Happy Birthday, Washington

Friday, November 10, 2017

Happy Birthday, Washington!
Essay from HistoryLink.org

Washington became a state on November 11, 1889, when U.S. President Benjamin Harrison signed the bill admitting it into the Union. Territorial governor Elisha P. Ferry received the good news via telegram from U.S. Secretary of State James Blaine, who stated that the proclamation was signed "at five o'clock and twenty-seven minutes this afternoon." A week later, the streets of Olympia were decorated with banners in celebration of "inaugural day."

Washingtonians had been craving self-governance for years. The region was originally part of Oregon Territory, which was created in 1848, but folks living north of the Columbia River resented their distance from the territorial capital, located first at Oregon City but moved to Salem in 1851. Calls for a separate territory started at a convention in 1851, and led to the establishment of Washington Territory in 1853.

After Oregon became a state in 1859, Washington Territory expanded to include all of present-day Idaho and parts of Montana and Wyoming. President Lincoln severed these areas in 1863, creating Idaho Territory and establishing Washington's current boundaries. Washington Territory's residents began their long campaign for statehood, but it was not until 1878 that the first bill to authorize it was introduced in Congress. Some argued that it made the most sense to divide the territory into two states along the crest of the Cascades (an idea that never quite dies), but Washington ultimately joined the Union in one piece.


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