At 4 cents a mile, you could cross 1889 America in little more than a
week. The country’s second transcontinental railroad—completed in 1883—
carried scores of travelers from the banks of Lake Superior to the shores of
Puget Sound. Washington Territory, once a distant frontier, enticed many
with its temperate rains, majestic mountains and thriving boomtowns.
Elia Peattie, influential journalist of the Gilded Age, boarded the Northern
Pacific in the fall of 1889 when a lumberman promptly warned she’d catch
the Western Fever. The outspoken Peattie had a penchant for cigars and
a fear of boredom. She’d clinched a book deal to document Western life
along the route of the new railroad.
One clear day she visited Seattle.
“The shining peaks of Mounts Tacoma, Baker, Adams, and St. Helens
pierced the bright sky. I added to all this visible beauty the knowledge that
I had of the country adjacent, of the mountain of iron, of the Snoqualmie
Valley, which produces excellent hops, of the forests so dense that the
country within a radius of forty miles of Seattle sends out one-half as much
lumber annually as the States of Wisconsin and Michigan combined, and I
concluded that this was a city any man might be proud to live in.”
Peattie’s travels are noted in Journey through Wonderland, a travel guide
published in 1890. Peattie—one of the first female journalists in Chicago—
died in 1935 of heart failure.