Mental Floss

The Quick 10: 10 World's Fairs

Stacy Conradt
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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