Book Review:
New Land, North of the Columbia: Historic Documents that Tell the Story of Washington from Territory to Today

  • Posted 12/14/2011
  • Essay 9991

By Lorraine McConaghy
Sasquatch Books, Seattle
Hardcover, 153 Pages
Profusely illustrated, citations, and index
ISBN 78-1-57061-693-8

In New Land, North of the Columbia, Dr. Lorraine McConaghy presents the history of Washington state by means of maps, documents, photographs, correspondence, advertisements, posters, and a wide variety of other archival material gathered from around the region. The illustrations are presented in chronological order, allowing the reader to page through the past from Washington’s territorial days to the present.

This book must have been a delight to research. Dr. McConaghy traveled throughout the state, visiting museums, archives, historical societies, and libraries, and then sifting through their collections to find the most intriguing and thought-provoking documents and images. McConaghy has an eye for the type of artifacts that readers will find most compelling and complements these discoveries by providing necessary context and historical information in her descriptions. Her choice of imagery from each era is superb, as is her use of items from different geographical regions along the way. By perusing the book from beginning to end, the reader experiences the depth and breadth of Washington’s past.

Some of the many highlights include

  • A beautiful watercolor of Tumwater Falls, painted in 1846 by Navy Lieutenant James Alden of the U.S. Survey vessel Active;
  •  A collage of business ads from the Puget Sound Directory of 1887;
  •  A page from the 1901 diary of Margaret Ryno, a homemaker in Roslyn;
  •  Newspaper clippings from 1924 detailing the controversy over the naming of Mount Rainier (or Mount Tacoma);
  •  A flyer printed during the Great Depression advocating a hunger march in Spokane;
  •  A pastiche of World War II home front artifacts, including ration coupons and information on growing a victory garden;
  •  A Civil Defense booklet on how to build a fallout shelter;
  •  A full-page ad from Seattle's underground newspaper Helix -- drawn by HistoryLink co-founder Walt Crowley -- showcasing the 1967 Sky River Rock concert;
  • Documents detailing the clean-up of radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The layout and design of the book is of utmost quality. Images seem to jump off the page, especially handwritten letters and drawings that look as though the pencil graphite might still smudge if you rubbed it with your fingers. The illustrations are full-color, and even documents that are stained or yellowed by age appear just as they do in original form.

New Land, North of the Columbia is welcome book for those well-versed in Washington history, or for those new to the state. The images are wonderful, the text is a pleasure to read, and the combination of the two makes this a must-have for anyone interested in the growth and development of the Pacific Northwest.

--By Alan J. Stein, December 14, 2011

Submitted: 12/14/2011

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