Seattle City Light Advertising Scrapbooks, 1954-1974

Overview of the Collection

Seattle City Light
Seattle City Light Advertising Scrapbooks
1954-1974 (inclusive)
4 volumes
Collection Number
Scrapbooks containing newspaper, magazine, and other advertisements from Seattle City Light.
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.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

Seattle 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 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. Both public and private power were supplied to Seattle until 1951 when the City purchased the private electrical power supply operations, making the Lighting Department the sole supplier. 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. The current name of the agency was adopted in 1978 when the Department was reorganized.

Seattle City Light's advertising during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s reflected the company's desire to publicize not only the benefits of electric light, heat, and appliances powered by City Light energy, but also to advertise the city itself. City Light advertisements presented Seattle as "the Electric City," where, in the 1950s, rates were less than half the national average.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of five scrapbooks of newspaper, magazine, and other advertisements publicizing Seattle City Light, products and appliances, developments in hydroelectric power, and the city of Seattle itself. Products and services advertised include electric stoves, water heaters, air conditioning, and heat; dishwashers and dryers, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, appear frequently in advertisements. Ads for the "Medallion Home Symbol" are also common. The symbol indicated that a home had been inspected by Seattle City Light and met certain standards for lighting and appliances. City Light advertised its 24-hour repair service and even its Home Economics Department, intended to "help customers realize the full benefits of modern electric living." Local businesses were often spotlighted to display the advantages of electric kitchens or outdoor lighting. Special events, such as the Century 21 Exposition, the opening of the Gorge Dam on the Skagit River, and the Seattle Home Show, also figure prominently in City Light advertisements.

While advertisements in the 1950s and 1960s focus on the low rates and high power consumption enjoyed by Seattle citizens, rate increases, warnings about overconsumption, and energy conservation tips appear more frequently in later advertisements. 1970s advertisements reflect growing awareness of diversity and include sponsored ads for Black History Month (detailing the lives of prominent African-American leaders) and promoting City Light's equal opportunity hiring practices.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Item, date and volume number], Seattle City Light Advertising Scrapbooks, Record Series 1201-03. Seattle Municipal Archives.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Advertisements are arranged chronologically in scrapbooks.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

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

Seattle City Light Advertising Scrapbooks, 1954-1974Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Scrapbook [I] (and loose posters/advertisements)
Scrapbook II
Scrapbook III
Scrapbook IV
Scrapbook V

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Advertising--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Electric heating--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Electric lighting--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Electric power--Conservation--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Water-power--Washington (State)--Seattle

Corporate Names

  • Seattle City Light
  • Century 21 Exposition (1962 : Seattle, Wash.)

Geographical Names

  • Seattle (Wash.).

Form or Genre Terms

  • Advertisements
  • Clippings