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July 17, 2014 – July 23, 2014

Fur Traders

In the spring of 1811, representatives of John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company established Fort Astoria as the first American trading post on the Columbia River. Just as the Astorians were preparing for their first inland expedition in mid-July, they were surprised by the arrival of a rival group of traders, led by David Thompson of the Montreal-based North West Company. Thompson and his men had just traveled down the Columbia after planting the British flag on July 9 at its confluence with the Snake River.

The two groups made a tacit agreement not to interfere with each other, since both regarded the London-based Hudson's Bay Company to be the greater competitive threat in the burgeoning Northwest fur trade. The Canadians rested at Fort Astoria for a week before returning upriver beginning July 22. Nine Astorians traveled with the "Nor'Westers" to Celilo Falls, where they parted company. The Astorians went on to establish Fort Okanogan and Fort Spokane as key links in what they hoped would be a transcontinental fur empire.

Astor's overland expedition did not reach the mouth of the Columbia until January 1812, and Thompson concluded his survey of the river a few months later. Soon after that, the War of 1812 interfered with any further efforts to resupply the Pacific Fur Company's outposts. Astor's representatives in the West gave up in 1814 and sold out to the rival North West Company, which later merged with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821. Hudson's Bay dominated the land-based fur trade in the Northwest until the Oregon Treaty of 1846 settled the international boundary at the 49th parallel.

Flour Capers

One hundred years ago this week, on July 18, 1914, daredevil pilot Silas Christofferson dropped bags of flour on Seattle as part of a mock bombing raid to demonstrate the potential power of aerial warfare. At least one building's skylight was broken, but fortunately no pedestrians were pelted by falling sacks. The aviator was in town to help celebrate Seattle's Potlatch Festival, and as crazy as it was, his air strike was most likely a welcome relief from the previous year's celebration, which began with fistfights and ended in riots.

The first Golden Potlatch festival was held in 1911, when a summer fun fest seemed like a good way to celebrate the anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush -- not unlike the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition had done in 1909.This new festival was a great success, even more so when the Potlatch Bug was introduced as its official emblem in 1912.

After the 1913 riots, the Golden Potlatch quietly faded from view. In 1922, Seattle celebrated the silver anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush with nary a Potlatch Bug in sight. The festival was briefly revived in the late 1930s, but was interrupted by the onset of World War II. After the war, civic leaders began discussing plans for a new summer festival. The result was Seafair -- first held in 1950 and still going strong to this day.

News Then, History Now

Battered Ship: On July 18, 1841, the USS Peacock -- part of the famed Wilkes Expedition -- wrecked near the mouth of the Columbia River at a spot now known as Peacock Spit. When the Navy departed, it left one of the vessel's launches behind, hoping that local residents would use the small boat to save the crews of other ships that foundered offshore. Today, the U.S. Coast Guard operates the National Motor Lifeboat School at nearby Ilwaco.

Seward's Trip: On July 21 and 22, 1869, former Secretary of State William Seward toured Puget Sound on his way to Alaska and spoke out on the development of Washington Territory. Two years earlier, while in office, Seward had fought for the purchase of Alaska from Russia. At the time, some viewed his decision as folly, but it would later have far-reaching effects on our state.

Drive With Ease: On July 23, 1900, Washington welcomed its first automobile when Ralph Hopkins, the owner of a Woods Electric car, arrived in Seattle after driving west from Chicago to San Francisco and then north (with lifts from trains helping out here and there). Soon there were enough cars in Washington to warrant creation of the state's first Automobile Club in 1904 and establishment of the original State Highway Board the following year.

Ticket, Please: On July 20, 1909, the Dime Theater opened in Walla Walla at a time when movie tickets typically cost 10 cents. Within a few years, ticket prices went up a nickel, and Seattle movie-theater operator John von Herberg promoted a novel way to capitalize on this. Legislation to mint a 15-cent coin was introduced in Congress in 1918, but no change came of it.

Flush With Pride: This week marks two special anniversaries in water quality history -- the July 22, 1965, dedication of Renton's East Division Reclamation Plant and the July 20, 1966, dedication of the West Point wastewater treatment plant on the shores of Magnolia. Both plants helped fulfill Metro's 1958 promise to clean up Lake Washington, which had become the region's public toilet.

Wild Ride: Forty-five years ago this week, on July 20, 1969, the first humans landed on the moon thanks to a boost from the Boeing-built Saturn V rocket. Two years later, the Boeing-built Lunar Rover helped astronauts zip across the moon's surface at speeds of up to nine m.p.h.

Players Guide: Thirty-five years ago this week, on July 17, 1979, Seattle hosted the 50th Major League All-Star game, attended by baseball fans throughout the Northwest. This week also marks the 12th anniversary of the opening of Seahawks Stadium on July 20, 2002.

Quote of the Week

Every intelligent man saw the poverty that would follow the destruction of the beaver, but there were no chiefs to control it; all was perfect liberty and equality.

                                  --David Thompson

Image of the Week

Ritzville incorporated on July 17, 1890.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

City of Seattle annexes the Town of West Seattle on July 24, 1907.

Sergeant John F. Weedin and Officer Robert R. Wiley are shot and killed off duty by the night watchman at a bootlegger's warehouse on July 24, 1916.

Fire devastates Twisp on July 24, 1924.

Record-breaking 7,200-egg omelet is cooked in a record-breaking frying pan in Chehalis on July 24, 1931.

Grand opening of Seattle's Show Box is celebrated on July 24, 1939.

Mayor William F. Devin praises Seattle's Civic Unity Committee on July 24, 1944.

First Unlimited Hydroplane Race on the Columbia River occurs at Tri-Cities on July 24, 1966.

Spokane congregations transfer the Torah scrolls from Keneseth Israel Synagogue to the Temple Emanu-El and merge to form Temple Beth Shalom on July 24, 1966.

Governor Dan Evans appoints Marvin Glass to Seattle Community College Board of Trustees on July 24, 1969.

Tyee Creek Fire burns 135,000 acres for 33 days north of Wenatchee, beginning July 24, 1994.

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Bellingham and Skagit Interurban Railway

Trolley jumps the rails near Bellingham's Inspiration Point and plunges nearly 30 feet down embankment, injuring 18, on July 3, 1928.

Ferndale -- Thumbnail History

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