Seattle City Light Employee Scrapbooks, 1874-1959

Overview of the Collection

Park, Thomas (b.1894)
Seattle City Light Employee Scrapbooks
1874-1959 (inclusive)
1932-1959 (bulk)
3 volumes
Collection Number
Scrapbooks assembled by a City Light employee, containing photographs, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera related to the organization and its employees.
Seattle Municipal Archives
Seattle Municipal Archives
Office of the City Clerk
City of Seattle
PO Box 94728
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2062337807
Fax: 2063869025
Access Restrictions

Records are open to the public.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

City Light provides electricity and electrical and conservation services to its public and private customers. It is the largest public utility in the Pacific Northwest. Public responsibility for electrical energy dates to 1890 with the creation of the Department of Lighting and Water Works. In 1902, Seattle voters passed a bond issue to develop hydroelectric power on the Cedar River under the administration of the Water Department; electricity from this development began to serve Seattle in 1905. A City Charter amendment in 1910 created the Lighting Department. Under the leadership of Superintendent James D. Ross, the department developed the Skagit River hydroelectric project, which began supplying power in 1924. Ross, sometimes called the “Father of City Light,” developed the vision of extensive hydroelectric projects that guided the department for decades.

Both public and private power were supplied to Seattle until 1951 when voters approved a buyout of the private electrical power supply operations. This made the City’s Lighting Department the sole supplier of the City’s electricity. The department continued to build and expand facilities through the 1950s and 1960s. The Boundary Project in northeastern Washington began operations in 1967 and supplied over half of City Light's power generation. By the early 21st century, approximately ten percent of City Light's income came from the sale of surplus energy to customers in the Northwest and Southwest with the remainder of City Light's financial support coming from customer revenue. Droughts in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as increasing environmental awareness, led to a new emphasis on conservation. City Light began offering free energy audits, as well as financial incentives for using energy-efficient appliances and systems. The current name of the agency was adopted in 1978 when the Department was reorganized.

City Light employee Thomas Park assembled these three scrapbooks. Park was born in 1894 and worked for the City of Seattle for 37 years. He worked briefly for the Fire Department and the Department of Streets and Sewers before moving to City Light, where he spent the bulk of his career until his retirement in 1959. Park edited the City Light News from 1936 to 1945.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The three volumes contain photographs, employee newsletters, correspondence, clippings, brochures, departmental memoranda, and other material. The majority of the items are related to Seattle City Light activities and employees, although some seem to relate to Mr. Park’s personal interests. There is a fair amount of material relating to J.D. Ross, especially from around the time of his death in 1939. While there are a few early items, the bulk of the material is from the late 1930s through the 1950s. Each scrapbook is described in more detail below.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Item, date, and volume number], Seattle City Light Scrapbooks, Record Series 1201-08. Seattle Municipal Archives.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Seattle City Light Employee Scrapbooks, 1874-1959Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Scrapbook 1
This volume contains a wide variety of materials, including photographs, clippings, brochures, publications, organizational charts, newsletters, and speeches. Photographs are mainly employee portraits and depictions of City Light facilities and equipment. Items of note include a 22-year series of City Light Employees’ Association membership cards, editorials and tributes to J.D. Ross written after his death, and a 1937 booklet called “The Romance of City Light,” originally published in the Seattle Star.
Scrapbook 2
Volume 2 also holds a diverse assortment of items, including photographs, employee newsletters, clippings, correspondence, brochures, memoranda, speeches, manuscripts, union information, and forms. Photographs document employee gatherings, City Light projects and facilities, and employees at work. Some items of interest include a 1956 map of electric power plants in the Northwest, the City’s loyalty oath and a list of organizations designated to be subversive, and a file of employees’ personal memories of J.D. Ross collected after his death in 1939.
Scrapbook 3
The bulk of this volume consists of photographs of individual employees, most identified, and some of whom are in WWII military uniforms. Many of these photos are indexed in the front of the book. Other photos depict employee picnics and parties, the 1909 City Light & Water baseball team, City Light facilities, and crowds at the funeral of J.D. Ross. Also in this volume are clippings, correspondence, newsletters, brochures, and a postcard with an 1874 view of Seattle.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Electric power--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Employees--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Public utilities--Washington (State)--Seattle

Personal Names

  • Ross, J. D. (James Delmage), 1872-1939

Corporate Names

  • Seattle City Light

Geographical Names

  • Seattle (Wash.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Clippings
  • Photographic prints
  • Scrapbooks

Other Creators

  • Corporate Names
    • Seattle City Light (creator)