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From Digital Archives: 1889 WA constitutional convention begins

by Brian Zylstra | July 1st, 2014

The mere mention of July 4 automatically conjures up thoughts of barbecues, parades and fireworks, but most importantly America’s Independence Day.

Unbeknownst to many, it also marks a key date in the Washington history, 125 years ago.

It was on July 4, 1889, when 75 elected delegates assembled in the Territorial Capitol Building in Olympia to draft a state constitution that would form the basis for all future Washington laws.  The delegates worked several weeks before the convention wrapped up August 23. Below is a photo from our Digital Archives showing the delegates in front of the Capitol Building.

Miles C. Moore, the last governor of Washington Territory, called for an election on October 1, 1889, to ratify the state constitution and elect officers of the new state government. Voters overwhelmingly approved the new state constitution, with 40,152 in favor and 11,879 opposed.

A certified copy of the constitution was sent by courier to President Benjamin Harrison, whose approval was necessary before Washington could be proclaimed a state. After no word for several days, a message was received on November 4, stating that Governor Moore forgot to sign the constitution and President Harrison could not approve it. A new copy was prepared overnight in longhand (remember, there were no copy machines back then) and was sent to the president via courier the next day.

Harrison issued a proclamation on November 11 that year declaring Washington’s constitution approved, and thus admitted our state into the Union.

There will be a big event at the State Capitol this November 11 to celebrate Washington’s 125th birthday. Be sure to join us at the celebration!


(Photo courtesy of Washington State Digital Archives)

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