For many people when they think of Washington State the first thing that comes to mind is Mount Rainier. The tallest peak in the state, at 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier dominates the landscape on both the east and west side of the state and all Washingtonians feel that it is “their mountain.”
On March 2, 1899, Mount Rainier was established as the fifth national park, named so by William McKinley. The park is a veritable year round wonderland for those who love the outdoors. Possibilities range from fishing, bike riding, hiking, camping, and climbing in the summer, to skiing, tubing and snowshoeing in the winter. For those who like to just sit and admire the scenery, Longmire and Paradise each has a beautiful old inn. Also within the park boundaries are 228,480 acres of wilderness.
But before Mount Rainier became a national park there was of course a long history to the area including Native American legend. One of the missions of the State Library, that we take very seriously, is to preserve the history of our state. We have many books in our catalog but for this blog post the focus is on our Digital Collections. In order to make our materials easily accessible, we’ve been working for many years to digitize public domain books and journals in our collection.
When it comes to Mount Rainier, one of the best historic resources is Edmond Meany’s “Mount Rainier: a record of exploration”. This book is a collection of essays about the mountain including its discovery by George Vancouver, the story of the first accent by Hazard Stevens, the natural history of the mountain and an essay on the creation of the park.
Another source for history is our digital newspapers collection. In the early days of our state Mount Rainier was often called “Mt. Tacoma” or “Mt. Tahoma”, the Native American name. This fact is acknowledged in Meany’s book and born out in the controversy over the name of the new national park.
In the March 7th Seattle Post Intelligencer an article titled “An insult to Tacoma” heatedly defends the name Rainier. “Some foolish people, including the Ledger, past and present, have tried to change the name of Rainier to Tacoma, but they have failed… If Mount Rainier is worthy of the distinction of a national park, the park should bear the name of the mountain.”
Over the years Mount Rainier remained newsworthy, with articles such as the May 12, 1916 Washington Standard’s “Mt. Rainier’s Flowers – Unequaled in Beauty, Number and Luxuriance, says Uncle Sam” . In 1910 The Walla Walla Evening Statesman proposed regulating automobiles in the park, however by December 7, 1920 an article in the Seattle Star instead proposed new roads to increase access and travel to the park.
As a Federal Depository the State Library also holds electronic federal documents for the state. A search of our catalog unearthed “WONDERLAND: An Administrative History of Mount Rainier National Park” by Theodore Catton. This book records the history of the park from the days before it’s designation as a national park through the end of the 20th century.
Having a national park in Washington also generated a lot of tourist interest and tourist dollars. The early newspapers show evidence of efforts to take advantage of this. You find advertisements for tours and postcards, even gasoline to get you there. Today Mount Rainier continues to be a centerpiece of our state with an average of 1-2 million people visiting each year. Have you visited lately?
“Gorgeous Mt. Rainier.” Pullman Herald 10 June 1921. Web. 14 July 2016.
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