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50 Years Ago: The World in 1962

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A half-century ago, the space race was heating up and the Cold War was freezing over. Soviet missile bases discovered in Cuba triggered a crisis that brought the U.S. to the brink of war with the U.S.S.R. Civil rights activists won hard-earned victories against segregationists in the American South, and John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. Algeria gained independence from France and the U.S. slowly escalated its involvement in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Seattle held a World's Fair called the the Century 21 Exposition, celebrating the themes of space, science, and the future. Let me take you 50 years into the past now, for a look at the world as it was in 1962. [50 photos]

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Aerial view of the Space Needle and surrounding area in Seattle in 1962. The Century 21 Exposition, also called the Seattle World's Fair, was held from April 21, 1962, to October 21, 1962. This year, to celebrate the 50th anniversary, the iconic Space Needle was once again painted in its original "Galaxy Gold". (AP Photo)
Aerial view of the Space Needle and surrounding area in Seattle in 1962. The Century 21 Exposition, also called the Seattle World's Fair, was held from April 21, 1962, to October 21, 1962. This year, to celebrate the 50th anniversary, the iconic Space Needle was once again painted in its original "Galaxy Gold". (AP Photo)
President John F. Kennedy, left, is the subject of cameras as he arrives on January 19, 1962 at New York?s 46th Street Theatre to attend a performance of the Broadway play, "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." (AP Photo) #
Dr. John W. Mauchly, inventor of some of the original room-size electronic computers, poses in Washington, DC, on November 2, 1962 with one the size of a suitcase after addressing a meeting of the American Institute of Industrial Engineers. He now is working on a pocket variety which, he says, may eliminate the housewife's weekly shopping list and the chore of filling it by hand. He predicted everyone will be walking around with his own personalized computer within a decade. (AP Photo/Byron Rollins) #
Donald Campbell's rebuilt Bluebird, the car in which he plans to make an attempt on the world land speed record on Lake Eyre, Australia, in Spring 1963 on show to the public for the first time as he drives it round the Goodwood Circuit, on July 14, 1962 at the Goodwood Festival of Motoring in Sussex, England. In 1964, Campbell set a record of 403.10 mph (648.73 km/h). (AP Photo/Str/BIL) #
A model wears an ample golden tan cape, made from shantung organdy -- a creation by the Renato Balstra, shown in Rome, Italy, on January 11, 1962. (AP Photo/Mario Torrisi) #
In this August 1962 file photo shot by Associated Press photographer Horst Faas, a South Vietnamese soldier holds a cocked pistol as he questions two suspected Viet Cong guerrillas captured in a weed-filled marsh in the southern delta region. The prisoners were searched, bound and questioned before being marched off to join other detainees. Faas, a prize-winning combat photographer who carved out new standards for covering war with a camera and became one of the world's legendary photojournalists in nearly half a century with The Associated Press, died on May 10, 2012 at the age of 79. Please see the NYT's "Horst Faas: A Last Hurrah"). (AP Photo/Horst Faas) #
South Vietnamese government troops from the 2nd Battalion of the 36th Infantry sleep in a U.S. Navy troop carrier on their way back to the Provincial capital of Ca Mau, Vietnam. (AP Photo/Horst Faas) #
A U.S. crewman runs from a crashed CH-21 Shawnee troop helicopter near the village of Ca Mau in the southern tip of South Vietnam, on December 11, 1962. Two helicopters crashed without serious injuries during a government raid on the Viet Cong-infiltrated area. Both helicopters were destroyed to keep them out of enemy hands. (AP Photo/Horst Faas) #
Cattle walking the last mile to this slaughterhouse are treated to this dazzling, but incongruous display of light before the end in Gross-Umstadt near Darmstadt, West Germany, on November 29, 1962. The chandelier came from a nearby factory that didn't have room to assemble it there, so they decided to assemble it in this slaughterhouse. The name of the Arab ruler who ordered the 532 bulb chandelier made up of 200,000 separate parts is a secret. Also, a secret is the price he paid for it. (AP Photo/Lindlar) #
In Kabul, Afghanistan, at the Faculty of Medecine, two Afghan medicine students (left and center) listen to their Professor as they examine a plaster showing a part of a human body, in 1962. (AFP/Getty Images) #
A wall is covered with an Algerian independence slogan as people drink coffee outside in Algiers, on June 17, 1962. (FARENC/AFP/Getty Images) #
A French soldier walks past the body of settler killed on Rue D' Isley in Algiers, on March 26, 1962. Another European lies in the background amid debris of the battle that ensued when European settlers, carrying the French tricolor flag, marched on the center of town in response to a call by the terrorist secret army organization. The French armed forces forcibly dispersed the riot. Some sources estimate the result at 31 dead and 130 wounded. (AP Photo) #
Britain's Mike Hailwood, winner of the 350 cc Junior Tourist Trophy race, roars round Creg-Ny-Baa corner on his second lap round the Isle of Man circuit in the United Kingdom, on June 6, 1962. Riding an Italian MV Agusta machine, Hailwood's average speed for the 6-lap, 226.4 mile race was 99.95 mph. (AP Photo) #
Jammed together in a coastline inlet at Aberdeen harbor in Hong Kong are these sampans which serve as homes on the water for more than 130,000 person in the British Crown Colony. A good portion of the water residents work ashore. This photo is dated August 7, 1962. (AP Photo/Harry Koundakjian) #
In this March 20, 1962 photo, President John F. Kennedy's daughter Caroline Kennedy rides her pony, Macaroni, on the south grounds of the White House in Washington. An unidentified handler runs along to keep pace. (AP Photo) #
U.S. President John F. Kennedy speaks before reporters during a televised speech to the nation about the strategic blockade of Cuba, and his warning to the Soviet Union about missile sanctions, during the Cuban missile crisis, on October 24, 1962 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images) #
Evidence presented by the U.S. Department of Defense, of Soviet missiles in Cuba. This low level photo, made October 23, 1962, of the medium range ballistic missile site under construction at Cuba's San Cristobal area. A line of oxidizer trailers is at center. Added since October 14, the site was earlier photographed, are fuel trailers, a missile shelter tent, and equipment. The missile erector now lies under canvas cover. Evident also is extensive vehicle trackage and the construction of cable lines to control areas. (AP Photo/DOD) #
Aerial picture taken 09 November 1962 on the Cuban coast of the Soviet freighter "Anosov" carrying missiles in accordance with the US-Soviet agreement on the withdrawal of the Russian Missiles from Cuba. American planes and helicopters fly in at a low-level to keep close check on the dismantling and loading operations, while US warships watch over Soviet freighters carrying missiles back to Soviet Union. (AFP/Getty Images) #
Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro looks over the Sierra Maestro mountains as he revisits the area where his revolution started in this June 1962 photo in Cuba. (AP Photo/Revolucion, Korda) #
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S. Army anti-aircraft rockets sit, mounted on launchers and pointed out over the Florida Straits in Key West, Florida, on October 27, 1962. (AP photo) #
Fiber Drum and polyethylene liner provided by the department of defense office of civil defense for public fallout shelters. Each drum is filled with 17.5 gallons of water which will provide drinking water for 5 persons for 14 days. Photo taken on February 19, 1962. (AP Photo) #
Father Luis Manuel Padilla holds a wounded government rifleman shot down in the streets of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, during a bloody revolt against President Betancourt in June 1962. More than 200 were killed before rebels were beaten. This photo won the Pulitzer Prize for Hector Rondon. (AP Photo/Hector Rondon) #
Geisha girl Harukoma (Etsuke's professional name) applies the white make-up that marks the Geisha as she prepares for an evening party with business executives, on July 19, 1962. (AP Photo) #
Three NASA personnel suited in space-flight restraining gear prepare to climb aboard the Apollo Spacecraft April 6, 1962. This preliminary mock-up model was placed on display April 6, 13 feet wide and 12 feet high, this command module will be the most complex manned flight device ever designed and built for earth orbit and lunar landing. (AP Photo) #
In a room lined with pyramids of foam plastic that absorbs radio energy, engineer Charles A. Haas inspects a model of the Telstar experimental communications satellite at the Bell Telephone Co., lab in Hillside New Jersey, February 1962. (AP Photo) #
US astronaut John Glenn enters into the Mercury "Friendship-7" capsule in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on February 20, 1962, prior to the launch of the spacecraft for the first US manned orbital flight ever. (AFP/Getty Images) #
Astronaut John Glenn, aboard the Friendship 7 Mercury Capsule launches from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on February 20, 1962, sending the first American into orbit. (AP Photo) #
Police and Guatemalan student demonstrators battle in street over possession of a Guatemalan flag as a terrified student, left, runs away, on March 16, 1962 in Guatemala City. Similar clashes occurred throughout the day in this riot torn city. Students were protesting the conservative government of Miguel Ydigoras. (AP Photo) #
Some of the 60,000 Chinese refugees who arrived illegally in Hong Kong from China in May of 1962. They hold out hands from a lorry asking for food as they were expelled to China by Hong Kong authorities on May 28, 1962. (AFP/Getty Images) #
Double-decker buses circle the Prince Albert statue at Holborn Circus in London, England, in the smog at night on December 6, 1962. The heavy smog, caused by coal-fired heating and burning gasoline in motor vehicles, claimed more than 100 lives in 1962. (AP Photo) #
Parents of students picket Glenfield Junior High School in Montclair, New Jersey, to dramatize their effort to improve education for the school's students, 90 percent of whom are African-American, in Montclair, New Jersey, prior to the school board's decision on August 22, 1962 to divide Glenfield's 182 students among the wealthy suburb's three other high schools. (AP Photo) #
A workman removes a restroom sign at Montgomery Municipal Airport, on January 5, 1962, in compliance with a federal court order banning segregation. However, city officials delayed plans to remove waiting room furniture and close toilets and water fountains. But they said these and the airport restaurant will be closed if there is a concerted integration attempt. (AP Photo) #
A white girl follows an African-American girl down the slide at Thomas J. Semmes school in New Orleans during recess on Sept. 7, 1962. The children played together as the school went into its second day of integrated classes. (AP Photo/Jim Bourdier) #
An African American and a white girl study a sign in the integrated Long Island community of Lakeview, New York, on April 1962. It reads "Negroes! This community could become another ghetto. You owe it to your 'family' to buy in another community." The sign was an attempt to keep African Americans from exceeding the number of whites who want to live in an integrated town. (AP Photo) #
Chief U.S. Marshal James McShane, left, and an unidentified marshal at right escort James Meredith, center with briefcase, to the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford, Mississippi, on October 2, 1962. Meredith, was the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi after integration. (AP Photo) #
President John F. Kennedy with daughter, Caroline, sailing off Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, in a 1962 photo. (AP Photo) #
A curved ceiling and glass walls are distinctive features of the lounge at TWA's new terminal building at New York's Idlewild Airport (now John F. Kennedy International Airport), on May 29, 1962. (AP Photo) #
A high wall of concrete blocks, topped with barbed wire, divides Sebastian Strasse in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, Germany, on February 15, 1962. To the left is the American sector and beyond the wall to the right is the Russian sector. (AP Photo) #
Dying Peter Fechter is carried away by East German border guards who shot him down when he tried to flee to the west in this August 17, 1962 photo. Fechter was lying in no-man's land for 50 minutes before he was taken to a hospital where he died shortly after arrival. (AP Photo) #
This aerial view shows the new baseball stadium for the Los Angeles Dodgers under construction in Chavez Ravine near Los Angeles, California, on March 7, 1962. The infield and outfield have been sodded and construction of the center field bleachers is underway. (AP Photo) #
Fans and teammates rush onto court to congratulate Philadelphia Warriors Wilt Chamberlain in Hershey, Pennsylvania, after he scored his 100th point in a 169-147 win over the New York Knickerbockers, on March 2, 1962. The record still stands, 50 years later. (AP Photo/Paul Vathis) #
Five thousand people stood shivering in Trafalgar Square in London, England, on February 25, 1962 at a rally organized by the British anti-war group Committee of 100. (AP Photo/Laurence Harris) #
The rising fireball of the Aztec nuclear detonation test, part of Operation Dominic, a series of over 100 nuclear test explosions in Nevada and the Pacific in 1962. (U.S. Department of Defense) #
The Space Needle and monorail in Seattle, Washington in 1962, part of the Seattle World's Fair. (AP Photo) #
The Halloween festival in Anaheim, California, on October 20, 1962. Nearly everyone in town turned out to watch the parade, and thousands were on hand to watch the show that launched it at the Palma Stadium. (AP Photo) #
South African police beat women with clubs in Durban, South Africa, on on April 17, 1962, when the women raided and set fire to a beer hall in protest of police action against their home brewing activities. (AP Photo) #
Said to be the smallest television receiver in the world at the time, this tiny model was shown by the Japanese electronics industry at the international samples fair in Milan, Italy, on April 21, 1962. The picture is compared with a postage stamp only 4 centimeters wide. (AP Photo) #
A soldier of the West German Army (Bundeswehr) carries a woman to safety in Hamburg, Germany, on February 17, 1962, after rescuing her from rising flood waters with an army rubber rescue craft. (AP Photo) #
Teenagers play volleyball in Mongolia in March of 1962. (AP Photo/Igor Oganesoff) #
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy attends dinner with honoree Minister of State for Cultural Affairs of France, Andre Malraux, on May 11, 1962 in Washington, D.C. (Photo Courtesy of Kennedy Library Archives/Newsmakers) #

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