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Ficken and LeWarne - Washington, A Centennial History

Introduction - The Statehood Year

p. xiii: Washington became the 42nd state on November 11, 1889. The population was 239,544. Naturalist John Muir observed at the time: "To many, especially in the Atlantic States, Washington is hardly known at all. It is regarded as being yet a far wild west--a dim, nebulous expanse of woods--by those who do not know that railroads and steamers have brought the country out of the wilderness and abolished the old distances." The Great Seattle Fire took place on June 6, 1889.

Chapter 3 - The Timber Commonwealth

p. 33: On this page the authors write that the Northern Pacific Railway opened its direct line across the Cascades to Tacoma in 1883. In the Afterword on p. 184, they write that the tunnel through the Cascades was opened in 1888. (I think there is an error here. See beckey-2003-p237 and beckey-2003-p417.) The Northern Pacific Railway revolutionized Washington history. During the 1880s the territory's population increased by nearly 400%, making statehood possible.

p. 34: The transcontinental railroad was completed just as major changes occurred in the national timber industry. Forests in the Midwest were depleted, forcing that region's timbermen to look elsewhere. In 1888, Chauncey Griggs, a wealthy Minnesota grocer, and several associates acquired 80,000 acres from the railroad and organized the St. Paul and Tacoma Lumber Company. Other Great Lakes timber interests acquired land in Washington, competing with older California firms dating from the gold rush of the 1850s. The panic of 1893 (described as the most severe crisis yet in American history) stopped investment from the Great Lakes and forced many local mills to close (p. 39). Prosperity returned in 1897 and Great Lakes investors resumed their westward migration. Frederick Weyerhaeuser, whose company would dominate the timber industry in the Northwest, began acquiring timberland from the Northern Pacific in 1900 (p. 41). By mid-1903, Weyerhaeuser's holdings in Western Washington totaled 1.3 millian acres. Weyerhaeuser's investment was for the long-term, and the company did not become a major lumbering enterprise until after World War I.

p. 35: In the early years of the industry, timber was virtually free for the taking. A federal investigation concluded that by the late 1870s, $40 million worth of timber had been "stolen" from the public domain on Puget Sound. The Timber and Stone Act of 1878, meant to eliminate corruption, instead allowed mill companies to acquire sizable holdings, often fraudulently. In 1882 and 1883 alone, 200,000 acres of Washington timberland passed into private hands by this process. The creation of national forest reserves in the 1890s marked the beginning of federal protection of timberlands.

p. 36: The Great Northern Railway was built into Seattle in early 1893.

p. 40: Gold was discovered in the Yukon in 1897, opening a new market for Washington lumberman.

p. 43: By 1905, more timber west of the Cascades had been destroyed by fire than had been removed by logging. The ever-present possibility that fire would destroy one's timber encouraged companies to cut rapidly, regardless of market conditions. President Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, chief of the U.S. Forest Service in the first years of the twentieth century, set about reducing forest fires and lessening the tax burden to encourage timber owners to retain their properties until efficient management called for logging. This was the beginning of practical conservation of forest resources.

p. 47: In 1907, a short but destructive depression hit struck the U.S. The authors describe the early rise of unionization in the 1880s (p. 38) and of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1907. In 1911, the state legislature approved one of the first workmen's compensation systems in the nation. This was a triumph for progressivism in Washington, but the Wobblies were not mollified by this reform.

Chapter 4 - The Wheat Commonwealth

p. 59: Throughout the 1880s, railroads were extended within Eastern Washington. In 1884, the Northern Pacific bridged the Columbia and built northwest through the Yakima Valley toward Stampede Pass and Puget Sound. The influx of settlers into Eastern Washington was extraordinary during this period. The authors write, "Whether in the golden hills north of the Snake or on the dry plateau west of Spokane, wheat made Eastern Washington just as lumber did Western Washington." The 1890 census showed that there was no longer a clear line separating settled from unsettled territory in the U.S. Some observers connected the depression of the 1890s to the end of the frontier (p. 63).

Chapter 5 - The Era of Reform

p. 79: "Loosely defined, the progressive movement lasted from 1900 until America's entrance into World War I in 1917."

p. 82: In 1910, a state constitutional amendment allowed women to vote in state and local elections, serve on juries, and hold public office.

p. 83: The authors discuss the rise of Washington socialists and the IWW before World War I. Unrest peaked in the "Everett Massacre" on November 5, 1916 (p. 85), the Seattle general strike on February 6, 1919 (p. 86), and the "Centralia Massacre" on November 11, 1919 (p. 87). By the end of World War I, the Pacific Northwest had acquired a reputation for radicalism.

Chapter 6 - From Great War to Great Depression

p. 90: In April 1917, the U.S. Congress declared war against Germany. War in Europe had erupted in August 1914. A lasting effect of World War I in Washington was the construction of Camp Lewis south of Tacoma in the summer of 1917. The war ended on November 11, 1918, Armistice Day.

p. 95: In February 1918 lumbermen reluctantly agreed to implement the eight-hour day, "as a gesture of patriotic self-reliance" during the war. Eight hours became the standard workday in the Pacific Northwest.

p. 96: The authors write: "Mythology tells us that the 1920s were a time of economic prosperity and unrelenting optimism. Critics respond that this is not so: the decade was a stagnant era between the progressive period and the New Deal. Perhaps it was neither a time of prosperity nor stagnation so much as one of consolidation." During this period Washington cities reshaped themselves and modernized even if they failed to grow rapidly. The Washington economy in the 1920s was weak due to oversupply of lumber and farm products (p. 100).

p. 97: Washington went dry by vote of the electorate in 1916. Prohibition swept the nation with ratification of the eighteenth amendment to the U.S. constitution in 1919. Prohibition was repealed in Washington in 1933. But the authors note that prohibition had been dead in urban Washington almost before the ink dried on the documents that established it.

Chapter 7 - Washington's New Deal

p. 109: On Black Thursday, October 24, 1929, stock prices plummeted on Wall Street. Northwest papers covered the crash with restraint rather than panic. "Widespread opinion held that the crash would actually prove beneficial to the Pacific Northwest." This confidence proved to be devastatingly wrong. Per capita consumption of lumber in the U.S. declined by two-thirds between 1929 and 1932, which was disastrous for the already depressed sawmills of Washington. Conditions were no better in farm country east of the Cascades. The average value per farm by 1935 was less than half that of 1920.

p. 112: Like other American cities, Seattle had its "Hooverville." In 1934, an investigator found 632 men and seven women eking out a living in ramshackle housing south of Yesler Street near the Seattle waterfront. The authors describe the political transformation of Washington, which had been solidly Republican in the 1920s. By 1932 things had changed. Franklin D. Roosevelt won 57 percent of the presidential vote and Democrat Clarence D. Martin was elected governor. Democrats won three-fourths of the seats in the state house of representatives, going from eight to seventy overnight.

p. 120: Bonneville Dam was dedicated by President Roosevelt in the fall of 1937. Grand Coulee Dam began generating hydroelectricity in March 1941. The development of these Columbia River dams was the New Deal's greatest contribution to the region.

p. 123: "Just as Grand Coulee and Bonneville dams were permanent New Deal engineering monuments, the Olympic National Park was an enduring legacy of New Deal environmentalism." The authors provide a good, concise summary of the political maneuverings leading to the creation of the park. The park, originally 648,000 acres, was expanded by 187,000 acres in January 1940 by President Roosevelt, adding the Hoh and Bogachiel river valleys.

p. 125: "Despite the many public works jobs, from Grand Coulee to construction of local post offices, male employment in Washington actually decreased between 1930 and 1940; more men had worked under Hoover than under Roosevelt."

Chapter 8 - Homefront Washington

p. 128: The authors describe the aftermath of the December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attack in Washington. There was widespread fear of a Japanese attack on the West Coast. Blackouts were imposed in urban areas on Puget Sound.

p. 132: War production and the availability of low-cost power from the Columbia River dams transformed the economy of Washington. "Between Pearl Harbor and V-J Day in August 1945, the industrial framework of Washington took its modern form. Lumbering, the pioneer mainstay, lost predominance to aluminum, airplanes, and ships." The authors write: "The Washington of 1945 was closer to the Washington of today than it was to the Washington of 1940." (p. 143)

p. 134: On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing exclusion of suspect persons from war zones designated by the military. On March 2, 1942, General John DeWitt of the Western Defense Command, ordered removal of all persons of Japanese descent from coastal areas, including Washington west of the Cascades. Executive Order 9066 was revoked in December 1944, allowing them to return.

p. 137: In September 1939, a letter signed by Albert Einstein, warning of the danger of Hitler developing atomic weapons, was delivered to President Roosevelt. In response to this threat, the federal government initiated a top-secret effort to develop an atomic bomb. The main laboratory and testing grounds were located near Los Alamos, New Mexico. A giant uranium separation complex was built at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A third plant, located at Hanford in the Eastern Washington wastelands, manufactured plutonium.


p. 183: Four key developments directed Washington state history to 1989. The first was the charting and naming of the Columbia River by Yankee trader Robert Gray in May 12, 1792. Gray's discovery laid the foundation for American claims to the Northwest coast. The second was the discovery of gold in California by James Marshall in the winter of 1848. The gold rush, and its demand for lumber, led to the building of the lumber commonwealth on Puget Sound. The third was the opening of the Northern Pacific Railroad tunnel through the Cascades in 1888, completing the direct trans-continental link between Puget Sound and the eastern United States. This ended Washington's geographic isolation. The final development was World War II. Using power made available by the recent completion of the Columbia River dams, Washington's industrial economy was transformed.

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