Depot Museum unveils display on Seattle’s first world’s fair

June 16, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

Original postcards of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition depict  the ‘Pay Streak’ arcade boulevard and a roller coaster

Original postcards of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition depict the ‘Pay Streak’ arcade boulevard and a roller coaster ontributed by Greg Spranger

Long before the Space Needle pointed skyward and a monorail whisked passengers downtown, Seattle hosted one of the most successful world’s fairs, the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. The event’s centennial is being commemorated this summer at the Issaquah Depot Museum.

Greg Spranger, world’s fair enthusiast and executive director of the DownTown Issaquah Association, loaned AYPE memorabilia to the museum. His collection includes souvenirs from the four-and-a-half month event. Postcards depict fair scenes in vivid detail; snow-capped Mount Rainier is the only distinguishing characteristic of the Seattle skyline.
The exposition attracted more than 3.7 million visitors to the then-tiny University of Washington campus. Many Issaquah residents rode trains into Seattle to participate in the fair.
“It was a huge, huge success,” Spranger said.
The successful exposition was a precursor to the successful 1962 World’s Fair, which begat the Space Needle and the Seattle Center Monorail.
Visitors to the depot museum have an opportunity to view century-old AYPE souvenirs and other artifacts throughout the summer.
The exposition lasted from June 1-Oct. 16, 1909. President William Howard Taft opened the event from Washington, D.C., by pressing a gold telegraph key.
At the same moment Taft opened the fair, racers set off from New York to Seattle in a cross-country auto race. A Ford Model T won the race, but was later disqualified after organizers learned the race team changed the car’s engine at a stop along the more than 3,800-mile route.
“They could, because there were a lot of little Ford dealerships popping up across the United States,” Spranger said.
Model T enthusiasts are re-enacting the race in honor of the centennial. Dozens of Model Ts will stop at the depot museum overnight July 10. Spranger said organizers plan to hold a barbecue to welcome the travelers to town.
Spranger said he started collecting AYPE memorabilia more than two decades ago “on a fluke” when he happened upon souvenirs at an antiques show.
“What is this?” he recalled. “I had to know more about it.”
Today, his collection includes postcards, medallions, ashtrays and hard-to-find silk handkerchiefs embroidered with the exposition logo — three women from the United States, the Yukon and Japan. Among Spranger’s finds is a handmade invitation to the opening gala, painted with delicate watercolor flowers.
He said the success of the exposition is even more impressive because Seattle was far from major cities of the era, yet the fair was still able to attract visitors in droves.
“A hundred years ago, we put on one of the largest world’s fairs anywhere,” Spranger said.
Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

Long before the Space Needle pointed skyward and a monorail whisked passengers downtown, Seattle hosted one of the most successful world’s fairs, the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. The event’s centennial is being commemorated this summer at the Issaquah Depot Museum.

Greg Spranger, world’s fair enthusiast and executive director of the DownTown Issaquah Association, loaned AYPE memorabilia to the museum. His collection includes souvenirs from the four-and-a-half month event. Postcards depict fair scenes in vivid detail; snow-capped Mount Rainier is the only distinguishing characteristic of the Seattle skyline.

The exposition attracted more than 3.7 million visitors to the then-tiny University of Washington campus. Many Issaquah residents rode trains into Seattle to participate in the fair.

“It was a huge, huge success,” Spranger said.

The successful exposition was a precursor to the successful 1962 World’s Fair, which begat the Space Needle and the Seattle Center Monorail.

Visitors to the depot museum have an opportunity to view century-old AYPE souvenirs and other artifacts throughout the summer.

The exposition lasted from June 1-Oct. 16, 1909. President William Howard Taft opened the event from Washington, D.C., by pressing a gold telegraph key.

At the same moment Taft opened the fair, racers set off from New York to Seattle in a cross-country auto race. A Ford Model T won the race, but was later disqualified after organizers learned the race team changed the car’s engine at a stop along the more than 3,800-mile route.

“They could, because there were a lot of little Ford dealerships popping up across the United States,” Spranger said.

Model T enthusiasts are re-enacting the race in honor of the centennial. Dozens of Model Ts will stop at the depot museum overnight July 10. Spranger said organizers plan to hold a barbecue to welcome the travelers to town.

Spranger said he started collecting AYPE memorabilia more than two decades ago “on a fluke” when he happened upon souvenirs at an antiques show.

“What is this?” he recalled. “I had to know more about it.”

Today, his collection includes postcards, medallions, ashtrays and hard-to-find silk handkerchiefs embroidered with the exposition logo — three women from the United States, the Yukon and Japan. Among Spranger’s finds is a handmade invitation to the opening gala, painted with delicate watercolor flowers.

He said the success of the exposition is even more impressive because Seattle was far from major cities of the era, yet the fair was still able to attract visitors in droves.

“A hundred years ago, we put on one of the largest world’s fairs anywhere,” Spranger said.

You Go

Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition exhibit

Until Labor Day

Issaquah Depot Museum

50 Rainier Blvd. N.

11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. Thursdays (through Aug. 31)

4$2 for adults, $1 for children

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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