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Treasures of the Archives: Spokane County Records Survey

Photographic Print of the Spokane County Courthouse where many of the records listed in the Spokane County Records Survey were held.

Spokane County Courthouse, 1895-1905, General Subjects Photograph Collection, 1845-2005, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, https://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/.

The Great Depressions eliminated jobs across the country in every field from coal mining to journalism, leaving a quarter of the workforce unemployed. In an effort to rebuild the economy, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration, a part of the New Deal, to put folks back to work. One WPA initiative was the Federal Writers Project, which employed researchers and writers to collect oral histories, write travel guides, and inventory archival repositories.

The Historic Records Survey, a branch of the Federal Writers Project, conducted an extensive survey of archival records in many Washington State counties. The surveys are surprisingly in-depth and thorough, and they provide a window into the archives of the past. They were completed for Spokane, Yakima, Lewis, Adams, Benton, Asotin, Skagit, and Pend Oreille counties but it appears that the project (and the depression) ended before all Washington counties could be finished.

This survey for Spokane County, completed in 1941, includes a historical sketch of the county, organizational charts of the county government, followed by listings of records held in county archives. They include records from the County Board of Education, the Election Board, the Sheriff's Office, the County Welfare Board, and even the Sheep Inspector. The listings identify specific records by title and give a brief description of the record including its size. Dive into the archives of the past by flipping through this 620 page document from the comfort of your home, but unfortunately, only Spokane County is available on the Digital Archives.

https://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/Record/View/3B98CCEB653B199E23C2548BA6BECD04