When the World Came to Campus, 1909

Introduction

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Seattleites called it the "Exposition Beautiful." In 1909, the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (referred to as the AYP) was held at fairgrounds on the University of Washington campus, a 250 acre wilderness. Between June 1 and October 16, visitors came from across the United States, Canada, and the Pacific Ocean to experience the majesty of the Northwest and, through the exhibits and sights at the AYP, to learn about culture and commerce in Seattle, Alaska, the Canadian Northwest, and the Pacific Rim.

Expositions in other cities glorified historical events but the AYP focused on the future of technology and commerce. The Exposition planners hoped the AYP would stimulate growth and development in Seattle and Alaska, and strengthen economic and cultural ties between Seattle and Pacific nations. They wanted to promote Seattle, newly prosperous in the wake of the Alaska gold rush and triumphant in recovery from the 1889 fire that destroyed downtown, as the chief port and center of trade with Alaska and Asia.

AYP promoters sought to improve the image Easterners held of Seattle as a "wild west" town—unrefined, unsophisticated, and undesirable—by demonstrating Seattle’s progress through grand buildings, lush gardens, impressive exhibits, and modern inventions. The "Seattle Spirit" of community support and enthusiasm provided the energy to build and finance an exposition that was attended by over 3.7 million people from all over the country and the globe, truly a time "When the World Came to Campus."


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