As part of the vast Oregon Country, Washington territory was visited by Spanish, American, and British explorersâ€”Bruno Heceta for Spain in 1775, the American Capt. Robert Gray in 1792, and Capt. George Vancouver for Britain in 1792â€“1794. Lewis and Clark explored the Columbia River region and coastal areas for the U.S. in 1805â€“1806.
Rival American and British settlers and conflicting territorial claims threatened war in the early 1840s. However, in 1846 the Oregon Treaty set the boundary at the 49th parallel and war was averted.
Washington is a leading lumber producer. Its rugged surface is rich in stands of Douglas fir, hemlock, ponderosa and white pine, spruce, larch, and cedar. The state holds first place in apples, lentils, dry edible peas, hops, pears, red raspberries, spearmint oil, and sweet cherries, and ranks high in apricots, asparagus, grapes, peppermint oil, and potatoes. Livestock and livestock products make important contributions to total farm revenue and the commercial fishing catch of salmon, halibut, and bottomfish makes a significant contribution to the state's economy.
Manufacturing industries in Washington include aircraft and missiles, shipbuilding and other transportation equipment, lumber, food processing, metals and metal products, chemicals, and machinery.
Washington has over 1,000 dams, including the Grand Coulee, built for a variety of purposes including irrigation, power, flood control, and water storage.
Among the major points of interest: Mt. Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades National Parks. Mount St. Helens, a peak in the Cascade Range, erupted in May 1980. Also of interest are Whitman Mission and Fort Vancouver National Historic Sites; and the Pacific Science Center and the Space Needle, in Seattle.
As of 2013, Washington is the only state where cannabis, same-sex marriage, and assisted suicide are all legal. In 2008, the Washington Death with Dignity Act was passed, allowing legal assisted suicide. In the November 2012 general election, voters upheld Referendum 74, a bill that legalized same-sex marriage in Washington. Also in November 2012, Washington passed Initiative 50, making the sale and possession of marijuana (in limited amounts) for both medical and non-medical purposes legal.
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Selected famous natives and residents:
- Sherman Alexie author;
- Earl Anthony professional bowler;
- Mildred Bailey singer;
- Bob Barker TV host;
- Dyan Cannon actress;
- Raymond Carver writer;
- Carol Channing actress;
- Ray Charles singer and musician;
- Kurt Cobain rock musician;
- Judy Collins singer;
- Chris Cornell rock musician;
- Fred Couples professional golfer;
- Bing Crosby singer and actor;
- Bob Crosby musician;
- Merce Cunningham choreographer;
- Howard Duff actor;
- John Elway football player;
- Frances Farmer actress;
- Kenny G. saxophonist;
- Bill Gates software executive;
- Jimi Hendrix guitarist;
- Frank Herbert writer;
- Robert Joffrey choreographer;
- Chuck Jones animator;
- Quincy Jones music producer;
- Hank Ketcham cartoonist;
- Amanda Knox Italian murder suspect known as "Foxy Knoxy";
- Gary Larson cartoonist;
- Gypsy Rose Lee entertainer;
- Tim Lincecum professional baseball pitcher;
- Kenny Loggins rock musician;
- Mary McCarthy novelist;
- Guthrie McClintic theatrical producer and director;
- John McIntire actor;
- Steve Miller rock musician;
- Robert Motherwell artist;
- Patrice Munsel soprano;
- Craig T. Nelson actor;
- Ella Raines actress;
- Ahmad Rashad football player;
- Ann Reinking dancer and actress;
- Tom Robbins novelist;
- Ann Rule writer;
- Francis Scobee astronaut;
- Hope Solo soccer goalkeeper;
- Seattle Suquamish chief;
- Smohalla Indian prophet and chief;
- Hilary Swank actress;
- Julia Sweeney actress;
- Adam West actor;
- Audrey Wurdemann poet.
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