Rising Tides and Tailwinds

The Story of the Port of Seattle, 1911-2011

Kit Oldham and Peter Blecha

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  • $20.00s hardcover (9780295991313) Add to Cart
  • Published: 2011
  • Subject Listing: History / Western History; Pacific Northwest / History
  • Bibliographic information: 128 pp., 195 color illus., 10 x 10 in.
  • Published with: Port of Seattle
  • Contents

A century ago Seattle was held hostage by its own waterfront. Competing railroad companies built a chaotic sprawl of railroad lines, docks, and warehouses along the shoreline of the great natural harbor of Elliott Bay, creating conditions so bad that visionary civic planner Virgil Bogue called the harbor side "a blot on the city and a menace to the lives of its people."

After many years of unproductive bickering and lawsuits, the Port District Act was passed making the Port of Seattle the first public port formed under legislation. The newly public port proved its worth during World War I, when it briefly became the second busiest in the country. In succeeding decades, the Port excelled in projects that would have been nearly impossible for private companies; it met the challenges of the Depression, founded Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, helped revolutionize containerized cargo, and generated tens of thousands of jobs. Entering its second century, the Port is a recognized leader in environmental restoration, sustainable aviation, and shipping practices.
Kit Oldham is a historian at and co-author of Moving Washington Timeline: The First Century of the Washington State Department of Transportation, 1905-2005. Peter Blecha is the author of six books and a historian and editor at

Birth of the Port
Building an Institution
Boom and Bust
Into the Jet Age
Revolution and Recession
Competition and Expansion
Green Gateway

Appendix A: Port of Seattle Commisioners
Appendix B: Port of Seattle Directors/CEOs
Appendix C: Port of Seattle Union Partners
A Note on Sources

Image Credits

"Rising Tides features plenty of colorful actors, from fiery longshore-union leader Harry Bridges to railroad mogul James J. Hill. . . . This is Seattle history from another angle.'."
-Mike Dillon, City Living, October 2011