Planned with a diverse economy in the 1890s and again in the early 1900s, Everett was soon dominated by lumbering, logging and shingle production, with commercial fishing and boatbuilding adding substantially to the industrial base. For years Everett proudly declared itself the "City of Smokestacks," a name that was used in promotion until after World War II. Boeing's arrival at Paine Field in 1966 for production of the new 747 jumbo jet shifted the city's industry to airplane assembly and aerospace, bringing new related businesses to the Everett area. In 2019 the Paine Field Airport opened for passenger flights. Despite Boeing's decision to move assembly of its 787 Dreamliner to South Carolina in 2022, the Everett plant will still assemble the company's 747, 767, KC-46 Pegasus military tanker, the 777 and new 777X. In 2021 Everett's main economy depends on aerospace, Port of Everett industry, manufacturing, technology, health care, governmental services and Naval Station Everett.
Bordered on the west by Port Gardner Bay and the Snohomish River on its east and north shorelines, the peninsula that became Everett was for thousands of years an important location for the Snohomish and related tribes. Their major village, Hibulb, was located here, chosen for its safe harbor and excellent water travel routes, allowing easy access to other tribal villages, the Snohomish River, and Puget Sound and Alaskan waters. They were primarily a fishing people, salmon not only an important food, but a cultural figure as well.
Non-native settlers -- squatters, homesteaders, loggers, farmers, miners, and military men – began arriving in the late 1850s and the towns of Mukilteo, Lowell, and Snohomish were established decades before Everett. Snohomish County formed in 1861. Most of those first arrivals were men who worked in logging camps and small shingle mills along the river and bay. Everett historian William Whitfield (1846-1939), author of History of Snohomish County, Washington, 1926, recalled walking the shorelines of the peninsula and seeing mostly logging camps and shingle mills, including the large operations of Andrew Pope (1820-1878) and William Talbot (1816-1881) of the Puget Mill Company.
A shipbuilding plant started on the peninsula's northern tip in 1865, but only one ship was built there, the sloop Rebecca, before the business ended. Farther south along the bayside shoreline, Jacob (1837-1916) and David (1833-1913) Livingston operated the county's first steam-powered sawmill and filed a plat in 1872 for a city they named "Western New York." Both the sawmill and town plans ended as victims of a national economic depression in 1873.
If any one business formed the city of Everett, it was the Great Northern Railway -- or more exactly, the dream of it. Wealthy investors gambled on finding the best locations for transporting goods by rail. Everett, with its deep-water harbor and proximity to a seemingly endless supply of trees and the mines at Monte Cristo, was a promising choice.
Three sets of brothers -- Wyatt (1857-1931) and Bethel (1863-1945) Rucker, Frank and Edward (1866-1911) Friday, and William (1859-1910) and Wellington Swalwell -- purchased land at this location and platted a town they called Port Gardner. Its economy was to be based on logging, lumbering, and agriculture. The Fridays and the Ruckers also bought land in other parts of Snohomish County.
Tacoma lumberman Henry Hewitt Jr. (1840-1918) of the St. Paul & Tacoma Lumber Company explored the region for the Northern Pacific railroad. Charles Colby (1839-1896), an associate of John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937), sought a location for a West Coast plant of the American Steel Barge Works, a company that was building a new vessel called a whaleback. Hewitt persuaded him to locate in what would soon become Everett, a city named for Colby's son. Railroad tycoon James J. Hill (1838-1916) dangled promises that his Great Northern railroad would first touch tidewater at Everett. Hewitt, Colby, and partners formed the Everett Land Company and other investors were enticed to bring their industries to the new city. The Ruckers, Swalwells, and Fridays abandoned their smaller plans and joined with the Land Company.
The Everett Land Company development began with four industries: the Pacific Steel Barge Company; Puget Sound Wire, Nail and Steel Company; Puget Sound Reduction Company, which refined ores from mines at Monte Cristo; and the Puget Sound Pulp and Paper Company on the Snohomish River at Lowell. Of these, only the Lowell paper mill would survive the devastating national recession, the Panic of 1893. Small lumber and shingle mills added to the shoreline industry that included the large Sumner Iron Works along the river near Lowell and two large brick yards.
"City of Smokestacks"
James J. Hill owned the Great Northern Railway and was primary investor in the Northern Pacific. He had new plans for railroad riches and for Everett. With the Northern Pacific completed from Duluth to Tacoma in 1883, Hill planned a competing rail line, with branch lines as feeders. Profits would be made in transporting goods to East Coast and Asian markets. The NP owned large amounts of land along its railroad line. Timberman Frederick Weyerhaeuser (1834-1914), a friend of Hill's, wished to expand his timber holdings in the Pacific Northwest and on January 3, 1900, Hill sold Weyerhaeuser 900,000 acres of Washington state timberlands for $5.4 million in what has been referred to as one of the largest single land transfers in American history. Soon after the purchase, Weyerhaeuser formed the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company, incorporated on January 18, 1900.
In 1899 the Seattle Daily Times reported:
"Tacoma, Nov. 8. Henry Hewitt, one of the owners of the St. Paul and Tacoma Mill here, says President J. J. Hill is behind Frederick Weyerhaeuser in his purchase of Northern Pacific timber land in this state with the ultimate intention to send the price of timber skyward. Mills will be built at several places in the Sound, principally in Everett on account of its harbor, rail and river facilities for handling logs and cut timber. Mr. Hill claims information that Hill, Weyerhaeuser and the Mississippi Logging Company have entered a gigantic combine to gobble all the timber land in the state. Some time ago the Everett Land Company offered Mr. Hewitt the best sawmill site in Everett, 30 acres of land and $10,000 in cash if he would build and operate a sawmill there ... From all indications it appears that the Northern Pacific has been unloading its timber while the Great Northern has been buying" ("Price of Timber," 1899).
It was claimed that lumberman and former Minnesota governor David Clough (1846-1924), a friend of Hill's, came to Everett in Hill's private rail car. Clough took up residence in Everett and proceeded to invest heavily in local and regional lumbering, as well as politics. He and his son-in-law Roland Hartley (1864-1952) soon held great power in Everett.
By 1910 Everett's industries included many small shingle mills on the city's 14th Street Dock, as well as larger operations like the Robinson Mill, Everett Marine Ways, White Shipyards, American Tug Boat Company, Weyerhaeuser, Everett Pulp and Paper Company, Bayside Iron Works, Sumner Iron Works, the Everett Flour Mill, a brewery, a shoe factory, Washington Stove Works, Canyon Lumber, the Clough-Hartley Mill, the Clark Nickerson Mill, and the Great Northern Railway Delta yards.
Sawdust Barons (Clark, Mill Town)
Clough was the powerful leader of Everett mill owners that historian Norman Clark labeled the "sawdust baronage" in his 1970 book Mill Town. In reaction to their excessive power, Everett became a strong union town in the early 1900s. The barons battled the unions, with Clough as a central figure in the 1916 shingle weavers strike when he refused to reinstate a 1914 wage scale in his mills. When the radical Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union came in support of the weavers, Clough and others opposed them, hoping to drive them out of town. A combative climax came on November 5, 1916, with a deadly City Dock shootout between the IWW and the mill owners' citizen deputies, led by Sheriff Don McRae (b. 1868), an event known as the Everett Massacre. Clough maintained his power even after this violent confrontation. Roland Hartley became an Everett mayor and later Washington state governor.
Lumbering 1920s to 1950s
Economic good times as well as the Japanese earthquake in 1923 spurred demand for building, and the wood products industries flourished, but the 1930s Great Depression brought mill closures, some temporary and others final. There was a boost during and after World War II
Fires were an ever-present and costly threat to wood-products industries, with small shingle mills at the 14th Street Dock frequent victims. Some of the most spectacular fires happened at the Jamison Lumber and Shingle Company in 1928, the Clough-Hartley Shingle Mill in 1937, and the Pilchuck Shingle Company and the Jamison mill (again) in 1967. Also memorable were the August 2, 1956, fire that destroyed about $500,000 worth of buildings and lumber at the William Hulbert Mill Company, and a 1962 blaze at the Eclipse Mill. With the lumbering economy in decline, a catastrophic fire often meant the end of the business.
Everett's Commercial Fishing
Tulalip Tribes continued their fishing from the reservation, seeing their prospects diminished by industrial development at Everett. Competition arrived as well when early non-Native fishermen arrived, mainly from Croatia and Norway, bringing their traditional fishing skills -- and also their families and friends -- in the late 1890s. In the early years of the 20th century, they became an integral part of Everett's economy and would continue through the 1970s, establishing two large fish processing plants during World War II.
As lumber and shingle mills closed, reopened, and then closed again during the Great Depression, the fishing and boatbuilding economy remained stable, helping carry Everett through the hard times. During World War II, however, Everett fishermen moved operations to the 14th Street Dock area due to construction of the Everett Pacific Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, a shipbuilding plant during the war.
The nontribal fishing industry grew, modernized, and prospered from the 1950s through the 1970s, benefitting from new navigation aids such as fathometers, sonar depth sounders, and radar. But the industry declined in the 1980s due to overfishing, dwindling fish runs, and the impact of the Boldt Decision in 1974, which addressed years of inequities by upholding the treaty rights of the tribes. In the early 1990s, the final fish processor, Olympic Fish Company, closed. While commercial fishing exists in the 2020s, it is a small part of the economy.
Everett Fruit Products, Everett Packing Company, and Fishermen's Packing Corporation were some of the earliest canneries in Everett, established in the early 1900s. As photos from this time period show, many of their workers were women and young men, low-wage workers. In 1928 Everett Packing was purchased by Fisherman's Packing and operated as a co-op. The Bozeman Canning Company began in 1944 on the bayside, and two years later it was renamed the Pictsweet Canning Company, which later became the Everett Fish Company, canning sole and cod caught in Washington waters. In 1964 the company added a large-capacity freezer and started air freighting fish around the world. The business was sold in 1973.
Pulp and Paper
A primary piece of property on the city's bayside was sold in 1929 to a newly formed Puget Sound Pulp and Timber Company, at the foot of 26th Street. Struggling during the Great Depression, it was sold to Soundview Paper Company, which successfully operated the business into the 1950s when it became Soundview-Scott Paper Company and then simply was called Scott Paper Company. Kimberly Clark purchased the business in 1990, rebuilt the facility and began operating in 1995. In January of 2011 Kimberly Clark sold the Everett mill. The site is under Port of Everett management, with new plans being considered in 2021.
Shipbuilding and the Navy Presence
From its start, Everett's deep-water harbor encouraged shipbuilding, and from 1899 to 1905 several firms built ships at waterfront locations: the whaleback barge works on the Snohomish River, the White Shipyards and Everett Shipyards on bayside, and Sumner Iron Works in Lowell. The American Tug Boat Company built and refurbished tugs near Pier 1 and a number of boat builders had small operations along the bay and river.
Starts were made to build ships during World War I by firms Norway-Pacific Construction and Drydock Company and Pacific Coast and West Coast Shipping, but the 1918 Armistice ended their plans. World War II brought a substantial plant: The Everett Pacific Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, employing both men and woman, was a major presence on Port Gardner Bay. The company built ships, barges, harbor tugs, and mobile drydocks from 1942 to 1949, launching 49 vessels in its first 36 months. It was hoped that the plant would shift its operations from wartime production to peacetime ship repair, but by 1950, the plant closed.
A new wave of boat builders set up businesses during the 1950s, including the Fishermen's Boat Shop, Everett Engineering, Morris Boats, Cruise-A-Home, and the Wayward Wind.
In 1960 the federal government put the Everett Naval Shipyard up for sale. It was purchased by a combined bid of Scott Paper Company, Pacific Towboat of Everett, and Western Gear of Seattle, the latter business needing a new home since it was being displaced by the new I-5 freeway.
Everett Navy Homeport
During the Reagan Administration, a plan was initiated to build a number of Navy homeports in the U.S. With a slumping local economy, the city of Everett and the Port saw the Navy base as a welcome solution and promoted its fine harbor and location, hoping the government would choose Everett for a regional Navy homeport. While a number of citizens -- chiefly residents living in neighborhoods near the proposed base site -- opposed the idea, voters in a special election approved the base by nearly 75 percent.
The Navy selected Everett and chose a site at 19th Street and West Marine View Drive. Groundbreaking took place in 1987 and the Everett Navy carrier pier opened in June of 1992. Naval Station Everett was officially dedicated in April 1994.
Boeing and Aerospace
Boeing's decision in the 1960s to focus on producing airliners led the company to purchase land at Paine Field in Everett. Paine Field had originally been a county airport and then a wartime military base. Boeing chose this location to build its new 747 jumbo jet, bringing thousands of jobs to the Everett area. The first 747 rolled out of the company's newly built giant building in 1969. The city believed this would be a recession-proof industry but that year the U.S. economy slumped and with a saturated airline market, 25,000 Boeing workers lost their jobs in 1969 and another 41,000 in 1970. The following year the U.S. Senate cut funding for Boeing's Supersonic Transport (SST), leading to more job cuts.
Boeing recovered when the economy did, but in 2020 the company announced it would be moving assembly of its 787, the Dreamliner, to South Carolina. That and the grounding of its 737 Max for safety reasons, all in the devastating year of Covid 19, hangs like a cloud over the city. Boeing has announced it will continue to produce the 747, 767, KC-46 Pegasus military tanker, the 777, and new 777X at Paine Field.
Like all cities, Everett struggled during the difficult pandemic year of 2020. In April 2021 the Port of Everett announced the arrival of the first ship to use its rebuilt South Terminal pier, which will accommodate larger vessels.
Today, Everett's economy rests on airplane assembly, aerospace, Port of Everett industry, manufacturing and technology, health care, governmental services, and Naval Station Everett. Although the city has long shed its lumbering past, there is still nostalgia about the era, despite past scars. It is common to read articles to this day that continue to portray Everett as a Mill Town awaiting a new identity, usually one that has already arrived. It is likely a tribute to historian Norman Clark and the importance of his book Mill Town, published in 1970, that this image lingers.