King Olav V of Norway visits Seattle area from May 1 to May 4, 1968.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 1/10/2000
  • Essay 2031

From May 1 to 4, 1968, Norway's King Olav V (1903-1991) makes his third visit, and first as king, to the Seattle area. At every stop he is greeted enthusiastically by large crowds, many of them from the region's substantial Norwegian American community, and the king declares that he "feels more at home in Seattle than in any other United States city" ("King Olav's Visit ...").

Olav, whose full name was Alexander Edward Christian Frederik of Gluksburg, had visited Western Washington twice as Crown Prince. In 1939 he and his wife, Princess Martha (1901-1954), spent a day skiing at Paradise on Mount Rainier and attended the dedication of the Toftezen (or Taftezon) Memorial in Stanwood, Snohomish County, which honored the first Norwegian settler on Puget Sound. During a 1942 visit, Olav explained Norway's position as a country occupied by German troops.

In 1968, Seattle was just one stop on the Norwegian monarch's tour of the United States. King Olav arrived from San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon May 1 and had dinner that evening at the Rainier Club with Governor Daniel J. Evans (b. 1925) and Mayor Dorm Braman (1901-1980).

On Thursday, May 2, the king visited the University of Washington College of Fisheries, a group of demonstrators waited for the king with signs reading "Scandinavia Unite as a Neutral Republic" and scuffled with another group of students who tore up their signs. The king did not see the confrontation.

Also on Thursday, Olav attended a ceremony at the statue of Leif Erikson at the Port of Seattle's Shilshole Bay Marina, greeted retirees at the Norse Home, watched sea otters at the Woodland Park Zoo, and ate lunch at the Space Needle. At the Norway Center, he listened to the Ballard High School Band and the Issaquah High School Chorus and said, "It is fine that you are able to keep these (Norwegian) traditions as a living thing ... and blend them as part of the American way of life" (Post-Intelligencer). That night the king attended a banquet in his honor at the Olympic Hotel.

On Friday, May 3, King Olav returned to the Cascade Mountains, making a trip to the Crystal Mountain ski area. He rode a chair lift to the resort's Summit House and admired the view of nearby Mount Rainier, where he had skied 29 years before. That evening he had a private dinner with family friends who lived in Bellevue. The next morning, Olav departed for Minneapolis.

King Olav made another visit to the Puget Sound region in 1975, celebrating the sesquicentennial of Norwegian immigration to America with a visit to Poulsbo, located in Kitsap County and nicknamed "Little Norway" for its large Norwegian American population.


Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 3, 1968, p. 1-B; Svein Gilje, "King Olav Flies East After 'Unforgettable' Visit," The Seattle Times, May 4, 1968, p. 1; Gilje, "King Olav's Visit Described as Highly Successful," Ibid., May 5, 1968, p. 91; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "King Olav V visits Poulsbo on October 22, 1975" (by Jennifer Ott) and "Norway's Crown Prince Olav skis at Mount Rainier on May 24, 1939" (by John W. Lundin), (accessed April 21, 2015).
Note: This essay was corrected as to the dates of Olav's visit and revised on April 21, 2015.

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