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4.28.11: Space Needle History & Trivia

Space Needle History: Thursday at the Needle

Knute Berger, Writer-in-Residence

This was my first day as Writer-in-Residence at the Space Needle. To kick it off, I had lunch with Jay Rockey, who headed the public relations department of Seattle's 1962 Century 21 Exposition. His success there launched him as the region's premier PR man. The exposure the fair received was incredible. By July of '62, Publisher's Weekly estimated there had been over 1,000 magazine articles about the fair (including two covers of LIFE magazine featuring the Needle), and more than 6,300 individuals had received press credentials to tour the fair. That scale of international press attention for the city was unprecedented.

Many of those reporters were squired up the Needle, which became the unquestioned symbol of the fair. That outcome was far from certain. The fair itself was a long-shot to begin with, and up to the last minute, many Seattleites didn't believe it would actually happen. But when the Needle started to rise in April, 1961, people started to believe. Even Jay Rockey, whose job was selling the fair to the public and press, found it a confidence booster. "When I was really feeling down," he told me, "I'd come down and look at the construction and go away with a whole new state of mind. It really was going to work."

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