WA Secretary of State Blogs

Linking the Past with the Present

April 17th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections No Comments »

Ever since the advent of Web 2.0 people are finding creative ways to harness the power of the web to learn about and share their passions.  Resources are shared and discovered; connections are made between people.  Here at the Washington State Library we have a mission to collect, preserve and make accessible materials about the history and culture of Washington State.  This task is accomplished in a variety of ways, from scanning newspapers, or entire books, to helping communities scan, organize and digitize their local historic collections.  While the library has accomplished this mission by providing access to its digital collections this really is only the first step.  When it gets interesting is when people start interacting with the collections.

Much to our delight, people are finding our collections and using them to enrich their lives.  I wanted to share a few of the stories and comments which have resulted from the resources we’ve shared.  A picture from the Garfield County Heritage collection titled “Denison children and goat cart, 1929” elicited this comment Denison_children_and_goat_cart_1929“My Great Aunt Mary, Great Uncle Roger, and my Lovely Grandmother Dorothy Denison Ruchert. I cherish this photo and hope to bring back the goat carts for use today!”

Or we received this comment on a photo of Nooksack Valley“So grateful to have found these photos! We now live on this very property and are in the midst of returning the homestead to historic glory.”   	Logging on Gardene's homestead on property

Then there was the time that the Public Services desk received a call from someone who had heard that the Washington State Library had digitized her Great-Great-Great Grandfather’s journal.  When asked who that person might be, they said, Daniel Bigelow.  We were excited to let her know that the State Library Digital and Historical Collections team had indeed made the journal, along with other mementos kept in the Manuscripts Collection, digitally available.  Thrilled, she explained that her family was unaware that the material was available and was eager to pass the word along to her kin.  Needless to say, our Public Services team was delighted to help make these connections.

Finally, the other day on our Facebook page there was a wonderful piece of serendipity.  Just for fun we posted pictures of a small library in Eastern Washington with a challenge to “Name that Library”.  Someone who saw the post commented that her great grandparents had lived in that community and she was interested in genealogy.  A librarian from that library, OK I’ll tell you, The Denny Ashby Library in Pomeroy, saw the post, and knew of a book that had been scanned and made available in Open Library.  She went to the book and found an entry about the person’s great-grandparents and shared the link in the comments.  Connection made, information shared.  How cool is that? Keep reading, keep watching, you never know when something that links you to the past will turn up on your 21st Century device.

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The Historic Background of the Oso Mudslide

April 9th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For the Public No Comments »


2014 Oso mudslide

2014 Oso mudslide

The story of the Oso mudslide is being followed around the nation.  What many people don’t realize however is that this area was hit by a similar mud slide in 1951, thankfully non-fatal.  The pictures accompanying this post show an aerial view of the recent mudslide which is slightly to the west of the 1951 slide, the area of the slide in 1949 and a plan of where the 1949 Hazel slide occurred . (The two early pictures are found in the first document on the list below)

As interest in the historiography of the Oso Mudslide grows, the Washington State Library Digital and Historic Collections Unit has identified and made available online the following titles:

Hazel Mudslide area 1949

Hazel Mudslide area 1949

Report on slide on North Fork Stillaguamish River near Hazel, Washington  [1952]

Stillaguamish slide study : summary of data obtained by Research Division during 1952 , [1953?]

Stillaguamish slide study  : report on siltation experiment and report on flow correlation (North Fork Stillaguamish River) [1953]

Hazel/Gold Basin landslides  : geomorphic review draft report  [1999]

Plan- Hazel Mudslide

Plan- Hazel Mudslide

We will continue to digitize background material on this area as we can and make it available for online viewing.

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What can you find in a city directory?

April 7th, 2014 Kim Smeenk Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections, Uncategorized 1 Comment »

Do you know what you can find in a city directory?

If you want to research your home, your family history,
or local history you’ll want to use city directories.

They are similar to telephone books in that they were published every year, and they list the people living in a city….but city directories have so much more information.

You can find out the name of a spouse, both living and deceased.

Everett City Directory 1939

Everett City Directory 1939


You can find out someone’s profession.

cd profession

Wenatchee City Directory 1936


You can look up a company, and find out who was in charge.

Spokane City Directory 1893

Spokane City Directory 1893


If you are researching the history of your house you can search most city directories by street
address, instead of by a name, and find out who lived at a particular address.

Bellingham City Directory 1939

Bellingham City Directory 1939

This is a partial list of people and businesses located on Meridian Street in Bellingham in 1939.

In 1939, the Fountain Plumbing Co. could be found at 2309 Meridian.  Today, over 70 years later,  there is still a home improvement business at that address.

Not a plumbing company,  but a store selling recycled and salvaged building supplies.


You can track your ancestors year by year.

You not only find out if their address changed, but also if their employment or marital status changed.  These 1936 and 1938 Wenatchee city directories tell us that Don Miller got promoted during those years, becoming the President/Manager of North Central Chevrolet.






City directories also provide a historical snapshot of the city.  There is usually a profile of the city
at the beginning of each one, along with some statistical data.

Ellensburg City Directory 1968

Ellensburg City Directory 1968

The information provided varies from year to year and city to city.

This example from the 1968 Ellensburg City Directory tells us what their population was, and what their media, entertainment and transportation options were.

It gets even more detailed, and tells us how many beds the hospital had, how many volumes the library held, how many telephones were in use.
*click on the image to read those numbers*

There might not be surviving data from the Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce, but since they provided these statistics, along with the historical and economic data for the directory, we still have this historical snapshot of Ellensburg in 1968.



The directories after about 1920 usually have a yellow pages section where the businesses, churches, and government offices are listed by subject.

You can find out who all the local officials were….the mayor, police chief, and so on.
If the town happens to have Federal Government offices, you can find out who was in charge of them, as we can see in this  1955 Moses Lake city directory.

cd government

Moses Lake City Directory 1955


You can even find a future president….living with his mother in Seattle in 1961-1962.


Seattle City Directory 1961-1962


The Washington State Library has a collection of city directories for cities all over the state.

This page on our web site lists all of the city directories in our collection.

Contact us if you have any questions about using our city directory collection.
askalibrarian@sos.wa.gov   /   360.704.5221



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Preserving the History and Culture of Washington State

April 1st, 2014 Rand Simmons Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Library 21 Initiative, State Library Collections, Tribal No Comments »

From the desk of Brian Frisina

Washingtonians know the importance of preserving the history and culture of our great state.

Mr. Jackson is shown in the Illustrated History of Mason County, by Susan Olsen and Mary Randlette (1978) Additional information on Dick Jackson can be found in the rise and decline of the Olympia oyster, by E. N. Steele [Elma, Wash., Fulco Publications, 1957]

Mr. Jackson is shown in the Illustrated History of Mason County, by Susan Olsen and Mary Randlette (1978) Additional information on Dick Jackson can be found in the rise and decline of the Olympia oyster, by E. N. Steele [Elma, Wash., Fulco Publications, 1957]

One way to preserve our history is by supporting the Washington State Library. Established as a territorial library, the Washington Territorial Library was created by the Organic Act of 1853, which also created the Washington Territory. The Washington State Library is the oldest cultural institution in Washington State and its original collections were chosen by Governor Isaac Stevens, the first Territorial Governor, before he headed West from the East Coast.

Libraries play a very vital role in society. They provide access to both printed and online information, their collections preserve historical moments, and above all they are the stewards of the history and culture of society.

Libraries also provide people with free opportunities to learn through books, magazines, newspapers, and documents. These opportunities uplift our society and helps us to be the best human beings we can be.

I would like to take a moment and share my experience with the Washington State Library. I was working on a project that required digging deep into the history of the State, the history of the First People. I am interested in telling the story of Washington State through the eyes of the First People.

In my research I was looking for some rare images. One image I was looking for was of a person name Dick Jackson, from the Sqauxin Island Nation. Mr. Jackson played an important role in keeping his people from starving during the 1900s. The image on the right was preserved at the Washington State Library.

Through the collections of the Washington State and help from the staff I was able to locate the research material I needed. I share my story with you to highlight the Washington State Library and its role in preserving the history and culture of our great state.

Thank you Washington State Library.

Brian Frisina works at the Washington State Library branch in the Department of Labor and Industries, He is active in American Indian issues.

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Women’s History Month – Josephine Corliss Preston

March 25th, 2014 Judy Pitchford Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public No Comments »


Another treasure for Women’s History in the Manuscript Collection of the State Library is the newspaper clipping scrapbook of Josephine Corliss Preston, which has been digitized and added to our Classics in Washington History. Mrs. Preston was the first woman elected to statewide office in Washington state government after women were granted the right to vote in 1910, defeating another female candidate, Mary Monroe. Elected as the 6th State Superintendent of Public Instruction, she served from 1913 to 1928. Her scrapbook documents her efforts as she became a Republican candidate for office in 1912 and continues through 1920.

Mrs. Preston began her career as a teacher at the age of 14 in Minnesota and taught in Walla Walla from 1896-1903. She served as assistant county superintendent and deputy superintendent of the Walla Walla County schools during the years of 1904-1912. As State superintendent, Mrs. Preston was nationally recognized for obtaining legislation that allowed tax money to be used to cover the cost of building homes for teachers – called teacher’s cottages. This meant teachers would no longer have to be passed around to board with local families or, worse, be essentially homeless.

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Kalama Public Library has a new website

March 24th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, For Libraries, Technology and Resources No Comments »

Kalama PL WebpageFrom the desk of Evelyn Lindberg:


The Kalama Public Library has a new web address and a brand new website at: http://www.kalamalibrary.com/. It is the twelfth public library to launch as part of the Washington State Library’s ReadyWeb Project (WaRP), the webhosting and Drupal Content Management service that the Washington State Library has offered to small libraries across the state. Other project participants include:

Cathlamet Public Library <http://www.cathlamet.lib.wa.us/>

Cle Elum (Carpenter Memorial) Library <http://www.carpenter.lib.wa.us/>

Davenport Public Library <http://www.davenport.lib.wa.us/>

Harrington Public Library <http://www.harrington.lib.wa.us/>

La Conner Regional Library <http://www.lclib.lib.wa.us/>

Odessa Public Library <http://www.odessa.lib.wa.us/>

Pomerory (Denny Ashby) Library <http://www.pomeroy.lib.wa.us/>

Reardan Public Library <http://www.reardan.lib.wa.us/>

Ritzville Public Library <http://www.ritzvillelibrary.org/>

Sprague Public Library <http://www.sprague.lib.wa.us/>

Wilbur Public Library <http://www.wilbur.lib.wa.us/>

 Check them out! For more information about this project, contact evelyn.lindberg@sos.wa.gov.

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Mt Constitution on San Juan Island up for sale and not at Five Thousand Feet

March 19th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections No Comments »

From the desk of Shawn Shollmeyer

Wes Langell taking a wagon_load_up_Mt_ConstitutionToday, March 19, 2014, marks the 101st Anniversary of the Washington State Park System.  You can read a little about the history of one of our state parks and follow links to historic newspaper articles.

Dr. J Hilton of Seattle owned 80 acres of land that included Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island. A prime piece of real estate that provides views across the Puget Sound to British Columbia. The February 5th, 1909 San Juan Islander corrected the Bellingham American to get their facts straight, but at 2409 feet, not 5,000, Mt Constitution is still the highest point in the Puget Sound and “…one of the finest views to be had in the world, if the atmosphere is clear.”

The San Juan County citizens petitioned for the state to create 40 acres of this area to be preserved and on February 1st, 1909, Senator John L. Blair introduced a resolution that this area be purchased by the state for a public park when the land came on the market. But many argued over the exorbitant price being asked for the land.

Mt. Constitution did became part of a state park years later. The land was finally donated to the state by Seattle Mayor Robert Moran, but not without some controversy. The Washington State Board of Park Commissioners was created in 1913, but was not able to act until House Bill 164 allowed the state to acquire land (http://www.parks.wa.gov/175/History ) in 1921.

Moran State Park dedication-1 (2) How much was the land worth in 1909 and who was this Dr. J. Hilton? How big is the park now? You can find out more directly from Washington newspapers:

The announcement & support of a state public park

The San Juan islander. (Friday Harbor, Wash.), 16 Jan. 1909. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88085190/1909-01-16/ed-1/seq-8/>

The San Juan islander. (Friday Harbor, Wash.), 29 Jan. 1909. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88085190/1909-01-29/ed-1/seq-1/>

The San Juan islander. (Friday Harbor, Wash.), 05 Feb. 1909. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.


Dr. J. Hilton

The San Juan islander. (Friday Harbor, Wash.), 21 Feb. 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88085190/1913-02-21/ed-1/seq-1/>

 How much were they asking?

The San Juan islander. (Friday Harbor, Wash.), 26 Feb. 1909. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88085190/1909-02-26/ed-1/seq-1/>

Robert Moran Steps in

The San Juan islander. (Friday Harbor, Wash.), 21 Feb. 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88085190/1913-02-21/ed-1/seq-1/>

Robert Moran’s Letter refutes a “Public Playground”

The San Juan islander. (Friday Harbor, Wash.), 16 May 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88085190/1913-05-16/ed-1/seq-1/>

This collection is made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Library of Congressand Washington State Library Digital Collections.

Images are from the Washington Rural Heritage Collection.


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Natural Disasters in Washington State

March 18th, 2014 mschaff Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections No Comments »

From the desk of Kim Smeenk

Fires, volcanoes, and floods, oh my!

The Pacific Northwest has seen its share of natural disasters over the years. Forest fires, windstorms like the Columbus Day Storm in 1962, and the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.    The Washington State Library has books, magazine articles, government reports and documentaries about these events.

If you want to read what the newspapers were reporting as the disasters were unfolding, you can find those articles in the State Library’s microfilm newspaper collection.  If you can’t make it to our library, don’t worry, we lend out many of our books, and all of our microfilmed newspapers, to people all over the world through interlibrary loan.
Contact us if you have questions.
blogpost big blow cover image2


In 1963 Ellis Lucia published The big blow; the story of the Pacific Northwest’s Columbus Day storm, about the Pacific Northwest windstorm that killed over  40 people, and caused millions of dollars in damages.

The following year, Dorothy Franklin published West Coast Disaster, Columbus Day, 1962


The great Forks fire, by Mavis Amundson, describes the fast moving forest fire
on the Olympic Peninsula in September 1951 that threatened to destroy the town of  Forks, WA.


blogpost newspaper article 1910 fire2

Olympia Daily Recorder August 13 1910


1910 was another year of massive forest fires in the Pacific NorthwestThere were more than 1,700 fires that burned three million acres, and killed over 80 people.

Year of Fires by Stephen J. Pyne, and The Big Burn by Don Miller are just a few of the books we have about these fires.

For official state reports from that time, you can come to the State Library to read the 100+ year old annual Report(s) of the State Forester and Fire Warden





The most famous natural disaster in Washington State was the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980.  These are just a few of the titles the State Library has about this event.

mt st helens

Citizen response to volcanic eruptions: the case of Mt. St. Helens by Ronald W. Perry and Marjorie R. Greene.

Echoes of fury : the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens and the lives it changed forever / Frank Parchman

Mt. St. Helens : surviving the stone wind by Catherine Hickson

Portrait of Mount St. Helens : a changing landscape / essays by Chuck Williams and Stuart Warren

The eruption of Mount St. Helens [videorecording] DVD

Mt. St. Helens [videorecording] : back from the dead DVD

You can find all of these items and more in our online catalog.

If you have questions about how to borrow any of our books or newspaper microfilm, contact us at askalibrarian@sos.wa.gov.


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Women’s History Month – Emma Smith DeVoe

March 17th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections No Comments »

From the Desk of Marlys Rudeen

Emma Smith DeVoeThe Manuscript Collection of the State Library holds a treasure for Women’s History —the Emma Smith DeVoe Papers.  This collection consists of 6 archival boxes of correspondence and  several scrapbooks chronicling the activities of Washington State’s most famous suffragist.  Mrs. DeVoe was an impassioned organizer, leader, and lecturer for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. She eventually became president of the Washington Equal Suffrage Association.

These letters and manuscripts came into the possession of fellow suffrage worker, Bernice A. Sapp, who assembled and indexed them.  The Digital and Historical Collections staff decided to undertake the digitization of the collection to prolong the life of these manuscripts and to provide expanded access to citizens – especially students and teachers.  The project was funded by a grant from the Washington’s Women’s History Consortium and the collection can be viewed at their web site at: http://www.washingtonhistory.org/research/whc/WHCcollections/wsl/

DeVoe was one of the major personalities involved in moving Washington State being the fifth state in the country to adopt full suffrage for women in 1910 – ten years before the national constitutional amendment was passed.  While she occasionally clashed with some of the other strong personalities in the movement she was a tireless worker and keen strategist.  Unlike their counterparts in England, American woman suffragists adopted the tactic of the “still hunt”, using ladylike demeanors and calm reason to persuade the men of the state to grant them the vote as a matter of simple justice.

DeVoe went on to found the National Council of Women Voters in 1911 to bring together western voting women in order to move toward national suffrage.  The group eventually merged with the League of Women Voters in 1920.  She later became active in the Republican Party and wrote from that viewpoint for the Tacoma News Tribune.

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Women’s History Month; Women with a Mission

March 11th, 2014 Nono Burling Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections No Comments »

From the Desk of Marlys Rudeen

Pulled by religious fervor, men and women left homes and families to come West, intending to bring their faith to the “heathen”. They were often well-meaning but unprepared for life on the frontier and for interacting with people of another culture. They strove faithfully, endured hardships and grief among people whose responses to their teachings ran the gamut from acceptance to violence. Two of our Classics in Washington History describe the lives of Protestant women in western missions.

clip_image002In Memoirs of the West: the Spaldings,  Eliza Spalding, the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. Spalding, looks back at an idyllic childhood at Lapwai, the Spaldings mission. She helps her mother, travels with her father, and grows up among the Nez Perce Indians. She often stays with Marcus and Narcissa Whitman at their mission for months at a time in order to attend school with other mission and immigrant children. And she is there on Nov. 29, 1847 when the Whitman mission is attacked by the Cayuse Indians. Her account is harrowing, as the 10-year-old child witnesses death and terror, and then serves as interpreter between the Indians and their captives. The book also includes excerpts from her mother’s diary and some of her father’s letters that speak of the unrelenting labor that he and his wife undertake.

You can also look through three fascinating collections of letters by Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, gathered and published in the late nineteenth century by the Oregon Pioneer Association. The first covers their journey across the country to the Oregon Territory in 1836. The others include Narcissa’s letters to her family back east and correspondence with other missionaries in the West. They can be found in Classics in Washington History as Journey across the plains in 1836.

The letters reveal a woman who is determined to live up to her religious ideals. She accepts the loss of home and her extended family. She accepts her husband’s frequent absences and the physical hardships of frontier living. Yet, she continually begs her family to write more often, and is without any letters from home for up to two years due to long distances. She is never quite at home with the Indians and has difficulty learning the language. There are hints in her narratives about the tensions among the missionaries and the discouragement when few others arrive to join the mission effort.

Narcissa bears a child at Waiilatpu, Alice Clarissa, that is the light of her life until she drowns at the age of “two years, three months, and nine days.” At the same time she takes on the care of children in need, having as many as eleven children in her home at once and writes, “I am sometimes about ready to sink under the weight of responsibility resting on me…” The letters, though relentlessly optimistic, create a portrait of an intensely social and conventional woman laboring in isolation and surrounded by a culture that remains foreign to her.

For an overview of the Whitmans and Spaldings you might try Waiilatpu : its rise and fall, 1836-1847 : a story of pioneer days in the Pacific Northwest based entirely upon historical research by Miles Cannon. Cannon interviews many of the survivors of the mission as well as dealing with its early years.

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