United States of America
Seattle, city in west central Washington State. The seat of King County, Seattle
is the hub of the sprawling metropolitan region of Greater Seattle and is the largest
city in Washington. There are 3.6 million people in Greater Seattle, one of the
fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States. The area's rate of economic
growth led the nation in 1997. This growth reflects the success of local high-technology
industries such as aerospace, software, computer and electronic equipment, medical
devices and biotechnology, and telecommunications products
Seattle is located on Elliott Bay in Puget Sound, 182 km (113 mi) south of the border
with Canada. The city sits on a stretch of rolling land between Puget Sound and
Lake Washington and is surrounded by high mountains and sparkling water. City residents
look west to the mountains of Olympic National Park, east to the Cascade Range,
and south to Mount Rainier (4,392 m/14,410 ft). Lake Washington and Lake Union,
which lies within the Seattle city limits, are connected to Puget Sound by the Lake
Washington Ship Canal. The canal threads east and west through the city, and the
Hiram M. Chittenden Locks enable seagoing vessels to traverse the different water
levels from the higher freshwater lakes to the lower saltwater bay.
Seattle was named in honor of Chief Sealth, the leader of the Native American tribes
who befriended the American settlers that founded the city in 1851. The city has
a mild climate, and people enjoy the outdoors year-round. Average temperature ranges
are 2° to 7°C (35° to 45°F) in January and 13° to 24°C (55° to 75°F) in July. The
city averages 940 mm (37 in) of rain annually.
Seattle and Its Metropolitan Area
The city of Seattle covers an area of 218 sq km (84 sq mi). Greater Seattle, or
the Seattle-Tacoma-Bremerton Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (encompassing
Snohomish, King, Pierce, Kitsap, Thurston, and Island counties), has a total area
of 21,152 sq km (8,167 sq mi).
Much of the historical flavor of Seattle is preserved in its downtown neighborhoods.
The Pioneer Square district is home to Seattle's oldest buildings, constructed after
the great fire of 1889 that destroyed much of the city. Many of Pioneer Square's
historic buildings have been adapted to new uses, and the district is often filled
with tourists, shoppers, and residents out on the town. Pioneer Square is also home
to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, located in both Seattle and
in Skagway, Alaska. A visitors center contains exhibits exploring the Klondike Gold
Rush, which began in 1897, when would-be miners flocked to Seattle on their way
to the goldfields.
Southeast of Pioneer Square is the International District. It is the city's shopping
and cultural center for many Asian Americans, including descendants of early Chinese,
Japanese, and Filipino settlers, as well as more recent Vietnamese, Thai, and Cambodian
immigrants. The International District is home to the Nippon Kan Theater, built
in 1909, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a community
landmark for Seattle residents of Japanese descent.
Stretching north from Pioneer Square, downtown Seattle overlooks the busy harbor
and waterfront of Elliott Bay. The Smith Tower sits on the border between the Pioneer
Square district and downtown. It opened in 1914 as Seattle's first real skyscraper
and remained the tallest building in the city for more than half a century. Today
Seattle's bustling downtown includes city and county administrative facilities,
the Seattle Public Library, the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, the
restored Paramount and Fifth Avenue theaters, the Seattle Art Museum, and dozens
of interesting galleries, shops, and restaurants. Pike Place Market, a busy and
colorful market that opened in 1907, offers fresh ingredients to Seattle's cooks
and charms the cityâ€™s visitors with its shops and market stalls.
North of downtown Seattle is the Denny Regrade, one of many areas that were filled
and leveled by the removal or regarding of hills in Seattle in the late 19th and
early 20th centuries. It was decided early on that Seattle's hills would seriously
hinder expansion, so the city began an enormous program of regrading in 1876, leveling
and filling in First Avenue. In the early 1900s engineers used steam shovels and
huge amounts of water pumped from Elliott Bay to completely flatten Denny Hill.
The dirt was transported to the waterfront and dumped in the bay.
The Regrade is a mixed-use area stretching north to Lake Union. It includes low-rise
office buildings, warehouses and light manufacturing facilities, and a sprinkling
of apartments, condominiums, and restaurants. Southwest of the Denny Regrade is
the neighborhood of Belltown. Named for founder William Bell, Belltown was originally
a separate settlement from Seattle; today it is a distinctive downtown neighborhood,
offering high-rise condominiums overlooking Elliott Bay in a unique community of
galleries, bookstores, and trendy restaurants. Just north and east of Belltown is
Seattle Center, which was the site of Seattle's 1962 worlds fair, Century 21. The
center is now a major cultural complex and houses performance spaces, shops, museums,
and an amusement park; it also plays host to a number of annual festivals. The distinctive
Space Needle marks Seattle Center, which is connected to downtown Seattle by a monorail.
To the west of downtown Seattle is the West Seattle peninsula, separated from the
city by the Duwamish Waterway and by Harbor Island. Harbor Island is an artificial
island of nearly 160 hectares (400 acres) fringed by wharves and cranes and covered
by warehouses and railroad yards. It is the Port of Seattle's major point of entry
for cargo transferred from oceangoing vessels to trucks and railcars. At West Seattle's
westernmost tip is Alki Point, where the Denny party, the settlers who founded Seattle,
Queen Anne Hill, north of downtown, was long isolated by its steep ascent but emerged
as a fashionable residential area at the close of the 19th century. North of Queen
Anne Hill and across the Lake Washington Ship Canal, Ballard was originally settled
by Scandinavian immigrants. Annexed to Seattle in 1907, Ballard today is a residential
neighborhood with a strong Nordic heritage.
To the east from Ballard along the north side of the Ship Canal, the neighborhoods
of Fremont, Wallingford, and the University District stretch to the University of
Washington. The Green Lake neighborhood, just north of Fremont, includes Woodland
Park Zoo and Green Lake, a popular city park with picnic grounds and playfields.
North Seattle's many residential neighborhoods such as Greenwood, Maple Leaf, Wedgwood,
and Lake City run north to 145th Street, the city's northern boundary.
Heading south from the University of Washington, the lakefront neighborhoods of
Madison Park, Madrona, Leschi, Mount Baker, and Seward Park look east to the city
of Bellevue and Mercer Island, a residential island in Lake Washington. West and
inland, Capitol Hill, the Central District, and Beacon Hill run north-south, parallel
to downtown. Capitol Hill boasts some of the most beautiful older neighborhoods
in the city; Volunteer Park, which is home to the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the
Volunteer Park Conservatory, sits atop Capitol Hill.
The Central District is the historic heart of the African American community in
Seattle; the area also encompasses the heritage of Jackson Streetâ€™s vibrant jazz
culture. During the 1940s the Seattle jazz scene fostered the careers of musicians
such as Quincy Jones and Ernestine Anderson and trained musicians who worked with
famous jazz artists Lionel Hampton and Count Basie.
The local term Eastside
refers to Seattle's suburbs in King County, covering
the towns and unincorporated area east of Lake Washington to the foothills of the
Cascade Mountains. The area includes the suburban cities of Bellevue, Kirkland,
Redmond, Renton, and Issaquah. The Eastside has become home to dozens of high-technology
industries including Microsoft Corporation, ATL Ultrasound, Nintendo of America,
divisions of The Boeing Company, and many other firms. In the 1960s commuters headed
to Seattle jobs from homes on the Eastside. Today, the reverse commuteť from Seattle
homes to jobs on the Eastside is just as heavy, and both streams of traffic cross
the same bridges over Lake Washington at the same times.
Seattle has experienced steady population growth since the early 1980s. In 2000
the population of Seattle was 563,374, up from the 1990 census figure of 516,259.
In 2000 the population of the Seattle metropolitan area was 2,414,616; the population
of the Puget Sound urban region centered on Seattle was 3,554,760.
The city's population has often increased or declined according to economic conditions.
In the 1970s Greater Seattle depended heavily on the aerospace industry, and when
the industry suffered an economic downturn, the cities population shrank. Between
1970 and 1980 Seattle's population fell from 531,000 to 494,000, a decline of 7
percent, as the local economy slowed and city dwellers migrated to the suburbs.
But as Seattle's economy rebounded and diversified, its population staged a comeback,
increasing 5 percent between 1980 and 1990, and another 9 percent between 1990 and
Seattle is characterized by a diverse and dynamic population. The 2000 census indicated
that Seattle's population was 70.1 percent white, 13.1 percent Asian, 8.4 percent
black, 1 percent Native American, and 0.5 percent Native Hawaiian or other Pacific
Islander. People of mixed heritage or not reporting race were 6.8 percent of inhabitants.
Hispanics, who may be of any race, made up 5.3 percent of the population.
In the 1970s the population of Asian Americans in the Seattle area soared, as immigrants
and refugees from Southeast Asia flocked to the city. Between 1990 and 1996 the
population of people of Asian and Pacific Island descent in King County which includes
Seattle increased 48 percent. During the same period, the population of African
Americans increased 19 percent, and that of Native Americans increased 16 percent.
Those who identify themselves as Hispanic increased 32 percent. It is no coincidence
that cosmopolitan Seattle has the second largest sister city program in the United
States. Seattle today has 20 sister cities that emphasize its international nature
from the first sister city of Kobe, Japan, to Mombasa, Kenya, and Gdynia, Poland.
Education and Culture
Seattle is the educational and cultural center of the surrounding area and provides
many fine institutions and opportunities. In the city, the University of Washington,
Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, and the Seattle Community Colleges
provide higher education to students. In the Greater Seattle area, educational institutions
include the University of Washington branch campuses in Tacoma and Bothell, Pacific
Lutheran University and the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, and numerous community
college systems. The 23 branches of the Seattle Public Library and the 44 branches
of the King County Library System encourage lifelong learning as residents choose
from wide-ranging collections and participate in classes and programs.
The Seattle area offers a strong array of cultural opportunities in music, drama,
and dance. Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts, founded in 1914, continues a rich
tradition of training artists, actors, and playwrights, as does the University of
Washington. Seattle has numerous performance spaces, including the Seattle Center
Opera House, Seattle Center Playhouse, and Bagley Wright Theatre at Seattle Center,
as well as the Broadway Performance Hall at Seattle Central Community College and
many others. Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony, opened in 1998 in the
downtown area. The city's active theater scene includes the Seattle Repertory Theatre,
The Group Theater, the Intiman Theatre Company, A Contemporary Theater, and the
Seattle Children's Theatre, as well as several smaller companies.
Seattle is rich in museums of art, history, and science and technology. The Burke
Museum of Natural History and Culture, which interprets the natural and human history
of the Pacific Northwest and the Pacific Rim, and the remodeled Henry Art Gallery
are on the University of Washington campus. The Museum of History and Industry is
just south of the university, on the shore of Lake Washington. Other major city
institutions include the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Asian Art Museum, Seattle Children's
Museum, and the Frye Art Museum. In the International District, the Wing Luke Asian
Museum interprets the histories of Asian communities in Seattle. The Pacific Science
Center, in Seattle Center, is an educational facility that seeks to promote public
understanding and appreciation of science. Experience Music Project, an interactive
museum exploring creativity in American popular music, opened in 2000, also in Seattle
Center. Seattle's world-class Woodland Park Zoo is characterized by beautifully
designed natural habitats. On the waterfront, the Seattle Aquarium provides information
and exhibits about the wide variety of sea life in the area.
Seattle hosts a number of annual cultural and community festivals. Seafair is the
city's biggest summer festival. First held in 1950, it includes hydroplane races
and a trchlight parade. The Northwest Folklife Festival takes place over Memorial
Day weekend, and the Bumbershoot Arts Festival is held each Labor Day weekend both
take place at Seattle Center and showcase a rich array of musical, literary, and
artistic expression. Each year many of the city's communities celebrate their unique
character with neighborhood fairs, such as the University District Street Fair and
the Fremont Fair, that offer music, crafts, and food. Festival Sundiata, held in
February, celebrates the city's African American heritage, and in the summer Bon
Odori is the city's Japanese American celebration.
Seattle's public parkland covers more than 2,000 hectares (more than 5,000 acres,
ranging in character from the wetlands and glades of Washington Park Arboretum to
the formal gardens at Woodland Park to the baseball diamonds and soccer fields at
Green Lake. On Lake Washington, Seward Park offers forested waterfront and beautiful
views of Mount Rainier to the south. The urban trail system of Greater Seattle connects
city trails to county trails for activities such as biking, in-line skating, and
walking. Also, the city offers nearby opportunities for more adventurous recreation.
Residents can enjoy skiing, climbing, or hiking in the nearby mountains of the Olympic
and Cascade ranges, as well as boating and fishing on the many lakes and waterways
of the area.
Seattle sports fans follow the fortunes of the University of Washington Huskies,
who play basketball in Edmundson Pavilion and football in Husky Stadium. Sports
fans can root for the city's professional ice hockey team, the Seattle Thunderbirds,
and the professional basketball team, the Seattle SuperSonics, both of which play
at Key Arena in the Seattle Center. The Seattle Storm, a new women's professional
basketball team that began play in 2000, also holds its home games at the Key Arena.
Seattle sports fans also enjoy the Seattle Sounders soccer team, which plays at
the Seattle Memorial Stadium.
In 2000 the Kingdome, long the home of the city's professional baseball team, the
Seattle Mariners, and its professional football team, the Seattle Seahawks, was
demolished. In July 1999 the Mariners moved into a new baseball stadium. Known as
Safeco Field, the stadium seats more than 45,000 fans and features natural turf
and a retractable roof. A new 72,000-seat football stadium is scheduled to open
in 2002 on the former site of the Kingdome. Until it opens, the Seahawks play at
Husky Stadium at the University of Washington.
Seattle was once no more than a muddy little port, transferring timber, coal, grain,
and fish to rail cars and barges. Although logging, lumbering, and the fishing industry
still remain important to Seattle, environmental concerns and declining fisheries
have shifted the region's emphasis away from industries based on natural resources.
Today the city is a major manufacturing center and a prime air and water port for
international trade. Situated on Elliott Bay, a deep and unobstructed saltwater
harbor, Seattle's port was organized in 1911 and is publicly owned. Seattle boasts
the shortest routes from the U.S. mainland to Tokyo, Japan, and is the primary American
port to Asia and Siberia. The port has also long considered itself the gateway to
Alaska. Seattle's port is among the largest in the United States, managing 28 commercial
terminals that link 30 steamship operators with more than 150 truck, rail, or warehouse
Once a one-company town, dependent on the fortunes of The Boeing Company, Seattle's
economy in the 1990s was characterized by industrial diversity, including aerospace,
software, computer and electronic equipment, medical devices and biotechnology,
and telecommunications products. Among Greater Seattle's leading employers are Boeing
and the Microsoft Corporation. Other major local companies include Costco Companies,
the Weyerhaeuser Company, Paccar, Nordstrom, SAFECO Corporation, Airborne, Starbucks
Coffee, Amazon.com, and Alaska Airlines.
Seattle is served by the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, 21 km (13 mi) south
of the city. The Burlington Northern and Union Pacific railroads provide transcontinental
service to Seattle, and Amtrak offers passenger rail service. The Metro Transit
bus system provides service throughout King County, linking to Pierce County Transit
and Snohomish County Transit, as well as to waterfront ferries. The Washington State
Ferry system provides service from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, Vashon Island,
and Bremerton, Kingston, and Southworth on the Kitsap Peninsula; nearly 14 million
passengers boarded ferries throughout the system in 1997.
In 1996 voters in Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties approved the Regional Transit
Authority. This plan proposed to link Seattle with its northern neighbor Everett
and southern neighbor Tacoma by a fleet of express buses and a network of high-speed
commuter trains. Dubbed Sound Transit, the RTA pleased residents by choosing Seattle's
historic Union Station in the International District as headquarters for the new
Seattle's mayor and nine-member city council are elected at large by popular vote
in nonpartisan elections and serve four-year terms. The mayor is the chief executive
officer of the city and provides direction to Seattle's Executive Department, including
the Office of Economic Development and the Office of Management and Planning. The
mayor also directs the activities of city agencies and departments, including Seattle
City Light, the Engineering Department, and the police and fire departments.
The city council is the legislative arm of Seattle's government. Council members
work on committees that study areas of interest or concern and recommend legislation
to the council; these committees include Parks, Public Grounds and Recreation, Public
Safety, and Business and Labor.
Local government responsibilities changed as Seattle became a major city and as
King County became less rural. Increasingly, Seattle and King County have found
ways to work together to solve common problems. For example, as Seattle and the
Eastside grew in the 1950s, Lake Washington became polluted by untreated sewage.
By 1958 many lake beaches were closed to swimming because the water was filthy.
However, a solution was hard to coordinate because the lakeshore crossed the jurisdictions
of many towns and cities, including Seattle. In response, the state legislature
passed the Metropolitan Municipal Corporation Act, which enabled the creation of
a new metropolitan district encompassing the Lake Washington drainage basin. City
and county voters passed the so-called Metro clean water proposal in 1958, which
approved the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle and authorized the new corporation
to issue bonds and to administer a comprehensive sewage treatment program.
Ten years later, in 1968, King County's citizens approved a $333.9 million bond
issue to pay for a metropolitan capital improvement package called Forward Thrust.
This ambitious program included construction of the King County Multi-Purpose Stadium
(the Kingdome), sewer extension, fire station construction, and park acquisition
and development. However, the same year, voters rejected Forward Thrust regional
mass transit as too expensive. The voters did not approve a Regional Transit Authority
In 1993 Seattle and King County merged some of their functions into the Metropolitan
King County Council, a form of regional government. The council is the legislative
branch of county government, and its 13 members are elected by voters throughout
the city and county. Seattle and King County continue to work together to cope with
Seattle residents share the concerns of most urban Americans, from coping with drugs,
gang violence, and aggressive panhandling to assuring equal opportunities for the
city's non-English speakers. But as the 21st century began, the Seattle metro area
faced one major issue that increasingly encompassed all others: How could all residents
of Greater Seattle best cope with the area's dramatic and sustained growth?
Between 1990 and 2000 King County's population increased by 15.2 percent to 1,737,000.Growth
has brought nearly full employment, a rising standard of living, and world-class
amenities to Seattle. It has also brought dramatic change, threatening the very
qualities and character of life's clean air and water, open space, beautiful natural
scenery's that drew newcomers in the first place.
Trapped by its own success, Seattle has grown into a major American city, subject
to urban problems. Commuter traffic clogs the city's bridges and arterials, threatening
gridlock and raising motorist stress. Seattle people are concerned by the haze of
pollutants that sometimes obscures Mount Rainier and by the water quality of industrial
Lake Union. Residential subdivisions sprawl through cow pastures and woodlands,
and sleepy towns waken to skyrocketing school enrollments and strip mall development.
Throughout Seattle's metropolitan area, housing demand has outstripped supply, creating
a shortage and driving prices and rents sky high. The same single-family home on
the Eastside that sold for $259,617 in early 1997 sold for $280,386 one year later.
In hot condominium markets like Kirkland or Seattle's Belltown, 1998 prices were
10 percent higher than 1997 prices.
Members of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes first inhabited the site of modern-day
Seattle. They visited the area seasonally to harvest and dry salmon. The city itself
was founded by the Denny party, made up of two dozen American settlers. They landed
on the rainy beach at Alki Point in West Seattle in 1851. Within a year, the community
moved east to a more sheltered site on Elliott Bay and began to clear the dense
forest back from the shore.
In 1853 Washington Territory was created by splitting the Oregon Territory. That
same year, settler Henry Yesler set up a steam-powered sawmill on the waterfront
near today's Pioneer Square. Seattle's little settlement was just one of several
scattered along the shores of Puget Sound. The sawmill's steam engine was soon belching
smoke into the salty air, preparing lumber to build the homes, schoolhouses, churches,
and shops of the settlement.
Seattle incorporated in 1865 when the town numbered 350 men, women, and children.
At incorporation the city covered only 26 sq km (10 sq mi), spanning the hilly strip
of land between Elliott Bay and Lake Washington that today includes downtown, the
Central District, and much of Capitol Hill.
Seattle competed for business with the territorial capitol of Olympia and large
sawmill towns on Puget Sound such as Port Blakely and Port Townsend. Everett, Tacoma,
and Seattle fought bitterly to become the Northern Pacific Railroad's West Coast
terminus, eager for the Northwest monopoly on transcontinental freight and passengers.
When the railroad chose Tacoma as its terminus, local Seattle citizens refused to
be downhearted and built their own railroad in 1878. The railroad linked King County's
rich coalfields directly to Seattle's harbor wharves.
In the 1880s, as Washington Territory moved toward statehood, the local economy
boomed and the population soared. As logging grew more mechanized, Washington's
timber industry prospered. In 1884 Washington loggers cut more than one million
board feet for the first time, and their yield increased tenfold between 1880 and
1890. During that decade, Seattle's population skyrocketed from 3,553 to 42,837
as newcomers and immigrants hoped to take part in the city's prosperity. In 1883
Beacon Hill, Queen Anne Hill, and Madison Park were annexed to the city, followed
in 1891 by Green Lake, the University District, Magnolia, and Fremont, bringing
Seattle's area to 77 sq km (30 sq mi).
However, population growth and immigration had their downsides as well. In the mid-1880s
Seattle racial tensions reached a breaking point over economic competition from
Chinese immigrants. Chinese men had originally been recruited to the American West
to build the transcontinental railroads and had stayed on in cities like Seattle
when the railroads were complete. Many Chinese were willing to work longer hours
at lower wages doing harder jobs than white workers, and whites complained that
the immigrants were taking jobs away from them. Resentment grew, and in 1885 three
Chinese men were shot to death in a hop-picking camp at Issaquah, near Seattle.
Then in February 1886 mobs in Tacoma and Seattle drove Chinese residents from their
homes and out of town.
In June 1889 Seattle was damaged by a fire that started when a pot of melting glue
spilled in a carpenter's shop. The great fire burned 26 hectares (64 acres) of the
city, largely made up of two-story wooden buildings, in just a few hours, causing
damage estimated at more than $10 million. However, within two years Seattle had
rebuilt itself and was transformed by dozens of new four- and five-story buildings
of brick and stone.
Seattle's residential and industrial growth was slowed by the national recession
that began in 1893. But in July 1897 gold was discovered along the streams of Canada's
Yukon River, and Seattle began a spectacular boom in the subsequent Klondike Gold
Rush. Seattle marketed itself as the portal to the goldfields, selling hopeful miners
their outfits and their steamship tickets, as well as entertainment. As the gold
strikes spread from the Canadian territories to Alaska, Seattle continued to grow
in wealth and population. After Seattle gained a federal assay office, which allowed
miners to put their gold on deposit, successful miners passed through the city on
their way home from the goldfields, and many decided to settle down. In the wake
of the gold rush, Seattle's population exploded. In 1900 the city's population stood
at 80,871; by 1910 it had nearly tripled to 237,174. Between 1907 and 1910 the city
also grew to 184 sq km (71 sq mi), annexing West Seattle and Ballard to the west,
Laurelhurst to the north, and Rainier Valley to the south.
Local promoters envisioned Seattle's future as a Pacific Rim port, shipping goods
to Alaska, Canada, and Asia. In 1909 Seattle hosted a fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific
Exposition, on the University of Washington campus. The fair showcased Seattle to
the world not only as a polished metropolis with office blocks and beautiful parks,
but also as a great seaport and city of industry. World War I (1914-1918) brought
increased industrial opportunities to Seattle, especially to its waterfront. The
amount of tonnage that passed through the port of Seattle in 1918 was not exceeded
until 1965. Wartime also finally brought the completion of the Lake Washington Ship
Canal, linking the lake with Puget Sound. Local shipyards worked round the clock,
and the fledgling Boeing Company received wartime contracts for 100 airplanes.
After the war, as local shipyards lost their federal contracts, wages fell, and
many people lost their jobs. Seattle experienced the first general strike in North
America, as more than 50,000 workers stayed home February 6 through 11, 1919.
Throughout the 1920s the city grew steadily, although the region was affected by
depressed farm and timber prices. In the early 1930s Seattle's economy suffered
as the United States entered the Great Depression. In 1932 Seattle's workers experienced
an unemployment rate of 25 percent, and people in the fishing, logging, and mill
industries suffered even higher joblessness.
However, Seattle's economy improved when World War II (1939-1945) began. Seattle
started to mobilize its industries for war, gearing up its shipyards and
factories, more than two years before the United States actually entered the
conflict in 1941. But for Seattle, the war really began on December 7, 1941, the
day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Following Executive Order
9066, thousands of local Japanese, most of them citizens born in the United
States, were forcibly relocated in the spring of 1942 country farms to internment camps far inland.
The war tested the people of Seattle in many ways. More than 1,100 King County servicemen
and -women lost their lives in World War II. As men went off to war, women and racial
minorities trained to take their places in local factories; by 1944, 50 percent
of Boeing workers were female. At its Seattle plants, Boeing built nearly 7,000
B-17 Flying Fortresses during the course of the war, and in 1945 four B-29 Super
fortresses rolled off Boeing production lines daily. Seattle's industrial economy
was transformed by wartime production.
When the war ended in 1945, military contracts were canceled and Seattle's boom
came to an abrupt close. Work in Puget Sound shipyards dried up, and the shipbuilding
payroll fell from nearly 200,000 to 10,000. Thousands applied for unemployment benefits,
and a series of devastating strikes rocked shipyards, logging camps, lumber mills,
and aircraft factories.
Postwar turmoil also affected the local political climate. In 1947 Washington's
Senate and House of Representatives approved a resolution to establish a Joint Legislative
Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities in the State of Washington. Washington
State had become widely known for its left-leaning heritage. In fact, U.S. Postmaster
General James Farley quipped in 1940 that there were 47 states and the Soviet of
Washington. After World War II, as Washington suburbanized and prospered on Cold
War federal contracts, many residents grew embarrassed by their state's notoriety.
The committee was directed to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of
Communist infiltration in Washington and to report its findings to frame new legislation
against subversives in the state.
Chaired by freshman legislator Albert Canwell, the committee held public hearings
in Seattle in 1948. The committee inquired into alleged Communist infiltration of
the Washington Pension Union, the Washington Commonwealth Federation, the University
of Washington, and other state institutions. Foreshadowing the anti-Communist investigations
of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s, the well-publicized Canwell
Committee hearings ruined careers and tarnished reputations.
In the 1950s residential suburbs spread north of the city and throughout Lake Washington's
Eastside, as the G.I. Bill made it possible for World War II veterans to buy new
homes inexpensively. Seattle's northern boundary moved from 85th Street to 145th
Street, incorporating a district then exploding with suburban growth. By the mid-1950s
Boeing was booming again, building passenger jetliners as well as military airplanes,
missiles, and spacecraft. In 1956 one of every two industrial workers in Seattle's
metropolitan area worked for Boeing.
In 1962 Seattle hosted a world's fair, the Century 21 Exposition. The fair was originally
intended to be a 50th-anniversary celebration of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition,
but promoters of the city dramatically reshaped it. The fair became a celebration
of Seattle's coming of age as an international city, presenting confident visions
of a high-tech 21st century. Nearly 10 million visitors passed through the fair's
turnstiles. Century 21 gave the world a view of the great urban center that Seattle
But Seattle's economy went into abrupt free fall in the late 1960s. Commercial airlines
fell on hard times as the nation stumbled into inflation, oil shortages, and unemployment.
Boeing's sales slowed and then halted. Beginning in 1970 Boeing logged no new orders
for its jetliners during a 17-month period. The local Boeing payroll plummeted from
more than 100,000 in 1968 to a low of 32,500 in 1971. As Boeing fell on hard times,
so did other area businesses, and local unemployment rose to 17 percent. During
Boeing's troubles, the standing joke in the rapidly depopulating city was, Will
the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights.
At the same time, industries based on the Northwest's natural resources, such as
fish and timber, also began to suffer. New environmental legislation protected old-growth
timber as a wildlife habitat, not as an extractive resource. Fewer salmon returned
to spawn each year, and in 1979 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a five-year-old ruling
that Washington native peoples were entitled to 50 percent of all salmon caught
in the state, further restricting the catch. Communities that depended on logging
and fishing experienced soaring unemployment as old ways of making a living declined.
As old industries struggled in the Seattle area, entirely new ones sprang up. The
local economy grew faster and richer as a high-tech start-up culture prospered in
Seattle, including software, medical device, and Internet companies. As an indication
of Seattle's increased stature during the 1990s, the city hosted a meeting of the
third ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1999. Protesters
against the WTO clashed with police in downtown Seattle and succeeded in delaying
the opening of the conference, at which WTO members planned to discuss lowering
tariffs and other barriers to international trade. The clashes led the mayor of
Seattle to impose a curfew and ban protests in a section of downtown during the
Seattle's economic strength still depended heavily on Boeing, which announced major
job cutbacks in the late 1990s after plane orders were cancelled in its Asian markets.
Despite those cuts, the regional economy as a whole grew at a rapid pace in the
late 1990s, fueled by the new high-tech industries. As it grew, the Seattle metropolitan
area looked for ways to manage the challenges posed by rapid growth: urban sprawl,
traffic congestion, and environmental problems.