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Originally published March 31, 2012 at 8:08 PM | Page modified April 1, 2012 at 2:15 PM

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1962 Seattle World's Fair: The 'Industrial Horizons' are bright

It's the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World's Fair, a time when the city was flying high with Space Age optimism. We're marking the occasion by revisiting The Seattle Times' souvenir edition, published shortly before the fair opened April 21, 1962.

Seattle Times staff


When the world came to Seattle

Browse a gallery of ads

On April 21, 1962, the gates opened to a World's Fair in Seattle that left an indelible stamp on the city's image and future.

For 184 days, locals and visitors alike marveled at the Space Needle, the Monorail, the "World of Tomorrow" pavilions, and the "Spacearium."

Days before the opening, The Seattle Times published a 152-page "Seattle World's Fair Souvenir Edition" that was packed with information about the fair as well as predictions for the future. We're celebrating the anniversary by revisiting that section:

View selected pages from 1962 section

Browse a gallery of our favorite ads from '62

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This is the fourth of a five-part series on the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. The series revisits The Seattle Times' souvenir edition that was published before the fair opened on April 21, 1962.

OK, now we get it. Now we know what this "World's Fair" was all about.

It wasn't about some dreamy, rocket-powered pie-in-the-sky vision of the future where everyone would be zipping around town with their jet packs if they weren't taking family vacations to Mars.

No, this 1962 party in Seattle was about jobs. Tons of tech jobs in the booming Great Northwest.

This was not just another World's Fair. This was the World's Biggest Job Fair. Just look right here in the 12-page "Industrial Horizons" section that we're featuring today. Everybody is hiring.

And nobody is talking about an automated future when no one would need to work, as they were in earlier sections we looked at.

No, we hit pay dirt and payday in this section from the 152-page souvenir edition of The Seattle Times that was published shortly before the World's Fair opened.

Nearly every story and advertisement in the "Industrial Horizons" section is about the hot, local economy, from "Boeing Is in Space Age to Stay; Has Two Billion Backlog" to "Fair Visitors to See Solid Evidence of Progress" in the Seattle area.

The section also reflects a time of dramatic change, when blue collar met the computer, when industry became very high-tech.

And it all comes together in the illustration on the cover that shows what could be the biggest rocket ship in the solar system, filled with passengers, as it flies over the moon.

Don't think we're capable of building something like that? Dream on. Pessimists need not apply.

One page of this section was dedicated to a massive want ad for a Boeing rival, Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica, Calif. (Douglas later became McDonnell Douglas, which later became part of Boeing.)

The ad screamed: "IMMEDIATE POSITIONS IN NEW CONCEPT LONG RANGE PROGRAM," with the jobs broken down into two major categories: "SKYBOLT" and "SATURN-THOR-ZEUS."

Back then, there were few things that sounded cooler than wrenching down a Skybolt with Zeus on your way to Saturn. But why go all the way to smoggy Southern California for that work?

Instead, just flip the page and go to the story "Boeing hatches prospering electronics industries" in the Seattle area that talks about all the young high-tech companies that were prospering in Boeing's tail wind, and some that didn't.

Meanwhile, the old economy was doing just fine, too. There were upbeat ads for a steel bridge maker ("maintains your property values"), a construction company ("Our Salute to the Future!) and a story serenading a longtime staple of Seattle's economy — "Fishing Seasons Keep Fleet Busy."

But the section is mostly about fun, futuristic things like plastics and chemicals and even a picture of a man sitting at a big keyboard where he is testing an electronic message machine "partly developed here" that was a forerunner to email.

The field of electronics was buzzing with promise, and Seattle and the World's Fair were amped to the max.

"The West always has attracted the energetic adventurer, the prober of new horizons," said the story about the hatching of an industry. "Just so, it is attracting today's space-age electronic pioneer."

And it might be — as Seattle Times economics columnist Jon Talton once noted — that Seattle also got lucky in the 20th century, from Bill Boeing to Bill Gates.

Bill Kossen went to Sunday school with Bill Gates, but doesn't really want to get into name-dropping here. 206-464-2331 or On Twitter @BillKossen

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