Edwin C. Thompson's Seattle's World's Fair Home Movie, July 1962

Overview of the Collection

Thompson, Edwin C.
Edwin C. Thompson's Seattle's World's Fair Home Movie
July 1962 (inclusive)
1 reel (350 feet) : silent, color ; 8mm
Collection Number
Seattle World's Fair attractions in home movies of Edwin and Edith Thompson
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2065431929
Fax: 2065431931
Access Restrictions

Selections can be viewed on the Libraries' Digital Collections website. The original films are not accessible due to preservation concerns. Arrangements can be made to view the film by contacting the Visual Materials Curator.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was partially provided through a grant awarded by the University Libraries 21st Century Fund

Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

The Century 21 Exposition (also known as the Seattle World's Fair), was held from April 21, 1962 to October 21, 1962, and was located on the grounds of what is currently known as the Seattle Center (located at 305 Harrison Street in Seattle). The Seattle World's Fair was attended by ten million people, including notables such as Prince Philip of Great Britain, John Wayne, Lyndon Johnson, Jack Lemmon, Walt Disney, Richard Nixon, and Elvis Presley.

The theme of Century 21 was science, a theme selected in part because of the ongoing "space race" between the United States and the Soviet Union. Many of the exhibits had a futuristic focus--after all, the Fair was celebrating the twenty-first century thirty-eight years before its arrival.

Thirty-five foreign governments created exhibits for the Fair, along with major corporations such as Boeing and Ford Motor Company. The twenty eight acre site of the Fair was located over a mile from downtown Seattle. The Monorail, an elevated train line 1.3 miles in length, was built to transport the anticipated crowds from downtown Seattle to the Fair site.

Other structures were also created specifically for the Fair, including the futuristic spire of the Space Needle with its "flying saucer" restaurant on top, and the U.S. Science Pavilion (with its "space gothic" arches) designed by Minoru Yamasaki, which is today part of the Pacific Science Center. The Coliseum (now Key Arena), designed by Paul Thiry, was viewed as somewhat radical, with its suspended roof. Inside the Coliseum, attendees could view the "World of Tomorrow" exhibit and ride in the Bubbleator, a transparent spherical hydraulic elevator, to different floors of the exhibit.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The film documents Ed and Edith Thompson's experience of attending the Century 21 Exposition. The film begins with a ride on the Alweg monorail, views from the Space Needle and all the attractions featured at the fair. Included are waterskiing performances, aerial views of the fairgrounds from the cable car ride, the exhibits of many of the participating foreign countries, and many of the amusement park rides. The film ends with nighttime scenes with prominent neon signs and views from the cable car ride of the fairgrounds at night. Throughout the film, a gray-haired woman (Edith Thompson) appears, often smiling and waving at the camera, or is shown waiting in line for various attractions.

Interspersed with Eddie Thompson’s film are scenes from a commercial film that Thompson apparently spliced into his film. The commercial film is reddish in tone and consists primarily of a tour through the fair focusing on the signs for various attractions.

Other Descriptive InformationReturn to Top

Participants: Edith Thompson

Other Descriptive InformationReturn to Top

Thompson's title for the film is Seattle's World's Fair; the fair was actually called either the Seattle World's Fair or the Century 21 Exposition.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

View selections from the collection in digital format

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact the Special Collections division of the University of Washington Libraries for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Custodial History

Edwin C. Thompson donated the film to the Eastern Washington State Historical Society, probably in 1994.

Acquisition Information

Donor: Eastern Washington State Historical Society, 1994.

Processing Note

The original film was cleaned, cored and rehoused by Hannah Palin, 2004.

DVCAM master and videocassette (VHS) viewing copy were made in 2004.

Processed by Laurel G. Evans and Marion Brown, 2006, Alden Lee, 2012; completed by Elizabeth Russell, Woods Fairbanks, 2014, 2017.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


Container(s) Description Dates
viewcopy item
VC55 1 Seattle's World's Fair
Edith Thompson walks down the street to get on the Monorail. Riding on the Monorail. Edith walks towards entrance to World's Fair from the Monorail. View of the Space Needle from bottom to top. Views of Seattle, presumably from the top of the Space Needle. The Seattle Mural. Edith at a "Space Toys & Novelties" booth. Waterskiing performance. Views of the fairgrounds from the gondola (or cable car) ride. End of the gondola ride. Amusement rides at the Fair, including Calypso and Flight to Mars. Commercial film of people walking around the fairgrounds. The Hall of Industry and its displays. People riding in the Bubbleator. The food court. Commercial film of the food court, with gondola ride in the background. People with their umbrellas, waiting in line by the Hall of Industry. Marching band. Schulmerich carillon. Monorail from a distance. Neon signs at night on the fairgrounds. Space Needle at night. Fairgrounds at night viewed from the gondola ride. Amusement park rides at night. Monorail pulling in to the fairgrounds at night.
Original 1 reel (350 feet) : silent, color ; 8mm
July, 1962

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Amusement rides
  • Century 21 Exposition (1962: Seattle, Wash.)
  • Moving Image Collections (University of Washington)
  • Seattle Center (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)

Geographical Names

  • Seattle (Wash.)

Other Creators

  • Personal Names
    • Thompson, Edith (coproducer)
    • Thompson, Edwin C (producer)