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.
Coronavirus Week 20
In week 20 of the coronavirus pandemic, Washington continues to gradually open up as Governor Inslee and his team assess how the counties should proceed. This week the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order expired as public health agencies continued to closely monitor infection rates.
HistoryLink is documenting the impact of the pandemic in several ways. We have posted a number of articles about the key events so far:
and we continue to add new images from around the state on Instagram.
We aren’t waiting for this to be history! We want to hear your stories for our Coronavirus Archive Project. Our People’s Histories are a rich collection of first-person accounts, and we would like to add your experiences in this pandemic so future generations can turn to HistoryLink to learn what happened. Visit our Coronavirus Archive Project page to share your story.
This Week Then
In 1844 the provisional government of Oregon enacted a ban on black residents settling south of the Columbia River, a ban that was reenacted after Oregon Territory was created in 1848. To avoid the law, in 1845 a group of pioneers led by George W. Bush, a free African American from Missouri, and his friend Michael Simmons, moved north to today's Tumwater, where they established the first non-Native American settlement in what eight years later would become Washington Territory.
Washington Territory had no such ban, but it was not free of racism. In 1874 a group of white parents was outraged when the University of Washington admitted a black student. While many remained silent, newspaper editor and future Seattle mayor Beriah Brown came to the school's defense in a powerful editorial titled "Civil Rights."
In 1890, one year after achieving statehood, Washington passed model civil rights legislation, but racial tensions grew nonetheless, particularly among workers who feared losing jobs to minorities. The first NAACP chapter in the state was formed in 1913, but many African Americans still had to battle against segregation and exclusion. In the early 1920s a resurgent Ku Klux Klan enjoyed considerable success in the state.
Racial bias was directed not only against African Americans, but against Asians and other minorities as well. In 1865 Seattle's first government passed a law calling for the removal of Indians from the city. In 1885 Tacoma mobs expelled the city's entire Chinese community, and a similar effort was made in Seattle the following year. And in 1921 the Washington legislature enacted the Alien Land Bill, which banned non-white immigrants from buying, owning, or leasing land in the state. The law was not formally repealed until 1967.
As late as 1938, a mob of white residents in Wapato, armed with clubs, sticks, and rocks, tried to drive the African American population out of town. That same year, in a rare rebuke of police misconduct, a Seattle jury convicted three officers of manslaughter for the fatal beating of a black prisoner, but Governor Clarence Martin pardoned two of them the following year, and the third was paroled early. The influx of thousands of black defense workers during World War II led to more conflict -- and to new leaders, laws, and attitudes to address and overcome racial barriers.
Seattle's first sit-in of the modern civil rights era occurred on July 1, 1963, when 35 young African American and white demonstrators occupied Mayor Gordon Clinton's lobby to protest the make-up of the city's new Human Rights Commission. The protest ended within 24 hours without incident or arrests, but also without action from the mayor. Three weeks later, 22 protestors occupied the city council's chambers for four days before being removed and carted off to jail. The commission was created as planned, and although it submitted an open-housing ordinance the following year, Seattle voters rejected it. An open-housing law was finally enacted by the Seattle City Council in April 1968.
That year saw another sit-in, this time at Franklin High School to protest suspensions and unfair treatment of African American students there. It ended with the arrests of University of Washington Black Students Union members Aaron Dixon and Larry Gossett; Carl Miller, the head of the local Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee; and student Trolice Flavors. Their sentencing for unlawful assembly led to riots in Seattle's Central Area, and the legal case traveled up through the courts for years. Gossett was elected to the King County Council in 1993.
On June 6, 1870, Charlotte Emily Olney French -- after a debate with Thurston County election judges -- became the first woman to cast a vote in Washington Territory. In 1871 the territorial legislature voted to deny Washington women the vote, but it was regained for a few years before statehood, then lost again. It wasn't until 1910 that Washington's all-male electorate ratified Amendment 6 to the state constitution, granting women the right to vote and making the state the fifth in the nation to enfranchise women.
On June 6, 1889, a Seattle cabinetmaker accidentally ignited his shop at 1st Avenue and Madison Street. Fanned by a hot, dry breeze, the flames quickly spread through the wood-framed downtown. Volunteers struggled to douse them, but the town's privately owned water system delivered only a trickle. By that night, 64 acres of central Seattle had been reduced to a "horrible black smudge," in the words of visitor Rudyard Kipling.
Cars on the Way
On June 4, 1916, a National Parks Highway Association tour set forth on a 33-day automobile journey from Chicago to Puget Sound to demonstrate the feasibility of automobile travel and advocate for the improvement of roads and highways. The transcontinental auto race of 1909 was still fresh in many minds, and a growing number of car owners were itching to travel the open road.
On June 7, 1938, Everett native Nancy Coleman starred in scenes from Susan and God, telecast by NBC in New York as an experiment in the early days of television. And on June 6, 1959, Seattle radio station KIRO presented D-Day Plus 15, the first radio broadcast to use recordings from the KIRO-CBS Phonoarchive at the University of Washington.
On June 4, 1962, the Seattle World's Fair got a visit from Dr. Jonas Salk, who was honored at the U.S. Science Pavilion for his heroic work developing the polio vaccine. Years earlier, Edward R. Murrow asked Salk who owned the vaccine. "Well the people, I would say," Salk replied, "There is no patent. Can you patent the sun?"
"And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention."