Guide to the Seattle City Light Department History File

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Overview of the Collection

Creator: Seattle City Light
Title: Department History File
Dates: 1894-1972 ( inclusive )
Quantity: 1.2 cubic ft. (3 boxes)
Collection Number: 1200-11
Summary: The Seattle City Light Department History File, 1894-1972, consists of correspondence, typed histories, reports, newspaper clippings, and pamphlets related to the history of Seattle City Light.
Repository: Seattle Municipal Archives
Contact Information: Seattle Municipal Archives
Office of the City Clerk
City of Seattle
PO Box 94728
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-233-7807
Fax: 206-386-9025
Languages: Collection materials are in English. 

Historical Note

Seattle City Light provides electricity and electrical and conservation services to its public and private customers. It is the largest public utility in the Pacific Northwest. Public responsibility for electrical energy dates to 1890 with creation of the Department of Lighting and Water Works. In 1902, Seattle voters passed a bond issue to develop hydroelectric power on the Cedar River under the administration of the Water Department. Electricity from this development began to serve Seattle in 1905. A City Charter amendment in 1910 created the Lighting Department. Under the leadership of Superintendent James D. Ross, the department developed the Skagit River hydroelectric project, which began supplying power in 1924. Both public and private power were supplied to Seattle until 1951 when the City purchased the private electrical power supply operations, making the Lighting Department the sole supplier. The Boundary Project in northeastern Washington began operations in 1967 and supplied over half of City Light's power generation. By the early 21st century, approximately ten percent of City Light's income came from the sale of surplus energy to customers in the Northwest and Southwest with the remainder of City Light's financial support coming from customer revenue. The current name of the agency was adopted in 1978 when the Department was reorganized.

Content Description

Correspondence, news clippings, brochures and pamphlets, reports, typescript histories, and photographs relating to departmental history. The major topics include Superintendent John D. Ross, the Cedar Falls power plant, public power, energy in the Pacific Northwest, and the Skagit River power project.

Histories include timelines detailing the department's history, biographies of superintendents, and discussions of hydroelectric power. Speech transcripts are also included, and some material appears to have been prepared for a 1946 "publicity book," which was to include information on specific dams and power plants, statistics and financial data, maps, employee information, and feature stories. Histories and publicity materials stress the low power rates enjoyed by Seattle's citizens. References to the agency as "Your City Light" also appear frequently; one history states, " all belongs to the people of Seattle! You, as a Seattle citizen, are one of the owners of City Light. You may well be proud of this progressive, flourishing enterprise built from its own earnings, to bring the many benefits of low cost hydroelectric power to a great city."

Use of the Collection

Restrictions on Access :  

Records are open to the public.

Preferred Citation :  

[Item and date], Seattle City Light Department History File, Record Series 1200-11. Box [number], Folder [number]. Seattle Municipal Archives.

Administrative Information

Detailed Description of the Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Seattle City Light Department History File, 1894-1972
1/1 Annual Report and Report on the Department of Lighting 1938-1942
1/2 Typed History Essays 1945-1960
1/3 City Light Newsletter 1952-1969
1/4 News Releases 1954
1/5 Pacific Northwest Power History, Pamphlets 1894-1959
1/6 Pacific Northwest Power History, Typed Essays 1948-1971
1/7 Pacific Northwest Power History, News Clippings 1952-1964
1/8 J.D. Ross, News Clippings 1930-1939
1/9 J.D. Ross, Typed Biographies 1940
1/10 J.D. Ross, Public Ownership, Newsletter 1934-1040
1/11 Pamphlets 1915-1937
1/12 Political Pamphlets and News Clippings 1930-1941
1/13 Consumer Pamphlets Series 1950
1/14 Pamphlets 1950-1970
1/15 Skagit River Project Reports 1920
1/16 Skagit River Project Typed Reports 1959-1963
1/17 Skagit River Project News Clippings 1959-1972
1/18 Cedar Falls History 1941-1965
1/19 Public Power News Clippings 1952-1966
2/1 Power Bill Political Pamphlets 1929-1935
2/2 Power Bill Typed Essays 1930-1943
2/3 News Clippings 1900-1921
2/4 News Clippings 1930-1937
2/5 News Clippings 1945
2/6 News Clippings 1952-1959
2/7 News Clippings, New York Times, Presenting Washington State 1959
2/8 News Clippings 1963-1969
2/9 News Clippings, Seattle Magazine 1969
2/10 News Clippings 1970-1971
2/11 Reports 1909-1933
2/12 Monthly Statements 1935-1939
2/13 Monthly Statements 1940-1949
2/14 Monthly Statements 1950-1955
2/15 Reading Log 1911-1913
2/16 Correspondence, Memo's, Estimates on Rates 1905-1920
2/17 Seafair Pamphlets 1960-1973
2/18 Greater Seattle Info 1961
2/19 Seafair News Clippings 1961-1965
2/20 Essay, Seattle City Light and Its Publics undated
3/1 The Nature of Gravitation (by J.D. Ross) 1933
3/2 Correspondence, J.D. Ross 1909-1934
3/3 Newspaper Clippings, City Light 1923-1953
3/4 Monthly Condition of City Light Funds 1937-1944
3/5 J.D. Ross Biographical and Historical Information undated
3/6 Davis Ranch History undated
3/7 Skagit: Visiting Groups and Tours undated
3/8 Skagit History: Pre City Light undated
3/9 Skagit History undated
3/10 Skagit History undated
3/11 Skagit Railroad Historical Information undated

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This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

  • Corporate Names :
  • Cedar Falls Power Plant (Wash.)
  • Seattle (Wash.). Dept. of Lighting
  • Seattle (Wash.). Dept. of Lighting and Water Works
  • Seattle (Wash.). Lighting Dept.
  • Seattle City Light
  • Personal Names :
  • Ross, J. D. (James Delmage), 1872-1939
  • Geographical Names :
  • Seattle (Wash.)--Politics and government
  • Skagit River (B.C. and Wash.)
  • Subject Terms :
  • Electric power plants--Washington (State)--Cedar Falls
  • Electric power--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Electric utilities--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Hydroelectric power plans--Washington (State)
  • Water-power--Washington (State)
    • Form or Genre Terms :
    • Histories
    • Leaflets
    • Pamphlets
    • Photographic prints

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