the Space Needle was built, obviously, but it's also notable for another reason "“ it's where the Elvis flick It Happened at the World's Fair was filmed and marked the screen debut of Kurt Russell. The Seattle Center Monorail was also created just for the Century 21 Exposition.
2. The 1964 World's Fair in New York was where Walt Disney tested his latest creation out on the public "“ a little boat ride filled with animatronic dolls singing in various languages. I bet you know what I'm talking about, but I'll refrain from mentioning it by name lest you get the infernal tune stuck in your head for the rest of the day. But that's not all "“ this was also the Fair with "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," which featured a speech-giving Honest Abe so real you'd almost swear it was him. A version of the attraction popped up at Disneyland and has been there in some form or another ever since. Well, almost ever since. It has been replaced a time or two with different attractions such as "The Walt Disney Story," but the public rallied to get Mr. Lincoln back and Disney listened. Abe is on vacation right now, letting "Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years" lease out his Disneyland condo, but he'll be back in September of this year.
3. The Panama-Pacific International Exposition was held in San Francisco in 1915. There were a couple of reasons to celebrate: the Panama Canal had recently been completed, but the city had been devastated by an earthquake nine years earlier and wanted to show how it had successfully rebounded. Exhibits included a telephone line that went from New York to San Francisco so people on the east coast could hear the Pacific Ocean. And the Liberty Bell was packed up from its resting place in Pennsylvania and shipped over to California just to make a special guest appearance at the International Exposition. It was sent back to Philly afterward and hasn't budged since. Like Seattle, this Fair was also the subject of a film: Mabel and Fatty Viewing the World's Fair at San Francisco. It starred Mabel Normand and Fatty Arbuckle seeing the sights and clowning around.
4. The Pan-American Exposition of 1901 in Buffalo, N.Y., was notable for not for its amazing inventions and innovations, but because it was the site of the shooting of President William McKinley. Leon Czolgosz met McKinley in the Temple of Music (pictured), where the President was shaking hands with the public. An X-Ray machine that would have located the bullet lodged somewhere in McKinley's back muscles was on display at the Fair, but it had only just been invented and doctors were scared to use it on the President without knowing its side effects. Any of them would surely have been better than his resulting death, but I guess hindsight is 20/20.
5. Expo '70, a World's Fair in Osaka, Japan, was one of the biggest and most successful World's Fairs ever held. One of the most popular exhibits on display was a moon rock brought back just months before from the 1969 Apollo 11 expedition. Expo '70 also touted the first IMAX movie ever created.
6. Much like the 1915 San Francisco Fair, the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 was held in Chicago because the city had something to prove: that Mrs. O'Leary's cow couldn't keep them down. The grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, the same guy who did Central Park (and lots of other parks and campuses). The layout and the building design were so impressive and gorgeous that it's thought L. Frank Baum used it as inspiration for the Emerald City. It was also the first time people saw and rode on a Ferris Wheel and included exhibits by Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. John Phillip Sousa's marching band was a daily feature. Food that debuted at this particular Fair included Cracker Jack, Juicy Fruit gum and Cream of Wheat. It would have a been an awesomely successful Fair if it hadn't ended in tragedy "“ Chicago mayor Carter Harrison was assassinated. Although it was in his home and not at the Fair, he was a much-beloved mayor and his death shook up Chicagoans pretty badly.
7. Just as the Seattle World's Fair gave us the Space Needle, Paris' Exposition Universelle of 1889 gave us the Eiffel Tower. If you were there in 1889, you also would have seen Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show featuring Annie Oakley.
8. Just 11 years later, the Exposition Universelle came back to Paris and the city really put on the dog. The buildings erected for the expo were so impressive and beautiful that many of them still stand today "“ the MusÃ©e d'Orsay, the Grand Palais, the Gare de Lyon and the Petit Palais among them. The Summer Olympics were also being held at the same time and were considered part of the Fair, just in case the new inventions of escalators and movies with sound weren't enough for you. And if you've ever noticed the gold seal that adorns the front of Campbell's soup cans, here's a bit of trivia for you: it was awarded this seal at this particular World's Fair.
9. On May 1, 1851, Queen Victoria proudly announced the opening of the Great Exhibition in London. Art and architecture students will know this for the construction of the Crystal Palace (you can tell I'm a student of neither because my first thought is of the buffet at the Magic Kingdom). The Crystal Palace housed the Great Exhibition and its designer was later knighted for his amazing contribution. Sadly, the Crystal Palace was the victim of fire in 1936. This Fair was wildly successful, perhaps in part to the Palace. More than six million people showed up, which was about a third of Britain's population at the time. It was so profitable that the surplus went to found the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum. Notable events included a yachting race that eventually evolved into the America's Cup, the display of the Koh-i-noor Diamond and the exhibition showing the Jacquard Loom.
10. Knoxville, Tenn., was home to the 1982 World's Fair, which turned a profit of a whopping $57. But hey, most World's Fairs lose money, so at least they had that going for them. It's notable for debuting inventions such as Cherry Coke, boxed milk and touch-screen technology, but what I'm particularly excited about is the giant, rotating Rubik's Cube Hungary sent over. The puzzle toy had swept the nation and Hungary was proud that the inventor was one of their own. After decaying for the past 25 years, a junior in engineering at the University of Tennessee took its restoration on as a project. The 10-foot, 1,200-pound toy is now restored to its former glory for tourists to enjoy. The Knoxville Fair was also home to the Sunsphere, which Simpsons fans will remember from the episode where Bart, Martin, Nelson and Milhouse rely on an outdated guidebook for vacation tips and choose the World's Fair instead of Disneyworld. Photo from Joel K. on Roadside America.
Have any of you actually been to a World's Fair? I feel like I kind of missed their heyday and I'm a little bummed about it, so it would be great if I could just live vicariously through you.