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January 22, 2015 – January 28, 2015

Air Mail

Following the end of World War I -- and the loss of lucrative military contracts -- William E. Boeing's fledgling airplane company was reduced to making such things as furniture and speedboats. Test pilot Eddie Hubbard convinced his boss that the future of flight lay in transporting passengers and goods. In 1919, the two men delivered America's first shipment of international air mail to Seattle from Vancouver, B.C. Hubbard next prevailed on Boeing to compete for the Chicago-San Francisco route -- a lucrative contract the company won on January 28, 1927.

Unfortunately, Boeing had recently lost its crucial Sand Point landing-strip privileges to the U.S. Navy. The company threatened to move to Los Angeles, but instead King County helped out by building a new airfield for commercial use. With this boost, Bill Boeing set his sights even higher with the development of the first modern airliner, the Boeing 247, and the incorporation of United Air Lines.

But in 1933, the new Democratic administration and Congress began investigating the cozy regulation of airlines under Republicans, and Senator (later Supreme Court Justice) Hugo Black personally grilled Bill Boeing on his "monopolistic" practices. Federal trustbusters canceled the lucrative airmail contracts and broke up the Boeing-United conglomerate. His empire in ruins and deeply embittered by his congressional inquisition, William Boeing retired and never again played a significant role in his namesake company.

Set Sail

One hundred and ten years ago this week, on January 22, 1905, cheers went up when the S. S. Minnesota set sail from Seattle to Asia with the largest cargo yet to cross the Pacific Ocean. Pacific trade was so valuable to the region that planners for the upcoming world's fair -- which started off as a celebration of Washington's connections to Alaska and the Yukon -- revised their focus to include more distant vistas.

Six decades later, much larger ships were needed to transports goods across the ocean. On January 24, 1964, the first modern container ship out of Puget Sound set sail from Seattle bound for Honolulu, Hawaii. To accommodate these larger vessels, major renovations were made to Washington's deep-draft ports, which handle billions of dollars of imports and exports every year.

News Then, History Now

Shake and Lurch: On January 26, 1700, a massive earthquake struck the Pacific Northwest, sending a tsunami across the Pacific that slammed into Japan, where several sources recorded the event, making it the earliest documented historical occurrence in our region. It is estimated that the temblor was at least 9.2 on the modern Richter scale, making it the region's most powerful earthquake ... yet.

Going to Church: On January 23, 1851, Bishop Augustin Blanchet dedicated St. James Cathedral on land adjacent to the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Vancouver headquarters. In 1885, a new St. James Cathedral was completed in the City of Vancouver, and served as the headquarters of the Catholic church in Western Washington for more than two decades, until Bishop Edward J. O'Dea moved the diocese to Seattle.

Hasty Retreat: On January 26, 1856, the Battle of Seattle erupted when Salish warriors descended upon the tiny settlement along Elliott Bay. Trouble had begun months earlier over discontent with hasty treaties negotiated by Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens. After the Seattle skirmish, a U.S. "citizen militia" retaliated viciously and Chief Leschi was hanged in 1858 on false charges of murder -- over the protests of many pioneers. It wasn't until 2004 that Leschi was finally exonerated.

Tired on Their Feet: At the peak of the nationwide dance-marathon craze, Bellingham officials decided that their town should oppose the controversial fad, and on January 26, 1931, the city council passed an ordinance that prohibited the grueling endurance contests. At the time, the local VFW was sponsoring such an event, which was then into its 25th day. The dance was halted two days later, but although many thought this would be Bellingham's last marathon, it wasn't.

False Accusation: On January 22, 1964, former state representative John Goldmark won $40,000 in a libel case against four individuals and a newspaper that had called him a Communist "tool." Although he was vindicated against the smear campaign, the award was later reversed, based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling (in a different case) that a public official could not collect damages for criticism of his official actions without proof of malice. Two decades later, Goldmark's son Charles and his family were murdered in Seattle by a right-wing extremist who said he killed them under the mistaken impression that the Goldmarks were communists.

Assassination: On January 26, 1969, civil rights leader and Seattle Urban League Executive Director Edwin Pratt was killed by a shotgun blast outside his home in Shoreline. The assailants were never found.

Quote of the Week

We are embarked as pioneers upon a new science and industry in which our problems are so new and unusual that it behooves no one to dismiss any novel idea with the statement that "it can't be done."

                               --William E. Boeing

Image of the Week

On January 22, 1997, the SR 509 cable-stayed bridge over the Thea Foss Waterway in Tacoma opened to traffic. The next day saw the closure of the nearby Blair Bridge.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

Ezra Meeker departs his Puyallup home to retrace the Oregon Trail on January 29, 1906.

Tacoma unveils the Bogue Plan for Tacoma Harbor on January 29, 1912.

The "Great Blowdown" strikes the Washington coast on January 29, 1921.

Seattle windstorm injures seven people and damages utilities on January 29, 1958.

Wallingford Branch, The Seattle Public Library opens on January 29, 2000.

Greenwood Branch, The Seattle Public Library, opens on January 29, 2005.

New Essays This Week       RSS Feed

San Juan Island Rabbit Tales

Harry S. Truman presents the Medal of Honor to Archie Van Winkle on February 6, 1952.

Moran, Robert (1857-1943)

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