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Washington State’s Most Unusual Hidden Treasures

News Release
Issued: October 01, 2002

The Washington State Archives today released a list of some of the State’s most unusual hidden treasures. The release is timed with Washington Archives Week, which begins October 5. The national focus on preserving our documentary heritage will provide the public with an opportunity to examine some of Washington’s rare, century-old finds.

“These unusual cases are simply a tiny piece of Washington’s important story,” said Secretary of State Sam Reed. “Much of Washington’s legacy is contained in the archives. These legal and historical records help us understand our past, protect our rights and prepare for the future.”

Highlights from the list of Washington’s most unusual treasures include records from the Canwell Committee, which investigated and blacklisted people in Washington suspected of Communists leanings and attempts to overthrow the government during the 1950s.

Some of Washington’s most unique treasures include:

(Please contact the Secretary of State’s Office at 360.902.4140 to find where specific items are displayed.)


  1. Records of Japanese Internment in 1942 showing that they were not only sending ordinary people of Japanese descent to the camps, they were also removing them from the mental hospitals and prisons.
  2. The Olympic Torch carried through Olympia in 1984.
  3. State Patrol reports on Communist Party activities and their feeble efforts to overthrow the government in the 1930s.
  4. Records of the Canwell Committee, which investigated and black-listed people in Washington suspected of Communists leanings and attempts to overthrow the government during the 1950s.
  5. Two State Constitutions (1878 and 1889), both voted on and approved by the voters.
  6. Panicky telegrams received the day after Pearl Harbor alerting authorities to the expected invasion of Washington by the Japanese.
  7. Two telegrams from U.S. Secretary of State Blaine on November 11, 1889, announcing Washington had become at state. The federal government paid the first. The second was sent collect.
  8. The “Barefoot School-boy Act” in 1895, which mandated basic education be funded by the state.
  9. Walla Walls Jesus Case Files dating back to 1880, describe a case involving the leader of the Eastern Washington religious sect who named his children “Jesus” and “God the Father”.
  10. Photo of John F. Kennedy riding in a motorcade in Seattle in 1962. In the background is a movie theater marquee advertising a movie starring Marilyn Monroe.

The release of the most unusual treasures, timed with National Archives Week, is intended to show the diverse and rare finds kept at archives throughout Washington. It is by no means a list of Washington’s most important documents, though some are included.

Please Note:


  • Archives Week kicks off Saturday with events scheduled throughout the state.

  • Washington state archivist Jerry Handfield will host an open house and behind-the-scenes tour at the State Archives building in Olympia, Saturday, October 5 from 1:30 PM to 4:00 PM.

  • The seven-day celebration will also feature a National Archives workshop Saturday, October 5 in Seattle on the basic techniques of archival preservation for genealogists and family historians.

  • Archivists at state and regional branches will teach classes on genealogy research, Washington history and inform the public how to distinguish and preserve historical photographs and records throughout the week. For more information: http://www.secstate.wa.gov/archives/archives_local.aspx

  • Finally, the Washington State Capital Museum in Olympia will present an interview of Washington’s oldest living pioneer, Fannie Mae Weaver on Wednesday, October 9. Weaver’s memories span from 1845 to 2001 and describe Washington’s territorial and state history. The character of Weaver is played by Lanny Weaver, an employee of the Washington State Archives SW branch.