History of Seattle, Washington

By | December 7, 2022

Seattle was covered in land ice during the last ice age (~11,000 years ago).

The territory of Seattle has been inhabited for at least 4000 years. Before the settlers came to this area, there were Indians living there. The largest tribe was the Duwamish, of which nearly 15 settlements have been found. In some of them remains of longhouses have been discovered. There were also buildings in which potlatches were held. In 1792, the first Europeans reached the Seattle site as a stop on George Vancouver ‘s 4.5-year expedition. He docked his ship nearby and sent Peter Puget and Joseph Widbey to reconnoitre. Geographical features in and around Seattle are named after them, including the Puget Sound. George Vancouver looked for a shipping route from the Pacific to the Atlantic, so he continued his expedition.


According to indexdotcom, Seattle was officially founded on February 15, 1852 by the Denny Party. Some of them came from Cherry Grove, Ohio, and had traveled to the west coast on the Oregon Trail. The Denny Party decided to move on and arrived by schooner at Alki Point on November 13, 1851. A few families of the Denny Party of 24 people were looking for a place more accessible by ships. They founded what is now Seattle on February 15, 1852. Those left behind got more and more difficult and many of them later left for Seattle. In the summer of 1852, the settlement was christened “Seattle” at the suggestion of David Maynard.Chief Seattle was the chief of an Indian tribe and was friends with Maynard. The following year, Henry Yesler established Seattle’s first sawmill, also the city’s first factory.

Drawing of the “Battle of Seattle”

In 1854 tensions between the Native Americans and the whites rose after several murders. The Indians were often blamed without proof. In 1855, Seattle and a number of Native American tribes signed a treaty that would allow Native Americans to move to reservations. Despite this, tensions mounted and on the morning of January 26, 1856, the Indians invaded Seattle. As a precautionary measure, a warship had already sailed into Seattle harbor and fired cannon shots at the Native Americans on this day. The Native Americans eventually lost the “Battle of Seattle”, which was part of the Yakima War.

Growth period

After its foundation, Seattle’s population grew rapidly and the city’s facilities continued to expand. The University of Washington was founded in 1861. Four years later, in 1865, Seattle was officially recognized as a town, giving the city its own government. Many citizens were dissatisfied with the administration and signed a petition against the administration, so that in 1867 the state of Washington decided to deprive Seattle of the title of town. Two years later, however, the place became a town again, but with a different administrative structure.

In Seattle, fires continued to spread, and in 1889 nearly the entire business district burned to the ground. In the following years, the population increased sharply, which led to economic growth. People from all over the country left for Seattle in search of work. This flow stopped in 1893 when the Great Depression hit the city. Many banks and companies went bankrupt and others made huge losses, but after four years, the Klondike gold rush put an end to the crisis. From all over the country they returned to Seattle, passing through Klondike and later Alaska.


On May 30, 1915, 622 tons of ammunition were detonated in the Port of Seattle. The ammunition was intended to be used against Germany during World War I, but German spies discovered this. The attack caused a lot of damage. A year later, William Edward Boeing founded the aircraft company Boeing. In October 1918, the Spanish flu broke out in Seattle, closing many public facilities. Meetings were also prohibited. A month after the outbreak of the Spanish flu, the First World War ended so that many residents took to the streets to celebrate. Because many people celebrated without masks, more and more people became infected with the Spanish flu.

In 1919 a general strike was held in Seattle. This was the result of a strike by the dock workers, in which 35,000 people took part. 65,000 people took part in the general strike, which lasted five days. After a year, the Great Depression of 1929 also hit Seattle. During the economic crisis years, exports fell sharply and other sectors were also hit hard. Many became unemployed and the government provided job creation. The crisis finally ended between 1939 and 1940, when the outbreak of the Second World WarBoeing, among others, was looking for a lot of staff. The end of the Second World War was also celebrated in a big way, but had major economic consequences. For example, Boeing laid off many employees because the demand for bombers had fallen sharply.

After the wars

In 1949, Seattle was hit by a massive earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter magnitude scale. This was the worst earthquake since Seattle was founded. Eight people were killed in Seattle. In 1962, the World’s Fair was organized under the name Century 21 Exposition in Seattle. The Space Needle and a monorail were built for this world exhibition.

In 1970 and 1971, Boeing laid off more than half of its staff. This event is called the “Boeing Bust”. More than 50,000 employees were laid off. The reason was that Boeing had invested a lot of money in a supersonic plane, which ended up unexpectedly not being funded by the US federal government. After 1975 the unemployment rate stabilized. That same year, the software company Microsoft was founded in Albuquerque. Three years later, the headquarters moved to Bellevue near Seattle. Microsoft grew rapidly and now has more than 60,000 employees, many of whom are from Seattle.

There was a World Trade Organization ministerial summit in Seattle at the end of 1999, but it was overshadowed by large-scale protests. Around 50,000 activists were present. A few days after the protests, the World Trade Organization announced that the ministerial summit would be held in Doha. In 2001, Seattle was hit by an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter magnitude scale. There were no fatalities, but there was approximately $500 million in damage.

History of Seattle, Washington