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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

Sailing on In

On May 16, 1864, a ship carrying 11 young women arrived in Seattle from New England under the escort of Asa Shinn Mercer. This first of two contingents, the Mercer Girls had an instant impact on Seattle's mostly male frontier culture, provided the town's first public-school teacher, and would later inspire the TV series Here Come the BridesAsa Mercer is remembered these days, appropriately enough, with a Seattle middle school named in his honor.

Saving the Gin

On May 20, 1885, most of Whatcom's business district was destroyed by fire, but local tipplers were able to save much of the town's liquor supply. And on May 20, 1958, a massive fire destroyed the Seattle Cedar Manufacturing plant in Ballard, carrying five-foot-long pieces of burning lumber up to two miles away.

Cities Begin

Cities celebrating birthdays this week include Shelton, Blaine, and Hoquiam which incorporated in 1890 on May 17, May 20, and May 21, respectively. One year later, Anacortes incorporated on May 19, 1891, and Arlington became a city on May 20, 1903.

Sing It Out Loud

On May 18, 1952, Paul Robeson performed for more than 25,000 people at at an outdoor concert at Peace Arch Park in Blaine. His passport had been confiscated due to his political views, which prevented his entry into Canada. Two days later, he was almost barred from speaking and performing in Seattle, but he overcame cold-war hysteria to make his voice heard.

Aquarium Crowd

On May 20, 1977, the Seattle Aquarium opened to enthusiastic well-wishers. Funded by Forward Thrust bonds, the aquarium was an immediate success. Since its opening, visitors to the award-winning aquarium have seen additions, expansions, and an array of exhibits and aquatic experiments.

Ominous Cloud

On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted, spewing out rivers of mud and a plume of boiling gas. Volcanic ash was dumped all over Eastern Washington, forcing travelers off the highways. On May 20, two days after the eruption, this caused tremendous problems in Ritzville, some 200 miles away from the volcano.

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Image of the Week

In May 1865, Wait's Mill began operating in what would later become Waitsburg in Walla Walla County. The mill was destroyed in a fire in 2005.

Quote of the Week

"The good building is not one that hurts the landscape, but one which makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before the building was built."

--Frank Lloyd Wright

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