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ROGER SALE: WRITING A HISTORY OF SEATTLE

A 21-part series broadcast on KRAB radio in 1970 and rebroadcast in 1975

This radio series, featuring University of Washington English professor Roger Sale, traces the development of Seattle as a city from the arrival of early settlers through the early 1900s leading up to World War I. The series originally aired on Jack Straw Foundation's KRAB Radio in 1970. These programs were based on Sale’s research for his book about the history of Seattle, Seattle Past to Present, first published in 1976. Jack Straw Productions recently digitized this series as part of an effort to preserve our KRAB Radio and other Jack Straw archived collections.

Early episodes in the series cover the arrival of the Arthur Denny party in Seattle, as well as other influential newcomers such as Carson Boren, William Bell, Charles Terry, Henry Yesler, and Doc Maynard. Sale provides a complete profile of Denny, his strengths and disposition. Listeners learn about the profound impact he had on shaping Seattle and the decisions that led to much of the city's layout and prosperity.

In other episodes, Sale outlines Seattle's economic and political development. He discusses the introduction of the railroad and political movements, such as the Anti-Chinese Affair. Sale makes a comparison between Tacoma and Seattle and the population explosion that made Seattle the major city in the Northwest.

Other topics Sale covers include the designing of Seattle parks, city platting, businesses and life downtown, range of employment, and Seattle society.

Roger Sale: Seattle Past to Present
Seattle City Hall, 1905
Yesler Way
Arthur Denny

Arthur Denny, photo courtesy historylink.org Yesler Way, photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, CUR 969 Seattle City Hall 1905, photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, CUR 413
Following are excerpts from Roger Sale's KRAB radio series.

Clip 1: Writing a City's History

Roger Sale reflects on what entranced him about Seattle and why he wanted to write about it. The geographic beauty of the city and the different views from all directions are stunning. Seattle is a very visually appealing city with so much to see. As a person views the city, they feel a special sense of something - something Sale wants to think about and discuss.

 


Clip 2: Arthur Denny

Sale covers the departure of the Denny party from Cherry Grove, Illinois and their journey to Oregon and then up to Seattle. Denny heard about Seattle and was determined to go there. It was important to note that Denny was going there to build a city. He wasn't interested in farming or logging, he wanted to establish a city. Sale talks about the importance of Denny as a founding father of Seattle.

   

Clip 3: Arthur Denny's development of Seattle

Denny was conscientious in his development of Seattle. Sale talks about how white men usually lacked foresight when they developed cities, but Denny was thoughtful in his decisions. Sale refers to Chief Seattle and the Native American use of land.

 

Clip 4: Population Growth

Sale covers early and rapid population growth in Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane, resulting in the significant growth in the state of Washington. Seattle continued to grow in 1880 through 1910 into a much more urban population.

 

Clip 5: Seattle's Economy

Seattle had a strong and diversified economy. It moved through a major fire, panic, and the gold rush, without slowing down. Business was local and independent. Many burgeoning businesses were able to produce everything Seattle needed making it less dependent on other places.

 

Clip 6: Seattle's Downtown

Seattle's downtown was bustling with activity. Residents knew the downtown well and business owners often lived at or near their place of work. There was furniture, florists, food. Houses, hotels, and churches were on different avenues. Downtown was a compact space with many activities taking place.

 

Clip 7: Building a City in the Wilderness

Seattle was a dense forest when Denny arrived and it's important to recognize what an enterprise it was to build a city in the wilderness. Winters were rainy and muddy making efforts more difficult. Things like building a house and getting back and forth to work demanded fortitude and determination. Settlers must have felt triumphant to have accomplished things in a wet, cold region and the fragility of a pioneer city is something that should be noted in modern times.

 

Clip 8: Early Employment

Early Seattle provided many job opportunities for residents. There was lots of work and demand was high for skills in all areas. The economy boomed as Seattle provided services for itself and other cities. It was a prosperous and productive time in Seattle's history.

 

Clip 9: Seattle Parks

Seattle's parks and boulevards were considered genteel. The abundant outdoor spaces were a place for the upper middle class to establish themselves because most parks required a car to get there. Seattle was unique in the number of parks developed so early in the city's history. The parks were well-adapted to the landscape and showcased all of the area's natural beauty and riches.

 

Clip 10: Societal Shifts

Seattle was becoming a one-class city with the worker quickly rising to middle class. Most people could own a home and manage a garden. Seattle was working on becoming a large city, but based on the principles of a small town.

 

Clip 11: Class War

Between 1900 and 1915 Seattle experienced huge economic growth. In the midst of this boom, societal changes began to occur and a class war developed in Seattle. The affluent were standing aside, while the middle class was becoming more moral and patriotic. The left was typically progressive and included new radicals. Seattle was becoming more radical and more bourgeois at the same time.

 

This Jack Straw archive preservation project was made possible with support from 4Culture.

 If you have any questions or comments about this project, KRAB Radio, or anything related to our archives, contact us at archive@jackstraw.org or by phone at (206) 634-0919.


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