Diablo Dam incline railway climbing Sourdough Mountain, 1930. Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, 2306.
Children waving to ferry, 1950. Courtesy Museum of History and Industry.
Loggers in the Northwest woods. Courtesy Washington State Digital Archives.
This Week Then
Dots and Dashes
On October 25, 1864, telegraph lines finally reached Seattle, greatly increasing the speed with which Northwesterners received news and information. Four years earlier, when Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 presidential election, it took 16 days for the news to travel west, first by telegraph to California, then north by horseback and steamer. Even so, an Olympia newspaper marveled at the speed with which it obtained those election results, writing "The annihilation ... [of] time and distance seems incomprehensible."
But with telegraph lines in place, news came even faster. When the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, it took two days for the news to reach Puget Sound. When Lincoln was assassinated a few days later, Washingtonians knew about it within hours. By the end of the decade, most of the country was wired by Western Union, and people were amazed by how easy it was to communicate from coast to coast. (Image courtesy Smithsonian Museum)
Then, in 1878, Seattle got a view of the future when Western Union demonstrated the city's first telephone. By 1883 the city had its first telephone exchange -- with 90 subscribers -- and a decade later, long-distance telephone service connected Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, and Spokane. By the turn of the century, telephones began to supplant telegraphs as the primary means of cross-country communication.
Nevertheless, the telegraph still played a "key" role at two events in which Seattle stood upon the world stage. In 1909 President Taft opened the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition from Washington, D.C., by pressing a telegraph key festooned with gold nuggets from the 1897 Klondike Gold Rush. And in 1962 that same telegraph key was used by President Kennedy to open the Century 21 Exposition. By the time the Seattle World's Fair closed on October 21, 1962, a new era had begun and television was being transmitted overseas by satellite. And it wasn't too long before a nascent Internet began to take form.
The Market Crashes
On October 23, 1929, the first all-air coast-to-coast flight service left New York bound for Seattle. The take-off went well, but storm clouds loomed in the Big Apple. As the travelers crossed the country, a maelstrom was brewing, and although they landed safely at their destination, they were just in time to witness one of the worst crashes in American history.
The stock-market collapse ushered in the Great Depression, a 10-year economic downturn that caused hardship worldwide. Washington suffered as trade dried up, jobs vanished, and businesses closed. By 1931 unemployed workers in Seattle had established a "Hooverville" south of downtown. The shantytown would remain there for almost a decade.
On October 22, 1952, Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy made his first political visit to Washington as he campaigned for Republican presidential nominee Dwight D. Eisenhower and incumbent Republican Senator Harry P. Cain. McCarthy's trip didn't turn out quite as he had planned: He was heckled by members of the Washington State Press Club and KING-TV canceled his televised speech.
On October 19, 1959, a Boeing 707 crashed near Oso, killing four crew members and injuring four passengers. In 2014 the small Snohomish County community suffered through a much worse catastrophe when the nation's deadliest landslide disaster struck there with a loss of 43 lives.
A Pair of Kings
On October 22, 1975, King Olav V of Norway visited Poulsbo to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Norwegian immigration to America. Twenty years later, beginning on October 24, 1995, King Harald V followed in his father's footsteps, enjoying a four-day visit to Washington with Queen Sonja that included stops in Olympia, Seattle, Poulsbo, and Tacoma.
Two for the Show
On October 23, 1980, patrons of Seattle's Old Timer's Café got quite a surprise when visiting rocker Bruce Springsteen jumped up on stage to play a few songs with the Lost Highway Band. And on October 22, 1990, a seminal moment in Seattle's grunge-rock history took place when Pearl Jam debuted as "Mookie Blaylock" at the Off Ramp Café.