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Washington, state, United States
Washington, state in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. It is bordered by Idaho (E); Oregon, with the Columbia River marking much of the boundary (S); the Pacific Ocean (W); and the Canadian province of British Columbia (N).
Facts and Figures
The West and the Pacific Coast
Places of Interest and Cities
Washington's water resources provide both irrigation and enormous hydroelectric power. The impact of the Columbia River on the life and economy of the state can scarcely be overestimated. In early days the river was a means of transport and a salmon-fishing field for many Native American tribes. Because of the steep drop from its origin to its mouth, the Columbia is one of the greatest sources of hydroelectric power in the world. Grand Coulee Dam—one of the world's largest concrete dams and greatest potential power-producing structures—and Bonneville Dam have been supplemented, on the river's upper course, by Chief Joseph and Rocky Reach dams (both completed 1961), Priest Rapids Dam (1962), and Wanapum Dam (1963), and, on its lower course, by The Dalles Dam (1957), John Day Dam (1968), and McNary Dam (1953), all shared with Oregon.
The dams on the Columbia's lower course were designed as power, flood-control, and navigation projects, whereas the dams on the upper course are integral to the Columbia basin project (with the Grand Coulee as the key unit), providing not only power and flood control but extensive irrigation to the Columbia Plateau. The Snake River in the east and the Yakima River in S central Washington also have important irrigation projects. Dams on the Skagit River (including Ross and Diablo, two of the world's highest) supply power to Seattle and the surrounding area.
Puget Sound is the heart of Washington's industrial and commercial development. It is navigable and has many beautiful bays, on which are situated such commercial and industrial cities as Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett. Seattle, an exporter and importer in trade with Asia and a gateway to Alaska (because of the protected Inland Passage), is a major U.S. city and a center for the manufacture of jet aircraft (as well as missiles and spacecraft) by the Boeing Corp. In recent years, computer software (Microsoft Corp. is near Seattle), electronics, and biotechnology have become increasingly important to the economy.
Washington's huge food processing industry is based on the state's diversified irrigated farming and dairying as well as on its abundant fishing resources. Salmon is the biggest catch, but halibut, bottomfish, oysters, and crabs are also significant.
Much of the land in E Washington is used for dry farming. Irrigation, however, has converted many of the river valleys east of the Cascades (especially the Yakima and Wenatchee) into garden areas. This region contains most of Washington's vineyards; from the 1980s the state has developed an important wine industry. Washington leads the country in the production of apples, sweet cherries, and pears and is a major wheat producer, chiefly in the hilly southeastern Palouse area. Washington is also a major producer of corn, onions, potatoes, apricots, grapes (including those made into wine), and other fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Cattle, dairy goods, sheep, and poultry are also economically important. Spokane is the commercial and transportation hub of the entire “Inland Empire” region between the Cascades and the Rockies, which extends into British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon.
Despite the vast semiarid expanse E of the Cascades, more than half of the state's area is forested, and the lumber and wood-products industry, so important in the early development of the state, remains one of its largest. Many of Washington's cities (among them Tacoma, Bellingham, Everett, and Anacortes) began as sawmill centers—Seattle itself was home to the original “Skid Road”—and lumber, pulp, paper, and related items are still among their major products.
Other important manufactures in the state are chemicals and primary metals, especially aluminum. Abundant water power and the rich aluminum and magnesium ores found in the Okanogan Highlands in the northeast part of the state have made Washington the nation's leading aluminum producer. Washington's chief minerals are sand and gravel, cement, stone, and diatomite. Gold, lead, and zinc are also found in the Okanogan Highlands. Tourism is an increasingly important industry.
Government and Higher Education
Washington still operates under its first constitution, adopted in 1889. Its executive branch is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term. The legislature has a senate with 49 members and a house of representatives with 98 members. The state sends 2 senators and 10 representatives to the U.S. Congress and has 12 electoral votes. The state is solidly Democratic.
Among the state's institutions of higher learning are Central Washington Univ., at Ellensburg; Eastern Washington Univ., at Cheney; Evergreen State College, at Olympia; Gonzaga Univ., at Spokane; Pacific Lutheran Univ. and the Univ. of Puget Sound, at Tacoma; Seattle Univ. and the Univ. of Washington, at Seattle; Washington State Univ., at Pullman; Western Washington Univ., at Bellingham; and Whitman College, at Walla Walla.
Early Settlement and Boundary Disputes
The Lewis and Clark expedition, which reached the area in 1805, and the establishment of John Jacob Astor's settlement, Astoria, both helped to further the American claim; but in 1807 the Canadian trader David Thompson traveled the length of the Columbia, mapping the region and establishing British counterclaims. After Astoria was sold to the North West Company in the War of 1812, British interests appeared paramount, although in 1818 a treaty provided for 10 years (later extended) of joint rights for the United States and Great Britain in the Columbia River country. The Hudson's Bay Company absorbed the North West Company in 1821 and, under the patriarchal guidance of Dr. John McLoughlin, dominated the region until challenged by the Americans in the 1840s.
Fort Vancouver, on the site of present-day Vancouver, sheltered American overland traders—particularly Jedediah Smith, Benjamin Bonneville, and Nathaniel Wyeth—and later the American missionaries, who were the first real settlers in the area north of the Columbia. Marcus Whitman established (1836) a mission at Waiilatpu (near present-day Walla Walla), which for a decade not only served Native Americans as a medical and religious center but also provided an indispensable rest stop for immigrants on the Oregon Trail. Meanwhile the British, although despairing of control over the area S of the Columbia, were still determined to retain the region to the north; the Americans, on the other hand, demanded the ouster of the British from the whole of the Columbia River country up to a lat. of 54°40′N. “Fifty-four forty or fight” became a slogan in the 1844 election campaign, and for a time war with Britain threatened. However, diplomacy prevailed, and in 1846 the boundary was set at lat. 49°N.
Native American Resistance and Territorial Status
Peace with the British did not, however, preclude Native American conflict. Partly as a protective measure, the Oregon Territory, embracing the Washington area, was created the following year; but in 1853 the region was divided, and Washington Territory (containing a part of what is now Idaho) was set up, with Isaac Stevens as the first governor. (The Idaho section was cut away when Idaho Territory was formed in 1863.) Meanwhile, some of the pioneers on the oregon trail began to turn northward, and a small settlement sprang up at New Market, or Tumwater (near present-day Olympia).
After word of the needs of California gold-seekers for lumber and food spread northward, settlers recognized the commercial potential of the Puget Sound country and poured into the area in ever-increasing numbers. Lumber and fishing industries arose to satisfy the demand to the south, and new towns, including Seattle, were founded. Meanwhile Stevens, who also served as superintendent of Indian affairs, set about persuading the Native Americans to sell much of their lands and settle on reservations. Treaties with the coast tribes were quickly concluded, but the inland tribes revolted, and hostilities with the Cayuse, the Yakima, and the Nez Percé tribes continued for many years. Over the years, Native Americans remained a small but significant presence in the state; in the early 1990s their population was over 81,000.
Gold, Immigration, and Statehood
Gold was first discovered in Washington in 1852 by a Hudson's Bay Company agent at Fort Colville, but the Yakima War was then in progress and it hindered extensive mining activity. In 1860 the Orofino Creek and Clearwater River deposits were uncovered, bringing a rush of prospectors to the Walla Walla area. The major influx of settlers was delayed, however, until the 1880s, when transport by rail became possible (the first of three transcontinental railroads linked to Washington was completed in 1883).
The population almost quadrupled between 1880 and 1890; although the majority of the new settlers were from the East and Midwest, the territory also absorbed large numbers of foreign immigrants. Chinese laborers had been brought in during the 1860s to aid in placer mining; after 1870 they were followed by substantial groups of Germans, Scandinavians, Russians, Dutch, and Japanese immigrants. By the time Washington became a state in 1889, the wide sagebrush plains of E Washington had been given over to cattle and sheep, agriculture was flourishing in the fertile valleys, and the lumber industry had been founded.
Although some agrarian and labor dissatisfaction with the railroads and other big corporations existed, giving rise to the Granger movement and the Populist party, the discovery of gold in Alaska in 1897 brought renewed prosperity. Seattle, the primary departure point for the Klondike, became a boomtown. Labor and election reform laws were enacted, and the primary, the initiative, the referendum, and the recall were adopted.
The Early Twentieth Century
The turn of the century brought labor clashes that gave Washington a reputation as a radical state. The extreme policies of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW; also known as the “Wobblies”) proved appealing to the shipyard and dock workers and to the loggers, and in 1917 the U.S. War Dept. was forced to intervene in a lumber industry dispute. A general strike following World War I had a crippling effect on the state's economy; antilabor feeling increased, and the famous incident at Centralia resulted in bloody strife between the IWW and the American Legion. The alarmed and brutal reaction of management to radical labor policies produced a confrontational atmosphere that hindered the mediation until the onset of the lean days of the 1930s and the emergence of the New Deal.
Washington was an important center of the defense industry during World War II, particularly with the immense aircraft industry in Seattle and the Manhattan Project's Hanford Works at Richland. (Decades later it was discovered that the Hanford facility had leaked large amounts of hazardous radioactive waste in the 1940s and 50s.) During the war, the large Japanese-American population in the state (more than 15,000 persons) was moved eastward to camps, where they suffered great physical and emotional hardship.
Postwar Change and New Industry
In the postwar period military spending continued to pour into such facilities as the Hanford nuclear reservation and the Bremerton naval shipyard, as well as into Boeing's bomber production. At the same time, trade with Asia boomed. Since the 1970s, Washington has attracted a large number of firms moving from California to a more favorable business climate. These include computer software manufacturers and other high-technology companies. The increased economic diversification and stepped-up activity in high-tech industries have cushioned the impact of job losses in the 1990s from post–cold war cutbacks, especially in aerospace orders for Boeing. At the same time, industrial and residential growth has brought the state face to face with environmental issues, among them the effects of continued massive logging and the impact of dams on fish populations.
Democrats have held the governor's seat since 1985. Christine O. Gregoire, only the state's second female governor to date, was narrowly elected to the office in 2004 after a hand recount. She had trailed after the first two vote counts, and the final count was challenged in court. Gregoire was reelected in 2008 and succeeded in 2012 by Jay Inslee, who was reelected in 2016 and 2020.
See E. I. Stewart, Washington: Northwest Frontier (4 vol., 1957); M. W. Avery, Washington: A History of the Evergreen State (1965); P. L. Beckett, From Wilderness to Enabling Act (1968); J. Olson and G. Olson, Washington Times and Trails (1970); J. A. Alwin, Between the Mountains: A Portrait of Eastern Washington (1984); C. J. Manson, Theses on Washington Geology, 1901–1985 (1986); J. W. Scott and R. L. DeLorme, Historical Atlas of Washington (1988).
Washington, town, England
Washington, cities, United States
Washington. 1 City (1990 pop. 10,838), seat of Daviess co., SW Ind.; settled 1805, inc. as a city 1871. Turkey processing and farming are the chief economic activities, and there is light manufacturing.
2 City, SW Ohio: see Washington Court House, Ohio.
3 City (1990 pop. 15,864), seat of Washington co., SW Pa., in a bituminous coal region; settled 1769, laid out 1781, inc. as a city 1924. There is agriculture, coal mining, limestone quarrying, tool and die making, and the manufacture of metal, paper, and plastic products, valves, machinery, iron molds for the glass industry, and wire and cable. The David Bradford House, erected in 1788, was a meeting place in the Whiskey Rebellion (1794). Le Moyne House (1812) was the home of Dr. Francis Le Moyne, an abolitionist leader. Washington and Jefferson College (1781; oldest college W of the Alleghenies) is there.
Washington State Information
Area (sq mi):: 71299.64 (land 66544.06; water 4755.58) Population per square mile: 94.50
Population 2005: 6,287,759 State rank: 0 Population change: 2000-20005 6.70%; 1990-2000 21.10% Population 2000: 5,894,121 (White 78.90%; Black or African American 3.20%; Hispanic or Latino 7.50%; Asian 5.50%; Other 9.50%). Foreign born: 10.40%. Median age: 35.30
Income 2000: per capita $22,973; median household $45,776; Population below poverty level: 10.60% Personal per capita income (2000-2003): $31,779-$33,254
Unemployment (2004): 6.30% Unemployment change (from 2000): 1.30% Median travel time to work: 25.50 minutes Working outside county of residence: 18.20%
List of Washington counties:
- US National Parks
- Urban Parks
- State Parks
- Parks and Conservation-Related Organizations - US
- National Wildlife Refuges
- National Trails
- National Scenic Byways
- National Forests
- Marine Sanctuaries
a state in the northwestern USA bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north by Canada. Area, 176,600 sq km. Population (1970 census), 3.3 million, 70 percent of whom live in urban areas.
The state capital of Washington is Olympia, and the largest city and port is Seattle. To the west are the Coast Range of mountains, separated from the high Cascade Mountains (whose highest peak is the 4,392-m Mount Rainier) by a narrow valley of Puget Sound. To the east is the Columbia Plateau, a lava plateau through which the Columbia and Snake rivers have carved their courses. In the western section of the state the average temperature is 4° C in January, the average temperature in July is 16° or 17° C, and annual precipitation is 2,000 mm; in the east, the average January temperature is -2° or -3° C, average July temperature is 20° to 23° C, and annual precipitation is 400-500 mm. The western mountains are covered with coniferous forests (Douglas firs among others), and the plateau is a forest and grassland area.
Washington has the richest supply of hydroelectric energy in the USA (more than 15 million kilowatt-hours [kW-hr]). Large hydroelectric stations have been built there (primarily in the Columbia River basin), including the largest one in the United States, Grand Coulee Dam. In 1969 the overall production of electrical energy reached 11.6 million kW-hr; of this, 10.2 million kW-hr were produced by hydroelectric stations. In 1969, 290,000 people worked in manufacturing industries and 2,000 in extractive industries. Aerospace industries are the most important and are concentrated in the city of Seattle and its suburbs (for example, Boeing factories). Energy-intensive industries are highly developed and include aluminum smelting (plants in Spokane, Wenatchee, Tacoma, and elsewhere), iron smelting, electrochemical and atomic industries (the Hanford plutonium operations), and copper production, primarily from imported concentrates (Tacoma). There is a naval shipyard in Bremerton, as well as other shipyards in the port cities along Puget Sound. Washington is first in the United States in the lumbering and wood products industries, making use especially of its coniferous trees. Among its products from these industries are veneers and papers. There are oil refineries supplied by Canadian pipelines. Along the coast there are dairies and truck farms; in 1969 there were 1.3 million head of cattle, which included 210,000 dairy cows. In the fertile regions of the Columbia Plateau there are large wheat fields and, in irrigated areas, pasture lands and orchards. (These are mainly apple orchards and are concentrated in the area around Yakima.) Washington also has fishing and canning industries. (Salmon and halibut are common.) Seattle and other ports along Puget Sound are major links between the USA mainland and Alaska.
V. M. GOKHMAN
Forty-second state; admitted on November 11, 1889
Admission Day is observed in Washington by closing public schools (however, schools are expected to hold special patriotic and historic programs on the preceding Friday). Former significant anniversaries of statehood—the 25th, 50th, and 75th—were commemorated with speeches (by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939) and ceremonies.
State capital: Olympia Nickname: Evergreen State State motto: Alki (unspecified American Indian language
“By and By”) State amphibian: Pacific chorus frog (Pseudacris regilla) State arboretum: Washington Park Arboretum State bird: Willow goldfinch or wild canary (Spinus tristis
salicamans) State colors: Green and gold State dance: Square dance State fish: Steelhead trout (Salmo gairdnerii) State flower: Coast or pink rhododendron (Rhododendron
macrophyllum) State folk song: “Roll on, Columbia, Roll on” State fossil: Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) State fruit: Apple (Malus sylvestris) State gem: Petrified wood State grass: Bluebunch wheatgrass (Agropyron spicatum) State insect: Green darner dragonfly (Anax junius Drury) State marine mammal: Orca (Orcinus orca) State ship: Lady Washington State song: “Washington, My Home” State tartan: Washington State Tartan State tree: Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) State vegetable: Walla Walla sweet onion
More about state symbols at:
More about the state at:
AmerBkDays-2000, p. 766
AnnivHol-2000, p. 189
State web site:
Office of the Governor4
302 14th St SW
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504
Secretary of State
PO Box 40220
Olympia, WA 98504
Washington State Library 6880 Capitol Blvd S Olympia, WA 98504 360-704-5200 fax: 360-586-7575 www.secstate.wa.gov/library
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