- Mitchell, Hugh B. (Hugh Burnton), 1907-1996
- Views of the Grand Coulee Dam, Columbia Basin Project, Washington
- 1933-1937 (inclusive)19331937
- 49 photographic prints (1 box) ; 8 x 10 in.
- Collection Number
- Photographs of the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam, 1933-1937.
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
- Access Restrictions
Entire collection can be viewed on the Libraries' Digital Collections website. Permission of Visual Materials curator is required to view originals. Contact Special Collections for more information.
Biographical NoteReturn to Top
Hugh Burton Mitchell was a liberal Democrat who represented Washington state in the United States Senate and House of Representatives during the 1940s and 1950s. His Congressional career was intermittent due to election defeats, but during these decades when he was not in Congress he stayed involved in public policy through lobbying, economic research, and public relations. Mitchell spent much of his time, both in Congress and independently, campaigning for a federal Columbia Valley Authority to manage hydroelectric power, and was heavily involved in other Pacific Northwest development issues.
Mitchell was born in 1907 in Great Falls, Montana, where he grew up, then attended Dartmouth College from 1926 to 1929. After graduation, Mitchell worked as a reporter, first for the Great Falls Ledger, then for the Everett News in 1931.
Mitchell’s Congressional career began in 1933 when he became the executive assistant to Representative Monrad C. Wallgren, whom he stayed with until 1944 when Wallgren became Governor of Washington. When Wallgren resigned from the Senate in January of 1945, Mitchell was appointed to take his place and served for two years, but lost in his 1946 Democratic campaign to retain his seat. As a Senator, Mitchell was involved in legislative attempts to ease the transition to a peacetime economy, and introduced legislation to create a Columbia Valley Authority, modeled on the New Deal’s Tennessee Valley Authority, that would build a series of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River to produce public power. Mitchell’s desire to develop public, rather than private power also manifested itself in his campaign to develop hydroelectric facilities at Hell’s Canyon. Here he pushed for a higher, public dam instead of smaller, private dams. To fund public investment, he advocated a graduated net income tax at State Development. During his Senate tenure, Mitchell served on the following committees: Interstate Commerce, Banking and Currency, National Defense, Investigating, and Mines and Mining.
After losing his Senate election, Mitchell organized the League for Columbia Valley Authority and served as its president, conducting economic research and public relations. During the period from 1947 to 1948 while he served the League, Mitchell also founded Hugh B. Mitchell, Inc., Northwest Development Counsel, which was an industrial development and political consulting firm.
In 1948, Mitchell re-entered Congress when Washington’s first Congressional district (which at the time included most of Kitsap and King counties, including Seattle) elected him to the House of Representatives, then re-elected him in 1950. In the House Mitchell became known as a prolific bill writer, and in 1948, 1949, and 1950 campaigned for a Marshall Plan for Asia. Liberty Magazine cited him as one of its “Ten Honest Politicians” from the 82nd Congress. In the House he was a member of the Rules, Banking and Currency, and Labor and Education committees.
In 1952, Mitchell campaigned unsuccessfully for governor, then lost Congressional races in 1954 and 1958. Smear attacks on Mitchell during the McCarthy era began in 1950 when during the primary campaign a Seattle city council member suggested he was a Communist. His opponent in the 1952 gubernatorial election, Arthur Langlie, also leveled the same charge in what many observers called a dirty campaign. After his Congressional election loss in 1954 which featured more campaign smear tactics, Mitchell sued his opponent, Tom Pelly, for conspiracy to libel. The two settled out of court for $7,500 in what Mitchell called a “moral victory.”
In 1953, after losing his campaign for governor, Mitchell began working for Alaska Van and Storage Company, which was affiliated with Martin Van Lines of Seattle. He also served as a director of two Seattle manufacturing companies, and was the director of the Hell’s Canyon Association. He died in 1996 at the age of 89.
Historical BackgroundReturn to Top
Construction on the Grand Coulee Dam in east central Washington occurred from 1933 to 1942 as part of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. The dam is 168 m (550 ft.) high and 1,592 m (5,223 ft.) long and impounds Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake (243 km/151 miles long). It is used for flood control, river regulation, irrigation, and power production; its hydroelectricity-generating capacity, which totals nearly 6,500 MW, makes it one of the world's greatest hydroelectric installations. The Grand Coulee Dam makes possible the Columbia Basin Project, the largest single reclamation project ever created in the United States. In all, the project area of over 2,500,000 acres is roughly twice the size of the state of Delaware. The total includes 333 miles of main canals, 3,498 miles of drains and waste-ways, and four large dams besides the Grand Coulee. In addition, there is an enormous pump-generating plant near the Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake (the reservoir formed by Grand Coulee Dam).
The first water was spilled over the Grand Coulee Dam, on June 1, 1942, making it the largest concrete dam in North America. Nine years earlier, on July 16, 1933, the first stake was driven into place, initiating the construction of this immense project. When Franklin Roosevelt's New Dealers began the Columbia Basin Project in 1933, they hoped to create a "Planned Promised Land," where displaced Dust Bowl refugees would find homes on small farms of about 80 acres each. Before any of the land received water, however, World War II and the rapid changes that it brought altered this vision. The Columbia Basin Project, as it emerged in the 1940s and 1950s, differed from the blueprint drawn two decades earlier. The changes continued into the 1980s and 1990s.
The power and the irrigation provided by the Columbia Basin Project make it an important element in the West's economy. Grand Coulee Dam is famous because of the electricity it has generated since 1942, and it is a popular attraction, visited by thousands annually.
Content DescriptionReturn to Top
This collection consists of photographs of the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam from 1933-1937.
Use of the CollectionReturn to Top
Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries for details.
Administrative InformationReturn to Top
Donated by Hugh B. Mitchell.
Processed by Jill M. Dalager, 2003.
Collection title taken from album title page.
The photographs were originally bound together with post-binding to make an album. The album was taken apart, but the order of photographs has been retained. The item numbers correspond to the page number of the former album.
Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top
Names and SubjectsReturn to Top
- Building sites--Washington (State)--Grand Coulee Dam Region--Photographs
- Concrete construction--Washington (State)--Grand Coulee Dam Region--Photographs
- Dam construction--Washington (State)--Grand Coulee Dam Region--Photographs
- Dams--Washington (State)--Photographs
- Hydroelectric power--Washington (State)
- Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)
- Mitchell, Hugh B. (Hugh Burnton), 1907-1996--Photographs
- Columbia Basin Project (U.S.)--Photographs
- Columbia River Valley--Photographs
- Columbia River--Photographs
- Grand Coulee Dam (Wash.)--Photographs