Granted statehood in 1889, Washington was named in honor of George Washington; it is the only U.S. state named after a president. The state’s coastal location and excellent harbors have contributed to its role as a leader in trade with Alaska, Canada and countries of the Pacific Rim. The majestic Mount Rainier soars above Seattle and is the highest peak in the continental United States. Another Washington landmark, Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in U.S. history. The Evergreen State is the nation’s leader producer of apples and is the home of the coffee chain Starbucks. Famous Washingtonians include musician Jimi Hendrix, entertainer Bing Crosby and computer pioneer Bill Gates.
Date of Statehood: November 11, 1889
Population: 6,724,540 (2010)
Size: 71,298 square miles
Nickname(s): Evergreen State
Motto: Alki (“Bye and Bye”)
Tree: Western Hemlock
Flower: Coast Rhododendron
Bird: Willow Goldfinch
- On January 26, 1700, a large earthquake 60 to 70 miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest caused a tsunami roughly 33 feet high to engulf the Washington coastline. Ten hours later, the tsunami hit the main island of Japan with 6-to-10 foot swells.
- In 1836, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman established a mission at Waiilatpu on the Walla Walla River to bring Christianity to the Cayuse Indians. When an increasing number of colonists migrated to the area and an epidemic of measles spared the lives of white children but killed almost all Cayuse offspring, Chief Tiloukaikt and several members of his tribe became infuriated, and, on November 29, 1847, killed the Whitmans along with 12 other settlers. The Whitman Massacre, as it became known, resulted in the Cayuse War and, ultimately, the dissolution of the Cayuse tribe.
- Seattle’s Great Fire, which destroyed 64 acres and many businesses, began on June 6, 1889, after a pot of glue from a cabinet shop burst into flames.
- In an attempt at honoring her father—a Civil War veteran who had raised six children by himself after his wife died in childbirth—Spokane resident Sonora Smart Dodd garnered support for the first statewide Father’s Day celebration on June 19, 1910. Afterward, Dodd continued to press for a national observance; although the idea was backed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and President Calvin Coolidge in 1924, Father’s Day did not become a federal holiday until 1972.
- Boeing’s Everett factory, where twin-aisle airplanes are manufactured, is the world’s largest building by volume, covering 98.3 acres and encompassing 472 million cubic feet of space. More than 100,000 people tour the plant each year.
- Washington is the nation’s leading producer of apples, pears, sweet cherries, red raspberries and hops. In 2010, the state’s apple harvest generated $1.44 billion.
- Three national parks and 68 state parks border Puget Sound, which spans 2,500 miles of shoreline and helps to generate $20 billion of economic activity for the state of Washington.
- The Seattle Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, is an iconic part of the city’s skyline and features a rotating restaurant at the top.