Washington (state), in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is bordered on the north by the Canadian province of British Columbia, on the south by Oregon, on the east by Idaho, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. Washington is the only state named for a U.S. president. It was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state on November 11, 1889. Washington has beautiful glaciated mountains and dense forests in the west, and a vast expanse of golden grainland in the eastern section of the state. Olympia is the capital of Washington. The state’s largest city, Seattle, is an important port and a gateway to East Asia and the Arctic North. However, it is the Columbia River, which carves its way down through the central part of the state before turning westward toward the Pacific Ocean, that is Washington’s most important resource.
The Columbia River is the greatest source for potential and actual hydroelectric waterpower in the United States. The construction of such great dams as Grand Coulee, Chief Joseph, and The Dalles to harness the power of this mighty river has revolutionized the state’s economy and wrought startling changes in its landscape. The Columbia’s water provides electric power for industry, most of which has come into the state during and since World War II (1939-1945), and irrigation for agriculture, especially in the drier region east of the Cascade Range, where semiarid desert land has been transformed into highly productive ranchland and farms. Washington is known as the Evergreen State, for its extensive forests of evergreen trees.
Washington, the 19th largest state of the United States, has an area of 184,666 sq km (71,300 sq mi), including 4,022 sq km (1,553 sq mi) of inland water, and 6,571 sq km (2,537 sq mi) of coastal waters over which the state has jurisdiction. The state has an extreme length, from east to west, of 607 km (377 mi) and a maximum width, from north to south, of 385 km (239 mi). The mean elevation is about 500 m (1,700 ft).
Washington can be divided into four major natural regions, or physiographic provinces, each of which is part of one of the larger geographic regions, or physiographic divisions, of the western United States. These four natural regions are, from west to east, the Pacific Border province, the Sierra-Cascade province, or Cascade Mountains, the Columbia Plateau, and the Northern Rocky Mountains. The Sierra-Cascade province and the Pacific Border province are subdivisions of the Pacific Mountain System. The Northern Rocky Mountains are a subdivision of the Rocky Mountain System, and the Columbia Plateau belongs to the broad region between the Rocky and Pacific mountain systems known as the Intermontane Plateaus.
The Pacific Border province, in western Washington, includes the Olympic Mountains and Willapa Hills, which are the Washington section of the Coast Ranges, and the lowlands of the Puget Trough. The Olympic Mountains, located in northwestern Washington on the Olympic Peninsula, reach a maximum elevation of 2,428 m (7,965 ft) at Mount Olympus. However, because they rise from a dense coniferous rain forest just above sea level, they are among the most impressive peaks in the United States. The Willapa Hills, located farther south, are generally less than 900 m (less than 3,000 ft) in elevation, less densely forested, and less rugged than the Olympic Mountains.
The lowlands of the Puget Trough are part of a broad structural depression between the Coast Ranges and the Cascade Range. The northern part of the trough has been inundated by the sea to form Puget Sound; the southern part is occupied by sections of the Chehalis, Cowlitz, and Columbia river valleys.
The Sierra-Cascade province extends almost due north and south across central Washington. It has a general elevation in the north of from 1,800 to 2,400 m (6,000 to 8,000 ft), but several peaks in the south, all of them active or extinct volcanoes, rise considerably above this level. They include Mount Rainier, which rises to 4,392 m (14,410 ft) and is the highest point in Washington; Mount Adams (3,742 m/12,276 ft); and Mount Saint Helens (2,550 m/8,365 ft), which in 1980 erupted spectacularly, tearing 400 m (1,300 ft) in elevation from the peak and sending billows of ash across the state and eastward into Idaho and Montana. The western slopes of the mountains are wet and heavily forested. The east-facing slopes are cut off from rain-bearing winds and are much drier. The higher elevations are covered by glaciers and permanent snowfields.
The Columbia Plateau is a rolling, semiarid, and prairie-like region in southeastern Washington. In the southeast, just north of the Snake River, is the large wheat-growing dunelike area of the Palouse River section. West of the Palouse lie the Scablands, or Channeled Scablands, an almost barren lava plateau that was channeled, or carved, into coulees, or deep canyons, by glacial meltwaters at the end of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago. The largest of the canyons are Grand Coulee and Moses Coulee. Occupying the extreme southeastern part of the Columbia Plateau are the Blue Mountains, which range up to 2,100 m (7,000 ft).
The Northern Rocky Mountains, in northeastern Washington, average from 900 to 2,100 m (3,000 to 7,000 ft) in height and are mostly forested. The principal range of the Northern Rockies in Washington is the Kettle River Range. Its tallest peaks are Copper Butte (2,175 m/7,135 ft) and Snow Peak (2,165 m/7,103 ft).
Washington has an overall coastline of only 253 km (157 mi) and a detailed coastline, which includes the shoreline of all bays, indentations, and islands, of 4,870 km (3,026 mi). The principal indentation is Puget Sound, which is connected with the Pacific Ocean by the Strait of Juan de Fuca. More than 300 islands, including the San Juan Islands, and a number of rocky protuberances, stud the sound and confine navigation to defined channels. Other major indentations are Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. Long sandy beaches border the southwestern coast between the bays. The ocean side of the Olympic Peninsula is bordered by rugged cliffs and headlands.
|C||Rivers and Lakes|
All of Washington’s rivers drain toward the Pacific Ocean. The most important is the Columbia River, which enters Washington from British Columbia. The river is navigable by oceangoing vessels as far upstream as Vancouver, and by barge to Pasco, with continued navigation on the Snake River to Lewiston, Idaho. Principal tributaries are the Pend Oreille, Spokane, Okanogan, Methow, Wenatchee, Yakima, Snake, Lewis, and Cowlitz rivers.
A number of smaller streams drain the western sections of the state. They include the Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, Cedar, Puyallup, and Nisqually, which drain into Puget Sound, and the Quinault, Chehalis, and Willapa, which drain into the Pacific.
More than 8,000 lakes and ponds are scattered over the state; most of the largest are impoundments of hydroelectric dams. The largest artificial lake is Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake, reaching for 243 km (151 mi) on the Columbia River.
The crest of the Cascade Range divides Washington into two distinct climatic regions. The area west of the Cascades, which is exposed throughout the year to rain-bearing winds from the Pacific Ocean, has a temperate marine type of climate that is characterized by mild wet winters and cool summers. The Cascades prevent the moist air blowing in from the Pacific from reaching eastern Washington. The Rocky Mountains on the eastern border also represent a climatic barrier. As a result, the severe winter storms that sweep the Northern Plains States do not reach Washington. Eastern Washington is much drier than western Washington, and its summers are hotter and its winters are colder.
Average January temperatures in eastern Washington range from less than -7°C (20°F) to -1°C (30°F) and often drop down to -18°C (0°F). January averages in western areas range from less than 0°C (32°F) at the higher elevations to more than 4°C (40°F) along the Pacific Coast. July averages in the east are from 18° to 24°C (65° to 75°F). However, daytime temperatures are often above 32°C (90°F). By contrast, July averages in the west are mostly in the vicinity of 16°C (60°F). The western coast has mild temperatures throughout most of the year, with relatively few days below freezing.
The Olympic Mountains receive more precipitation than any other area in the mid-continental United States, often more than 3,600 mm (140 in) yearly, much of it snow. The Cascades receive almost as much, and more than 7,600 mm (300 in) has been known to fall on the mountain peaks in one year. Precipitation in Seattle, in the Puget Trough, averages 940 mm (37 in) per year, while the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range and much of the east receive only about 380 mm (about 15 in). In parts of the Columbia Plateau in south central Washington, an average of only about 150 mm (about 6 in) falls annually.
Because of the extreme climatic differences between eastern and western Washington, the growing season ranges from 100 days in some of the mountain areas to 280 days along parts of the Pacific shore. In eastern Washington the growing season is from 120 to 200 days. In the Puget Trough the growing season is from 160 to 240 days.
Gray-brown podzolic soils cover most of western Washington and sections of the Northern Rocky Mountains. These soils support good stands of coniferous forest and lush pasturelands, but when cultivated, they require heavy applications of lime and artificial fertilizers.
Soils characteristic of semiarid areas cover the drier eastern section of the state. These soils are generally rich in mineral plant nutrients. Even thin soils, known as lithosols, which cover the eastern flanks of the Cascade Range, provide excellent crops of apples and other fruits when irrigation water is applied.
Forests cover 51 percent of the total land area of Washington. Most of the forests are located in the mountainous sections of western and northeastern Washington, where precipitation is sufficient to support forest growth.
The Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, western red cedar, and western hemlock, which is the state tree, dominate the forests of western Washington. They have great commercial value. In the dense rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula, Douglas firs grow more than 60 m (200 ft) high and 3 m (10 ft) in diameter. Hardwoods, such as the Oregon, or big-leaf, maple, vine maple, red alder, madrone, black cottonwood, and Oregon ash, grow near streams.
The forested regions of eastern Washington are dominated by the ponderosa, or yellow, pine and at elevations above 750 m (2,500 ft) by the western white pine and the western larch. In the higher forests of the Olympic and Cascade mountains are found the lowland, noble, and alpine firs, whitebark and lodgepole pines, Engelmann spruce, mountain hemlock, and Alaska cedar. Among the small trees and shrubs of Washington are the dogwood, Pacific yew, huckleberry, and salal.
Mosses and ferns cover the forest floor. The wood sorrel, wild vanilla, fireweed, trillium, and anemone are found in the lower mountain forests, as is the coast rhododendron, which is the state flower. Among the flowers of the higher mountain, or alpine, meadows are the avalanche lily, phlox, lupine, bistort, and piper bluebell. Flowers found in the open fields of eastern Washington include the white hellebore, adder’s-tongue, Indian paintbrush, and brown-eyed Susan.
The rangelands of the Columbia Plateau are arid and sparsely vegetated. Shrubs and low grasses predominate, with sagebrush, rabbit brush, bitterbrush, Idaho fescue, and bluebunch wheatgrass being the most common plants. Where overgrazing has damaged the range, cheatgrass is found.
The remote wilderness areas of Washington provide a home for many large mammals. Great herds of Roosevelt, or Olympic, elk, which is the largest of the wapiti, roam the Olympic Peninsula. White-tailed deer and mule deer, as well as black bears and mountain goats, are also found in Washington. Predators include the cougar, or mountain lion, Canada lynx, coyote, and red fox. Mammals such as the killer whale and harbor seal are found in coastal waters. Among the smaller mammals are raccoon, beaver, skunks, mink, and otter. Rodents include squirrels, chipmunks, porcupines, and, at high elevations, marmots.
Birds found in Washington’s forests include the crow, raven, Oregon jay, western tanager, thrush, kingfisher, ruffed grouse, and the willow goldfinch, which is the state bird. Birds of prey include the bald eagle and several species of hawks and owls. Among the migratory waterfowl are the Canada goose, canvasback, black brant, cinnamon teal, and wood duck. Washington’s seabirds include the Heermann’s gull, glaucous-winged gull, Leach’s petrel, and Brandt’s cormorant. The great blue heron and the loon are found on inland waters.
Many reptiles and amphibians are found in Washington, including turtles, lizards, salamanders, toads, frogs, garter snakes, and bull snakes. The poisonous prairie rattlesnake is occasionally found in eastern Washington.
Five species of salmon are found in Washington’s waters, including the king, or chinook, the sockeye, the pink, the chum, and the coho. Steelhead, a sea-going rainbow trout, and Dolly Varden are native to the state, and largemouth and smallmouth black bass are also found. The white sturgeon is the large freshwater fish found in the Columbia River. Smelt, halibut, red snapper, tuna, albacore, and pilchard are found in the ocean waters of the Pacific, and clams and oysters are common along the Pacific Coast and the beaches of Puget Sound.
The major conservation activities in Washington are soil conservation, fish and wildlife management, forest management, land reclamation, and flood control. Among the federal agencies with conservation programs in the state are the Forest Service, which administers 3.7 million hectares (9.2 million acres) of national forest land, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the bureaus of Reclamation, Land Management, and Indian Affairs, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The Department of Ecology is the lead state agency on environmental issues.
In 2006 the state had 46 hazardous waste sites on a national priority list for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people. Between 1995 and 2000, the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into the environment was reduced by 14 percent.
Fur trapping drew the first Europeans to the region that was to become Washington. As settlement began in the mid-19th century, agriculture and lumbering gradually developed around Puget Sound and in some outlying areas. A major stimulus to the development of these economies was the construction of transcontinental and north-south railroads in the late 19th century. By the end of the century, shipping had become important, and industries developed around processing the region’s resources and transporting them to markets. In the 20th century, the dams constructed on the Columbia River provided irrigation water for the dry farmlands of the east and furnished cheap electric power. Manufacturing began its rapid growth in the state during World War II (1939-1945), when the federal government established defense industries in the state. By the 1990s, the economy was diverse, led by manufacturing, agriculture, and international trade.
People holding jobs in Washington numbered 3,327,000 in 2006. The largest share of them, 37 percent, were workers in the diverse service sector, such as computer programmers or those in the restaurant trade. Another 21 percent were employed in wholesale or retail trade; 18 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 10 percent in manufacturing; 17 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 7 percent in construction; 19 percent in transportation or public utilities; and 3 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing. The mining industry employed only 0.3 percent of the labor force. In 2005, 19 percent of Washington’s workers were unionized.
Farmland covers 6.1 million hectares (15.1 million acres), or more than one-third of the state. Crops are grown on 52 percent of the farmland; the rest is devoted to range, pasture, and forest. Crop sales account for 70 percent of annual farm income. Farms average 177 hectares (438 acres), but this figure masks the difference between huge grain farms of more than 400 hectares (1,000 acres) in the east and tiny plots used for greenhouses and nurseries in the Puget Sound area.
Eastern Washington specializes in a cash-grain type of farming, growing spring and winter wheat and barley. This pattern gives way in the northeastern counties to livestock raising and westward, in the irrigated lands of the Columbia Basin and the eastern slopes of the Cascades, to fruit and nut growing and livestock. The valley of the Yakima River, a tributary of the Columbia, is an irrigated oasis of great productivity, outstanding for its number of hogs, cattle, and sheep and for its bountiful crops of potatoes, corn, hops, mint, peaches, grapes, cherries, apricots, and apples. A wine industry has also developed in this region. The land west of the Cascades is given over chiefly to dairying and the growing of fruits and vegetables, two activities that find a ready market in the cities of the Puget Sound area.
Apples account for almost one-fifth of all annual sales and Washington leads the nation in commercial apple production. It ranks second in production of potatoes, third in winter wheat, and fourth in barley. It also ranks first in such diverse crops as hops, spearmint, and field peas. Hay, corn, asparagus, and onions are also important field crops. Nearly all the temperate-latitude fruits, including pears, cherries, grapes, strawberries, peaches, raspberries, and plums, are grown in abundance. Alfalfa is grown for seed, as are many types of lawn grass, especially in the Spokane Valley.
In 1997 cattle and milk production together accounted for about one-quarter of the state’s farm income. Dairying is carried on in the Puget Sound lowland, close to the cities that have a big demand for milk. Poultry is also raised in this area. Sheep raising is concentrated in the southeastern section of the state. Cattle ranching is confined to eastern Washington. Uplands are used primarily for summer range, but in the river valleys there is grazing throughout the year.
The fishing industry is of considerable importance, especially to western Washington. The state is among the leaders in the nation in the production of salmon, and the total value of its fish catch was $163 million in 2004. Fishing crews operate on the lower reaches of the Columbia River, the waters of Puget Sound, the coastal waters off the Olympic Peninsula, and as far away as Bristol Bay in Alaska. The chief species caught are salmon, albacore, herring, rockfish, cod, flounder, Dungeness crabs, and ocean perch.
Forests cover two-fifths of the state’s total land area, and much of this land is commercial timberland. The Cascades divide the state into two broad types of timberland, characterized by Douglas firs to the west and ponderosa pines to the east. The Douglas fir is the most abundant single species, and Washington has about a fifth of all the Douglas fir in the country. It is the leading species for lumber, accounting for more than a third of the state’s total. The hemlock and ponderosa pine are also important.
Washington ranks second among the states in the production of lumber, following only Oregon. The largest timber harvests come from the counties between Puget Sound and the Columbia River and from those between the Pacific Coast and the Cascades. Until the 1950s, lumber ranked first among the state’s forest products, but since has been surpassed in importance by the production of pulp. Paper and lumber mills are located in valleys and on Puget Sound.
The timber industry in Washington underwent a difficult transition in the early 1990s. Environmental restrictions that were intended to preserve fish and wildlife habitat reduced the number of large, older trees available for cutting. Extensive harvests during peak years in the 1980s also limited supply. The result was the closure of many mills and a disruption in the economies of timber-dependent communities.
Washington’s mineral output is modest. Mining products with the highest value are sand and gravel used for construction, crushed stone, portland cement, gold, and magnesium metal. Other important minerals are clay, natural gemstones, and gypsum.
Among Washington’s industries by far the largest contributor to the economy is the manufacture of transportation equipment, primarily aircraft, although the industrial sector also includes companies building boats, trucks, and equipment for space exploration. Other industries, ranked by the value of their production, include food processors, chiefly those packaging seafoods, fruits, and vegetables and the makers of beverages; instrument manufactures, such as firms making navigation devices, electromedical equipment, and equipment used to measure electricity; wood manufactures, particularly mills making lumber and plywood; makers of machinery, including peripheral equipment for computers and equipment used in construction; pulp and paper manufactures; printers and publishers; and the primary metal industries, mainly aluminum plants.
Manufacturing is widely distributed throughout the state. The distribution is due to the availability of large quantities of hydroelectric power and to the setting of electricity rates in such a way as to prevent clustering of heavy power users, such as aluminum plants and pulp mills, at dam sites. Some industries were deliberately located away from urban areas. An example is the siting by the United States Department of Energy of its Hanford plutonium works and chemical plant, northwest of Richland.
The greatest concentration of industry, however, is in the western part of the state around Puget Sound. There are located the aircraft and aerospace industries, most of the aluminum-fabricating plants, boatyards and shipbuilding yards, clothing factories, furniture and chemical plants, pulp and plywood mills, and petroleum refineries.
The aerospace industry is the single most important industry in the state, and The Boeing Company, which was founded in Seattle in 1916, is the state’s largest employer. Dependence on one major industry made the state’s economy susceptible to cycles. For example, in the early 1970s, Boeing was forced to reduce its workforce from approximately 90,000 people to 38,000 because of a decline in airplane orders and a cutback in federal funds for experimental projects such as the development of the Supersonic Transport. The state experienced a severe recession as a result of the employment reductions. Since then manufacturing in the state has diversified, which helped prevent another recession when aerospace manufacturing declined for a period in the early 1990s.
The aluminum industry in Washington owes its development to hydroelectric power during the 1930s. By 1950 Washington was producing and processing about half the nation’s aluminum. However, expansion of the industry in other parts of the country has since reduced Washington’s share. Aluminum processing has attracted electrometal and electrochemical plants and small firms that fabricate aluminum and other metals.
The manufacture of forest products was Washington’s first major industry. Although its relative importance has diminished, it is still vital to the state economy. Washington ranks among the leading states in lumber and wood products. It also leads in the production of wood pulp and is an important producer of paper, plywood, and shingles and shakes. The manufacture of heavy lumbering equipment is also significant.
The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, at Bremerton, is the largest shipyard on the Pacific Coast. Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, and Bellingham also have dry docks for repairing and building ships. Small shipbuilding companies located in many Puget Sound ports build fishing and pleasure craft.
A great many food-processing plants have been established to process and market Washington’s produce. Spokane, Seattle, Tacoma, and Vancouver have flour mills. The processing of Washington’s various fruits, especially apples, and vegetable products is centered in the Yakima Valley. Kennewick has an important grape-processing plant, and a growing industry is the making of wine from the state’s grape harvest. Meat and dairy products are also packaged.
|F||Service and Retail Industries|
Since the early 1990s, Washington has become a hub of high-tech service industries. The computer software industry, in particular, has generated tens of thousands of jobs. The Microsoft Corporation is based in the Seattle suburb of Redmond and is the world’s largest maker of operating systems for personal computers. In the early 21st century Microsoft began to rival Boeing as a major employer and contributor to the state’s economy. The software industry in Washington spawned other successful offshoots such as the Internet retailer, Amazon.com, Inc. Other significant retailers with corporate headquarters in the Seattle metropolitan area include Starbucks Coffee, the department store chain Nordstrom, and the discount store chain Costco Companies.
The Columbia River and its tributaries have the best hydroelectric power sites in the United States and quite possibly in the world. Washington ranks first in the nation in development of waterpower resources and in production of hydroelectricity. Huge hydroelectric plants are located in the state. They include the Grand Coulee, John Day, Chief Joseph, The Dalles, McNary, Wanapum, Priest Rapids, Rocky Reach, and Bonneville projects along the Columbia River. Smaller plants are found along the Yakima and Snake rivers, as well as in other parts of the state.
Both private and public utility companies operate large hydroelectric projects. Among nonfederal power projects are those on the Skagit River belonging to Seattle and those on the Skokomish, Nisqually, and Cowlitz rivers belonging to Tacoma. Altogether, in 2002, the state had 287 hydroelectric generators. The Grand Coulee Dam has a generating capacity of 6.5 million kilowatts, third largest in the world.
The Bonneville Power Administration, a division of the United States Department of the Interior, operates an integrated power transmission grid, which distributes electricity from federal dam sites. Because of its hydroelectric development, Washington’s average residential use of electricity is among the highest in the United States. Huge quantities of power are also consumed by the aluminum and paper and pulp industries. The low cost of electricity is one of Washington’s attractions to industry.
Even though Washington has tremendous hydropower generation, it still doesn’t supply all of the state’s needs. Coal-fired plants produce 19 percent of electricity, and 8 percent comes from Washington’s single nuclear plant, at Hanford. The plant is the only one to be completed out of five begun in the late 1970s. Tremendous cost escalation in the ambitious construction program halted construction on the others.
Washington has great potential for tourism in its spectacular scenic beauty and in the attraction of such technological wonders as Grand Coulee Dam. Tourism has steadily increased since the 1960s.
The main focus of transportation in Washington is Seattle. It is the terminus of transcontinental rail, air, and highway routes and the gateway of the Pacific Northwest, to and from Alaska, Hawaii, and Asia by air and by sea.
The second focus of transportation is Spokane, the chief city of the Inland Northwest and the center of a web of routes reaching out to Canada, the Northern Rocky Mountains, the Columbia Basin, and the Columbia Plateau and Great Basin country to the south. Between Spokane and Seattle, however, lies the Cascade Range, which is still a formidable barrier to land transportation.
Puget Sound forms a magnificent waterway system extending about 130 km (about 80 mi) inland from Juan de Fuca Strait, which is navigable for large ships throughout the year. Puget Sound lies at the southern end of the Inside Passage, a natural protected waterway about 1,530 km (about 950 mi) long off the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska. From Seattle there are frequent sailings to Hawaii, Asia, and Alaska.
The Columbia and Snake rivers are navigable for barges to the Idaho border. The Columbia is also navigable for large vessels to Vancouver, across the river from Portland, Oregon.
Railroad track in the state totals 5,116 km (3,179 mi). This system has declined with the closure of many branch rail lines, but main lines carry increasing amounts of freight. The two chief hubs of railroad traffic are Seattle and Spokane. Two transcontinental lines cross Washington. The state is also linked to the north with Vancouver, British Columbia, and to the south with Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
Washington has 13 airports, some of which are private. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is a port of entry for foreign travelers, is the busiest airport in the state and was 15th busiest in the nation in 1996. Spokane has the state’s other major airport.
Washington has 134,189 km (83,381 mi) of highways, including 1,230 km (764 mi) of the federal interstate highway system. There are only five highway routes across the state, from east to west. Four of these go through passes in the Cascade Range, but only three passes are kept open in winter, due to heavy snowfall.
Foreign trade is one of the most important segments of the economy in the Puget Sound area. Chief among Washington’s ports are Seattle and Tacoma. Others include Anacortes, Bellingham, and Everett. Longview and Vancouver, two ports on the Washington side of the Columbia River, are also commercially important, as are ports in Grays Harbor on the Pacific coast.
There is great rivalry between Seattle and Portland for the trade of eastern Washington. State ties bind the Inland Northwest to Seattle, but Portland has the advantage of barge transport for grain and other bulk items on the Columbia and Snake rivers. In wholesale and retail trade, Portland’s influence extends through all of southern Washington parallel to the lower Columbia River and halfway up the lowland trough between the Columbia and Puget Sound.
|IV||THE PEOPLE OF WASHINGTON|
According to the 2000 national census, Washington ranked 15th among the states, with a total population of 5,894,121. This figure represented an increase of 21.1 percent over the 1990 census of 4,866,692. In 2000, 82 percent of the total population lived in urban areas. The state has an average population density of 37 persons per sq km (96 per sq mi). However, the distribution of people is very uneven, with more than half the state’s population concentrated in the Puget Sound region. During the 1980s the Seattle metropolitan region—located on the eastern side of Puget Sound and including the cities of Everett and Bellevue—was fast growing, and by 1990 it accounted for two-fifths of the state’s population. Since 1990, however, metropolitan regions elsewhere in the state have shown increased growth. Populated regions include the cities of Tacoma, Olympia, and Bremerton at the southern end of Puget Sound; the irrigated valleys of the Yakima and Wenatchee rivers; the farming and transportation crossroads of Spokane; and the lower Columbia River valley.
Whites constitute 81.8 percent of the population. The largest nonwhite group are Asians, who represent 5.5 percent of the people. Blacks are 3.2 percent, Native Americans 1.6 percent, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders 0.4 percent, and those of mixed heritage or who didn’t report ethnicity 7.5 percent. Hispanics, who can be of any race, are 7.5 percent of the people. Washington contains more than 20 Native American reservations, including one of the largest in the country, belonging to the Yakama peoples. Other Native American groups are the Pend d’Oreille (Kalispel), Spokane, and Makah.
Seattle is the principal city of the Pacific Northwest. It is a cosmopolitan city having cultural, as well as economic, ties with Eastern Asia. In 2006 it had a population of 582,454; the population of the metropolitan area centered on the city was 3.6 million in 2000. Spokane, the major city of the Washington interior, had a population of 198,081 (2006). Tacoma, a manufacturing and shipping center on southern Puget Sound, had 196,532 people. Vancouver, on the Columbia River across from Portland, Oregon, reached 158,855 inhabitants in 2006 in part through annexation of suburban communities. Bellevue, located across Lake Washington from Seattle and home to many high technology businesses, had a population of 118,186. Other large cities in 2006 were Everett (98,514), Yakima (82,805), Bellingham (75,150), Kennewick (62,276), Bremerton (35,295), and Olympia (44,645).
The largest religious group in the state is the Roman Catholic Church, with about one-fifth of the population claiming membership. Largest Protestant denominations are the Lutherans, Baptists, and Methodists.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS|
The first two schools in what is now Washington opened in the early 1830s. One school, at the site of present-day Spokane, was for Native Americans. The other was for children of Hudson’s Bay Company employees at Fort Vancouver. The first territorial legislature provided for the establishment of common schools in 1854, but progress was hampered by the lack of public funds. The first high school in Washington Territory was a private school founded at Olympia in 1855. Public secondary schools developed rapidly after Washington was admitted to the Union in 1889.
Washington’s present statewide system of free public education dates from the passage of the so-called barefoot schoolboy law in 1895, which guaranteed state support for the education of all children in Washington. The state system of public education is supervised by a superintendent of public instruction.
Education in Washington is compulsory for all children age 8 to 18, although they may leave school at age 16 upon meeting competency requirements and proving they have a useful occupation. Private schools enroll 8 percent of the state’s children.
In the 2002–2003 school year Washington spent $8,755 on each student’s education, compared to a national average of $9,299. There were 19.3 students for every teacher (the national norm was 15.9 students). Of those older than 25 years of age in 2006, 89 percent had a high school diploma, among the best levels of educational attainment in the country.
Washington had 46 public and 35 private institutions of higher learning in 2004–2005. The largest and oldest of the state-supported schools is the University of Washington, founded in 1861 in Seattle. Other schools of note include Seattle University; Seattle Pacific University; Washington State University, in Pullman; Eastern Washington University, in Cheney; Central Washington University, in Ellensburg; Western Washington University, in Bellingham; The Evergreen State College, in Olympia; Whitman College, in Walla Walla; Gonzaga University, in Spokane; University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran University, both in Tacoma.
Washington State Library, at Olympia, is the oldest library in Washington. It was founded as the territorial library in 1853. Public libraries were opened at Tacoma, Seattle, and Spokane in the 1890s, and almost every community in the state is now provided with library service. In 2002 the state had 64 tax-supported library systems. Each year the libraries circulate an average of 10.1 books for every resident, one of the highest rates in the country. Major libraries in Washington include the University of Washington library, which has a collection of materials on the history of the Pacific Northwest that is the largest of any public institution in the country; the Washington State University library, at Pullman; and the Washington State Law Library, at Olympia.
Many of the state’s important museums are in Seattle, including the Seattle Art Museum, which has collections of African and Northwest Native American art, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum, which has a world-famous collection of Asian art and a large collection of regional art. Also in Seattle are the Frye Art Museum, which has exhibits of 19th-century European and American painting, and the University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery/Faye G. Allen Center for the Visual Arts, whose shows change regularly. Other noted museums in Seattle are the Thomas Burke Memorial Washington State Museum, which has exhibits concerning Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, the Nordic Heritage Museum, the Wing Luke Asian Museum, and the Experience Music Project. In Olympia is the Washington State Capitol Museum. Other collections of state and regional memorabilia are housed in the Eastern Washington State Historical Society/Cheney Cowles Museum, in Spokane, and the museum of the Washington State Historical Society, in Tacoma. Fine scientific and technology exhibits are at the Pacific Science Center, the former U. S. science pavilion of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair; the Museum of Flight; and the Museum of History and Industry, all in Seattle.
There were 28 daily newspapers published in Washington in 2002. The two leading newspapers in terms of circulation are the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-lntelligencer. Other leading dailies include the Tacoma News Tribune, the Spokane Spokesman-Review, the Everett Herald, the Bremerton Sun, the Olympian (Olympia), and the Vancouver Columbian.
The first radio station to begin scheduled broadcasting in Washington was KFC, in Seattle in 1921. KING-TV, the first television station in the state, began operations in Seattle in 1948. In 1954 one of the first public educational television stations in the nation, KCTS, began transmitting from the University of Washington. There were 73 AM and 115 FM radio stations and 26 television stations in the state in 2002.
|E||Music and Theater|
The Seattle Symphony was formed in 1903 and enjoys a national reputation. Other large cities have their own symphony orchestras, and Seattle has a professional opera company. The city is also home to the Pacific Northwest Ballet, an internationally recognized ballet company known for its innovative interpretations of ballet standards.
The University of Washington School of Drama has been long known for the quality of its performances. Larger cities maintain theater groups. The Seattle Repertory Theatre has quickly won for itself a national reputation.
|VI||RECREATION AND PLACES OF INTEREST|
Washington offers the vacationer and the outdoor-sports enthusiast a wide choice of recreational opportunities. Towering snowcapped mountains challenge skiers and mountain climbers; dense forests attract hunters, hikers, campers, and nature lovers; and mountain streams, crystal-clear lakes, surging rivers, and reservoirs offer superb fishing and boating opportunities. The Pacific Coast, with its beautiful beaches, coves, and dunes, and the Puget Sound area, with its many inlets and islets, are other attractions for tourists and native Washingtonians alike. Attempts to tame nature can be seen in wonders such as the massive Grand Coulee Dam or Seattle’s floating bridges. From small farming or fishing towns to vibrant cities, nearly all of Washington’s communities provide activities for residents and visitors.
|A||National Parks and Forests|
Mount Rainier National Park is open all year. It offers hiking, nature walks, skiing, mountain climbing, and spectacular views. Olympic National Park is less developed than Mount Rainier, and much of it is still unspoiled wilderness. Hiking trails take visitors through beautiful rain forests, to colorful alpine meadows, and up to glaciated peaks. North Cascades National Park contains the most rugged section of the northern Cascade Mountains, composed of jagged peaks and deep canyons.
Whitman Mission National Historic Site, near Walla Walla, marks the site of the mission begun by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman in 1836. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is in Vancouver, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s western headquarters from 1825 to 1849. San Juan Island National Historical Park commemorates a period when the island was jointly occupied by Britain and the United States during a boundary dispute between the two. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Seattle is the southern portion of the Alaska park, describing the 1890s gold rush and its impact on the region. The United States Forest Service administers the Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, where visitors can closely view the effects of the mountain’s massive eruption in 1980. The Mount Baker National Recreation Area is also under Forest Service jurisdiction. The National Park Service administers several areas devoted to a spectrum of outdoor uses. In eastern Washington is the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, which contains the long Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake. In the rugged northern section of the Cascade Mountains are the Ross Lake and Lake Chelan national recreation areas.
Washington has nine national forests, five of which encompass the higher elevations of the Cascade Range from Canada to Oregon. These publicly owned forests are open to recreational users, as well as to loggers.
Many wilderness areas have been set aside in the national forests. Road construction, use of motorized equipment, and other activities which would detract from the pristine natural settings are prohibited. Wilderness areas include the Pasayten and Glacier Peak areas, in the North Cascades; Alpine Lakes, a short distance from heavily urbanized Puget Sound; Goat Rocks and Mount Adams, in the middle Cascades south of Mount Rainier; Wenaha-Tucannon, in the Blue Mountains of the southeast; and Salmo-Priest, in the lightly populated northeast.
There are about 97,500 hectares (241,000 acres) of state parks, and many parks have camping facilities. Deception Pass, on Puget Sound; Saltwater, between Seattle and Tacoma; Sequim Bay, near Port Angeles; and Sun Lakes, near Dry Falls, in the Grand Coulee, are among the most popular. Twin Harbors, on the Pacific Coast, Sun Lakes, and Lake Chelan state parks attract many campers. Gingko has a petrified forest. Many parks in the San Juan Islands can be reached only by boat.
Heritage sites, some with interpretive museums, mark Native American battles, frontier forts, and other scenes of historical importance to Washington.
|C||Other Places to Visit|
Long Beach is a popular ocean resort area. The San Juan Islands, which are reached by the ferry running from Anacortes to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, are noted for their resorts and small scenic villages. The Columbia Plateau has many spectacular geological phenomena, including lava beds and dry barren coulees. Among the dams open to the public are Grand Coulee; Bonneville; Rocky Reach, where visitors can watch salmon swimming upstream to spawn; and Gorge, Diablo, and Ross dams, of the Seattle City Light company, which were built in a spectacular gorge of the Skagit River.
Washington’s frontier setting is host to numerous festivals and events celebrating cultural diversity and nature. In January, the Great Bavarian Ice Fest in Leavenworth features snow-sculpting, dog-sled contests, and sleigh rides; Winthrop hosts the International Snowshoe Softball Tournament where all the regular rules of the sport apply, except for the footwear. Native American programs celebrate a national symbol in February at the Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival.
Seattle hosts the Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival in April. During March and April the Annual Daffodil Festival, one of the nation’s largest floral festivals, is held in Tacoma; the Apple Blossom Festival occurs in Wenatchee in early May; and Spokane celebrates with the Lilac Festival and Bloomsday footrace in mid-May.
The yachting and boating season opens on Puget Sound on May 1, with a long procession of decorated sailboats, yachts, and pleasure cruisers passing through the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Seattle. Port Townsend hosts some of the nation’s finest blues musicians at the June Blues Festival and Workshop, while in Seattle music festivals are held around Memorial Day and Labor Day. Seattle’s biggest festival of the year is Seafair, held in July and August, featuring hydroplane races among many other events. Central Washington hosts the Omak Stampede and Suicide Race in August. Meanwhile, on the Long Beach peninsula, kite flyers from around the world meet at the International Kite Festival. The state’s largest rodeo is held during Labor Day weekend in Ellensburg. County and regional fairs are held throughout the state in August and September, with the Western Washington Fair in Puyallup being the largest.
|E||Sports and Recreation|
Washington’s diverse landscape of mountains, waterways, seacoast, and extensive forests provides abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation. Hunting, fishing, hiking, boating, and camping are popular activities. The state also has many ski areas. Washington has three major professional sports teams: the Seattle Mariners (baseball), the Seattle Seahawks (football), and the Seattle SuperSonics (basketball).
Washington’s state constitution was adopted in 1889, at the time of statehood. Amendments to the constitution are adopted with the approval of a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the state legislature and by a majority of the electorate. Proposed amendments may also be drawn up by a constitutional convention. Convention proposals must be ratified by the public. Provisions for initiative, referendum, and recall are the most important amendments to the constitution. They were adopted in 1912.
The state’s chief executive officer is the governor, who is elected to a four-year term. The governor is responsible for preparing the state budget and appointing the directors of the administrative departments of the state government, and members of the numerous state boards and commissions. The governor may veto proposed legislation, as well as individual items of appropriations bills passed by the state legislature. However, the legislators can override a veto by a vote of two-thirds of the members of each house. Other elected officials in the executive branch are the lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state treasurer, state auditor, superintendent of public instruction, insurance commissioner, and commissioner of public lands. All serve four-year terms.
Washington’s state legislature consists of a Senate of 49 members and a House of Representatives of 98 members. Senators are elected to four-year terms, and representatives are elected to two-year terms. Regular sessions of the legislature are held beginning on the second Monday in January. Sessions may last up to 60 days. In addition, the governor may convene special legislative sessions of unlimited duration.
The highest state court in Washington is the Supreme Court. It is made up of nine judges, each of whom is elected to a six-year term on a nonpartisan ballot. In 1969 a court of appeals came into existence, with judges elected for six-year terms on a nonpartisan basis. It hears appeals arising from the principal courts of original jurisdiction, the superior courts. Lower state courts include justice-of-the-peace courts and municipal courts. Superior court judges and judges on lesser courts are elected to four-year terms on nonpartisan ballots.
Most of Washington’s 39 counties are governed by three-member boards of county commissioners, elected to four-year terms. Counties adopting home rule charters are governed by elected county councils and a county manager or executive. Other elected county officials include the assessor, auditor, clerk, treasurer, sheriff, and prosecuting attorney. Washington has about 270 incorporated cities and towns, most of which are governed under the mayor and city council form of municipal government. However, a number of larger cities have the council and city manager form of municipal government.
Washington elects two U.S. senators. As a result of the population growth shown in the 1990 census, it elects 9 members of the House of Representatives and casts 11 electoral votes in presidential elections.
Humans have lived in Washington for up to 11,500 years. The first inhabitants of present-day Washington were descendants of the peoples who crossed the land bridge linking the northeastern part of Asia and North America at the Bering Sea. Archaeologists discovered a rich site in the southeastern part of the state near Palouse Falls, dating to about 10,000 years ago. This dig was filled with human bones, weapons, tools, elk remains, and bone needles.
The Native American population of Washington state belongs to two distinctive regional groups: those who live on the Pacific Coast west of the Cascade Range, and those who live on the Columbia Plateau, east of the range. Different environments and the mountain barrier resulted in two different cultures and lifestyles.
Some of the principal coastal groups include the Quileute, Quinault, Makah, Lummi, Chinook, and Snohomish. Since the area had a relatively mild climate and abundant food sources, the coastal peoples tended to live in permanent cedar houses. These structures, called longhouses, were sometimes about 30 m (100 ft) long and 12 m (40 ft) wide and often housed a number of families. Groups of longhouses were frequently built near the ocean or along a river.
From these locations, Native Americans collected fruits, nuts, and roots, gathered shellfish, and fished for salmon, halibut, and trout. Salmon was a significant part of the coastal people’s diet, and many tribal people honored the fish by holding an annual ceremony for the first salmon catch of the season. Native Americans developed many ways to catch the fish, including building fishing platforms, stretching nets across streams, and lancing harpoons at the fish. The Quinault and the Quileute, who lived on the coast, hunted fish in dugout cedar canoes. The Makah ventured out to sea to harpoon whales.
The coastal peoples had a rigid class system. Social status was often displayed at a potlatch, a ceremony held in honor of a special event such as a marriage or the birth of a child. Native American chiefs invited people from all around the region to come celebrate. Guests would come for several days to eat and dance. On the final day of the potlatch, chiefs would give gifts to their guest, offering proof of their great wealth.
Some of the principal Native American groups on the east side of the Cascade Mountains include the Okanogan, Spokane, Wenatchee, Yakama, Cayuse, Nez Perce, and Palouse. Although the Native American peoples of the Columbia Plateau had a diet similar to that of their coastal counterparts, they had to work much harder to procure their food. They lived in a harsh climate and had a semi-nomadic lifestyle. Often Native American peoples spent the summer months at fishing sites or in the mountains collecting roots and berries. They carried light, portable structures made of long poles and woven twigs and fibers to their summer camps and spent the cold season on the canyon floors. They built large, well-insulated pithouses that provided protection from the cold and the wind. These pithouses were 1.8 to 2 m (6 to 7 ft) underground, with skins and dirt forming a conical roof supported by poles.
Like the coastal peoples, the Columbia Plateau Native Americans consumed salmon and other fish that swam up the Columbia River. They also hunted deer, elk, bear, and small game. When the Plateau peoples, and in particular the Nez Perce, started to use and breed horses, they were able to travel farther to hunt.
Trade among the Native American peoples of present-day Washington was common. Inland and coastal peoples met annually at a place on the Columbia River to the east of the Cascades (the present-day city of The Dalles, Oregon), where they exchanged goods, danced, and had feasts. Native Americans developed a common dialect, which was used when trading with people who spoke different languages. This trade language was loosely based on the Chinook language and had vocabulary from many other regional Native American languages.
Two of the most important elements encouraging European exploration of the Northwest were competition between European nations and the search for the Northwest Passage, an inland water route linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Spanish and the English were the first to venture up the northwest coast of the Pacific Ocean.
Spain, which had become the wealthiest European nation during the 16th century, saw its wealth decline during the 17th century. Spaniards hoped to reestablish themselves through exploration of the Northwest. In 1775 Spaniards Bruno Heceta and Juan de la Bodega y Quadra sent an expedition to near present-day Point Grenville and claimed the land in the name of the king of Spain. In 1778 British explorer Captain James Cook charted the Washington coast and went ashore on Vancouver Island at Nootka Sound. Since both the British and Spanish claimed land in the area, relations between the two countries became tense. In order to avoid a war, they agreed to respect each other’s commercial activities and settlements in the region.
In 1792 Captain George Vancouver of Britain became the first European to complete a detailed survey of the Washington coast and the inland waters. Vancouver named many Washington landmarks, including Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and many of the San Juan Islands. Vancouver named Puget Sound after the officer who first sighted it, Peter Puget.
Also in 1792, as Vancouver charted the Washington coast and inland waters, American captain Robert Gray, a fur trader from Boston, explored the mouth of the Columbia River. He named the river after his ship. Both Britain and the United States had claims on Washington territory.
After the United States acquired the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the West (see Lewis and Clark Expedition). The two explorers, instructed to take special note of the geography and vegetation of the West, traveled down the Columbia River and reached the Pacific Coast in 1805.
|C||The Fur Trade|
Encouraged by Lewis and Clark’s reports on the Pacific Northwest, fur traders began to take interest in the region. John Jacob Astor, founder of the Pacific Fur Company, was the first American to establish a settlement in the area. His men built a trading post, Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River in 1811. In 1812 the Pacific Fur Company established forts in Okanogan and in Spokane. The Pacific Fur Company quickly became a strong competitor of the British North West Company, which had established a fort in British Columbia in 1807. Fur traders discovered that the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest were more self-reliant than those living on the East Coast. This independence placed the Native Americans in a better strategic position to resist the demands of European traders.
At the outbreak of the War of 1812 (1812-1815), between the British and the Americans, traders of the Pacific Fur Company felt threatened by their British counterparts. Rather than attempt to save their forts, Astor’s traders decided to leave the posts and sold their assets to the British North West Company in 1813.
The North West Company competed against the Hudson’s Bay Company, another British trading company. In 1821 under the orders of the British government, the two companies merged under the Hudson’s Bay Company. In Washington, the Hudson’s Bay Company initially concentrated on the fur trade, but later exported salmon and timber. The company’s agent, John McLoughlin, a physician, arrived on the banks of the Columbia in 1824 and continued to be the chief factor of the Columbia district for the Hudson’s Bay Company for the next two decades.
In 1825 McLoughlin moved his headquarters from Astoria, which the British then called Fort George, to Fort Vancouver, on the north bank of the Columbia River in present-day Washington. Because the majority of Britain’s exploration had taken place to the north of the Columbia, McLoughlin believed that Britain’s claim to the area south of the Columbia River was weak, and he wanted the move to reinforce British control of the land north of the river.
|D||First American Settlements|
McLoughlin actively tried to keep competing American fur traders out of what was beginning to be called the Oregon country, which included present-day Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, as well as parts of Montana and Wyoming. However, he did not discourage American missionaries from establishing missions. Two Methodist missionaries, Daniel and Jason Lee, established the first mission in Oregon in 1834. These missionaries had planned on converting Native Americans to Christianity, but McLoughlin asked them to preach to a newly established European settlement in the Willamette Valley.
The first mission in Washington was established by Marcus Whitman and his wife, Narcissa, among the Cayuse people near Walla Walla in 1836. The missionaries strived to teach the Cayuse about Christianity and agriculture. The Cayuse, however, were accustomed to a nomadic lifestyle and were dedicated to their own religion.
Many of the Native Americans resented the growing white population in the Northwest. In particular, the Cayuse felt betrayed by the Whitmans’ promises to bring them greater wealth and to protect them from sickness. Many Native Americans had died in epidemics, some of them from diseases brought by Europeans to which the Native Americans had no immunities. In 1847 the Whitmans and 12 other whites were massacred by a band of Cayuse, who felt threatened by the growing white population and blamed Whitman for the migration of white settlers to the Oregon country. When news of the massacre reached missionaries near present-day Spokane, they felt obliged to abandon their settlement, in spite of friendly relations with Native Americans in the area.
During the mid-19th century Americans began to expect that one day all of the territory to the West would belong to the United States. Americans began migrating west in growing numbers to escape overcrowding and to pursue better opportunities. Many traveled across the plains and the mountains on the Oregon Trail. In 1843 close to 900 pioneers reached the Oregon country by way of this trail in what was called the Great Migration. Most of the newcomers settled in the Willamette Valley. In 1843 these settlers in the Willamette and Columbia valleys formed their own provisional government.
At the same time the Anglo-American dispute over the Northwest boundary was coming to an end. In 1844 James K. Polk was elected president on a platform supported by expansionists, who soon took up the cry, “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight.” This slogan represented the extreme U.S. demand that Britain cede all of the Oregon country northward to Alaska (to latitude 54°40’), including most of what is now British Columbia. Since Britain was preoccupied with affairs in Europe and the fur trade was declining, the British voluntarily moved their base of operations from Fort Vancouver to Vancouver Island. This action paved the way for a peaceful compromise settlement in 1846, with the United States gaining title to all the land south of the 49th parallel. Present-day Washington was part of the Oregon Territory created by the Congress of the United States in 1848. When the United States and Britain established boundaries, the territory which lay within the San Juan Islands was not clearly designated as belonging to either country. Both American and British nationals resided on San Juan Island with some tension. In 1859 an American killed a stray pig that belonged to a British neighbor. This incident led to a 12-year boundary dispute during which time both American and British soldiers occupied the island. Emperor William I of Germany acted as an arbitrator of the conflict, and in 1872 he awarded the San Juan Archipelago to the United States.
Before the United States acquired the Oregon Territory, most people had settled in the Willamette Valley, but soon after 1848 settlers headed north into present-day Washington to establish homes. Communities to the north of the Columbia River and on the rim of Puget Sound such as Seattle, Oysterville, and Port Townsend became populated. The settlers there complained that it was hard to participate in Oregon Territory government and requested a closer, more convenient capital.
Congress acted on their petition, and on March 2, 1853, the Washington Territory was established, which also included northern Idaho and western Montana. The first governor for the 3,965 white settlers was Isaac Ingalls Stevens, a West Point graduate and a veteran of the Mexican War (1846-1848). Olympia was selected as the capital.
One of the new territorial government’s first tasks was negotiations with the Native Americans. From 1854 to 1855 Stevens negotiated treaties with different Native American peoples. These negotiations have been criticized for a number of reasons. Stevens chose the Native American representatives with whom he negotiated, and these were not always the leaders of the peoples involved. In addition, these treaties were written in English and had to be translated, which was done orally because the Native Americans did not have written languages. Frequently, these translations had been repeated several times before the tribal group heard the text of the treaty; consequently, they may not have had accurate knowledge of the treaties to which they agreed. Finally, Americans did not understand Native American definitions of authority or attachments to the land. By 1855 Governor Stevens had induced the majority of Native American groups to sign treaties that confined them to relatively small reservations.
The Native Americans regretted having signed the treaties. The Spokane and Palouse groups living near Colville felt betrayed when prospectors crossed into reservation territory looking for gold in 1858. The Native Americans attacked and the army was sent to protect the prospectors. In another example, settlers moved onto Native American land before Congress had ratified the treaties. This situation drove Native American peoples to attack American settlements. From 1855 to 1859 a series of wars were fought between Native Americans and settlers in Washington. Eventually all the tribes were defeated and removed to reservations. Congress ratified the treaties in 1859.
Settlers in Washington planted wheat and vegetables, gathered berries, caught salmon and halibut, killed wild game, and built houses and furniture from the cedar and fir trees. Most industry was located on the west side of the state while agriculture was located on the east side. The discovery of gold in Idaho and British Columbia brought miners through the Washington Territory after 1857. They often went to buy provisions in Walla Walla, the largest city in the territory until 1880. The settlers believed that inadequate transportation was the chief obstacle to the territory’s growth and agitated for a railroad. A local railroad line went through Walla Walla in 1875. The Northern Pacific completed the link between the East Coast and Puget Sound in 1883.
The establishment of transcontinental railroad service brought an influx of new settlers. The population, which had been growing slowly, jumped from 75,116 in 1880 to 357,232 in 1890. In particular, the black, Chinese, and Japanese populations grew as these groups took advantage of employment opportunities with the railroad. In 1882 Congress passed anti-Chinese legislation, which resulted in hardship and discrimination for the Chinese living in Washington state. Anti-Chinese riots broke out in Seattle, Tacoma, and other towns in 1885, as the Chinese, who had been brought to the United States to work on the railroads, were blamed for an economic downturn in the early 1880s.
As the territory grew, the Washington legislature petitioned for statehood first in 1878, but Congress did not grant statehood because of several controversies. First, Washington Territory was large, and there were disagreements concerning its borders. Some believed Walla Walla should be added to Oregon’s territory; others thought parts of northern Idaho should belong to Washington. Second, Washington’s population did not reach 125,000, the number considered desirable when applying for statehood, until the 1880s. Finally, political issues interfered. The Congress was controlled by Democrats who believed that Washington would send Republican representatives to Congress and were not eager to grant it statehood.
In 1888 Republicans gained control of Congress and passed enabling acts that permitted Washington to prepare a state constitution, elect officials, and submit a petition for statehood. On November 11, 1889, Washington became the 42nd state. Its first governor was Elisha P. Ferry, formerly a territorial governor.
|G||Turn of the Century|
In 1889 fires swept away the makeshift buildings in Seattle, Spokane, and other cities. Settlers used the opportunity to rebuild using stronger materials such as brick and stone. Imposing new buildings, gasworks, and streetcar tracks mingled with tree stumps and unfinished streets in boomtowns like Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma. Spokane harnessed the Spokane Falls to provide electricity throughout the city and outlying areas.
When gold was discovered in Alaska in 1896, Seattle promoted itself as the best place to take off for the Yukon gold rush (see Klondike). Prospectors could get to Seattle on the Great Northern Railroad and then take the Inside Passage to Alaska. From 1897 to 1908 merchants in Seattle sold gear and food to prospectors going to the Yukon, handled the gold that was shipped back, and sent them more supplies in return.
Trade with Alaska and East Asia was a spur to Washington’s shipbuilding industry. Other important industries at the end of the 19th century were based on natural resources: timber, fish, and minerals. Salmon caught in the Columbia River was canned as early as 1866, and fisheries expanded their output steadily until the early 1900s. Lumbering accounted for the highest percentage of manufacturing income; by 1905 Washington led the states in lumber production.
Agriculture, however, did not prosper during the last quarter of the 19th century. Small farms produced diversified crops, but the grain, fruit, and hops left over after the farmers’ families had been fed brought low prices. Only certain areas of the dry land in the eastern part of the state could be farmed, and transportation to markets in the Midwest was not always accessible. Furthermore, farmers considered railroad freight rates exorbitant but were powerless to change them. They also needed cash for farm machinery to increase their yields. As a result, by 1890 many farms were mortgaged.
Distrustful of the bankers who charged interest rates up to 36 percent and wary of the railroads, big business, and the government, which did nothing to relieve them, the farmers united in the Granger and the Farmers’ Alliances movements. These organizations helped farmers organize to submit legislation and protest against high freight charges and interest rates.
As industry grew in Washington, working conditions were unregulated and sometimes factory equipment was unsafe. The American Federation of Labor (AFL), a federation of labor unions, helped skilled workers in Seattle obtain the eight-hour work day. With the help of the farmers' organizations and labor unions, the Populist Party, or People's Party, was formed during two conventions in 1891 and 1892 to resolve issues regarding taxation, banking practices, and voter representation. Washington was primarily a Republican state from 1889 to 1930, although Democrats usually made a strong showing, and in the election of 1892, Populists ran just behind the Democrats. They gained adherents following the economic depression of 1893. In 1896 the Populists won control of the Democratic National Convention and nominated William Jennings Bryan, who favored the Populist program, for president. In the 1896 election, Bryan won in Washington state and a Populist, John Rankin Rogers, was elected governor.
Under Rogers, an articulate man who believed in individual rights and human dignity, the Washington legislators passed laws regulating railroad rates, allowing public schools to distribute free books, and regulating work conditions. Nonetheless, the coalition between the Democrats and Populists did not last, and many complained that the social reforms did not go far enough. In 1900 Rogers was reelected as a Democrat, not a Populist.
Over the next 15 years the legislature passed a number of progressive reforms. In response to pressure exerted by organized labor, Washington was among the first states to enact worker’s compensation laws and regulate working conditions. Child labor laws were adopted in 1903 and 1907. Farmers and lumbering interests obtained a state commission to regulate the railroads.
The government also enacted a number of political reforms that gave the people greater control of government. These measures included the initiative and the referendum, through which citizens could initiate or approve laws by popular vote, and the recall, which allowed them to remove dishonest or irresponsible public officials. Female suffrage gave women the vote, and the direct primary provided voters, rather than party bosses, with the ability to choose candidates for public office. In 1912 the Progressive candidate for president, Theodore Roosevelt, carried the state.
|I||The Labor Movement|
During the years before World War I (1914-1918) and immediately thereafter, a strong labor movement flourished in Washington. There were two major unions: the older, more conservative AFL, which consisted of small craft unions; and the militant, more radical Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which demanded one union to represent all workers, and whose members were called Wobblies.
In 1909 a national IWW protest movement took place in Spokane. Union members set up platforms near employment agencies that the IWW accused of unfair labor policies. They gave speeches protesting these unfair practices, sang labor songs, and passed out pamphlets. City officials outlawed the union’s practice and arrested union members. As IWW speakers were sent to jail, their colleagues from all over the country came to take their places on the platforms. The movement, which became known as the Spokane Free Speech Fight, ended when Spokane officials revoked the licenses of those employment agencies.
In 1916 the IWW tried to implement a similar free speech campaign in Everett. When about 250 IWW members arrived by ship in Everett to meet with shingleweavers, Snohomish County officials were waiting for them at the dock. A shot was fired and the ensuing battle left 7 dead and about 50 wounded.
At the end of World War I, Washington’s economy experienced a downturn, and dockworkers protested wage reductions. Labor unions organized the Seattle General Strike of February 1919, which lasted for five days and was itself peaceful. The strike was finally settled by the intervention of outside labor leaders. Employers’ associations convinced many people that the strike was affiliated with the Russian Bolshevik Revolution and encouraged violence against dissenters and radicals.
On Armistice Day 1919, at Centralia, an American Legion parade ended in a violent struggle with the IWW. Several men were killed, one was lynched, and across the state almost 1,000 Wobblies were sent to jail. In the so-called Red Scare that followed, union members were subject to harassment and arrest. By 1923 AFL membership had declined sharply, and the IWW was reduced to a much smaller organization.
Despite labor unrest, Washington had a strong economy during the years before World War I. Agriculture revived in the early 1900s, aided by a road-building program that made rural areas accessible and by federal and state irrigation projects. By 1929 one-eighth of the farmland had been irrigated, but this land accounted for more than 40 percent of the income from crops. Farmers benefited from the demand for foodstuffs during World War I and suffered a brief decline in the years following the war.
Industry also grew during World War I. The federal government granted funds to cities like Tacoma and Seattle to construct shipyards to build war ships. By 1918 there were five shipyards building steel-hulled ships in Puget Sound and about 12 others making wooden-hulled boats. The United States government also purchased a large quantity of canned fish from Washington canneries.
|K||The Great Depression|
The Great Depression, a period of severe economic hardship in the United States and throughout the world, began with the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange on October 29, 1929. The economic policies of Republican Herbert Hoover, president at the beginning of the Depression, did not satisfy Washington state voters, who helped elect Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt as president in 1932.
Roosevelt’s Public Works Administration (PWA), a government agency designed to create jobs by funding public works projects, benefited Washington. A group of local activists had been attempting to establish an irrigation project for the Columbia River basin since 1919. Harnessing the Columbia would provide inexpensive hydroelectric power for Washington. In 1933 the PWA began construction of the Grand Coulee Dam across the Columbia. Completed in 1942, it was the largest dam ever built to that time. Another PWA project on the Columbia River, the Bonneville Dam, was providing hydroelectric power by 1937.
Washington citizens took advantage of this developing source of power. In 1930 an initiative had made it legal for a community, with the approval of its voters, to set up a public utility district (PUD) to buy or sell water power. During the next decade, PUDs were voted into existence all over the state.
President Roosevelt also initiated other programs to help the country recover from the Depression. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) provided young men with jobs developing parks, forests, and recreation areas in Washington as it did in other states. Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) allotments enabled farmers to mechanize their farms. Roosevelt’s recovery programs also benefited artists and musicians. Folk singer Woody Guthrie was sent to Washington state by the federal government to write songs about the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam, and wrote the famous “Roll on, Columbia.”
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Washington did not fully recover from the Depression until World War II (1939-1945). During the war, the demand for ships and aircraft soared. Existing plants again began to operate at full capacity, and new ones were built. The Boeing Airplane Company developed and produced B-17 and B-29 bombers, and its payroll rose to 44,745. The aluminum industry was established in 1940 with a plant at Vancouver to take advantage of Washington’s cheap water power. The Hanford atomic installation, opened at Richland in 1943, converted uranium to plutonium for nuclear armaments and conducted nuclear research. Washington had the second highest number of defense contracts in the nation. All these jobs attracted war workers from other states, and Washington’s population grew rapidly.
After the war many women who had joined the workforce to help the war effort quit or were forced out of their jobs as men, many of them returning veterans, replaced them. The rate of population growth tapered off. Slow expansion of the labor force, together with new industrial development, eased the transition to a peacetime economy.
The war brought particular hardship to one segment of Washington’s population. After Japanese planes dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in 1941, President Roosevelt ordered all Japanese living west of the Cascades to relocate to the east of the mountains for reasons of “national security.” Japanese nationals and Americans of Japanese descent alike were forced to move to makeshift housing in eastern Washington or Idaho. When the relocation centers closed, many Japanese returned to their homes to find possessions gone, their savings and bank accounts impounded, and their fields overgrown. They also often faced racial prejudice. In 1988 Congress allotted $20,000 in compensation to each Japanese American who had been sent to an internment camp during World War II.
After World War II, Washington, like many parts of the United States, experienced a suburban boom. Cities such as Bellevue and Richland, which were rural communities before the war, were transformed into urban areas. In 1962 Seattle hosted a world’s fair called Century 21. This civic event gave Seattle national attention and left the city with a famous landmark, the Space Needle.
In the 1960s emphasis was on improving opportunities for minorities—urban blacks, Mexican Americans in the Wenatchee, Yakima, and Puget Sound areas, and Native Americans living outside of reservations. Considerable integration was achieved in housing and in employment.
Environmental preservation and improvement also engaged people’s attention in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1968 two national wilderness areas were established in the northern Cascades—Glacier Peak Wilderness and Pasayten Wilderness. A ten-year effort financed by Seattle and Bellevue residents made Lake Washington pure enough for swimming and fish preservation. The state adopted waste disposal regulations that appeared to be stringent enough to protect nonpolluted air and water and to improve contaminated air and water. Washington’s growing environmental consciousness was reflected in Spokane’s 1974 world’s fair, called “Progress without Pollution.” The fair resulted in an urban renewal project, which transformed an unsightly 1,538-hectare (3,800-acre) area of warehouses and railroad tracks into an urban park in the center of downtown Spokane.
As a result of Washington’s conservation efforts, the government attempted to prevent the Puyallup peoples from fishing in the Puyallup River. The issue came to a head when 27 Native American groups brought a lawsuit to federal court, claiming that an 1855 treaty, granting Native Americans special fishing rights, had been violated. In 1974 Judge George Boldt decided in favor of the Native Americans and guaranteed them half of the fish caught off reservations. Many commercial fishing crews opposed the ruling and made an appeal. Finally in 1979 the case was heard and upheld before the Supreme Court of the United States.
In the early 1970s Washington state, and especially the Seattle-Everett area, experienced a severe economic recession as a result of cutbacks in federal spending for aerospace equipment. Shipping activities connected with the building and operation of the Alaskan oil pipeline, as well as significant increases in commercial aircraft sales, contributed to the state’s economic recovery in the late 1970s.
In politics, Washington has always been a two-party state. In presidential elections, Washington voters generally favored Republican candidates before 1932, but backed Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt in his four races (1932-1944). For the next four decades, Washington voters preferred Republicans, but favored Democrats in the 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000 presidential elections. Prominent national politicians from Washington have included Warren G. Magnuson, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1945 to 1981, Henry M. Jackson, who also served in the Senate from 1953 to 1983, and Thomas S. Foley, who served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1989 to 1995.
In state and local politics, Washington voters often split their votes after World War II, electing a governor from one party and legislative majorities from the other. In 1976 Dixy Lee Ray, a Democrat and former chairwoman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, became the first woman governor of the state. In 1997 Gary Locke became the first Asian American governor in the continental United States. Locke was succeeded in 2005 by Democrat Christine Gregoire, who won by a mere 129 votes after a closely contested election that required two recounts.
On May 18, 1980, Mount Saint Helens erupted in Washington, resulting in 57 deaths and billions of dollars of damage. Volcanic ash was carried hundreds of miles from the mountain by the wind. In 1983 Mount Saint Helens and its immediate vicinity became a national volcanic monument.
In 1990 the northern spotted owl, a rare bird that lives in parts of Washington’s forests, was listed as a threatened species by federal agencies. Efforts to protect the owl and other species led to restrictions on logging throughout the Pacific Northwest and set off years of economic and political controversy between environmentalists and timber-related industries. Runs of wild Pacific salmon have also dwindled in Washington state and other areas along the West Coast. In 1999 the government gave endangered or threatened status to nine species of salmon and steelhead (sea-going trout) in the Pacific Northwest. Major urban centers like the Puget Sound area were directly affected by efforts to protect and restore salmon populations, but little opposition to saving the salmon surfaced.
Environmental and health concerns have also arisen over the nuclear waste stored at the Hanford reservation in south central Washington. Hanford was the site of plutonium production during World War II, and tanks filled with radioactive waste from these projects have leaked, causing fears about possible contamination of underground water supplies and the Columbia River.
Voter initiatives gained importance in the state political process in the late 1990s. In 1998 voters approved Initiative 200, which banned most affirmative action programs in state and local government in Washington. The following year state voters passed Initiative 695, which replaced the state’s high motor vehicle tax with a flat $30 fee and required voter approval for all increases in taxes and fees by state and local governments. In 2000 the Washington Supreme Court declared I-695 unconstitutional. However, the flat $30 fee for motor vehicle tax remained in effect because earlier in the year the Washington legislature passed a bill making it a law.
The creation of new jobs by biotechnology and high-technology companies in the late 1980s and 1990s lured many newcomers to the state. The Microsoft Corporation, based in a Seattle suburb, became the largest creator of computer software in the world and recruited software engineers from many countries and other parts of the United States to work at the corporate headquarters. According to the 2000 census, more than half the residents of metropolitan Seattle were born outside Washington. Washington has also drawn a large number of Asian-born immigrants. Rapid growth throughout the state, and particularly in the Puget Sound region, has bolstered the economy, but also brought new problems of pollution, congestion, and urban sprawl. Washington faces the challenge of maintaining its natural beauty and environmental quality in the face of an expanding population and other development pressures.
The history section of this article was contributed by Carlos A. Schwantes. The remainder of the article was contributed by Harley Johansen.