Washington was originally the western part of the Oregon Territory, but in 1852 its residents first petitioned Congress for a new territory called Columbia. Eventually, after a number of petitions, Congress granted statehood, but when it finally did so, it changed the name to Washington to honor the first President. A major sticking point had been that Democrats in Congress feared that granting statehood to western territories would increase the number of Republicans in Congress. When Benjamin Harrison, an Indiana Republican, won the presidency, bringing on his coattails a Republican majority, the territory was finally successful in its appeals. On this day in history, President Benjamin Harrison signed a proclamation declaring Washington to be the 42nd state in the Union.
Today, Washington is known for some of the world’s most influential companies, including Boeing, Microsoft, and Starbucks.
Approximately 60 percent of Washington’s residents live in the Seattle metropolitan area. The city is known for its quirkiness; there is a giant troll under one of the city’s main bridges, a giant statue of Vladimir Lenin, a mass transit project called the SLUT — the South Lake Union Trolley, and on Thanksgiving, the pardoning of a vegetarian Tofurky instead of a turkey.
In 2007, the Walla Walla sweet onion was designated as the official vegetable of the state of Washington. Grown in southeastern Washington since about 1900, the Walla Walla sweet is the only variety on the market that is not a hybrid, claims the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Marketing Committee. Continuing the rivalry with Oregon, the Walla Walla is also grown in northeastern Oregon. If you’ve ever had one, you’ll know what the fuss is about.
But all is not sweetness and light in Washington. On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helen’s erupted, losing 1,131 feet of elevation. The blast leveled over four billion feet of timber and resulted in 57 deaths and billions of dollars in damage.