The Early Twentieth Century

The turn of the century brought labor clashes that gave Washington a reputation as a radical state. The extreme policies of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW; also known as the “Wobblies”) proved appealing to the shipyard and dock workers and to the loggers, and in 1917 the U.S. War Dept. was forced to intervene in a lumber industry dispute. A general strike following World War I had a crippling effect on the state’s economy; antilabor feeling increased, and the famous incident at Centralia resulted in bloody strife between the IWW and the American Legion. The alarmed and brutal reaction of management to radical labor policies produced a confrontational atmosphere that hindered the mediation until the onset of the lean days of the 1930s and the emergence of the New Deal.

Washington was an important center of the defense industry during World War II, particularly with the immense aircraft industry in Seattle and the Manhattan Project’s Hanford Works at Richland. (Decades later it was discovered that the Hanford facility had leaked large amounts of hazardous radioactive waste in the 1940s and 50s.) During the war, the large Japanese-American population in the state (more than 15,000 persons) was moved eastward to camps, where they suffered great physical and emotional hardship.

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