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Seattle City Council Minutes document the official proceedings of the City Council from 1881 to the present. The minutes include meeting dates, members present, and actions taken. They do not record discussion and debate on issues. Minutes are arranged chronologically in volumes. Separate volumes were kept for both Houses during Seattle's experiment with a bicameral council (1890-1896).
Seattle was first incorporated as a town by an act of the Territorial Legislature on January 14, 1865. The act was repealed January 18, 1867, after most of the town's leading citizens petitioned for its dissolution. During this first tenure as an incorporated entity, Seattle was governed by a Board of Trustees. Seattle was again incorporated, this time as a City, on December 2, 1869.
The Seattle City Charter of 1869 provided for a Common Council, to consist of seven members elected at large to terms of one year. An 1883 Charter amendment divided the City into three wards and provided that the Common Council be increased to nine members, elected for two-year terms. In February 1886, the City Charter was further amended to decrease the size of the City Council to eight members and to increase the number of wards to four.
In 1890, a new Freeholders Charter created a bicameral City Council, composed of a Board of Aldermen and a House of Delegates, and increased the number of wards to eight. The nine-member Board of Aldermen was elected at large to four-year terms. The House of Delegates was composed of two members elected from each of the City's eight wards. In 1892, the City Charter was amended to increase the number of wards to nine and provide that one member of each house be elected from each of the City's wards.
The City Council was returned to a single, 13-member body with the adoption of a new Freeholders Charter in 1896. The Charter also provided that in the election of 1898, the City Council would be composed of one member elected to a two-year term from each of the City's nine wards and four at-large members elected to four-year terms.
City Charter amendments adopted in 1910 eliminated the ward system, providing for a City Council of nine members elected at large for three-year overlapping terms and non-partisan elections.
The City Charter was amended at the General Election of March 1946 to provide that elections would be held biennially, Councilmember terms increased to four years, and the President of the Council serving two years. These provisions have remained in effect to this day.
The first set of scanned minutes transferred to the Washington State Digital Archives dates from 1881 to 1901. Additional records will be added for this series as resources allow. The text of Seattle City Council minutes dating from 2001 to the present is available on the Seattle City Clerk’s online resources site at http://clerk.seattle.gov/public/minu1.htm. Other Seattle City Council minutes are available for research on site at the Office of the Seattle City Clerk.
Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], Seattle City Council, Minutes, 1881-1901, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://digitalarchives.wa.gov, [date accessed].
For more information or to learn about related records, contact the Seattle Municipal Archives at archives @seattle.gov or 206 233-7807 or the Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Region Branch at (425) 564-3940 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.