World’s Fair Time Capsule: Letters from 1962

May 18, 2012 Published in the June 2012 issue of Seattle Met

In the spring of 1962, on the occasion of the Century 21 world exposition, members of 20 Seattle city departments wrote letters to their counterparts 50 years in the future and placed them in a time capsule, which the Seattle Center recently opened. The missives from ’62 reveal a Seattle that was optimistic about the future—and leery of robots.

• • •

In the year 2012 Seattle will either be a mighty metropolis of more than 1,000,000 residents—or it will have become a charred, deserted relic of a fearful age of nuclear warfare. This year of 1962 is a troubled one in the world as you will have read in history. 

—City Council President David Levine

Streets, storm drainage and sanitary sewers will be your problem as they have been ours. We expect that aesthetics and utility in design will be achieved to the satisfaction of all. 

—Department of Engineering

For all we know, we may be addressing this communication to a machine. There has been considerable talk in recent years of automating the purchasing function. Our private opinion, however, is that the judgments and decisions required in purchasing can never be mechanized and we are sure this letter will be read by an individual facing many of the problems with which we are coping today. 

—Division of Purchases

Seattle customers enjoy a rate which is less than half the national average of 2.5¢ per kwh, and use nearly 2½ times the national average of 4,017 kwh per year. 

—Department of Lighting

Our prepaid Health Care Plan calls for hospital board and room allowance of $18.00 per day with current board and room cost of about $30.00 per day. We must do something about this. 

—City Employees’ Retirement System Board of Administration

Today’s construction methods and materials are so different from methods used 20 or 30 years ago, that we wonder what materials and construction methods will be employed 50 years hence. Today we are using prestressed and precast and post-tensioned concrete. Masonry units of various sizes and types are being precast. Plastic and synthetic materials are now being used. Glue laminated wood beams are used extensively. 

—Department of Buildings

The regional Transportation Study which, along with the Monorail at the World’s Fair, should focus attention on the importance for rapid public transportation to untangle our growing traffic problem. 

—City of Seattle Planning Commission

We sometimes feel, working as we do with all kinds of people and hearing all kinds of excuses for traffic infractions, that good driving is an unobtainable goal—a utopia which we will not live to see. 

—Municipal Court of Seattle

On our horizon loom the problems of increasing pollutants of both air and water and the spread of housing blight…. Other chronic diseases, cancer, heart disease, alcoholism and emotional illness will have followed the eradication route. 

—Department of Public Health

No doubt when you read this some thirty to fifty years hence, Seattle will be a city of great size, thereby making your responsibilities greater than ours. Do not forget, however, that we helped to make your great city possible. 

—Department of Public Works

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