When Seattle Invented the Future: The 1962 World's Fair (2012)

About the Documentary

The Space Needle. Monorail. Bubbleator. Science Center. Show Street and Gracie Hansen. Century 21 created icons and scientists, and brought Elvis and John Glenn, Joan Baez and Roy Rogers to our city. In 1962, Seattle invented a future that included a tech-savvy portal to the Pacific Rim.

Through historical photographs and motion pictures of the Seattle World’s Fair, the KCTS 9 documentary The 1962 World's Fair: When Seattle Invented the Future brings to life the textures and sounds of Seattle in the late 50s and early 60s. In interviews, Seattle’s business, civic and cultural leaders and longtime residents tell of the excitement and ambition the Fair ignited.

Tune in as KCTS 9 takes a look back at the fair that shaped Seattle's future. Presented in partnership with HistoryLink and The Next Fifty.

   The Seattle Times review:When Seattle 'invented' the future
   Crosscut.com: A documentary worthy of Seattle's shining moment

Songs from the 1962 Seattle World's Fair Archives

Title: Summer of '62
Recording used by permission
of Seafair-Bolo Records
Cover image courtesy of MOHAI

View Album Cover
Title: Meet Me in Seattle
Recording used by permission
of Seafair-Bolo Records
Cover image courtesy of MOHAI

View Album Cover
Title: Invitation to the Fair
Recording used by permission
of Seafair-Bolo Records

Cover image not available

More World's Fair music and videos

Women of Century 21

Watch an audio slideshow of historic photographs illustrating the many ways in which women helped shape the 1962 World’s Fair

Postcards from the 1962 World's Fair

Flip through vintage World's Fair postcards using an interactive map of the United States

Music by Art and Toni Mineo

The husband and wife team of musicians Art and Toni Mineo produced two albums for the World's Fair. Art Mineo's space-themed, 'Man in Space with Sounds,' was the music for the Bubbleator ride and Toni Mineo composed the music for 'Rhapsody 21.'

Watch the interview and listen to the World's Fair music by Art and Toni Mineo

A World's Fair Digital Scrapbook

In 1962, Jane Morton (then Jane Smyth) was sixteen and living in Ness City, Kansas. As members of the local high school band, Morton and her classmates received a special invitation to represent their state at the Seattle World’s Fair.

Watch the interview and view Jane Morton's digital scrapbook

Archival Footage: Century 21 Calling

Century 21 Calling was a commercial to promote the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle. Courtesy of archive.org

Watch: Century 21 Calling

History Café: Director John Gordon Hill

The spring of 1962 was a pivotal time for the city of Seattle. The World's Fair gave us the Space Needle and the monorail and brought Elvis and John Glenn to Seattle. Filmmaker John Gordon Hill discusses KCTS 9's 1962 World's Fair documentary "When Seattle Invented the Future."

Watch: Seattle World's Fair History Café



I was 9, my brother 12. We'd been at the fair all day, and Mom and Dad parked us at a table in the Arena with a soft drink. They said, "Stay right here", as they slipped off for a cocktail in a lounge nearby (times were different then). I was content to stay put, but my brother kept watching the bubbleator go up and down, up and down -- the coolest elevator he'd ever seen. Noting that the round trip didn't take very long, he started scheming. We could ride up and down the bubbleator (all by ourselves!), return to our assigned table with time to spare, and Mom and Dad would never know.

Off we went on our adventure. One thing we didn't count on: The bubbleator was made out of clear plastic. It was see-through, for crying out loud, and anyone in the entire arena could watch the passengers in full view -- even the people sitting in the lounge having a cocktail. My brother and I were, of course, busted. Mom and Dad saw the whole thing. But I don't think we ever regretted our not-so-secret trip on the elevator of the future.


Where was I in 1962...lets see, oh yeah I was born. Needles to say it was a great year.


I was 11 years old and performing as a clown at that time with my father’s Wenatchee Youth Circus. We were there that Summer and Elvis was in production for “It Happened at the World’s Fair”. Dad, aka “Guppo the Clown” and the show’s manager/director since starting the circus as an after school tumbling team a decade earlier, was used for some behind the scenes production w/Elvis' movie. So for all of us kids not only was the fair a big wing ding, but the Elvis factor made it all additionally just amazing beyond words.
We did a couple of shows a day and were set up where the stadium is now as you can see the along with the Space Needle in the pictures. In between shows there was a water skiing show that was presented in the moat that circled our “circus lot” and was constructed especially for them, so that was another close-up fun time for all of us circus kids.
On a totally adolescent boy note, there was also this production revue not too far away from our show area that was a part of the fair as well & something you’d never see in the times we live in today. It was called “Backstage U.S.A” and was a sort of burlesque show, very timid by some of today’s night clubs of that ilk, but nonetheless extremely enticing & provocative for us young dudes.None of us could get in as you had to be 21 as I recall…BUT they had those wonderful posters outside the entrance & even as tame as the pictures on display were, many a young lad spent more than a little time studying, perusing, dreaming.
All in all, between having free access so all of the fairground activities, rides exhibits, monorail and all, we were in heaven to be sure. We all got certificates of appreciation for our performance there that I still have hanging on my studio wall. Well.. that’s my story, I’m stickin' to it & thats the truth!


I was head of TV & Movies for the fair and worked as Technical Advisor on the Elvis film. We hired your dad: "Guppo The Clown" to stand on the top ledge of the Food Circus building outside so that the MGM film crew could get shots of crowds of people looking up. "Guppo" wore these big shoes so we had to tie a rope to his waist to keep him from tripping on the ledge and falling off. I have some color film of this with him if you are interested.
Albert Fisher
Los Angeles, CA


I was 12 our family came up from Los Angeles to Seattle for our summer vacation. It would the first time traveling through northern California, Oregon and Washington. When we got over the borders, I wondered were the lines were, like the those printed on the map.
I first saw the Space Needle as we crested on Hwy 99 and South 133rd before the Duwamish Bridge. It was very late, so we stayed at a hotel on Lake Union.
The next morning I got my frist WOW-sight of Lake Union as the sun rose over the Cascades. I was ready for action!
Off to the World Fair, were I kept looking up at the Needle and couldn't wait to get to the top. Later I would get a ride of my life up the exterior elevators. There I got my first view of the Puget Sound and the Cascades, I knew I would come back here and live one day. Matter-of-fact my family moved up in late 1960 right were we saw the Needle for the first time- near South 133rd!
The rest of the fair was stunning to a kid...adventure of the future; think back, we are enjoying much of the technology that was presented.
The science museum was a cool place (literally) to get out the sun and do lots of hands on fun. It still is to this overgrown kid.
Out of the two Worlds Fairs I visited, Seattle is the best and will always be a great memory as I drive through Seattle.


I was a nine-year-old living in Alexandria, Va. in the D.C. 'burbs. While I didn't get to see the World's Fair in Seattle, I'll never forget me hounding my folks about having a family trip to the fair. Who cares if we were in the backyard of so many national treasures, e.g. The Smithsonian, National Gallery of Art and all of the other sights of our Nation's Capitol?

This was after my dad made his first trip to Seattle on business and brought back some of the fair's momentos to me and my sibs. I especially remember the infamous fountain pen which was still being sold in the needle's gift shop a few years back (and may still be sold): turn it on its side and tip it up, and an elevator-like doohickey would rise to the top!


The ride up the Space Needle is my first memory. Probably because my mother said so sternly at the time "You remember this, it might be the only world's fair you ever see." I was four years young, and the attendent put me on her shoulders so that I could see the ride up. I didn't forget, and the Seattle Center has remained one of my favorite places. We went a couple of times that summer and I remember getting stuck in the Bubblator, which seems now like a bizare rite of passage for a Seattle native. I remember it being very hot and stuffy and a little frightening at the time. There was so much to see and do and I was stuck, I feared forever, in the Bubble-ateher.


I worked for the 1962 Seattle's World's Fair where I met my future husband. I was attendig WWSC in Bellingham at the time but Seattle was home and I was looking for a summer job. One of the places I applied had a Security Guard from Wiliam J. Burns Detective. As the weather was fierce, we chatted for a few minutes. I asked him about his job and he referred me to the Burns office. Turms out they were hired to do the security on the docks where the Dominion Monarch was tied up and would be used as a floating hotel. The World's Fair Corporation asked Burns Agency to go ahead and hire the rest of the help they needed to sell and take tickets to board the vessel, sell souvenirs, etc. They hired me to sell Boarding Passes and I had a blast, meeting people from all over the world who had come to enjoy the Fair. The ship was a former troop transport ship and before that a luxury liner The interior was beautiful and had several lounges, dining rooms and the guest hotel rooms. We also boasted a live tv dance show called Boatdeck Bandstand (similar to American Bandstand) We had entertained in part by Viceroys. It was a great summer and I met many people, one of whom ended up being my husband!


My parents collected quite a bit of Fair print material which I discovered while managing their estate. I've been wondering what to do with it. The collection includes newspaper and magazine articles, along with flyers, etc.

My own memories as an 11 year old were of being in awe as the Space Needle took shape, and several visits to the fair itself. Twice I took part in flag-raising ceremonies as a Boy Scout at the Flag Plaza, where eight years later I would receive my US citizenship in a group event. I must admit, the Bubbleator experience was one of my favorites :-)


I raised the flags a number of times. Quick, did you hear what happened to the lady who disappered in the Food Circus? The Bubble ate her!


Hi Rick,

The Seattle Center Foundation is partnering with several historical organizations in the Puget Sound region to gather and preserve memorabilia from the Century 21 Exposition: http://www.nextfifty.org/2011/06/01/donate-your-memories-for-history

KCTS 9 Staff


Having been a Bubbleator Pilot during the summer when Seattle Invented the Future, my perspective on the Future is that it is the waiting line to get into the main attration: History.


I rember you as I work for Century 21 and as a result work all over the fair ground. What a great time we all had.
Roger O'Connell


Collection of memorabilia, ephemera, historical photos, documents to share with fair enthusiasts. I have many rare source documents from the fair. The Century 21 Exposition, to me, was a bold look at the 21st century, a marketing marvel, and historically a metaphor for the city and region to undertake a venture simply because it was a good idea. 1962, the innocent years before the social change that follows.


So where can i watch this?


Hi Guest,

"When Seattle Invented the Future" will premiere on KCTS 9 television and online at KCTS9.org in February 2012.

KCTS 9 Staff

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