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Seattle World's Fair 1909

Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition

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Quick List Info

Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition 1909

Dates Open - June 1 to Oct. 16, 1909. Open 138 days, including all Sundays.

Attendance - 2,765,683 paid, 974,868 free, 3,740,551 total. Total admission revenue was $1,092,366.34.

International Participants - 14 nations and colonies.

Total Cost - Total Expenses $2,245,272.52 (includes construction, expo period, post period). Profit and Loss ($ 668,078.71 for entire costs) Profit of $785,000 often seen only for expo period. Estimate of $10 million, including all participants.

Site Acreage - 250 acres on what is today the University of Washington campus.

Sanction and Type - Prior to the Bureau of International Exhibitions. Would be considered a Special Category, Registered event today like those on the 5 years of the decade. There was a Federal appropriation of $600,000 for the fair.

Ticket Cost - Admission for adults 50 cents, children between the ages of 5 and 12, 25 cents. Per capital admission at Seattle 1909 was $0.395, with per capita concessions at $0.15.

Seattle 1909

Photo top center: Panorama of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, Seattle 1909, 1909, A.J. Park. Courtesy Library of Congress/Wikipedia Commons. Column Top: Official postcard of the A.Y.P.E. of the Manufactures Building, 1909, AYPE. Courtesy Pinterest. Column Bottom: An eskimo family posing in front of a fake igloo at the Seattle 1909 fair, 1909. Courtesy Library of Congress.

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History of the Event

Seattle World's Fair 1909

It was a fair that brought legacy in the form of the University of Washington campus, which prior to the fair had only three buildings and a rough wooded campus. It now would be augmented by the Olmstead's, John C. in particular, on two-thirds of its site. It was a fair that, along with its Portland counterpart in 1905, brought much needed recognition of the Pacific Northwest, still a far off backwater location to many East Coast residents. The official reason to host was the 10th anniversary of the Gold Rush, essentially in Canada, thus the Yukon portion to the name. Pacific was added to promote trade with the Orient. Yes, the Gold Rush anniversary should have been in 1907, but competition from the Jamestown Exposition that year caused the board to postpone the A.Y.P.E. to 1909.

The genesis for the exposition started with the Alaska Club, the moved to the Chamber of Commerce and banking community, who took their idea to the state. The state agreed, providing that at least four buildings would be permanent additions to the University of Washington campus. The state of Washington contructed the Forestry Building, 122' x 304', the largest log building at the time. They also constructed the Washington State Building (107'1" x 159'10"), Woman's Building (30' x 80'), Educational Building (36' x 96') with two wings, auditorium (40' x 47'), Manual Training Department (33' x 35'), Good Roads Building (67' x 77') also with an auditorium (38'3 x 56'2), Dairy Exhibit Building (40' x 70'), and Model Dairy Barn (30' x 50').

Above photo. Postcard of the Cascade Court and U.S. Government Building, 1909, Source Unknown. Courtesy Pinterest. Below: Forestry Building at Seattle 1909, 1910, Artwork of Seattle and Western Washington, W.D. Harney Photogravure Publisher. Courtey Wikipedia Commons.

Seattle 1909 Forestry Building
The corporate community backed the event with exhibits; Canadian Pacific Railway, Copeland and Ryder Company, France (Victor Laruelle), H.J. Heinze Co., Ingersoll Rand Co., National Cash Register Co., Quaker Oats Co., Singer Sewing Machine Co., and Welch Grape Juice Company. The expo authority augmented those with a Stadium, Natural Amphitheatre, Military Camp, Administration Building, Manufacturers Building, Agriculture Building, Oriental and Foreign Buildings, Emergency Hospital, Fire Engine Station, Entrance, Band Stand, Music Pavilion, Statuary, Auditorium, Fine Arts Building, Machinery Hall, and New Mines Building.

Well organized by the local community and fair authority, the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition was a success. It turned a profit, promoted the northwest, and left an expanded legacy to the University of Washington campus. Yes, the majority of the visitors to the fair were from the Northwest with few venturing west from the east, but that didn't stop the fair's success from promoting the region to the Pacific Rim for increased trade. Were there some complaints? Sure. It was not the largest international fair per participation. And the New York Times reported that other Washington cities were not very pleased as the fair drained Tacoma and Everett, therefore benefiting Seattle.

Historian's Perspective

Matthew Klingle - "The turn-of-the-century was the era of world's fairs, and the Seattle exposition followed the popular St. Louis fair and the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland. As with other world's fairs, the federal government brought exhibits to the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE) and helped with the funding. And promoters in Seattle touted Seattle's Progressive spirit and Americanism. But the fair, originally designed to celebrate the anniversary of the Klondike gold rush, was postponed because it conflicted with the Jamestown exposition of 1907. As a result, promoters in Seattle used the fair to tout the city's advantages for trade and natural resources. It played upon national pride, but it did not celebrate or commemorate any significant event."

Dan Kerlee - "The AYPE claimed that it was advancing new ideas about international trade and interdependency around the Pacific Rim. If this was true, then of course the fair was very forward looking. However, I believe that this was also pushed at the Lewis and Clark and many other fairs. The fair also had a certain emphasis on racial equality (blacks excepted). I can't say at this point whether any new ground was broken relative to society and other fairs; as was common at the time this may have been as much novelty as ethnology or sociology. The AYPE broke attendance projections, made money, and was closed with nostalgia, despite predictions that it would have trouble because of the prohibition against alcohol on the grounds. Alaskans and Seattleites alike are still very interested in this Fair, once they learn that it existed."

Prior to the B.I.E.

Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, Seattle 1909

International Participants
Nations and Colonies

United States, Japan (official), Philippines, Hawaii, Canada, Oriental Place (Turkey, Greece, Syria), Foreign Place (Germany, Great Britain, France, others), Sweden, China, San Marino.

Participating states included Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and New York, among others.

Note: It is sometimes difficult to tell whether certain nations actually participated in a significant way. Newspaper reports as well as the official guidebook and reports may indicate participation when actual participation did not occur, or occurred minimally. Take the above as a guide, not gospel.

Expo Tidbits
The amusement area of the A.Y.P.E. was known as the Pay Streak. Area included an Igorot and Eskimo village plus attractions on the Battle of Gettysburg and the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimac. The entire area was a big hit.

No liquor was for sale at the exhibition site due to a State Law forbidding sale on a University campus.

There were unique special days. One, known as Smith Day on September 2, 1909, invited those with the most common name in the United States to come. Over 5,000 people did.

89,286 people came to the Seattle fair on opening day.

The University of Washington campus now occupies the A.Y.P.E. site with many structures and vistas still surviving from the master plan of the exposition. The Drumheller Fountain on the Science Quadrangle remains, pointing toward Mount Rainier. The Architecture Hall had been the Fine Arts Pavilion of the fair. The Women's Building remains as a Women's Studies hall. Other buildings survived the fair year, but were demolished in subsequent decades, including the Hoo Hoo House, Forestry Building, and Auditorium Hall. One lasting legacy was William Boeing's view of manned flying machines at the AYP. Yes, the founder of Boeing.

Those in Charge

Henry E. Reed director of exploitation. J.E. Chilberg President. Professor Edmond S. Meany was one member of the Executive Committee.

University of Washington Architecture Building

Sources: University of Washington Libraries, No Finer Site: The University of Washington's Early Years on Union Bay: VII. Campus Plans, 1891 - 1915; Report of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Commission of the State of Washington-Post Fair; Secretary's Report on the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition; "Open: A World of Wonders" by Sharon Boswell and Lorraine McConaghy; All the World's a Fair; Historical Dictionary of World's Fairs by Alfred Heller.

Photo column top: Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition overhead scene looking toward Mount Rainier, 1909. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Bottom: University of Washington Architecture Hall, 2008, Joe Mabel. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

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