One-hundred years ago, Seattle held its “Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition”;
a World’s Fair, on the grounds of what would become the University of Washington.
Fair-goers showed up in droves, dressed in their Sunday best, from what photos depict.
Many women were attired in “walking skirts” and beautifully flowered hats, while the men came in what was fashionable for them at the time, “sack suits”.
Preparations for this post-Victorian era event (really the Edwardian era), was a HUGE thing for the then, relatively young, Seattle. People traveled along the Pacific coast as well as across the country to come and see the exhibits. The weather that year was favorable. Folks stayed in town for a very long time, just to be able to get thru the exotic and extensive exhibits. Many stayed at the newly built and fashionable Sorrento Hotel on Madison Street in Seattle.
Flash forward 100 years to 2009. The City of Seattle launched a massive effort to celebrate the centennial of a momental event in our city’s history. Renowned organizer, Michael Herschensohn, was hired by the city and was up to the challenge. In addition to the years of planning, he was tasked with bringing the many, many local ethnic and art community groups together to represent a portion of what was to be their cultural representation of centennial celebrations.
One of the ideas was the world famous cross-county car race called “Ocean to Ocean”. Participants in the race accepted the challenge of leaving the east coast of the US, drive across the country, to end their journey at Seattle’s AYPE 1909. Several car manufacturers jumped at the chance to prove that their vehicle could make the arduous trip, traversing terrain where no formal roadbeds had been installed, let alone contemporary freeways.
One of the participating challengers was Ford Motors. To cut a very long story short, it was Henry Ford’s Model T (after having several “bits” replaced along the route, including an engine) which rolled thru the gates at the AYPE and accepted the winner’s wreath at what is now “Drumheller Fountain” at the University of Washington. Ford might’ve taken the wreath, but it was weeks later that the news came to light of the replacement engine, thus disqualifying the vehicle from actually winning. The second place finisher, was the awarded the title of winner. Alas, that company never made a production vehicle, and it was because of all the positive promotions and marketing, that Henry Ford’s Model T’s generated from the intitial “victory”, a full blown production of Model T’s then rolled out of the factory. It became the best selling vehicle of its day.
The Model T Club of America decided to recreate the historic Ocean to Ocean Race, complete with following the original route. A massive undertaking, considering the age of the vintage vehicles being used, the size of contemporary human bodies (taller, heavier, wider) who were driving the vehicles, requirement to have “chase vehicles” stocked with replacement parts and engines, and then there’s always the issues of weather and terrain. However, the club was prepared and motivated.
Lady Victoria of Somewhere in Time, Unlimited, contacted Michael Herschensohn to ask if there might be a possibilty of the historical costuming group (SITU) to appear in 1909 costume at the reenactment on the UW’s grounds – in time to watch the centennial arrival of the vintage Model T’s (and some Model A’s) complete their race. It was agreed that whomever from the costuming group wanted to attend, they would be warmly welcome at the celebrations.
The members and friends of SITU met Model T Club participants and guests from across the United States and literally all around the world. The skies over Seattle opened to let the proverbial showers fall onto the waiting crowd. It was a good thing to have a “‘brolly” handy!
Want to see beautiful color photos of the cars, people in historical late Victorian or Edwardian attire? Want to read more about the race? Head over to the website of Somewhere in Time, Unlimited. You’ll be amazed and delighted!
Hope to see you at the next “Dress-up Opportunity”…
P.S. Special thanks to the UW for the historical photo.