Find of the Month

September 2022 - Official city flower

Seattle Times cartoon

In 1946, momentum was building to name the chrysanthemum as Seattle's official city flower. About 30 local flower and garden clubs had banded together to request the designation and the Board of Park Commissioners favored the move. After discussion at a Harbors and Public Grounds Committee meeting on August 13, Councilmember Mildred Powell asked for an ordinance to be prepared.

However, at some point in the process, it was discovered that the dahlia had already been adopted as the city flower in 1913. The issue was referred back to the committee for further study, with Powell wishing to get further input from the public. The Seattle Times ran a weekslong poll to gauge the public's preferences.

At this point the heartfelt lobbying really kicked in. Proponents of the chrysanthemum, the dahlia, and the rose all wrote to City Council and also to the Times, extolling the virtues of their choice, sometimes at great length. The Times printed frequent updates to their polling results, with the mum taking the early lead, later overtaken by the rose.

Meanwhile, the Tacoma & District Chrysanthemum Society reported that one of their recent meetings had featured "a lengthy discussion" about Seattle's potential designation of that flower. They reminded the council that Tacoma had adopted the chrysanthemum in 1934 (as prominently noted on the society's letterhead) and thought it "did not seem practical" for two neighboring cities to have the same official flower. The letter concluded, "We are of the opinion that a more friendly competition between the flower lovers of our two cities would be maintained if Seattle would forgo the adoption of the Chrysanthemum."

The Times poll closed on October 1, and the paper reported that Councilmember Powell asked for the latest figures before bringing the issue to a vote in the committee. In the end, the Council punted, adopting the official slogan "City of Flowers" rather than choosing a specific species. However, the dahlia ordinance was not repealed, so it quietly remained the city flower despite coming in last in the Times poll.

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