The Seattle City Council created the position of Health Officer in 1877 to abate nuisances affecting the public health and to prevent the spread of contagious disease, especially samllpox. Between 1877 and 1890, ten different local doctors served as Health Officers. The Department of Sanitation, under the direction of the Board of Health, was created in 1890 under the City's first home rule Charter; the Board had authority to appoint a Health Officer. The Board of Health was imbued with authority to supervise the health and sanitation of the City. A Market Inspector, under the supervision of the Health Officer, was appointed in 1891 to regulate the sanitation of Seattle's public markets. A City Charter amendment in 1908 abolished the Board of Health, replacing it with a new Department of Health administered by a Commissioner of Health appointed by the Mayor. Researchers should see pages 77-107 in the 1939-1943 Annual Report for a detailed history of the health and sanitation department from 1877 to 1943.
The Department of Health merged with the King County Department of Health in 1951. Prior to 1981, the City of Seattle administered the department with the two jurisdictions providing funding in proportion to their populations. Reorganization in 1981 placed administrative control in the hands of the County while the City retained direct policy and funding control over the Seattle Services Division. Departmental records are managed by King County.
Annual reports date from 1894 to 1962. Early reports include information on sewers and solid waste in the City; these were issues closely related to health conditions. There are two reports for 1896. One is the annual report of the Department of Sanitation for the first and second districts recording complaints, nuisances, inspections, and condemnations. The other 1896 report is by J.H. Swyney, Sanitary Inspector in the Department of Sanitation, on public schools and kindergartens; the report discusses plumbing and sewer systems. The 1899 report from the Department of Sanitation is for the year 1899 and is by M.E.A. McKechnie, Health Officer and Secretary of the Board of Health. The report has a lengthy narrative preceding the statistical report. The report includes a list of health-related legislation passed during the year, reasons why the Health Officer should not also act as city physician, as specified in the Charter, and a discussion of unsanitary localities and mortality statistics. This report also includes a report by the quarantine inspector and a report on slaughterhouses. Other early reports are an 1896 Plumbing and Market Inspectors report and an 1896 Market Inspectors report. The 1896 Market Inspectors report is statistical and includes numbers for complaints filed, gallons of milk inspected, and pounds of meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables condemned. The second and third reports from the Market Inspector date from 1908 and 1909. The 1908 report is a letter pleading for more space at the Pike Place Market; the 1909 report is one page in length and describes space as “adequate.”
Reports from the sanitary department from 1905 to 1910 do not contain detailed statistics but include information on contagious disease, food and plumbing inspections, care of the sick poor, and, in the 1910 report, expectoration. Reports for the years 1912 to 1916 are very detailed in both the narrative and statistical sections; in cases where both published and unpublished reports exist, both were included. The 1932-1935 report traces most statistics from 1901 to 1935. The 1939-1943 report is a 433-page history and survey of public health in Seattle and includes a brief history of the city and agency histories for the City.
Reports in the 1940s and 1950s include information on venereal disease, dog bites, and statistics on the County as well as the City. In 1942, a separate report exists for Firland Sanatorium. Combined reports for King County and Seattle exist beginning in 1947, prior to the merger. Beginning in 1983, reports are less detailed than those from earlier years. Reports date through 1983, although there is not a report for every year.
Records were originally filed with the City Clerk in the Comptroller/Clerk's Files (CFs) and were removed to create this record series. Additional copies of annual reports for the Health Department are located at the Puget Sound Regional Branch of the Washington State Archives.
Restrictions on Access :
Records are open to the public.Preferred Citation :
[Item and date], Seattle-King County Department of Public Health and Department of Health Annual Reports, Record Series 1802-G6. Box [number], Folder [number]. Seattle Municipal Archives.
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
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.