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Bothell, Washington, circa 1938

By Luke Sprague

December 9, 2013

Local history documentation is usually highly valued by those who have a connection to that area and its sense of place.

Often, one of the challenges historical societies face is getting local artifacts and documents inventoried in a professional historic database. This usually involves uniquely identifying and then cataloging each object's unique characteristics and intrinsic historic value.

Sometimes, this means updating the format of that content so that it is available for the next generation of researchers. In this case, one of the projects I worked on for the Bothell (Washington) Historical Society and Museum was the conversion of a video from an older analog format to digital.

Above is an excerpt of that updated video provided courtesy of the Bothell Historical Society of Washington State. 

How did I come to the conclusion that this was likely filmed in or around 1938?

The following pieces of evidence strongly support 1938 as the year of filming:

  1. At 4:15 the price of three "Tall Milks" is 3 for 19 cents and more in line with a late 1930s price for three "Tall Milks" than later or earlier in history.
  2. At 3:19 to 3:30 what appears to be a new car pulls off the Chevrolet dealership lot and goes after the cameraman. The car is a 1938 Chevrolet two-door sedan.
  3. Edited out for length, cars appear with Washington State license plates whose design matches only three possible years of issue: 1938, 1945, or 1949.
  4. No war posters, placards, or announcements appear in any of the storefront windows, this eliminates 1945.

The following also support 1938 as the year of filming, but less so:

  1. At 1:45 to 2:15 the neck ties, vests, and fob watches on the store owners and bankers more closely resemble the late 1930s versus a post-war or 1949 appearance.
  2. At 0:24 the sign on the building states that it is a "Stage Depot" stop. Slightly more likely to be pre-Second World War.

Luke Sprague is a public historian at HistoryMint and manages the nominations to the National Register of Historical Places for Latah County, Idaho. To find about more about what he does during his working hours click here.