From the Archives: Postcard of 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition

From the Archives: Postcard of 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition

If you were around for this opening, you have lived a very long time!

On June 1, 1909, about 80,000 people attended the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition opening in Seattle where the University of Washington campus stands today. More than 3 million people attended the 1909 expo, which closed that year in mid-October.

The Washington State Archives has this classic color postcard (above) offering a bird’s eye view of the exposition grounds, with Mount Rainier in the distance to the south.

This story about the 1909 expo tells more about the opening day:

Promptly at noon, fair president John Chilberg (1867-1954) announced that he was about to notify President Taft (1857-1930), who stood at the ready in the East Room of the White House, that the fair could begin. Taft would officially open the fair by pressing a telegraph key encrusted with nuggets from the mine of George Carmack, whose discovery had started the Klondike Gold Rush. As the audience waited for Taft to press the key, a telegram from the president was read aloud.

Bishop Frederick W. Keator read the benediction, and just as he was about to finish, Taft’s signal came through. Cannons fired at the lakefront, and a large gong at the back of the platform rang out. All eyes looked up at the gigantic flag that had been close-furled between two large fir trees behind the stage.   

The flag unfurled and the crowd erupted with cheers. Hundreds of high-school students sitting in reserved seats in the front row pulled out small flags they had been told to conceal and began to wave them wildly while singing “America.” After they finished singing, the crowd cheered for more than five minutes.

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