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December 11, 2014 – December 17, 2014

Open for Business

On December 15, 1868, 24-year-old Chun Ching Hock -- believed to be Seattle's first Chinese immigrant -- opened the Wa Chong Company, a general-merchandise store, at the foot of Mill Street (now Yesler Way). Chun had lived in the frontier town for eight years, and had been working at the Yesler cookhouse. After saving up money and borrowing from his uncle, Chun and his partner Chun Wa chose an ideal location for their business on the central waterfront, where they prospered.

The Wa Chong Company sold Chinese goods and groceries, as well as opium (legal at the time) and fireworks. But its greatest success came from contracting labor. Chun's company recruited and placed Chinese immigrants in domestic work, logging, mining, and construction, and received a commission for each worker placed. Some employers paid in real estate, some of which Chun used to house the growing number of Chinese workers.

Low-paid Chinese laborers were initially welcomed in the labor force, but soon encountered severe hostility and discrimination directed at them when the economy turned sour. In 1886, Seattle mobs expelled most of the city's Chinese population. Only a few of Seattle's Chinese businesses remained, one of which was Wa Chong.

Chun moved back to China in 1900, but remained an owner of the Wa Chong Company, which later moved to 719 S King Street (now home to the Wing Luke Asian Museum) in the Chinatown-International District. In 1924, at the age of 80, Chun returned to Seattle for one last visit and marveled at how much the city had grown. He returned to China three years later, where he died after partying for five days in celebration of the Chinese New Year. His business continued to operate until 1953, 85 years after its humble beginning on the Seattle waterfront.

Open Waters

The launch of the ferry Hyak on December 17, 1966, was a welcome gift to Puget Sound commuters, who had been waiting years for a new ferry to join the Washington State Ferries fleet. Following the 1959 launch of the Klahowya and Tillikum (sister ships of the controversially named Evergreen State), cross-sound travelers had bid farewell to the fleet's oldest ferry, and were vexed by the antics of another vessel whose days were numbered.

Unable to stretch a thin budget to contract with a Washington shipyard to build the needed new ferries, the State Highway Commission had been compelled to turn to one in California, but the San Diego-built Hyak was no less welcome when she took to the waves in the summer of 1967. Sister ships Kaleetan, Elwha, and Yakima soon followed in her wake.

News Then, History Now

Winter Weather: On December 17, 1871, record snow blanketed much of the Puget Sound region. On December 17, 1990, a windstorm cost Washington State Ferries more than $3 million in damage. More recently, the Hanukkah Eve wind storm blasted Western Washington on December 14 and 15, 2006, and two weeks of snow and cold hit the region beginning on December 17, 2008.

Rowing Together: On December 15, 1899, students at the University of Washington accepted an offer from developer and rowing aficionado E. F. Blaine to help establish a rowing club on campus. In 1936, a UW crew won Olympic gold in a shell designed by George Pocock, who went on to design shells used by many more American Olympic champions.

Librarians and Musicians: On December 13, 1905, Walla Walla residents attended dedication ceremonies for their brand new Carnegie-funded library. Two years later on December 12, 1907, townsfolk gathered again, this time at the Keylor Grand Theater to hear the Walla Walla Symphony Orchestra's first concert.

Emergency Electricians: Eighty-five years ago this week, Tacoma was facing a dark holiday due to a power shortage until the U.S.S. Lexington steamed into port on December 17, 1929. The municipality had a bright idea and plugged into the ship's generators.

Up in the Air: On December 17, 1947, the prototype for the Boeing B-47 Stratojet took wing, opening up new vistas in aviation. Aided by German research captured during World War II, development of the B-47 led to the use of jet technology in the Boeing 707 commercial airliner. More recent examples of Boeing's cutting-edge technology -- such as the December 15, 2009, launch of the Boeing 787 -- can be seen at the Future of Flight Aviation Center, which opened at Paine Field on December 16, 2005.

Down in the Ground: On December 13, 1950, coal miner John Wolti was trapped in a collapsed mine at the now-forgotten mining town of Elk Coal in southeast King County. He suffered a 54-hour ordeal, 400 feet underground, before his rescue. It was the third time that Wolti had narrowly escaped death in a mine accident, and he decided to become a chicken rancher instead.

Water on the Way: On December 17, 1962, Seattle Mayor Gordon Clinton officiated at a dedication ceremony celebrating the arrival of the first water from the city's new Tolt River supply system. The Tolt supply supplemented the Cedar River supply system, which had been providing water to Seattle and many surrounding communities since 1901.

Happy Holiday: Thirty-five years ago this week, on December 15, 1979, more than 100,000 people attended the Boeing employee Christmas party at Seattle's Kingdome. And on December 13, 1983, the Pacific Northwest Ballet premiered a new production of Nutcracker, choreographed by PNB artistic director Kent Stowell with sets and costumes designed by Maurice Sendak. But if you'd like to take in the Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker, you better go soon. This year's production will be its last.

Quote of the Week

The land flourished because it was fed from so many sources -- because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples.

                                 --Lyndon Johnson

Image of the Week

On December 13, 1993, Nirvana performed the legendary Live and Loud concert on Pier 48 in Seattle.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

Spokane's Division Street Bridge collapses on December 18, 1915.

East Side Journal prints high school student Alice Grubner's essay on freedom on December 18, 1941.

College Place votes for incorporation on December 18, 1945.

The Dalles Bridge spanning the Columbia River is completed on December 18, 1953.

Staff Sergeant John M. Horan, U.S. Army, is lost in the Cascade Mountains on December 18, 1955.

Officer Nicholas N. Davis is murdered by a mentally disturbed drifter on December 18, 1984.

Amgen agrees to buy Immunex, Seattle's largest biotech firm, on December 18, 2001.

New Essays This Week       RSS Feed

Goetz, Jacob "Dutch Jake" (1853-1927)

Geoghegan, James Theodore (1869-1953)

Buster Simpson's commission to create public art for Seattle's massive waterfront redevelopment is announced on January 9, 2013.

Jacob "Dutch Jake" Goetz kicks off his annual birthday picnic, fueled by 30 kegs of beer, on the Little Spokane River on July 10, 1897.

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