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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


News Then, History Now

Guests to Admire

This week in history, Washington has welcomed a few special visitors. On October 19, 1871, Susan B. Anthony became the first woman to address the Washington Territorial Legislature. While here, she helped organize the Washington Woman Suffrage Association. On October 17, 1915, Harry Houdini arrived in Seattle for a week-long run at the Orpheum Theatre. And on October 19, 1924, Babe Ruth hit three homers in an exhibition game at Dugdale Park.

After the Fire

Seattle's Great Fire proved too big a match for the city's volunteer fire brigade and led to the creation of the Seattle Fire Department on October 17, 1889. It got off to a fiery start that took nearly two decades to cool down.

Raising it Higher

On October 18, 1899, Seattle unveiled a 60-foot totem pole in Pioneer Square. The ugly side of this story is that some of Seattle's most prominent citizens, including Chamber of Commerce Acting President James Clise, had gone to Alaska and swiped the pole from Tlingit Indians. Charges were filed, but little came of them. The totem pole lasted until it was humbled by an arsonist in 1938. Its burnt remains -- along with a check from the federal government -- were returned to the Tlingits, who magnanimously agreed to carve a replica that still stands in Pioneer Square.

Company Site

On October 19, 1906, residents of Tacoma's Smelter District voted to incorporate the City of Ruston, which was named in honor of the Tacoma Smelting Company's general manager William Rust. For years Ruston was home to what was once the world's largest smokestack, which was reduced to rubble by a controlled demolition in 1993.

Ghost in the Night

On October 17, 1920, Vancouver's mayor, G. R. Percival, disappeared after a stroll through the city and across the Interstate Bridge over the Columbia River. Numerous searches were made, but there was no sign of him until a month later, when his body was found hanging from a tree on Hayden Island -- an apparent suicide. Since then, on autumn nights, some have claimed to see the apparition of an old man on the old bridge who then vanishes into thin air. 

Drivers' Delight

On October 18, 1928, a new highway connecting Seattle and Tacoma opened, marking a vast improvement over the two existing roads used in the 1920s to travel between the two cities. It later became part of the Pacific Highway (now U.S. Route 99), which served as the main West Coast transportation artery before it was surpassed by Interstate 5 in the 1960s.

Today in
Washington History

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Image of the Week

On October 16, 1893, long-distance telephone service was inaugurated between Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, and Spokane.

Quote of the Week

MEANDER, n. To proceed sinuously and aimlessly. The word is the ancient name of a river about one hundred and fifty miles south of Troy, which turned and twisted in the effort to get out of hearing when the Greeks and Trojans boasted of their prowess.

--Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

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