Washington’s official nickname is The Evergreen State, Senate declares

Wilson bill corrects 130-year-old mistake

OLYMPIA – The Washington Senate voted unanimously Monday to declare the state nickname to be The Evergreen State – about 130 years after everyone assumed it already had.

“We caught this nickname problem in the nick of time,” said Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview. “Imagine what might have happened if anyone realized we hadn’t made it official and snuck a bill through the Legislature. We might be The Slush and Drizzle State today. If this bill passes, we won’t have to worry about that anymore.”

The Senate voted 49-0 for Wilson’s bill, SB 5595, and it now moves to the House for further consideration.

The nickname may not be official, but it dates from early statehood. The earliest known usage was in an 1890 promotional booklet by Seattle real estate broker Charles Tallmadge Conover, titled “Washington the Evergreen State and Seattle its Metropolis.”

In 1893, Gov. John McGraw used the phrase in his inaugural address, and newspapers reported passage of a resolution in the state Senate declaring The Evergreen State the state’s official nickname. The term was promoted heavily later that year at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where Washington state hosted a pavilion.

Today the nickname is in common usage, and has been utilized for everything from license plates to the state quarter, even the name of a state college on the outskirts of Olympia.

In brief remarks on the Senate floor, Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, observed that the newspapers were probably correct in 1893 when they reported the passage of a resolution – but no one in the Senate or the State Archives can find a record of it anywhere. Possibly it was mis-filed.

Wilson noted Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, attempted to correct the oversight with another bill in 2009, but the measure did not reach the Senate floor.

“By declaring Washington to be The Evergreen State, we tell the world that our state remains green all year long,” Wilson said. “How do you do that? You add water and love.”