There is a new tool available for anyone researching life in Issaquah, doing local genealogy, or trying to confirm a fact from the past. Thanks to a generous donation from local philanthropist Skip Rowley, of Rowley Properties, the Issaquah History Museums have made the full archives of The Issaquah Press available online, in a format that is both searchable and free to the user. Interested residents, researchers, and others can view more than 100 years worth of The Issaquah Press via an ArchiveInABox website.
The Issaquah Press started out as The Issaquah Independent, and its first issue was published on January 18, 1900. The weekly newspaper played a critical role as observer and recorder of events in Issaquah and the surrounding area. As Issaquah changed from a booming coal-mine town to a quiet farming community, and then to a growing suburb of Seattle, The Issaquah Press captured the stories and images that made Issaquah unique. Many local businesses, organizations, and individuals can trace important events in their development through the pages of the Press. When the Press closed up shop in February 2017, it was universally mourned.
In March 2018, the Seattle Times donated the full collection of Issaquah Press back issues to the Issaquah History Museums. Each of the 184 volumes consist of several years worth of newspapers bound together within a hardbound cover. Each volume is roughly two feet high and a foot wide. Lacking sufficient space at the Gilman Town Hall, we rented climate-controlled storage space to accommodate the collection.
Once the back issues were appropriately stored, staff began planning for a complete digitization. Selected issues of The Issaquah Press were digitized by a company called Smalltown Papers in the early 2000s. However, more than half of the Issaquah Press collection remained inaccessible — unless the prospective researcher was willing to use an aged microfilm reader paired with microfilm created in the 1980s.
In December 2018, Skip Rowley pledged to cover the cost of digitizing the remaining half of undigitized Press issues. Once the project was funded, Digital Archives Specialist Kris Ikeda began shipping bound Issaquah Press volumes to a digitization facility in Frederick, Maryland for processing. Digitization of the remaining Issaquah Press issues took 8 months, during which time 3,311 editions (consisting of 43,513 pages) were scanned.
Note that a small percentage of the Issaquah Press remains lost. Issues between 1900 and 1907, and between 1911 and 1918, are missing, their bound volumes lost sometime before the Press was microfilmed in the early 1980s. When you’re researching a particular topic, it can often feel like everything interesting that ever happened in Issaquah occurred during those gaps. We are always on the lookout for Issaquah Press issues that fall into these gaps. I try to keep a half-glass full attitude, and remain grateful for the thousands of issues, documenting more than 100 years, that do exist.
Ready to dive into Issaquah’s past? Follow this link to our ArchiveInABox site, where you can browse, search, and read through our community’s stories.