The Pacific Northwest Forum
Volume 2, Number 4, Pages 23-24
Joe Peterson teaches at Issaquah High School.
Both the Issaquah Press and at least one Seattle newspaper, the Seattle Star, announced the coming event. On Saturday, July 16, 1924 the Ku Klux Klan promised to "put Issaquah on the map" by attracting the largest crowd in the town's history to view an elaborate public initiation ceremony of new members. Those attending were to be treated to: "stirring, patriotic music," two plays introducing "entertaining speakers," an "impressive ceremony of naturalizing or initiating" in full public view, and finally, a "big display of fireworks, being built specially for this occasion." All "law-abiding citizens" were urged to attend so they might "get first-hand evidence by which they may form their opinions of the Klan."
It appears enormous numbers of people accepted the invitation, for the Issaquah rally, located in a field one mile west of town, was to be the largest held in Washington state. The actual number of spectators and participants is probably impossible to establish, yet conservative reports estimate as many as 13,000 onlookers! The Issaquah Press reported a total of 11,442 cars checked off by mechanical hand-counters and maintained an unlikely figure of 55,000 individuals viewed the initiation ceremonies.
Three months prior to the mass meetings, formal organization of the Issaquah Klan had taken place. While Klansmen had exploded fireworks and burned a fiery cross in conjunction with the town's 4th of July celebration, nothing would rival their coming spectacle of July 26th.
Spectacular it was. A thirty-two piece brass band played while white-robed figures mingled with non-"hoods" in an immense field made "light as day" by huge floodlights. While loudspeakers reverberated with patriotic speeches on "Americanism", a "fiery" electrical cross forty feet high and twenty-seven feet wide dominated the landscape. Even school children were commandeered, presenting a play which introduced still another speaker. "Light refreshments" were available (the Klan platform strongly supported prohibition) while viewing the activities. Deputy sheriffs and state troopers maintained order among the huge peripheral crowd while the local Klan performed their initiation ceremonies for two-hundred and fifty new recruits. And for a climax, one-thousand dollars worth of fireworks were ignited!
An eyewitness, who happened to be driving through Issaquah at the height of the rally, was startled by a scene which included robed Klansmen directing highway traffic so thick that it blocked his exit from town for two hours!
Despite the hoopla and what the local paper deemed a "creditable showing," The Issaquah Klan was short-lived, the July rally apparently being its peak. To put the Issaquah meet into some kind of historical perspective, Klan initiations (Konklovations) were not uncommon occurrences in small towns throughout the Northwest during 1924. In fact, the Seattle P.I. reported a similar spectacle at Chehalis the next night, July 27th. Perhaps what would have been unusual is if Issaquah had not had a Klan during the twenties, for nearly all small towns of the day flirted with the movement.