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.” 


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, 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.)

Photo Illustration by Lucy Quintanilla. Badge: Gift of Dr. Patricia Heaston; Tin: Gift from Dawn Simon Spears and Alvin Spears, Sr.; Sign, Photograph of Walker Agents: Gift of A’Lelia Bundles / Madam Walker Family Archives. All from the Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Background/photo border, iStock
Madam C.J. Walker, the First Self-Made Female Millionaire in the U.S.
Photo Illustration by Lucy Quintanilla. Badge: Gift of Dr. Patricia Heaston; Tin: Gift from Dawn Simon Spears and Alvin Spears, Sr.; Sign, Photograph of Walker Agents: Gift of A’Lelia Bundles / Madam Walker Family Archives. All from the Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Background/photo border, iStock
Photo Illustration by Lucy Quintanilla. Badge: Gift of Dr. Patricia Heaston; Tin: Gift from Dawn Simon Spears and Alvin Spears, Sr.; Sign, Photograph of Walker Agents: Gift of A’Lelia Bundles / Madam Walker Family Archives. All from the Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Background/photo border, iStock

Like many fortunes, Madam C.J. Walker’s started with a dream. As she later explained to a newspaper reporter, Walker was earning barely a dollar a day as a washerwoman when she had a dream about a man who told her how to create a hair-growing tonic. When she awoke, Walker sent away for the ingredients, investing $1.25 in what she eventually dubbed “Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower.” The venture would propel her to become one of America’s first black female entrepreneurs—and reportedly the first self-made female millionaire in the nation.

Born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867 to freed slaves on a plantation in Delta, Louisiana, the woman who would become known as Madam C.J. Walker was orphaned by age 7 and married by 14. The couple had one child, Lelia (later known as A’Lelia), but six years into the marriage, Walker’s husband died, by some accounts in a race riot. Walker then worked washing clothes while dreaming of building a better life for her daughter. “As I bent over the washboard and looked at my arms buried in soapsuds,” she later told The New York Times, “I said to myself: ‘What are you going to do when you grow old and your back gets stiff? Who is going to take care of your little girl?’”

By 1903, Walker had relocated to St. Louis and started to work for an African-American hair care company before then moving to Denver, where she had heard that the dry air exacerbated hair and scalp issues. At the time, such complaints were widespread among African-Americans, in part due to a lack of black-focused products and access to indoor plumbing. By the early 1900s, Walker herself had lost much of her hair.

Then came her dream. “[I] put it on my scalp,” she later said of the tonic, “and in a few weeks my hair was coming in faster than it had ever fallen out.”

In 1905, Walker began selling her solution door-to-door and at church events. She took the product on tour, traveling throughout the South and Northeast and recruiting other door-to-door saleswomen. A year later, she married Charles Joseph Walker and established the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company, and in 1908 founded Lelia College in Pittsburgh, a beauty parlor and school for training Madam Walker brand ambassadors. Two years later, she relocated her business headquarters to Indianapolis—then a commercial hub—where she and a mostly female cadre of top executives produced Wonderful Hair Grower on an industrial scale.

A’Lelia, however, was not content with the Midwestern milieu. In 1913 she convinced her mother to open an office in New York and decamped to Manhattan, acquiring a stately Harlem townhouse designed by Vertner Tandy, the first registered black architect in the state. The home, later nicknamed the Dark Tower after poet Countee Cullen’s “From the Dark Tower,” included a Lelia College outpost on the first floor and living and entertaining spaces on the top three. A’Lelia frequently threw lavish parties there, attended by Harlem Renaissance luminaries such as Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Langston Hughes.

Walker followed A’Lelia north, where she purchased the adjacent townhouse. Soon, she was a cultural mover and shaker in her own right, joining the NAACP’s New York chapter and helping to orchestrate the Silent Protest Parade in 1917, when roughly 10,000 African-Americans marched down Fifth Avenue as a demonstration against the East St. Louis race riots earlier that year, in which dozens of African-Americans had been killed.

“She became politically active and very much an advocate of women’s economic independence,” Walker’s great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles, a journalist and biographer, tells Mental Floss. “She used her national platform to advocate for civil rights.”

The same year as the Silent Protest, Walker and a handful of Harlem leaders traveled to the White House to petition for anti-lynching legislation, and donated $5000 to the NAACP’s Anti-Lynching Fund—the largest single gift ever recorded by the fund. In 1916, she established the Madam C. J. Walker Benevolent Association, a program that encouraged Walker brand ambassadors to engage in charity work and hygiene education outreach.

As her empire grew, Walker continued to monumentalize her success. In 1916, she bought a four-acre parcel of land in Irvington, New York, and enlisted Tandy to design her a home to rival the nearby estates of Jay Gould and John D. Rockefeller. Her determination only swelled in the face of realtors who tried to charge her twice the price of the land to discourage her, and incredulous neighbors who reportedly mistook the hair care baroness for a maid when she arrived at the property in her Ford Model T.

Villa Lewaro
Villa Lewaro
Library of Congress, Flickr // No known copyright restrictions

Like her Manhattan residence, the mansion became a popular hang-out for the writers and artists of the Harlem Renaissance. Walker also used the home to give back. “She made a blanket invitation to the returning African American soldiers [from World War I] to please come visit the home,” Bundles says. It also served as a kind of early safe space for A’Lelia and her largely LGBTQ social network.

But almost as soon as the home was complete, Madam Walker’s health began to crumble. Though she was diagnosed with high blood pressure and kidney problems, Walker continued to work and roll out new products. “Like most entrepreneurs she couldn’t figure out how to slow down,” Bundles says. “She needed to rest, but she couldn’t really make herself.”

In the spring of 1919, while on a business trip to St. Louis to unveil five new formulas, Walker fell gravely ill and was shuttled back to Irvington in a private car. That May, she died of kidney failure at the age of 51.

Yet her influence would live on. At the time of her death, an estimated 40,000 black women had been trained as Walker saleswomen. In 1927 the Madame Walker Theatre Center opened in Indianapolis, housing offices, a manufacturing center, and a theatre. Her name on the building reflected her unprecedented imprint on black entrepreneurship.

Madam Walker items at the Women's Museum in Dallas, Texas
Madam Walker items at the Women's Museum in Dallas, Texas
FA2010, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The Madam C.J. Walker brand also survived. In fact, it’s recently been revitalized, after black-owned hair care company Sundial acquired it in 2016, debuting two dozen new formulas exclusively at Sephora last spring. “It’s very glam,” says Bundles, who serves as the line’s historical consultant. In a historic deal in November 2017, consumer goods conglomerate Unilever acquired Sundial’s $240 million portfolio, and as part of the agreement designated $50 million to empower businesses led by women of color.

Walker’s house, known as Villa Lewaro, has had a rockier afterlife, having been owned by the NAACP and then used as an assisted living center for decades. In 1993, stock broker and U.S. ambassador Harold Doley and his wife Helena purchased the property, committing to a years-long restoration process. They’ve recently secured a protective easement for the site, which prevents future buyers from altering the appearance of the home—a means of preserving the house’s history, and that of Madam Walker.

Walker’s legacy is also likely to gain a new round of admirers with the recently announced Octavia Spencer-fronted television show about her life, which is based on a biography by Bundles and is allegedly courting distribution by Netflix.

With her brand in full swing and her life story about to be immortalized on the small screen, it seems that even in death, Madam Walker’s dream lives on.

Hulton Archive//Getty Images
Newly Discovered 350-Year-Old Graffiti Shows Sir Isaac Newton's Obsession With Motion Started Early
Hulton Archive//Getty Images
Hulton Archive//Getty Images

Long before he gained fame as a mathematician and scientist, Sir Isaac Newton was a young artist who lacked a proper canvas. Now, a 350-year-old sketch on a wall, discovered at Newton’s childhood home in England, is shedding new light on the budding genius and his early fascination with motion, according to Live Science.

While surveying Woolsthorpe Manor, the Lincolnshire home where Newton was born and conducted many of his most famous experiments, conservators discovered a tiny etching of a windmill next to a fireplace in the downstairs hall. It’s believed that Newton made the drawing as a boy, and may have been inspired by the building of a nearby mill.

A windmill sketch, believed to have been made by a young Sir Isaac Newton at his childhood home in Lincolnshire, England.
A windmill sketch, believed to have been made by a young Sir Isaac Newton at his childhood home in Lincolnshire, England.
National Trust

Newton was born at Woolsthorpe Manor in 1642, and he returned for two years after a bubonic plague outbreak forced Cambridge University, where he was studying mechanical philosophy, to close temporarily in 1665. It was in this rural setting that Newton conducted his prism experiments with white light, worked on his theory of “fluxions,” or calculus, and famously watched an apple fall from a tree, a singular moment that’s said to have led to his theory of gravity.

Paper was a scarce commodity in 17th century England, so Newton often sketched and scrawled notes on the manor’s walls and ceilings. While removing old wallpaper in the 1920s and '30s, tenants discovered several sketches that may have been made by the scientist. But the windmill sketch remained undetected for centuries, until conservators used a light imaging technique called Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) to survey the manor’s walls.

Conservators using light technology to survey the walls of Woolsthorpe Manor,  the childhood home of Sir Isaac Newton.
A conservator uses light technology to survey the walls of Woolsthorpe Manor, the childhood home of Sir Isaac Newton.
National Trust

RTI uses various light conditions to highlight shapes and colors that aren’t immediately visible to the naked eye. “It’s amazing to be using light, which Newton understood better than anyone before him, to discover more about his time at Woolsthorpe,” conservator Chris Pickup said in a press release.

The windmill sketch suggests that young Newton “was fascinated by mechanical objects and the forces that made them work,” added Jim Grevatte, a program manager at Woolsthorpe Manor. “Paper was expensive, and the walls of the house would have been repainted regularly, so using them as a sketchpad as he explored the world around him would have made sense," he said.

The newly discovered graffiti might be one of many hidden sketches drawn by Newton, so conservators plan to use thermal imaging to detect miniscule variations in the thickness of wall plaster and paint. This technique could reveal even more mini-drawings.

[h/t Live Science]


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