Settlers first arrived in 1851 moving to what is now the historic Pioneer Square district, where a protected deep-water harbour was available. This village was soon named Seattle, after a local Indian leader named Sealth who had befriended the settlers.
The new town’s main source of income came from a local lumber mill followed by the discovery of coal near Lake Washington in the 1870s. The creation of a transcontinental railroad terminus station at nearby Tacoma led to a massive surge in the town's population in the late 1880s. Other industries started to flourish such as fishing, shipbuilding, and shipping. A fire in the city in 1889 led to extensive municipal improvements and the construction of brick and steel buildings that were grander than before.
In 1897, the discovery of gold along and near the Klondike River in Canada's Yukon Territory and in Alaska inspired another boom in Seattle. In the early 1900s, improved rail links reinforced the city's position as a trade and shipping center, particularly with Asia and the North Pacific.
Migrants flowed into the city. There were significant communities of Italians, Chinese, Jews, Scandinavians and Filipinos. The International District, home to several Asian ethnic groups, was largely developed during this period.
World War I boosted the city's shipbuilding industry, but the Depression of the 1930s hit Seattle hard before World War II helped to rejuvenate the shipyards once again.
After the war, the arrival of Boeing has been closely tied to the city’s fortunes. More recently, high-technology firms as Microsoft, the city’s growing political strength and the expansion of air and sea trade with Asia, Alaska, and the North Pacific has further Seattle’s optimism and success.