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July 23, 2015 – July 29, 2015

The Tale of the Whale

Fifty years ago this week, on July 27, 1965, the orca whale Namu arrived in Elliott Bay for display at Ted Griffin's private Seattle Marine Aquarium on Pier 56. The whale, captured near Namu, British Columbia, was the first orca to perform in captivity. Griffin's exhibit space, however, was not Puget Sound's first aquarium. That honor (not counting Vashon Island's Aquarium Post Office, opened by postmaster Henry P. Fish in 1892) goes to local legend Ivar Haglund, who opened his aquarium next to Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on July 29, 1938.

Namu was an instant success, more so after Griffin joined the orca in the tank to demonstrate the creature's friendliness. But the exhibit also drew protests from people who felt that it promoted entertainment ahead of education. Concerns over the exploitation of orcas and other cetacea intensified after Namu died in 1966 from a bacterial infection. Instead of a whale show, Seattleites looked for a true public aquarium that would respectfully provide information about the Puget Sound region's rich aquatic environment.

In 1968 voters approved Forward Thrust bonds to build the city-owned Seattle Aquarium. When it opened almost a decade later, attendance immediately exceeded expectations. Since then, millions of visitors to the award-winning aquarium have seen additions, expansions, and an array of exhibits and other explorations into the life aquatic.

The Feel of the Wheel

On July 23, 1900, Ralph Hopkins arrived in Seattle after driving his Woods Electric automobile west from Chicago to San Francisco and then north (with lifts from trains helping out here and there). His car was the first to travel Seattle's streets and was most likely the first one seen in Washington.

By 1904 there were enough cars on Washington's roads to warrant creation of the Automobile Club of Seattle, the state's first such organization and the predecessor of AAA Washington. This group collaborated with Sam Hill's Good Roads Association to promote the construction and improvement of public highways. The Good Roads Association also pushed for the creation of a State Highway Board, which was established in 1905.

The need for speed increased once Henry Ford's Model T was introduced and cars became affordable to middle-class Americans. In 1911, Governor Marion Hay signed the Permanent Highway Act, which created a fund for construction of hard-surfaced roads between the state's centers of trade. The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 helped these efforts. Over time, the State Highway Board evolved into the Washington State Transportation Commission, which now oversees the Washington State Department of Transportation.

News Then, History Now

Rural Altercations: On July 26, 1882, freight agent Eli Cummins was robbed and murdered in Columbia County, a crime for which three men were convicted. And on July 28, 1921, Alfred J. Anderson shot and killed Whatcom County Sheriff's Deputy James F. Chatfield, who was searching for smugglers in the woods along the Canadian border near Blaine, after the deputy, without identifying himself, fired warning shots toward the local resident. Anderson, who claimed self-defense, was charged with murder but the case was dismissed.

Urban Congregations: On July 25, 1889, Ohaveth Sholum was established as Seattle's first Jewish congregation. And on July 24, 1966, in Spokane, the Torah scrolls from the Keneseth Israel Synagogue were transferred to Temple Emanu-El as part of a formal and symbolic merger into Temple Beth Shalom, now the center of the city's Jewish community.

Black and White: On July 26, 1924, some 13,000 members and supporters of the Ku Klux Klan staged a rally near Issaquah, more than 40 years after the town's previous bout with racial unrest. Twenty years later Seattle struggled with potential racial violence, and the city's Civic Unity Committee was praised by the mayor on July 24, 1944, for its efforts to quell concerns. Two decades later, on July 25, 1963, the first sit-in arrests of Seattle's modern civil-rights movement demonstrated that racial problems were hardly a thing of the past.

Taking Flight: On July 26, 1928, Boeing Field opened in Seattle's Georgetown neighborhood. Many Boeing aircraft took their maiden flights from the field, including the B-17 Flying Fortress, which first took wing 80 years ago this week on July 28, 1935.

Traveler's Plight: On July 26, 1934, the battleship U.S.S. Arizona rammed and sank a purse seiner off Cape Flattery. On July 27, 1963, the ferry Nisqually collided with a Chinese freighter. And on July 25, 1971, Seattle's monorail clanged into a steel girder at Seattle Center, injuring 26.

Up on the Stage: On July 24, 1939, Seattle's Showbox Ballroom opened as the Show Box. Over the years this venerable venue from the Jazz Age has moved with the groove and hosted rock, punk, hip-hop, grunge, pop music, and more. In other music history, this week also marks the July 25, 1969, anniversary of the Seattle Pop Festival, when Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Santana, and other bands performed in Woodinville. No doubt some audience members also had enjoyed the Sky River Rock Festival high in the Cascade foothills near Sultan a year earlier.

Down by the River: On July 24, 1966, on the Columbia River, the Tri-Cities hosted its first Unlimited Hydroplane Race. Thirty years later, on July 28, 1996, two racing fans were wading in the water when one of them stepped on what seemed to be a round rock. It turned out to be a 9,200-year-old human skull -- the remains of an individual who came to be known as Kennewick Man.

Quote of the Week

People protect what they love.

                     --Jacques Cousteau

Image of the Week

On July 27, 1923, in Seattle, President Warren G. Harding gave his last public speech. He fell ill en route to San Francisco and died six days later.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

Jeremiah and Kate Borst file the first plat for Fall City on July 27, 1887.

First Birney streetcar goes into service in Seattle on July 27, 1916.

U.S. President Warren G. Harding makes his last speech in Seattle on July 27, 1923.

Stanwood and Camano Island residents build a park in one day on July 27, 1949.

Cease-fire agreement marks the end of the Korean War on July 27, 1953.

Ferry Nisqually collides with Chinese freighter on July 27, 1963.

Captive orca whale Namu arrives in Seattle on July 27, 1965.

King County grand jury indicts public officials in police payoff scandal on July 27, 1971.

Seattle Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus gains entry to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 27, 2008.

News that Seattle may ban new houseboats breaks on July 27, 2010.

New Essays This Week       RSS Feed

Edith Wilson Macefield: A House Is Your Home

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Historic South Downtown Oral Histories: Menache Israel Recalls Businesses on the Central Waterfront in the 1940s and 1950s.

Historic South Downtown Oral Histories: Mike Omura Discusses His Experiences on the Seattle Waterfront

Historic South Downtown Oral Histories: Tony Chinn Discusses His Experiences on the Seattle Waterfront

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