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Boeing Field: the Making of Milestones

The Archives just digitized “Boeing Field: the Making of Milestones,” a documentary about King County International Airport, produced by King County around 1990.

Using still photographs with voice-over narration, occasional sound effects, and a musical theme fit for a ’90s action TV show, the video tells us about the history of the airport and gives us an understanding of Boeing Field’s role in the region at the time the video was produced, promoting the airport’s importance to the local economy and its role in bolstering Seattle’s status as a major city.

The video was a timely discovery, as we recently provided a number of historical photographs to the King County International Airport for use in celebration of the Boeing Company’s 100th anniversary.

King County Department of Public Works Airport Division, circa 1990. Office of Information Resource Management: Service Development / Printing and Graphic Arts photographs, audio/visual material. Series 1423, Box 32.


A History of King County International Airport

Starting at 4 minutes and 48 seconds into the video, we learn of Boeing Field’s development from a racetrack (horse racing and automobile racing took place at the Meadows) to an international airport owned and operated by King County.  The brief history highlights Boeing Field’s significance in the aviation industry and during World War II.

A copy of a copy?

“The Making of Milestones” as we see it appears to have been created by video-recording a screen projection of the original, which may have been film or another video format. This version could very well be a third or fourth generation copy. Such copies are frequently all that remains in collections of audio-visual recordings.

The Magnetic Media Crisis and video preservation

Because videotapes are quickly becoming unplayable as their life spans run out (see The Magnetic Media Crisis), digitization was a crucial step toward preservation. We were able to digitize this video thanks to our participation in Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound (MIPoPS).

Early Photographs of Boeing Field

As with videotape copies, the origins of photographs can be murky. Compared with today, cameras in the early 20th Century were uncommon, but reproduction allowed the same image to be acquired by many.


Above: C. K. Hamilton at the Meadows, Seattle, 1910.  Series 400, Department of Transportation, Road Services Division, photograph and moving image files, item 400.77.225 (95-005-1755-N), King County Archives.

Most of the earliest Boeing Field photos in the King County Archives are copies of photos that also exist in other repositories and/or that were created by private parties. King County staff collected these photographs because they documented the airport’s milestones, and in that sense they represent a record of the agency. But we don’t always know their origin.

The above photo of Charles Hamilton, who made Seattle’s first heavier-than-air flight when he flew his bi-plane (first into a pond, and the next day with more success) to entertain crowds at the Meadows, appears in the King County Archives and elsewhere. Although the photograph was not originally created by King County staff, the Archives’ collection includes a negative copy, enabling good-quality reproductions.

More Recent Photographs


Above:  North end of Boeing Field (no date).  Series 400, Department of Transportation Road Services Division, photograph and moving image files, item 400.77.225 (95-005-4387), King County Archives.

Most of the later Boeing Field photographs in the  collection were produced by or for King County to document airport events and facilities, though in some instances individual images may have been collected by staff from other sources.

The above photograph shows Boeing Field when it served as the regional airport for commercial passenger airlines, pre-SeaTac.  The charming employee photo below is from a series of photographs taken in 1979 during the dedication of a new hangar for use by the Federal Aviation Administration.


Above:  [Airport employee] FAA Hangar dedication, 1979.  Series 400, Department of Transportation, Road Services Division, photograph and moving image files, item 400.140.50 (2622), King County Archives.

More on Flickr and at the Archives

More historical photos of Boeing Field are now on our Flickr page. You can also search our collection database or contact us to learn about other records of the King County International Airport, including agency records, historical maps and drawings.

From Boeing Field…to King County Parks


King County Parks program participants: airport departure, circa 1950-1959.  Series 467, Park System, photograph files.  Box 14, folder 5, King County Archives.

The image above serves as a nice segue. Taken at Boeing Field, the photograph is from the King County Park System. We see participants in the County’s program for children with disabilities ready for departure on an airline trip.  In the first week of October, Bytes and Boxes will focus on this innovative Parks program, as we commence our celebration of American Archives Month, for which the Washington State Archives has decreed this year’s theme to be “Washington Loves Parks.”

Look here for more on King County Parks throughout the month of October!

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