Established in 1853, Washington remained a Territory for 36 years, until admitted into the Union in 1889. Only three other Territories created in the American West after 1850 languished longer in dependent status. Because of a dividing geographical barrier (the Cascade Range) and the lack of adequate internal transportation and communication systems, Washington Territory made no practical sense as a political and economic entity. Western Washington was actually a satellite of San Francisco and Eastern Washington of Portland, until railroads finally were completed along the Columbia River and across the Cascades in the mid 1880s. Essentially, Washington was not “eligible” for statehood until very late in its Territorial period when railways unified the region.
Though modern scholars have produced worthy biographies and specialized studies for this intriguing period, until now only one previous attempt at a comprehensive history has appeared—H.H. Bancroft’s imperfect all-in-one volume, History of Washington, Idaho and Montana (1890). Robert E. Ficken’s Washington Territory will long serve as the definitive economic and political history of territorial Washington.
Photographs / notes / bibliography / index / 304 pages (2002)