Archives West Finding Aid
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Seattle City Light Public Power Speeches and Radio Presentations, 1932-1938
Overview of the Collection
- Seattle City Light
- Seattle City Light Public Power Speeches and Radio Presentations
- 1932-1938 (inclusive)19321938
- 0.4 cubic foot, (1 box)
- Collection Number
- Radio talks and public presentations related to public power.
Seattle Municipal Archives
Seattle Municipal Archives
Office of the City Clerk
City of Seattle
PO Box 94728
- Access Restrictions
Records are open to the public.
- Funding for processing this record series was provided through a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
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 back to 1890 with creation of the Department of Lighting and Water Works. The formulation of this public utility stemmed from fear of monopolization by private companies and was reinforced by the inadequacy of those companies during the Great Fire of 1889. Unable to gain access to private water, much of the business district was burned to the ground. Citizens responded eagerly to the idea of publicly owned water and electricity, which was later encouraged as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s.
In 1902, Seattle voters passed a bond issue to develop hydroelectric power on the Cedar River under the administration of the Water Department. This was the nation's first municipally owned hydroelectric project. Electricity from this development began to serve customers in Seattle in 1905. A City Charter amendment in 1910 created the Lighting Department, making it a full member of the City's Board of Public Works. Under the leadership of Superintendent James D. Ross, the department developed the Skagit River hydroelectric project which began supplying power in 1924 with the completion of the Gorge Dam.
Both public and private power was supplied to Seattle until 1951 when the City purchased the local private electrical power company, the Puget Sound Power and Light Company, 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 remainder of City Light's financial support comes from customer revenue.
The current name of the agency was adopted in 1978 when the department was reorganized. As a municipally owned public power system, Seattle City Light is governed by elected Seattle officials. Administrative authority rests with the Superintendent and an executive team that includes the department's Chief of Staff, Service and Energy Delivery Officer, Human Resources Officer, Power Supply and Environmental Affairs Officer, and Chief Financial Officer. City Light is responsible for electrical service and streetlight service, streetlight problems, and also conservation, both residential and commercial/industrial.
City Light provides low-cost, reliable, and environmentally responsible electric power to approximately 395,000 customers in Seattle and neighboring areas, including Burien, Lake Forest Park, Normandy Park, Renton, SeaTac, Shoreline, Tukwila, and unincorporated King County. It is the ninth-largest public power system in the United States and has the lowest rates among comparably sized cities in the United States.
Content DescriptionReturn to Top
The series consists of radio talks and public presentations related to the benefits of public power and the merger of Seattle City Light with a private power company, Puget Sound Power and Light.
Approximately half of the series is comprised of transcripts from a regular radio program sponsored by the Friends of City Light during 1936-1937. City Light Superintendent J.D. Ross was a principal speaker on these programs. From July through September 1936, the show was broadcast Monday through Friday; beginning in October, it changed to a weekly program. Ross' early presentations generally were given over to explaining the work of New Deal programs and agencies such as the Bonneville Power Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Rural Electrification Administration. He also extolled the virtues of publicly owned power. In 1937 most of the programs were focused on explaining the benefits of the proposed merger with PSPL. In those presentations, the speakers were generally City Light managers or citizens sympathetic to public power - all representing Ross' viewpoint. In these programs, the speakers never used the name of the PSPL, but rather referred to it simply as the Company.
The second part of the series is comprised of speeches that Ross gave throughout the country. The subject matter is almost exclusively about the financial benefits of public power and the close relationship between City Light and the Bonneville Power Administration.
Use of the CollectionReturn to Top
[Item and date], City Light Public Power Speeches and Radio Presentations, Record Series XXXX-XX. Box [number], Folder [number]. 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.
1201-14: Seattle City Light Public Power Speeches and Radio Presentations, 1932-1938Return to Top
Friends of City Light. Educational Radio Talks (July)
Friends of City Light. Educational Radio Talks (August)
Friends of City Light. Educational Radio Talks (September)
Friends of City Light. Educational Radio Talks (Oct. - Dec.)
Friends of City Light. Educational Radio Talks (Jan. - Mar.)
Friends of City Light. Educational Radio Talks. Musical Interlude (September)
Friends of City Light. Educational Radio Talks. Talks for Foreign Language Speakers (Jan. - Mar.)
Friends of City Light. Educational Radio Talks. Talks for Foreign Language Speakers (Apr. - Jun.)
Friends of City Light. Educational Radio Talks. Talks for Foreign Language Speakers (Jul. - Dec.)
Reasons for the Acquisition of the Private Power Company's Holdings in King County. By J.D. Ross (Dec. 28)
Power in the Northwest. By J.D. Ross (Oct. 20)
The Romance of Power. [Remote Radio Broadcast from the Skagit] (Aug. 19)
Who is a Liar? Your City Searchlight or J.D. Ross? By J.D. Ross
How Long is the Yardstick. By J.D. Ross (Feb. 25)
Municipal Ownership and Its Relation to the Farmer and the Northwest. By J.D. Ross (Sep. 17)
Questions and Answers on the Merger of the Pubet Sound Power and Light Company with City Light. City Light Employee Association (Nov. 20)
Address to the City Light Employees Association. By J.D. Ross (Nov. 21)
The Need, the Scope, and the Objectives of the Organization [City Light Employees Association]. By William Lewis (Feb. 13)
Practiciability of Public Ownership. By Glen H. Smith (Aug. 20)
City, State, and Federal Relations and the Production of Electrical Power. By Glen H. Smith (Aug. 24)
Public Power--Its Financing and Its Advantages. By J. D. Ross (Dec. 5)
[Fair Price to Purchase Property of Puget Sound Power and Light Company]. J.D. Ross to the Honorable Mayor and City Council (Dec. 28)
Correlation of the Federal Power Plants at Bonneville and Coulee with the Municipal Plant of Seattle on the Skagit Rive and the Municipal Plants of Tacoma and Other Cities. By J. D. Ross
State Regulation, So-Called.
Disposition of Public Power from Federal, Municipal and District Plants. By J.D. Ross (Feb. 2)
The Security and Exchange Commission and Its Work. By J.D. Ross (Mar. 31)
Bonneville and the Northwest. By J.D. Ross (Nov. 12)
Power Future of the Northwest. By J.D. Ross (Dec. 11)
Memorandum of Public Rate Hearings--Bonneville Project. J.D. Ross (Mar. 26)
Names and SubjectsReturn to Top
- Electric utilities--Washington (State)--Seattle
- Public utilities--Washington (State)--Seattle
- Ross, J. D. (James Delmage), 1872-1939
- Seattle City Light
- Puget Sound Power and Light Company
- Seattle (Wash.). Dept. of Lighting
- Seattle (Wash.). Lighting Dept.
- Seattle (Wash.)
Form or Genre Terms
- Speeches, addresses, etc.