by Brian Zylstra | October 15th, 2012
With all of the debates, news stories, TV and radio ads, yard signs, campaign mailers, doorbelling brochures and everything else going on, we know there is an election coming soon. But how did word get out in 1889 that an election was near?
Answer? A proclamation for the 1889 General Election, which played a pivotal role in Washington reaching statehood. The proclamation is our third Archives treasure for October.
In December 1888, Congress introduced an act to “enable” Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana to become states. Congress asked each prospective state to draft and ratify a state constitution.
Miles C. Moore, the last governor of Washington Territory, issued a proclamation on Aug. 27, 1889, calling for an election to be held on Oct. 1, 1889, to ratify the state constitution, elect the officers of the new state government, and select the location of the state capital.
On the question of where the capital should be located, Olympia received 25,490 votes, North Yakima 14,711, Ellensburg 12,833, Centralia 607, Yakima City (now Union Gap) 314, and Pasco 130. However, the ballot proposition stated that the winning city must receive a majority vote, so a runoff was necessary. Washington voters were to choose between the top three finishers in the next general election. On Nov. 4, 1890, voters overwhelmingly picked Olympia as their state capital with 37,413 votes. Ellensburg, still busily rebuilding after its 1889 fire, received 7,722 votes, and North Yakima came in third with 6,276.
After the 1889 election was held, a certified copy of the Constitution of the State of Washington was sent by Moore on Oct. 23, 1889, via courier to President Benjamin Harrison, whose approval was necessary before Washington was proclaimed a state. There was no word back from the White House for several days. Finally, on Nov. 4, a message was received, stating that Gov. Moore forgot to sign the Constitution and President Harrison could not approve it. So a new copy was prepared overnight (in long-hand since there were no copying machines in 1889), and it was sent to the President by courier the next day.
On Nov. 11, 1889, Harrison issued a proclamation declaring Washington’s Constitution approved. Thus, the State of Washington was admitted to the Union.
Later this week, we’ll launch an online poll allowing you and others to vote on the three Archives items being featured this month.