Chief Seattle Thelma Dewitty Thomas Foley Carrie Chapman Catt Anna Louise Strong Mark Tobey Helene Madison Home
Search Encyclopedia
Advanced Search
Featured Essay
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
7099 essays now available      
Donation system not supported by Safari     Donate Subscribe


Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search


Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Timeline Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Seattle voters approve electric utility bonds on March 4, 1902, leading to creation of Seattle City Light. Essay 2317 : Printer-Friendly Format

On March 4, 1902, three-fifths of Seattle voters approve $500,000 in bonds to fund construction of a municipal hydroelectric dam and plant at Cedar Lake. The project is entrusted to the Seattle Water Department and a young engineer named James D. Ross (1872-1939). The Seattle Lighting Department, or City Light, was created in 1910 and Ross became superintendent (following a brief tenure by Richard Arms) in 1911.

Discussion of a municipal power plant began in 1890 due to growing resentment of private interests controlling electrical services and streetcars. An effective monopoly emerged in 1900 with creation of the Seattle Electric Company (antecedent of Puget Sound Energy), angering reformers led by city engineers George Cotterill (1865-1958) and R. H. Thomson (1856-1949). Voters consistently sided with public ownership advocates through a series of additional bond elections.

The new Cedar Falls power plant delivered its first current to Seattle on January 10, 1905. The Seattle City Council created an independent Department of Lighting on April 1, 1910, and James D. Ross took over as its Superintendent in 1911. He held the post until his death in 1939.

Annual Report of the Lighting Department, 1911; Richard C. Berner, Seattle in the Twentieth Century Vols. 1 and 2 (Seattle: Charles Press, 1991 and 1992); Leslie Blanchard, The Streetcar Era in Seattle: A Chronicle of the First Six Decades (Forty Fort, PA: H. E. Cox, 1968); Walt Crowley, Routes: An Interpretive History of Public Transportation in Metropolitan Seattle (Seattle: Metro Transit, 1993); Robert C. Wing, A Century of Service: The Puget Power Story (Bellevue, WA: Puget Sound Power and Light Co., 1987); Warren Wing, To Seattle by Trolley, (Edmonds, WA: Pacific Fast Mail, 1988); Seattle City Light and City Clerk/Municipal Archives Website (

Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Special Suite: Seattle City Light |

Related Topics: Infrastructure | Government & Politics |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You

This essay made possible by:
Rivers-in-Time Project:
King County
Seattle Public Utilities
Seattle City Light

Seattle City Light offices and receiving station (1904), 7th Avenue and Yesler Way, Seattle, 1905
Courtesy Seattle City Light

Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM) is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email