April 21, 2009

Seattle World's Fair: Cold War served up Hot!

By the time the Seattle World's Fair (also known as The Century 21 Exposition, which IS where Century 21 Real Estate took their name from) rolled around, everybody was sure the Russian's were well on their way to building the world's biggest space needle. Therefore, on April 21, 1962, when America pulled back the giant space curtains to reveal 605 feet of pure unadulterated needle pointing straight up at the sky, the world dropped a collective gasp of shock and awe, pointing at the thing like they'd finally found waldo. There it stood, unarguably the most beautiful thing ever made, ready to co-star with Kelsey Grammar in the 90's sitcom Frazier. The Russians quickly bombed a large building in the center of their town, claiming that their 607 foot space needle that they'd worked so hard on had been sabotaged by free-thinking russian hippies who didn't want no part in no stinking cold war.

But the Seattle World's Fair wasn't built around the unveiling of the space needle. In fact, vice versa. That's right, flip it: The Space Needle was build for the Seattle World's Fair! This was the first World's Fair after World War II, and it was important to America that their space program be shown to be superb and wonderful and the best so America could be crowned Kings of Space once and for all.

Century 21 Exposition had visions of a future that went sci-fi and advanced without departing from what was socially exceptable in the 1950's: Affluence, automation, consumerism, and American power would grow; social equity would simply take care of itself on a rising tide of abundance; women would still be confined largely to the domestic realm; the human race would master nature through technology rather than view it in terms of ecology.

In terms of their vision of the future, the fair was a bit of a failure. But in terms of the space race and the needle, America takes all. The fair ended in a grand ceremony where lady liberty was given a second crown, this one for King of Space, which she wears to this day.

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