Podcast | When saboteurs planted an explosion at Seattle’s port

In 1915, Germany wanted to keep the United States from joining World War I. Knute Berger explains how the fight came to the Northwest.

The Seattle Times’ front page on the day after the explosion in 1915

The Seattle Times’ front page on the day after the explosion in 1915. (Courtesy of The Seattle Times)

In the years leading up to World War I, Germany and its sympathizers tried to prevent the United States from entering the conflict. An intricate network of spies and saboteurs attempted to sway public opinion as well as interrupt shipments of war materiel at U.S. ports.

Seattle was not immune to these forces. In the wee hours of May 30, 1915, a scow packed with dynamite near Harbor Island lit up the skies. The blast marked the beginning of an era of anti-German sentiment; the Espionage Act; and, of course, the U.S.’s eventual involvement in both world wars. 

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Crosscut’s resident historian Knute Berger blew open this history in a recent episode of the Mossback’s Northwest video series, but there is much more to the story.

In this episode of Mossback, Berger joins co-host Stephen Hegg to discuss the murky details of this gigantic explosion in Seattle, the geopolitical context surrounding it, similar efforts by German saboteurs across the U.S. at that time, and the way these pre-war histories are remembered—and forgotten.

About the Hosts

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.

Stephen Hegg

Stephen Hegg

Stephen is formerly a senior video producer at Crosscut and KCTS 9. He specialized in arts and culture.