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July 2, 2015 – July 8, 2015

A Grand Old Flag

This week, in celebration of the 4th of July, HistoryLink hoists the stars and stripes with a look back at some of the more extravagant American flags ever flown in the state. We begin in 1885, when Dirty Dan Harris -- founder of Fairhaven -- and a bunch of his pals raised a giant flag measuring 18 feet wide by 50 feet long. It took the bannermen -- who were fueled by more than a few glasses of liquor -- most of a day to erect the 110-foot-high pole and raise the 50-pound flag aloft.

In 1909, at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, fairgoers celebrated Flag Day by hoisting the "Largest Flag in the World." Measuring 110 feet long by 39 feet wide, this Old Glory was sewn by Pullman resident Pauline Mitchell. The 186-foot flagpole was so large that it required five railroad cars to transport it to the exposition grounds.

In 1918, Camp Lewis looked at raising its own record-setting flag atop a 314-foot-tall Douglas fir pole, billed as the world's tallest. The flag measured 60 by 90 feet and weighed in at a hefty 257 pounds -- one of the largest banners of its time. Unfortunately, it was too large and it shattered the pole the moment it unfurled. After another failed attempt in which the pole held but the flag shredded, a smaller flag was raised in its place. Earlier this year, the base for the fractured flagpole was discovered and unearthed, and will soon be put on display for its valiant efforts in the name of patriotism.

The Grand Old Fourth

It comes as no surprise that the 4th of July is noted for many significant events in Washington history. On that date in 1889, Joseph Pearsall staked the first mining claim in Monte Cristo, which led to a brief boom for the mountain community. On July 4, 1915, Bill Boeing reportedly took his first airplane ride. That same day, Samuel Hill dedicated the Pacific Highway at Blaine. Exactly three years later, Hill was on hand to help dedicate the altar stone for his Stonehenge replica at Maryhill.

Seattle alone has its share of noteworthy Independence Day events. In 1854, that was the day that Lake Union and Lake Washington were named, and on July 4, 1914, the Smith Tower officially opened. Exactly three years later a parade of ships passing through the Ballard locks dedicated the Lake Washington Ship Canal. And on July 4, 1965, Ivar Haglund launched the first Ivar's Fourth of July fireworks show, an annual extravaganza for many years.

News Then, History Now

What a Bummer: In the summer of 1788, English fur trader John Meares sailed along the Washington coast searching in vain for the San Roque River discovered years earlier by Bruno de Hezeta. He gave up on July 6, near the towering basalt column that served as Hezeta's landmark, and named it Cape Disappointment -- unaware that he was in the river's mouth. Today we know the river as the Columbia, and more than disappointment awaits any mariner who ignores nearby lighthouses.

Work in Summer: On July 5, 1858, workers in Bellingham began erecting Washington Territory's first brick building, helped along by a shipment of building materials from San Francisco. The T. G. Richards Building still stands and is the oldest brick structure in Washington.

Bad Times: Most 4th of July events have been celebratory, but there are some worth noting that have been grim. On July 4, 1889, Ellensburg suffered a major fire that destroyed 200 homes and 10 business blocks. And the nineteenth century's last 4th of July included a horrific tragedy in Tacoma.

Hard Crimes: On July 2, 1902, the outlaw Harry Tracy hijacked a boat from Olympia and made his way to King County. Less than a month earlier he had escaped from the Oregon Penitentiary with his friend David Merrill, whom he later shot in the back. Tracy eluded lawmen for more than a month as he cut a swath of terror throughout Washington.

Seeking the Vote: During the first week of July in 1909, visiting suffragists in Seattle sought support from college students and heard from a representative of the Washington Grange. A July 4 meeting was held at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. The next day Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Henry Blackwell made the case for suffrage, and on July 6 Pauline Steinem (future grandmother of Equal Rights luminary Gloria Steinem) pressed mothers to set pro-suffrage examples for their daughters. A closing address by the Reverend Anna Howard Shaw completed the formal meetings, and on July 7 they all celebrated Suffrage Day at the A-Y-P.

Staying Afloat: Two stalwarts of the Seattle waterfront celebrate anniversaries this week. On July 3, 1909, the fireboat Duwamish was launched. The historic vessel, which operated on Elliott Bay until being retired in 1985, is now moored on South Lake Union. And on July 3, 1920, Seattle's Naval Shore Station opened at the foot of Washington Street. The structure is long gone, but the wrought-iron pergola which fronted it still stands, thanks to the efforts of the all-woman Committee of 33.

Quote of the Week

The flag of the United States has not been created by rhetorical sentences in declarations of independence and in bills of rights. It has been created by the experience of a great people, and nothing is written upon it that has not been written by their life. It is the embodiment, not of a sentiment, but of a history.

                     --Woodrow Wilson

Image of the Week

Seventy-five years ago this week, the Lake Washington Floating Bridge was dedicated on July 2, 1940. The span connected the mainland with Mercer Island, which is also celebrating an anniversary.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

David Thompson records first written description of the Sinkayuse Indians and the landscape along the Columbia between the mouth of the Wenatchee River and Crab Creek on July 7, 1811.

Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle celebrates Suffrage Day on July 7, 1909.

Camp Lewis opens first Washington state Citizen's Military Training Camp on July 7, 1921.

Mother Francesca Xavier Cabrini, founder of Seattle's Cabrini Hospital, is declared a Saint on July 7, 1946.

Dorian House, pioneering gay counseling service, opens in Seattle on July 7, 1969.

Exhibition Japanese American Pride and Shame opens in Seattle on July 7, 1970.

Officials break ground for Seattle's South Lake Union Streetcar on July 7, 2006.

Tall Ships make second visit to Tacoma from July 3 to July 7, 2008.

New Essays This Week       RSS Feed

After 21 years in legislature, Representative Helen Sommers becomes chair of House Appropriations Committee on January 10, 1994.

Washington's Territorial Legislature incorporates Goldendale on November 14, 1879.

Asotin incorporates on July 2, 1890.

City of Asotin -- Thumbnail History

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