History of Seattle

Tampa Travel Blog

 › entry 1 of 14 › view all entries
Seattle's first Mayor, Henry A. Atkins

Archaeological excavations confirm that the Seattle area has been inhabited by humans for at least 4,000 years. By the time the first European settlers arrived in the area, the people (now called the Duwamish Tribe) occupied at least seventeen villages in the areas around Elliott Bay.

In 1851, a large party led by Luther Collins made a location on land at the mouth of the Duwamish River; they formally claimed it on September 14, 1851. Thirteen days later, members of the Collins Party on the way to their claim passed three scouts of the Denny Party, the group who would eventually found Seattle. Members of the Denny Party claimed land on Alki Point on September 28, 1851. The rest of the Denny Party set sail from Portland, Oregon and landed on Alki point during a rainstorm on November 13, 1851.

City Flag

After a difficult winter, most of the Denny Party relocated across Elliott Bay and founded the village of "Dewamps" or "Duwamps" on the site of present day Pioneer Square. Charles Terry and John Low remained at the original landing location and established a village they initially called "New York", but renamed "Alki" in April 1853, from a Chinook word meaning, roughly, by and by or someday. New York-Alki and Duwamps competed for dominance for the next few years, but in time Alki was abandoned and its residents moved across the bay to join the rest of the settlers.

David Swinson ("Doc") Maynard, one of Duwamps's founders, was the primary advocate to rename the village "Seattle" after Chief Sealth of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes.

City Flower, Dahlia
The term, "Seattle", appears on official Washington Territory papers dated May 23, 1853, when the first plats for the village were filed. In 1855, nominal land settlements were established. On January 14, 1865, the Legislature of Territorial Washington incorporated the Town of Seattle with a board of trustees managing the city. Two years later, after a petition was filed by most of the leading citizens, the Legislature disincorporated the town. The town remained a precinct of King County until late 1869 when a new petition was filed and the city was re-incorporated with a Mayor-council government.

Seattle has a history of boom and bust cycles, as is common to cities near areas of extensive natural and mineral resources. Seattle has risen several times economically, then gone into precipitous decline, but it has typically used those periods to rebuild solid infrastructure.

Seattle Bird, Great Blue Heron

The first such boom, covering the early years of the city, was fueled by the lumber industry. (During this period the road now known as Yesler Way was nicknamed "Skid Road", after the timber skidding down the hill to Henry Yesler's sawmill. This is considered a possible origin for the term which later entered the wider American vocabulary as Skid Row.) Like much of the American West, Seattle saw numerous conflicts between labor and management, as well as ethnic tensions that culminated in the anti-Chinese riots of 1885"1886. This violence was caused by unemployed whites who determined to drive the Chinese from Seattle (anti-Chinese riots also occurred in Tacoma). Martial law was declared, and federal troops were brought in to put down the disorder. Nevertheless, the economic success in the Seattle area was so great that when the Great Seattle fire of 1889 destroyed the central business district, a far grander city center rapidly emerged in its place. Finance company Washington Mutual, for example, was founded in the immediate wake of the fire. However, the Panic of 1893 hit Seattle hard.

This boom was followed by the construction of a park system, designed by the Olmsted brothers' landscaping firm.

The second and most dramatic boom and bust resulted from the Klondike Gold Rush, which ended the depression that had begun with the Panic of 1893; in a short time, Seattle became a major transportation center. On July 14, 1897, the S.S. Portland docked with its famed "ton of gold", and Seattle became the main transport and supply point for the miners in Alaska and the Yukon. Those working men only found lasting wealth in a few cases, however; it was Seattle's business of clothing the miners and feeding them salmon that panned out in the long run. Everett, Tacoma, Port Townsend, Bremerton, Seattle, and Olympia became competitors for exchange, rather than mother-lodes for extraction, of precious metals. The boom lasted well into the early part of the 20th century and funded many new Seattle companies and products. In 1907, 19-year-old James E. Casey borrowed $100 from a friend and founded the American Messenger Company (later UPS). Other Seattle companies founded during this period include Nordstrom and Eddie Bauer. The Gold Rush era culminated in the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909, which is largely responsible for the layout of today's University of Washington campus.

A shipbuilding boom in the early part of the 20th century became massive during World War I, making Seattle somewhat of a company town; the subsequent retrenchment led to the Seattle General Strike of 1919, the first general strike in the country. A 1912 city development plan by Virgil Bogue went largely unused. Seattle was mildly prosperous in the 1920s but was particularly hard hit in the Great Depression, experiencing some of the country's harshest labor strife in that era. Violence during the Maritime Strike of 1934 cost Seattle much of its maritime traffic, which was rerouted to the Port of Los Angeles.

Seattle was also the home base of impressario Alexander Pantages who, starting in 1902, opened a number of theaters in the city exhibiting vaudeville acts and silent movies. Soon, however, his activities expanded and the thrifty Greek went on and became one of America's greatest theater and movie tycoons. Because of this connection Seattle was for a while something of Americas vaudeville mecca. Though the theaters Pantages built in Seattle were later demolished they are still extant in other cities of the USA.

Caitlin1805 says:
Not to step on anyones toes, but a lot of the information in this article is incorrect, if you want to really know the history of seattle, I suggest 2 books, "The sons of the profits", and "The man who invented Seattle: The story of Doc Maynard"
Posted on: Nov 12, 2009
aloa says:
Nice blog! I've been living in Seattle for 2 years now and learned alot from your write up.
Posted on: Nov 12, 2009
Koralifix says:
Congrats on today's featured blog! Very well done!
Posted on: Nov 12, 2009
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Seattles first Mayor, Henry A. At…
Seattle's first Mayor, Henry A. A…
City Flag
City Flag
City Flower, Dahlia
City Flower, Dahlia
Seattle Bird, Great Blue Heron
Seattle Bird, Great Blue Heron
Tampa
photo by: ejames01