World History

Washington State History – State Capital, Cities, Facts

Native Americans

Washington has been inhabited by humans for thousands of years. Many Native American tribes existed in the area before the arrival of Europeans.

Tribes such as the Chinook, Maka, Rumi, and Nooksak flourished along the coast. They used cedar to build durable longhouses and dugout canoes. They hunted game along the coast and in rivers and fished for food.

Further inland were the Plato tribes. These included the Nez Perce, Yakima, Cayuse, Okanogan, and Spokane. These tribes often moved to find new hunting grounds and lived in less settled grass huts. They often caught salmon in rivers and streams.

Information about Washington State:

Capital Olympia
Population 7,785,786 (Source: 2022 U.S. Census)
Major Cities Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Bellevue, Kent
Borders  Oregon, Idaho, Canada, Pacific Ocean
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) $725,513.5 million (2022 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)
Key Industries Agriculture including apples, berries, cattle, fishing, poultry, and wheat
Timber and wood products, paper products, computer software, aircraft, and tourism

Flag of Washington State:

Europeans Arrive

In 1775, Spanish explorer Captain Bruno Heceta landed on the Washington coast and claimed the land for Spain. Other European explorers soon arrived, including British captain James Cook in 1778 and George Vancouver in 1792. Vancouver spent two years creating a map of Washington’s coastline.

He discovered and named Puget Sound and claimed the area as British territory. He also explored the area in 1792 with the American Robert Gray. He discovered and named the Columbia River.

Early Settlers

The first settlers to the area were fur traders. They traded fur with local Native Americans, and fur was a valuable commodity in China and Europe. American explorers Lewis and Clark entered the region in 1805 after crossing the North American continent.

They explored the Mississippi River and land west of the Louisiana Purchase. They wintered at the mouth of the Columbia River. In 1836 missionary Marcus Whitman arrived. He founded several missions to bring Christianity closer to Native Americans.

Washington State Symbols

  • Washington State Nickname: Evergreen State
  • Washington State Slogan: SayWA!; (formerly) Experience Washington; The Evergreen State; also on its license plate as Evergreen State
  • Washington State Motto: Al-Ki (Indian word meaning bye-and-bye)
  • Washington State flower: Rhododendron
  • Washington State bird: Willow Goldfinch aka American Goldfinch
  • Washington State fish: Steelhead Trout
  • Washington State tree: Western Hemlock
  • Washington State mammal: Orca (Killer Whale)
  • Washington State foods: Blueberry Muffin

Becoming a State

In the early 19th century, the nation of Washington was divided between the United States and Great Britain. In 1846, the United States gained control of the region through the Treaty of Oregon.

Washington became part of the Oregon Territory, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, parts of Wyoming, and parts of Montana. Oregon separated in 1853 and became the Washington Territory. On November 11, 1889, Washington became her 42nd state to join the Union.

The Geography of Washington State:

  • Total Size of Washington: 66,544 sq. miles (source: 2003 Census)
  • Geographical Low Point of Washington: Pacific Ocean at Sea Level (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Geographical High Point of Washington: Mt. Rainier at 14,411 feet, located in the county/subdivision of Pierce (source:
  • Central Point of Washington: Located in Chelan County approx. 10 miles west-southwest of Wenatchee (source: U.S. Geological Survey)
  • Counties of Washington: 39 (source: National Association of Counties)
  • Bodies of Water of Washington: Pacific Ocean, Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Columbia River, Snake River, Skagit River, Lake Chelan, Lake Washington


Washington State grew rapidly from her late 18th century to her early 20th century. The main industry was timber, but apples and wheat soon became important crops. Seattle became a major port of call for those traveling to Alaska during the Yukon Gold Rush, and the city doubled in size in a relatively short period of time.

Famous People of Washington State:

Alex Haley Author
Jimi Hendrix Rock star and guitarist
Steve Largent Professional football player
Gary Larson Cartoonist famous for “The Far side”
Tim Lincecum Professional baseball player
Carl Sagan Astronomer
Hope Solo Soccer player
Richard Gordon Astronaut
John Elway Professional football player
Bill Gates Co-founder of Microsoft
Bing Crosby Singer and actor
Kurt Cobain Singer and songwriter
Bob Barker Game show host

Interesting Facts of Washington State:

Everett, Washington is home to the final assembly of Boeing aircraft. It’s the tallest building in the world.

Seattle, Washington is home to the world-famous Space Needle. There is a revolving restaurant at the top.

It is the only state named after an American president. Residents had recommended Columbia, but Congress voted to name the country after George Washington.

Washington State is the state’s leading apple producer.

The nickname “Evergreen State” comes from the large forests of evergreen trees.

Microsoft Corporation is headquartered in Redmond. Bill Gates, the president of Microsoft and the richest man in the United States, also lives in this state. The state insect is the dragonfly.

Aberdeen was once called “the wildest city west of the Mississippi”.

Mount St. Helens is an active volcano. A large eruption occurred in 1980.

Timeline Overview:

1775 – Spanish explorer Captain Bruno Heceta lands on the coast and claims Spanish territory.
1778 – Captain James Cook visits the coast in search of the Northwest Passage.
1792 – George Vancouver maps the Washington coast and names Puget Sound.
1792 – American explorer Robert Gray discovers the Columbia River.
1805 – Lewis and Clark reach the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Columbia River.
1824 – Fort Vancouver is built on the Columbia River by the Hudson’s Bay Company.
1836 – Missionary Marcus Whitman arrives and begins missionary work.
1846 – The United States gains control of the region through the Treaty of Oregon with Great Britain.
1848 – The Oregon Territory is formed, including Washington.
1853 – Washington Territory is formed.
1889 – Washington becomes the 42nd state.
1897 – Seattle begins to boom with the Klondike Gold Rush.
1899 – Mount Rainier National Park is established.
1916 – The Boeing Company is founded in Seattle by William E. Boeing.
1941 – Grand Coulee Dam completed.
1962 – The Space Needle opens in Seattle for the World’s Fair.
1980 – Mount St. Helens volcano erupts.