Spokane Reacts

No city is an island. The major historical events of 20th-century America all had their influences on Spokane.

The exhibits in this tour were created by the students in Dr. Larry Cebula's class, Introduction to Public History, taught at Eastern Washington University in 2019. With the guidance of Anna Harbine, the Johnston-Fix Curator of Archives and Special Collections at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, they explored the museum archives for untold stories. Working as a team, they developed the interpretive theme--Spokane Reacts--researched the stories, chose the images, and wrote the interpretive text. The exhibit is on display in the Joel Ferris Research Room at the museum through 2019.

This tour on Spokane Historical expands some of the stories on those 100-word exhibit panels and tells additional tales that could not fit within the exhibit. Here you will find Spokane reacting to such national events as the Great Depression, the internment of Japanese Americans, and the Civil Rights era. In each case, the story in Spokane is not quite the same as what you read in American history textbooks. Our unique local history and culture have shaped the ways that Spokane reacts.

Carl Maxey vs. The Injustices of Spokane

One of Carl Maxey's earliest memories of fighting was against racism during his childhood. Maxey was adopted and then orphaned and ended up at the Spokane Children's Home in 1933. Maxey remembered that when the orphans took a trip to Camp…

26 Tons of Oddity

The world’s largest Radio Flyer wagon “The Childhood Express” sits in Spokane’s Riverfront Park. It was commissioned by the Junior League of Spokane for the State centennial Celebration of Children in 1989. The plaque reads: “This Sculpture is…

Denny Yasuhara: Community Leader, Activist, and Mentor

Denny Yasuhara was born in Seattle in 1928. His mother died when he was an infant, so he was adopted by friends of the family who lived in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, Thus he escaped the internment camps that most Seattle Japanese were sent to during the…

No Vacancy, Racial Bigotry Raises Its Ugly Head

Before the Civil Right Movements in the 1960s, Jim Crow was the law of the land. Spokane was not exempt from racial segregation. Black Spokanites were restricted to the few restaurants, nightclubs, and hotels that were willing to serve them. Even…

Red Power in Spokane

Red Power was a movement for American Indian rights that began in the 1960s. Nationally, the American Indian Movement (AIM) led a series of national actions and protests, including the storming of the BIA building in Washington D.C., the occupation…

The Timely Tale of Dodson's Jewelers

The pioneers of early Spokane did not live on bread alone. The rough frontier boomtown of the 1880s hosted luxury businesses as well, including Dodson's Jewelers. George Dodson arrived in Spokan Falls in 1888 after his long journey from…

The Collapse of the Division Street Bridge

It was a typical winter morning on December 18, 1915, as two streetcars began to cross the Spokane river via the Division Street bridge. When the cars met on the middle of the bridge, steel girders ripped from the bank. One streetcar hung up on the…

Chasing Civil Liberties

Born at the end of December 1918 in Spokane, Eleanor Barrow Chase was the third-generation of her family to live in the growing city. She attended Lewis and Clark High School and Washington State College. She graduated magna cum laude from Whitworth…

Camp Seven Mile

With unemployment during the Great Depression reaching nearly 25% in Spokane, thousands of young men in the Inland Northwest joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Earning $30 per month, they obtained an education and vocational training while…

The Enduring Mystery of F. Lewis Clark

On the evening of January 17th, 1914, F. Lewis Clark and his wife arrived at the train station in Santa Barbara, California. Rather than joining his wife, Clark helped her board the train and left her with a kiss. Telling his chauffeur to meet him in…

The Burch Brothers Go to War

When the United States entered the First World War in 1917, many young men in Spokane rushed to join the Army and lend their part to the war effort. Three farm boys from Moran Prairie, Walter, Charles, and Ralph Burch, joined the Army but had very…

They Called Him The Sphinx

In the house that once sat on this corner of 1st and Hemlock lived Robert E Strahorn. Few men can be said to have as much influence developing the west as Strahorn. Throughout the 1870s and 80s, he traveled across the Pacific Northwest as the…

This is Insulting to Women

The year is 1973 and upon a shelf in a local bookstore you come across The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. You have just taken your first step into the world of Second Wave Feminism. The 1960s were a turbulent time and here in Spokane. Marion…