Washington became a state in 1889. It had been yielded to the United States by Spain in 1819, although the territory was also claimed by the British for years after. The first settlers in the state were led by George Washington Bush, an African American who was avoiding Oregon's racist laws. He led 4 families, and his wife, into the territory and began settlements. Travelers along the Oregon trail often continued into the state and settlements began to develop.
Washington rested in an important geographical position and served as the main port for trade with Alaska. During World War II, it was a launching point for many soldiers and sailors going into the Pacific Realm. The Boeing Company worked in the state building up the military, making Washington one of the nation's most important military centers.
In 1980, the great Mount St. Helens erupted and became one of the 20th Century's great disasters. The earthquake was so powerful, the entire northern side of the mountain all but disappeared and ash from the eruption spread to 13 surrounding states. 27 people were killed in the disaster, along with countless animals, and acres upon acres of farmland were destroyed. All told, the eruption cost billions of dollars of damage and is considered one of the worst natural disasters in modern history.
Washington is a Pacific state bordered by Canada to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, Oregon to the south, and Idaho to the east. It is the only state named after an American president. The abbreviation for Washington is WA. It is the third most densely populated state in the western United States, after California and Hawaii. The state's population is growing at a rate that is greater than the national average.
Washington's natural resources are greatly responsible for the state's growth. The Columbia River, which forms part of the state's southern border, is North America's greatest source of hydroelectric power. Grand Coulee Dam, the world's largest concrete dam and the greatest single source of waterpower in the country, is located on the river. In fact, Washington gets 80 percent of its power from water. This has attracted industry to the state.
Other features of Washington's diverse landscape include forests and snow-capped mountain ranges. The Cascade Range divides the state into two main areas. The western section has a mild climate and plentiful rainfall, making it a fertile farming region. Dairy farming is an important activity in that part of the state. The eastern section is drier, but irrigation has created agricultural wealth for the area. Wheat, vegetables, and fruits, especially apples, are grown in the eastern section. Red Delicious Apples and Granny Smith Apples are Washington specialties. Livestock is also raised in the region.
The wettest place in the contiguous United States is Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Mount Rainier has the largest single-peak glacier system in the country. It is also Washington's highest mountain.
Washington is known as the "Evergreen State" because its forests of firs, hemlocks, pines and other evergreen trees are always green. These forests support large lumber-based industries. Lumber, pulp and paper, and other wood products are produced in the state.
Washington's location makes it important for land, sea, and air transportation to Alaska and Asian countries across the Pacific Ocean. Puget Sound is an important harbor for Seattle, Tacoma, Bremerton, Olympia, and Everett. The state's fishing industry is one of the greatest in the country.
Technology manufacturing and services are very important to Washington's economy. Bill Gates, a giant in computer software, located his Microsoft Corporation in the state. If you want to see airplanes and spacecraft being made, Washington is the state for you. It is the nation's leading producer of jet aircraft. The Boeing Company, which is a chief producer of airplanes and spacecraft, is headquartered in Seattle and has plants in Auburn, Kent, Renton, Spokane, and near Everett. Washington is also a leader in aluminum smelting.
Tourists are attracted to Washington because of its scenic beauty. Vacation in a lodge, go up in a chair lift, or ski in the state. Olympia, the state's capital, is the gateway to Olympic National Park. See what's left of Mount Saint Helens, a volcano that blew its top in 1980. View Seattle, the state's largest city, from the Space Needle, a 605-foot-tall observation tower.