CLOSE
Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

25 Evergreen Facts About Washington

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Admitted to the Union in 1889, America’s 42nd state is known for its great coffee and even greater outdoor attractions. Blanketed in lush forests and sprawling farmlands, Washington is one of America’s largest producers of fresh produce, rock & roll music, and tech start-ups. Here are 25 facts you might not know about the Evergreen State.

1. You might know that Washington State was named after American founding father George Washington, and that it’s the only state named after a president.  But did you know that Washington’s capital, Olympia, was named for the Olympic Mountains? Or that the Olympic Mountains were named after Mount Olympus of Greek legend? Explorer John Meares gave the Olympic Mountains their name in 1788, exclaiming, “If that be not the home where dwell the Gods, it is beautiful enough to be, and I therefore call it Mount Olympus.” 

istock

2. John Meares didn’t always award his discoveries such flattering names, however. In addition to naming the Olympic Mountains, the explorer also dubbed a headland in southwest Washington “Cape Disappointment,” a name that remains to this day. Whether or not you actually find Cape Disappointment disappointing probably depends on whether you’re a fan of fog: The area is one of the most consistently overcast in the state, with an average of 106 days of fog a year.  

3. Even though Olympia is Washington’s capital, Seattle is its most populated city. In fact, close to 60 percent of Washington residents live in the Seattle metropolitan area.

4. Washington is the biggest producer of apples, raspberries, and sweet cherries in America. As of 2010, more than 90 percent of America’s red raspberries and close to three out of every five apples in the U.S. were grown in Washington. The official state fruit is the apple.

5. Washington State is 52 percent forest. The state is home to an incredibly diverse range of flora and fauna, including some of the oldest trees in the country. If you’re a lover of the great outdoors (or just fascinated by very old things), Grove of the Patriarchs trail near Mount Rainier is the perfect place to see some of the state’s oldest trees: Several are over a thousand years old and more than 25 feet in circumference.

6. Nowadays, it feels like there’s a Starbucks on every street corner in America. But the company started out in 1971 with just one store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. It remained a local establishment until the 1980s when it was purchased by Howard Shultz’s coffee company Il Giornale. It opened its first stores outside of Washington in 1987 in Chicago and Vancouver, Canada. Shultz remains CEO to this day.

Sali Sasaki, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

7. Washington State has a long and rich musical history. Seattle is, of course, famous for launching the grunge movement and the careers of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains. But a wide range of musicians come from Washington, including guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, hip hop legend Sir Mix-a-Lot, and singer/actor Bing Crosby. 

8. Back in Washington’s Wild West days, Aberdeen was thought to be the state’s toughest town. It was often called “the roughest town West of the Mississippi,” and was known for its gambling and violence. Nowadays, it’s best known as the birthplace of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. 

Brandy, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

9. Now the biggest online retailer in America, Amazon.com was started by Jeff Bezos in a converted garage in Bellevue, just outside of Seattle, in 1994. Their move to Seattle proper marked the start of a golden era for startups in the Pacific Northwest (and in Seattle, specifically). Outside of Silicon Valley, Seattle has become one of the fastest growing tech job markets in America in recent years.

10. Washington hosted the World’s Fair twice. In 1962, the Century 21 Expo (also known as the Seattle World’s Fair) was held in Seattle, where the Space Needle was built for the event. Then, in 1974, the first environmentally-themed world’s fair, Expo ’74, was held in Spokane. To this day, Spokane is the smallest city to host a World’s Fair. 

11. The skeletal remains of the Kennewick Man, one of the most complete ancient human skeletons every discovered, were found by two college students in Kennewick, Washington in 1996. Scientists believe the skeleton is around 9000 years old. 

12. Longview, Washington, is home to several bridges made specifically for squirrels. The first bridge, called Nutty Narrows, was constructed in 1963 by local builder Amos Peters to help squirrels cross a busy street. The bridge was so popular amongst squirrels, residents, and tourists, that four more have been constructed in different styles. 

Ted Drake, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

13. One of the best remembered, and most bizarre, high school football games in Washington history occurred in 1988 between rival teams the Colfax Bulldogs and the St. Johns Eagles. The game was a rematch, played half a century after the Eagles beat the Bulldogs 14-0 in the original 1938 game. The “Codger Bowl,” as it’s now known, was played by a group of former high school football stars in their late 60s, and was organized by former Colfax resident and movie star John Crawford. In the end, the Bulldogs beat the Eagles 6-0, and an enormous 65-foot-tall statue was carved to commemorate the game and its elderly players. 

14. If you’re hankering for a damn fine cup of coffee and a slice of cherry pie, Twede’s Cafe in North Bend has both. It’s also the cafe that was used to film the Double R Diner scenes in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

Elizabeth, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

15. While Washington is home to many awe-inspiring forests, the Ginkgo Petrified Tree Forest in Eastern Washington is one of the most unique. In the 1930s, highway workers digging up land for a new road found their progress hindered by pieces of fallen tree as hard as rock. These were the fossilized—or petrified—remains of ancient trees. The government decided to set the land aside for a historic preserve, and founded the Ginkgo Petrified Tree Forest, which soon became famous for its fascinating fossils, and for its Wanapum petroglyphs (Wanapum carvings dating back centuries).

agit-prop, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

16. It’s illegal to shoot Bigfoot in Skamania County, Washington. According to one account, the law was put in the books at the height of the Bigfoot craze—not to protect the mythical creature, but to protect citizens from the overly enthusiastic, weapon-toting paranormal enthusiasts flocking to the area. In Texas, meanwhile, hunting Bigfoot is completely legal on private land (as long as you have the landowner’s consent).

17. Seattle is home to a Dialysis Museum, which is dedicated to preserving the history of dialysis machines and the treatment of kidney disease in the United States.

18. Founded in Long Beach in 1935, Marsh’s Free Museum is more sideshow than field trip fodder. The museum, which is free to visit (but has plenty of tantalizing souvenirs for sale) boasts oddities like “Jake The Alligator Man,” a taxidermied “Half-Man Half-Gator.”

19. Washington is a popular location for filmmaking. Films shot in the state include 2002's The Ring (which used Seattle’s fog to great effect), The Hunt For Red October (1990), and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999).

20. The Washington State Fair, also known as the Puyallup Fair, is the largest annual attraction in the state. The fair combines food, amusement park attractions (including a Merry-Go-Round that’s been in operation at the fair since 1923), and livestock competitions.

21. During World War II, the Washington State Fairgrounds were put to a darker use. Renamed “Camp Harmony,” the grounds were used for the internment of Japanese Americans.

22. According to a 2014 study of restaurant menus around America, prawns are the most distinctly “Washingtonian” food. That is, while they’re not necessarily the state’s most beloved cuisine or its most frequently served, they are served in Washington more often than in any other state. According to the study, prawn dishes appear on 47 percent of Washington’s restaurant menus (as opposed to 9 percent throughout the other 49 states). 

23. Father’s Day originated in Washington in 1910. It began as a statewide holiday, created by Spokane resident Sonora Smart Dodd, who wanted to find a way to honor her own father, a civil war veteran and single parent who had raised six children on his own. 

24. The official state folk song of Washington is “Roll on Columbia, Roll On” by Woody Guthrie. Though Guthrie never lived in Washington State, he was inspired by the state during his brief visit in 1941.

25. The official state song of Washington, meanwhile, is “Washington, My Home.” However, few Washingtonians know the words to the official song, and in 1985, Whatcom County Commissioner Craig Cole petitioned the State of Washington to change the official state song to "Louie Louie" which was written by Richard Berry in 1955 and first made popular by Tacoma-based group The Wailers in 1960. (The Oregon-based Kingsmen, of course, would go on to record the 1963 version we all still croon in the shower today.)

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


Getty Images

There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
arrow
alcohol
13 Secrets From the Guinness Archives
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Guinness has been a staple in Irish pubs for nearly 260 years. With so much history, it's no surprise that the Guinness Storehouse Archives—which are open to the public—are stuffed with intriguing artifacts that tell some pretty wild stories. Here are a few.

1. THE LEASE TO THE DUBLIN BREWERY WAS INTENDED TO LAST 9000 YEARS.

In 1759, founder Arthur Guinness signed a lease for a four-acre property at St. James’s Gate in Dublin. The lease required a down payment of £100, an annual rent of £45, and a term of 9000 years (not a typo). Such lengthy leases were relatively common back then: “At the time in Ireland, there was a lot of instability to do with land tenure,” explains Fergus Brady, Archives Manager at Guinness. Centuries earlier, the British had begun confiscating land from native Irish in an effort to build plantations, and extra-long leases were a means of avoiding this fate. As Brady explains, “You see these really long leases: 99-year or 999-year leases. It seemed to be a legal custom at the time that they used the number nine.”

2. ARTHUR GUINNESS WAS NOT AFRAID TO DEFEND HIS PROPERTY WITH A PICKAXE.

In 1775, the Dublin Corporation—that is, the city government—demanded that Arthur Guinness pay for the spring water flowing to his brewery. When Guinness argued that he was already paying for water rights through his 9000-year rental agreement, the Dublin Corporation sent a sheriff and a committee to his brewery to cut off the water supply. Guinness was livid. He seized a pickaxe and unleashed a torrent of obscenities so colorful that the Dublin Corporation’s goons eventually retreated.

3. GUINNESS ONCE DEPLOYED FIELD AGENTS TO CATCH COUNTERFEITERS.

Guinness Apology
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

In the 19th century, there was no such thing as brand consistency. Guinness did not bottle its own beer; instead, it shipped the suds in wooden casks to publicans who supplied their own bottles and applied their own personalized labels. Occasionally, these publicans sold fake or adulterated Guinness. To prevent such sales, the company sent special agents called “travellers” into the field to collect beer samples, which it tested in a laboratory. “If a publican was found to be serving adulterated or counterfeit Guinness, they had to give a public apology in their local newspaper—and even the national newspapers,” archivist Jessica Handy says.

4. FOR 21 YEARS, THE COMPANY HIRED A GUY TO TRAVEL THE WORLD AND DRINK BEER.

In 1899, Guinness hired an American ex-brewer named Arthur T. Shand to be a “Guinness World Traveller.” It was arguably the coolest job in the world. For 21 years, Shand traveled the world taste-testing beer. According to Brady, “His job was to travel the world and taste Guinness, say whether it was good or bad, who our bottlers in the market were, who our major competition was, what kind of people were drinking our product.” Shand traveled to Australia and New Zealand, to Southeast Asia and Egypt. “He was sort of a Guinness sommelier,” Brady says.

5. THE COMPANY'S HARP LOGO CAUSED TROUBLE WITH THE IRISH GOVERNMENT.

The Celtic harp—based on the 14th century “Brian Boru Harp” preserved at Trinity College—became a trademarked Guinness logo in 1876. Forty-five years later, when Ireland gained independence from England, the Irish Free State decided to use the same Celtic harp as its official state emblem. This became awkward. Guinness owned the trademark, and the Irish government was forced to search for a workaround. You can find their solution on an Irish Euro coin. Look at the coin, and you’ll notice that the harp’s straight edge faces the right; meanwhile, the harp on a glass of Guinness shows the straight edge facing left [PDF].

6. GUINNESS REPORTEDLY SAVED LIVES ON THE BATTLEFIELD.

The old slogan “Guinness is good for you” sounds like a marketing gimmick, but it was born out of a genuine belief that the beer was, in fact, a restorative tonic. The health claim dates back to 1815, when an ailing cavalry officer wounded at the Battle of Waterloo reportedly credited Guinness for his recovery. For decades, the medical community widely claimed that the dark beer possessed real health benefits—and they weren’t necessarily wrong. “There was little safe drinking water at the time,” Handy says. “But with brewing, consumers knew they were getting a safe beverage.”

7. THE COMPANY CREATED A SPECIAL RECIPE FOR CONVALESCENTS.

A label for Guinness invalid stout
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

From the 1880s to the 1920s, Guinness produced a special “Nourishing Export Stout”—a.k.a. “Invalid Stout”—that contained extra sugars, alcohol, and solids and came in cute one-third pint bottles. “It was very common practice for people to buy a couple bottles and keep them as a tonic, even if it was just a glass or half a glass,” Handy says. In fact, Guinness went as far as asking general practitioners for testimonials attesting to the beer’s medical benefits. According to Brady, “Many of them wrote back and said yes, we prescribe this for various ailments.” One doctor even claimed a pint was “as nourishing as a glass of milk.”

8. DOCTORS REGULARLY PRESCRIBED THE BEER TO NURSING MOTHERS.

From the 1880s to the 1930s, many physicians believed Guinness was an effective galactagogue—that is, a lactation aid. The company sent bottles to hospitals as well as wax cartons of yeast (which supposedly helped skin problems and migraines). Hundreds, possibly thousands, of doctors prescribed the beer for ailments such as influenza, insomnia, and anxiety, David Hughes writes in A Bottle of Guinness Please: The Colourful History of Guinness. According to Brady, the company was sending beer to hospitals as late as the 1970s.

9. THE COMPANY ONCE DROPPED 200,000 MESSAGES-IN-A-BOTTLE INTO THE OCEAN.

A Guinness message in a bottle
The message within every bottle dropped in the Atlantic Ocean in 1959.
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

In 1954, Guinness dumped 50,000 messages-in-a-bottle in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. In 1959, they repeated the stunt again, with 38 ships dropping 150,000 bottles in the Atlantic. The first bottle was discovered in the Azores off Portugal just three months after the initial drop [PDF]. Since then, the bottles have turned up in California, New Zealand, and South Africa. Just last year, a bottle was discovered in Nova Scotia. (If you find one, you just might be offered a trip to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.)

10. THE PERSONNEL FILES IN THE GUINNESS ARCHIVES CONTAIN SOME DOOZIES.

The Guinness corporate archives are open to the public. According to Handy, “Some of the stories you get in there are amazing, because you get accident reports and you get crazy stories of people bouncing on bags of hops outside the brewery." This may sound less surprising considering that, back in the day, Guinness employees were given an allowance of two pints of beer every day [PDF].

11. A GUINNESS SCIENTIST MADE A STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT MARK IN THE FIELD OF STATISTICS.

If you’ve taken a statistics class, you might be familiar with the Student’s t-test or the t-statistic. (It’s a method of working with a small sample size when the standard deviation is unknown.) The t-test was first described by William S. Gosset, a brewer and statistician at Guinness who was attempting to analyze a small sample of malt extract. Gosset’s discovery not only helped Guinness create a more consistent-tasting beer, it would lay the bedrock for one of the most important concepts in statistics: statistical significance.

12. GUINNESS IS SO BIG IN AFRICA, IT LAUNCHED A SUCCESSFUL FEATURE-LENGTH FILM.

Guinness began exporting beer to Africa in 1827. In the 1960s, it opened a brewery in Nigeria—followed by Cameroon and Ghana. Today, there are reportedly more Guinness drinkers in Nigeria than there are in Ireland. “In Ireland, England, and the United States, everybody thinks that Guinness is synonymous with Ireland,” Brady says. “But in Nigeria, there’s a very very low conception of that.” The beer is such a cultural staple that a fictional character who advertised the product named Michael Power—a James Bond-like, crime-fighting journalist—became the star of a feature film in 2003 called Critical Assignment, which was a box office smash. (Of course, there’s some branding built into the script. As Brady explains, “There are definitely scenes where Michael Power is enjoying a pint of Guinness.”)

13. DISPENSING BEER WITH NITROGEN WAS ORIGINALLY CONSIDERED LAUGHABLE.

In the 1950s, Guinness scientist Michael Ash was tasked with solving the “draft problem.” At the time, dispensing a draft pint of Guinness was ridiculously complicated, and the company was losing market share to draft lagers in Britain that could be easily dispensed with CO2. “The stout was too lively to be dispensed with CO2 only,” Brady says. “Ash worked on the problem for four years, working long hours day or night, and became a bit of a recluse apparently. A lot of doubters at the brewery called the project ‘daft Guinness.’” But then Ash attempted dispensing the beer with plain air. It worked. The secret ingredient, Ash discovered, was nitrogen. The air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen. Today, a Guinness draft contains 75 percent nitrogen. Not only did the discovery make dispensing the beer easier, it created a creamy mouthfeel that’s been the signature of Irish stouts since.

Full disclosure: Guinness paid for the author to attend an International Stout Day festival in 2017, which provided the opportunity to speak to their archivists.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios