Voters elect Ole Hanson mayor of Seattle on March 5, 1918.

  • By Phil Dougherty
  • Posted 11/11/2015
  • Essay 2805

On March 5, 1918, Seattle voters elect Ole Hanson (1874-1940) as mayor. Hanson is already well-known in the city, primarily through his real-estate ventures in Lake Forest Park, and is no stranger to politics. He wins on the argument that he's more friendly to labor than his opponent, and perhaps (with a nod and a wink) more patriotic too. City voters also recall radical Anna Louise Strong (1885-1970) from her seat on the Seattle School Board.


Hanson decided to run almost on a lark. Blessed with an abundance of self-confidence and an equally strong sense of self-righteousness, he decided that Seattle needed a wartime mayor (America was in the midst of World War I) and that he was the one. He was well-known in Seattle, primarily through his work in developing the Lake Forest Park community, and he had some political experience. He'd served one term in the state legislature in 1909 and 1910, and had run unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 1914. His opponent, James Bradford (1868-1958), was equally well-known. He'd served as Seattle's corporation counsel (city attorney) for five years, and had run unsuccessfully for governor in 1916.

Both men were Progressive Republicans, but Hanson was seen as the more labor-friendly of the two. In 1918 Seattle this meant a great deal, and it was a big issue in the mayoral campaign. For Hanson this advantage was more of a lucky break than by calculated design, as he happened to support many of the same issues that were supported by labor -- an eight-hour day for women, a minimum-wage bill, the initiative and referendum, and more. Bradford was more of a blank slate. At best he was a relatively late convert to the cause and the Seattle Star, in endorsing Hanson, urged its readers not to be fooled. Purred the Star, "Hanson is easily better entitled to labor's vote, for Hanson has a lifetime record of earnest endeavor in behalf of the toiler, and not one black mark against him" ("The Labor Issue").

Extra Patriotism

Hanson added a dash of extra patriotism to his campaign, aggressively campaigning under the banner of "Americanism," which was sunnily described as versions of "The American spirit of liberty, justice, equal opportunity ... [and] the rule of law, democracy, [and] morality" ("Ole and the Reds ..."). It worked, and as Election Day approached he was a clear favorite. The big issue wasn't whether he would win but by how much, and this was serious business: The Seattle Times reported that thousands of dollars were wagered that Hanson would win by as much as 8,000 votes, and more bets were laid between a majority of 6,000 and 10,000.

Election Day passed smoothly and quickly, and by 8 p.m. a jolly crowd had gathered at the (Seattle) Times Building on 5th Avenue and Olive Street as election returns began going up on a large board in front of the building. To the surprise of all, the count was initially close. At a few points early in the evening Bradford actually held a slight lead. But as the counting continued Hanson surged into the lead and kept it. By 10 p.m. the outcome was obvious, but despite the breezy raw night many onlookers stuck around anyway, entertained between updates by Dok's Dippy Duck. (The duck was based on a popular cartoon of the same name penned by John "Dok" Hager in The Seattle Times during the 1910s and 1920s. It featured the antics of a cigarette-smoking, mischief-making, wise-to-the-world duck, and people loved him.) At 11 p.m. five red "flash bombs" were set off above the Times Building, confirming the Hanson victory far and wide.

Hanson won 32,286 votes to Bradford's 27,677, an impressive victory despite the smaller-than-expected margin. He spoke to the Star that night, and assured labor that he stood with them: "Here was I, who since a boy, fought with those men, fought not in one battle but in every battle of labor in this state; here was I, wrongly and maliciously placed in the light of an enemy of labor ... My sympathies and my endeavors for those who toil, from whom I sprang, are unshaken" ("Hanson Wins ...").

His sympathies would change the following year later during the Seattle General Strike.

Strong Recall

At the same time that they elected Hanson mayor, Seattle voters recalled Anna Louise Strong from her seat on the Seattle School Board, to which she had been elected two years earlier. Strong, a lifelong radical, opposed U.S. involvement in World War I and supported the cause of Louise Olivereau (1884-1963), who worked in the Seattle office of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or "Wobblies") and was charged with, and convicted of, sedition for mailing circulars to draftees encouraging them to consider being conscientious objectors.

The recall campaign, led by veterans of the Spanish American War, charged Strong with "unpatriotic actions" ("City Car Line Extension ..."). Despite her status as the only woman on the school board, a last-minute appeal to voters by her father, Rev. Sydney Strong of Queen Anne Congregational Church, and, according to The Seattle Times, heavy support from Bradford voters, Strong lost her seat by a larger margin than Hanson won, nearly 6,000 votes. Although Strong would not hold public office during Hanson's term, the two would soon face off over the 1919 general strike, in which Strong played a leading role.

One city councilmember also lost his seat in the election: Incumbent Will H. Hanna was defeated by Park Board secretary Roland W. Cotterill. Noting that even political insiders were surprised by the incumbent's defeat, the Times ascribed it to city employees opposing Hanna and strong labor support for a council slate that included Cotterill. Voters also approved measures funding an extension of the city's streetcar lines and an expansion of the Firland Sanitarium and a charter amendment extending the terms of the comptroller and city treasurer from two to four years.


"The Labor Issue," The Seattle Star, March 4, 1918, p. 6; "Hanson Wins by Same Margin That Recalls Anna Louise Strong," Ibid., March 6, 1918, pp. 1, 10; "City Car Line Extension Bonds Carry and Carroll and Terry Terms Extended," The Seattle Times, March 6, 1918, pp. 1, 5; "Enthusiasm Keeps Election Night Crowds Warm," Ibid., March 6, 1918, p. 5; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Hanson, Ole Thorsteinsson (1874-1940)" (by Phil Dougherty) and "Strong, Anna Louise (1885-1970)" (by Mildred Andrews), (accessed October 23, 2015); Terje I. Leiren, "Ole and the Reds: The 'Americanism' of Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson," Norwegian-American Historical Association website accessed July 4, 2015 (; "Mayors, 1890-1948," Seattle Municipal Archives website accessed October 23, 2015 (; "Preliminary Guide to the James E. Bradford Correspondence, Speeches and Other Materials," University of Washington Libraries website accessed October 22, 2015 (
Note: This essay replaces a previous essay on the subject.

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