At the turn of the 20th-century, expansion abruptly stopped in Spokane, and the population also declined. Local people and organizations lost control of regional mines and resources to national corporations, which diverted capital outside of Spokane and decreased investment and growth opportunities in the city. The stagnation created unrest among the area’s unemployed, who were victimized by “job sharks” who charged fees for signing up workers. It was well known that job sharks and employment agencies would cheat itinerant workers by bribing them to fire entire work crews periodically, generating repeat fees for themselves.
Spokane’s economy became dominated by agriculture and logging after the decline of mining at the turn of the 20th century. In northern Idaho and southern British Columbia, the logging industry was fueled by population growth and homes, railroads, and mines. Spokane became a notable leader in manufacturing doors, window sashes, blinds, and other planning mill products. Despite being overshadowed by large timbered areas west of the Cascades and facing stiff competition from rail freight rates. Spokane had higher rail freight rates than coastal seaport cities such as Seattle and Portland so that Minneapolis merchants could ship first to Seattle and then back to Spokane for less than shipping directly to Spokane, even though the rail line passed through Spokane on the way to the coast.
Below are some fascinating historical photos that will take you back to the 20th century Spokane.
Image shows the Western approach to Spokane, Washington on the Sunset Highway. A red convertible is parked on the side of the road, and a man and woman stand outside of the car looking toward Spokane. Two more women are seated inside the convertible. Spokane can be seen in the distance.