First wheat is shipped from Seattle on November 3, 1890.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 1/01/2001
  • Essay 2150

On November 3, 1890, the first shipment of wheat to leave Seattle by ship is loaded aboard the British bark Mary L. Burrill, bound for Cork, Ireland. The wheat had been stored in a new grain terminal in West Seattle.

Of 11 ships being loaded in Seattle that day, eight were being loaded with coal bound for San Francisco.

In 1887, the Northern Pacific Railway structured freight rates so that wheat shipped to Seattle cost 50 cents more a ton than wheat shipped to Tacoma. Seattle citizens subscribed thousands of dollars to subsidize wheat shipments from the Northern Pacific's Cascade Division and business owners allowed the free use of Seattle wharves for this commodity.

Later in the 1890s, the Northern Pacific equalized freight rates to make Seattle competitive with Tacoma. This adjustment was not enough to save the Seattle grain terminal, which went into bankruptcy after a few years.


Thomas W. Prosch, "A Chronological History of Seattle From 1850 to 1897," typescript dated 1900-1901, Northwest Collection, University of Washington Library, Seattle, 380; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 3, 1890, p. 8; Willis Sayre, This City of Ours (Seattle: J.W. Sayre, 1936), p. 149.

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