Seattle responds to U.S. entry into World War I on April 7, 1917.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 2/25/1999
  • Essay 939

On April 7, 1917 at 7 p.m., more than 50,000 people throng the streets of downtown Seattle to watch a parade in support of the United States entry into World War I. The day before, on April 6, 1917, the U.S. Congress and President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) had declared war on Germany.

Brief Background of The Great War

World War I started in Europe in August 1914. The United States remained neutral until German submarines began sinking U.S. Merchant Marine ships. The war lasted until the end of 1918, when Germany surrendered. The United States entered the war on the side of the Allies (Russia, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Rumania, Serbia, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, Montenegro, and the United States). The Allies fought the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria).

In all, as estimated by the United States War Department (now Department of Defense) some 8 million people were killed during this Great War (5 million on the side of the Allies and about 3 million on the side of the Central Powers.) Another 21 million were wounded (12 million Allies, 8 million on the side of the Central Powers)(Encyclopaedia Britannica). Among those who lost their lives were 460 King County, Washington, residents.

Seattle's Response to War

Seattle responded to the U.S. declaration of war with a huge parade. Along the downtown parade route, women "with children in arms or hanging to their skirts stood long in the crowds voicing their enthusiasm. Grizzled veterans of other wars, men who lost a limb at Gettysburg or in the Philippines, Alaska miners who roughed it in the frozen North rubbed elbows and shouted in unison with working men, bankers, college students and professional men" (Seattle P-I, April 8, 1917).

The parade marched south on 1st Avenue from Virginia Street to James Street where it turned north on 2nd Avenue to Union Street and then east to 5th Avenue where it turned south to The Arena.

Naval Reserves Called Up First

The parade was 19 blocks long. Heading it were most of Washington's 500 to 550 Naval Militia Reserves, which were the first state military forces called up to go to war. About one-third of the Naval Reserves were from Seattle. A few of the dozens upon dozens of organizations represented in the parade were the Elks (450 members participating), Spanish American war veterans (200), city firemen, Imperial Order Daughters of the British Empire, Fraternal Order of Eagles (600), Serbo-American Society (100 Serbs), Puget Sound Section American Chemical Company, Seattle Bar Association (35), Civil War veterans, The Woodmen of the World, and the American Red Cross Society (100).

The participants in the parade were solemn and serious except for Broadway High School and University of Washington students who let out cheers. "The Oriental section of the city contributed a spectacular organization to the line of march. Japanese citizens, some 275 strong, marched with lighted paper lanterns over their heads" (Seattle P-I, April 8, 1917). The Japanese contingent was headed by H. H. Okuda, president of the Japanese Association of the Pacific Coast, and included 40 U.S. citizens ages 5 to 20.

At the Arena

Then the demonstration of support for World War I moved to The Arena at 1212 5th Avenue between Seneca and University streets. More than 7,500 people squeezed into the huge building, and thousands more were turned away. "It was a silent crowd for the most part. The people were grim, silent, [and] determined" (Seattle P-I, April 8, 1917). A few sang patriotic songs interspersed with "We'll hang Kaiser Wilhelm to a sour apple tree." But for most "An air of seriousness prevailed.

William Tucker, President of the Seattle Bar Association, introduced a resolution to the people assembled. Here is the excerpted text:

Seattle's Resolution

"Wherefore, the citizens of Seattle, in mass meeting assembled, resolve: That we pledge anew our loyalty and devotion to the government of the United States and while expressing with vigor our abhorrence of war, we declare our unwavering and enthusiastic support for bringing this conflict to a victorious termination, and that we, individually and collectively, stand ready to make every sacrifice that may be required to insure the triumph of the great principles of justice, liberty and right, and of permanent peace among the nations, which the [P]resident has declared to be the unselfish purpose of our people in this great struggle" (Seattle P-I, April 8, 1917).

After it was introduced, "There was an outburst of wild applause, every one standing and cheering until the hall echoed and re-echoed." The resolution was approved by acclamation. Other speakers included Dr. Henry Suzzallo, President of the University of Washington; Judge Thomas Burke (1849-1925); Ole Hanson (1874-1940), Seattle Mayor; and Mrs. Almina George, Assistant Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools.


Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 7, 1917, pp. 1, 2, 11; Ibid., April 8, 1917, pp. 1, 2, 10, 12, 13; Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1958, s.v.

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