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Just in time for Presidents Day: Archives photos of presidents visiting our Washington ?>

Just in time for Presidents Day: Archives photos of presidents visiting our Washington

President Harry S. Truman with Gov. Monrad Wallgren during his 1945 visit to Washington. (Photos courtesy Washington State Archives)

Even though Washington state is 3,000 miles away from Washington, D.C., we do sometimes receive a visit from the U.S. president.

In fact, the Washington State Archives over the years has collected several classic photos of presidents who traveled west to visit the Evergreen State.

In honor of Presidents Day, we’re showing off some of the Archives’ presidential photos.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower is greeted after landing at Boeing Field in 1956.

President John F. Kennedy shakes hand with Gov. Albert Rosellini in 1961.

OK, he wasn’t president yet, but this shot features Richard Nixon at a campaign event with Gov. Dan Evans in Seattle in 1968, months before Nixon was elected president that year.   










State Archives does its part to get rid of paper in state government ?>

State Archives does its part to get rid of paper in state government

Some of the shelves at the State Records Center in Tumwater.

As you enter the Washington State Archives’ State Records Center at the south end of Tumwater, the first thing you notice are the rows of shelves of cardboard boxes that literally rise to the ceiling 40 feet up.

When you see those super-tall shelves in that enormous building, it reminds you of the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark when the crate carrying the coveted yet deadly ark is stored in a giant government warehouse.

As you gaze at the high-rise shelving in the State Records Center, you quickly realize the place has A LOT of boxes. How many? More than 270,000. The Records Center Annex in Tumwater holds another 6,000 boxes. All of those boxes equate to about 700 million documents preserved in the two buildings.

And what kind of documents are kept in those boxes? Records that state government agencies no longer need close at hand, but aren’t allowed to destroy or throw away. That’s where the State Archives and the Records Center enter the picture.

The State Archives’ job is to preserve those millions and millions of government records. And the Records Center is where most of them are kept.

Considering that many state agencies continue to produce multiple boxfuls of records even in this digital age, it’s easy to understand that the number of documents stored at the Records Center can grow at an alarming rate. When you have a building that has only so much storage space, this can be a problem.

Fortunately for the State Archives, it is doing something that helps resolve this challenge. In partnership with several state agencies, the Archives has been reviewing records to see if some of them may be kept for shorter periods.

Recently, the Department of Health concluded that some of its boxes need only be retained for 15 years instead of the 20 previously identified.  Shortening this single retention period, resulted in the destruction of 1,700 boxes of records, making much needed room for incoming records.

“At first glance, someone might wonder why in the world the State Archives, the place where government records are supposed to be preserved, would want to destroy records,” said State Archivist Steve Excell. “The fact is, working with Department of Health staff, we’ve carefully considered the length of time to retain these records and determined that 15 years is long enough.”

Archives and Library’s connection to `Queen of the Fakers’ ?>

Archives and Library’s connection to `Queen of the Fakers’


Maud Wagnon’s State Penitentiary mug shots. (Image courtesy of Washington State Archives)

Many people associate our State Archives and State Library with old government documents and historic books and collections that are like gold to genealogists and history buffs.

But many of those documents and collections kept by the Archives and Library also tell fascinating stories.

One example focuses on an Oregon woman named Maud Wagnon (aka Maud Johnson), who defrauded interurban railroads more than a century ago, earning her the nickname “Queen of the Fakers.”

The State Library’s state publications collection includes an old wanted prisoner catalog from 1913. The State Digital Archives has the digital copy. Recently, Logan Camporeal, an Eastern Washington University graduate intern who works at the Archives’ Eastern Regional Branch in Cheney, came across the story about mischievous Maud, the only female convict listed in the document, while doing research for this Treasures of the Archives story.

Logan shared his story about the con artist with KNKX Radio (formerly KPLU). The NPR station recently did a story on the turn-of-the-century swindler. You can listen to the audio version of the story here. (Go to the 5:06 mark to hear Logan’s story.)

Ancestry Day event draws packed crowds ?>

Ancestry Day event draws packed crowds

Kim with Sons of the Revolution

Secretary Wyman with Sons of the Revolution at Ancestry Day Saturday in Tacoma. (Photos courtesy of Washington State Archives)

It takes a special event to keep sun-craving Northwesterners indoors on a nice September weekend, but that was the case Saturday as hundreds packed themselves into a large meeting room at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center for Ancestry Day.

The event was co-hosted by Ancestry, the Washington State Historical Society, and the Office of Secretary of State’s Washington State Archives,
Washington State Library and Legacy Washington.

Steve at Ancestry Day

State Archivist Steve Excell addresses the audience during a panel discussion on family history holdings at the State Archives.

Over 700 attendees were treated to workshops, panel discussions and presentations by Ancestry’s genealogy experts and others on Saturday. Secretary of State Kim Wyman gave the welcome address Saturday morning. Wyman noted that her ancestor Nathaniel Dobbs served in the Revolutionary War and was present at the surrender of Lord Corwallis after the Battle of Yorktown.

On Friday, about 250 people came to the State Historical Museum in Tacoma for genealogy-related presentations, including one by the State Archives’ Tracy Rebstock on where to look for information (other than birth/marriage/death records) about someone’s family history. The State Library’s Kathryn Devine later discussed how to use old newspapers to find information about one’s ancestors.

Ancestry Day crowd

The audience listens to a genealogy presentation Friday.

State Library kicks off Letters About Literature, Zine contests ?>

State Library kicks off Letters About Literature, Zine contests

Letters About Lit image

The State Library just launched not one but two contests for Washington students. One is a perennial favorite and the other capitalizes on an alternative art form that allows for self-expression.

For the 12th straight year, the State Library is co-sponsoring the Letters About Literature contest as part of Washington Reads. The competition encourages students to write letters to their favorite authors, living or dead, about how their book changed the student’s view of the world or himself or herself. The contest, co-sponsored by the Washington State Library, is for schoolchildren and homeschooled students in grades 4-12.

“This is a great contest for kids and teens because they get to express how a favorite book inspired them or made them think in different ways,” said Secretary of State Kim Wyman. “I’m amazed by the many incredible, heartwarming letters that students submit each year, and I look forward to more of their great writing.”

Students can start sending in entries on Nov. 2. There are two deadlines for this year’s contest: Level 3 entries must be postmarked by Dec. 2. Entries for Levels 1 and 2 must be postmarked by Jan. 9, 2017.

Here is more information about the Letters About Literature contest, including how to enter.

While LAL is a well-established contest, the Historical Zine Contest is in its second year. You might be wondering, “What is a Zine?” Zines (rhymes with beans) are basically self-published magazines that give the creator’s point of view on a subject. Contest participants are asked to create a Zine about some aspect of Washington history.

The State Archives and Timberland Regional Library are co-sponsors. This contest is open to Washington residents from fourth grade up. Yes, adults can enter, too! Entry deadline is Dec. 15. Go here to see the entry form.

You can learn more about the contest here.

Want to know where you can find materials for your Historical Zine Contest creation? Check out the Washington State Digital Collections history resources, or visit the State Library, State Archives or Timberland Regional Library to find what you’re seeking.

Don’t know how to make a Zine? Watch this video. It shows you one of the many ways to make one.

Want to dig into your family roots? Go to Ancestry Day Sept. 24 ?>

Want to dig into your family roots? Go to Ancestry Day Sept. 24

Ancestry Day Logo

Interested in learning more about your family’s history? Whether you’re a genealogy expert or just starting to dig into your family’s roots, you’re encouraged to attend Ancestry Day in Tacoma Saturday, Sept. 24.

The event is co-hosted by Ancestry, the Washington State Historical Society,  and the Office of Secretary of State’s Washington State Archives,
Washington State Library and Legacy Washington .

“This will be a great event for many people in Washington and the Northwest who want to learn more about their family history,” said Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman. “One reason why we’re excited about Ancestry Day is because our State Archives, State Library and Legacy Washington maintain historical records and collections that can help genealogists research their family history. Our staff looks forward to helping attendees unlock mysteries to their ancestors.”

“Guiding people as they discover the rich stories buried in their family’s past is an endeavor often filled with wonderful surprises,” said Jennifer Kilmer, Director of the Washington State Historical Society. “We’re very pleased to partner with Ancestry and other state agencies to provide that service for the residents of Washington who want to share in their family’s personal experience.”

The event takes place at the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center (1500 Broadway).

Registration is $35 and includes admission to all classes presented by Ancestry. Lunch tickets can be purchased for an additional $15, which includes a box lunch and the lunch speaker. The first presentation, an Ancestry 101 class, begins at 8:15 a.m. That day, booksellers, genealogy and historical societies, archives and other vendors will have tables in the exhibition hall.

Go here to find out more and register.

Pre-registration is encouraged and available online through 5 p.m. on Sept. 17. Those missing the pre-registration deadline can purchase a ticket at the door on Sept. 24. On-site registration that day is from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m.

Archives Treasure #2: 1920 Vancouver shipyard photos ?>

Archives Treasure #2: 1920 Vancouver shipyard photos


(Images courtesy of Washington State Archives)

Located by the world’s largest ocean and the Pacific Rim, Washington has a long history of shipping and shipbuilding.

Washington probably has had shipbuilders since its territorial days and these cool State Archives photos show images from early in the last century. These shots feature a Vancouver shipyard around 1920. They are the second  of three Archives Treasure for August; a reader poll will appear after the third blog appears. Watch for it.


A Snapshot of Benton County ?>

A Snapshot of Benton County

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The flag of Benton County (image courtesy of the Washington State Archives)

Benton is third in a series covering Washington’s 39 counties, including how they got their names.

In southcentral Washington where the Columbia, Snake, and Yakima rivers converge, sits Benton County.

Benton covers 1,738 square miles, designating it as Washington’s 21st largest county. Although it’s not particularly big, it’s population is 186,486 people, giving it a density of 103 people per square mile. This is slightly higher than the state average of 101.2, and is the 9th highest among Washington’s counties. Benton has several large cities including Kennewick and Richland, where most of its residents live. The county seat is Prosser.

Benton County’s name is steeped in American history. Formed in 1905 from eastern portions of Yakima and Klickitat counties, it was named after Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton. Senator Benton was a major proponent of westward expansion, otherwise known as Manifest Destiny. He wrote the first of the Homestead Acts, encouraging pioneers to move West and settle lands. Along with being an American expansionist, he fervently opposed paper money, earning him the nickname “Old Bullion.” Benton advocated the gold standard and thought paper money created inequality and favored the wealthy.

Benton County’s name is not its only claim to historical significance. In fact, the entire course of human history was changed by what came out of a small town within Benton’s borders. In 1943, only 38 years after its creation, World War II visited Benton County in the form of the Manhattan Project.

In order to make atomic weapons, the Manhattan Project produced the plutonium. The Hanford Site, a massive complex, was built in 1943 along the banks of the Columbia. The plutonium manufactured in Hanford was used in the Trinity test bomb, as well as the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. To this day, Benton has a strong heritage of technology due to World War II, but it continues to be a strong agricultural producer as well.

A photo of the Hanford Site (image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy)
A Snapshot of Asotin County ?>

A Snapshot of Asotin County

Asotin County Flag  28July2005 9418 WaSenate rvm
The flag of Asotin County (Image courtesy of the Washington State Archives) 

Asotin is second in a series covering Washington’s 39 counties, including how they got their names.

Nestled in the reaches of Washington’s far southeastern corner is Asotin County (pronounced uh-SOH-tin). It is colloquially referred to as Washington’s “cornerstone.” Asotin, a word derived from the Nez Perce Indian language (originally Has-Hu-Tin), translates into English as, “eel creek.” This title refers to the eels that are ubiquitous in the waterways in and around Asotin County, including the Snake River.

Before the arrival of the pioneers, Asotin County was home to a large Nez Perce winter encampment. The climate of Southeastern Washington was amenable for the Nez Perce, and they held large pow-wows on the banks of the Snake. There was always plentiful food available from both the rivers and hunting.

Asotin County is geographically small compared to some of Washington’s other counties, encompassing only 636 square miles. This designates it as 35th in size out of Washington’s 39 counties. As for population, Asotin has about 22,000 residents, which gives the county a rural feel. For some perspective, the population density of Asotin County is 34 people per square mile, compared the state average of 101 people per square mile.

Asotin County has two main cities within its borders, Asotin, which is the county seat, and Clarkston, its largest city.

A historic photo of Asotin, the county seat of Asotin County (photo courtesy of


Historical Zine Contest under way ?>

Historical Zine Contest under way

ZineGraphic-300x271Are you a Zinester or want to become one? Do you like history? Then take part in the first-ever Historical Zine Contest.

Some of you might be asking, What is a Zine? Zines (rhymes with beans) are basically self-published magazines that give the creator’s point of view on the subject.

The contest, which is sponsored by the Washington State Library, Washington State Archives and Timberland Regional Library, runs through August 31. The contest is open to 4th graders through adults of all ages who are Washington residents.

A free workshop to learn how to make a zine will be held this Saturday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Olympia Timberland Library. A similar workshop is set for 1-4 p.m. on July 25 at the Yelm Timberland Library.

All three sponsors have several resources that can provide great material to use in the zines created by contestants.

The State Library has many online resources that include books, maps, newspapers and photos. You can also find featured images from these digital collections on their Pinterest and Flickr pages. You also can visit the library to see some resources in person. The State Archives has an extensive print collection, as well as many images at its Digital Archives. You can also visit the Timberland libraries to explore their NW Reference Collection, Zine Collection and Zine Resource Collection.

For more information, visit the Zine Contest webpage or download the Zine Contest Flyer/Entry Form.