What do you call someone from Spokane? A Spokanite, of course.

Words like Spokanite and Seattleite are called demonyms. They are convenient descriptors that are often touted with a sense of pride. Spokanite has been widely used to identify residents of the city for over 130 years, since before Washington became a state and even before the “Falls” was dropped from the city’s name. A search of newspaper databases and Google Books returned an abundance of hits for Spokanite with the first coming from the 1880s. A couple of the earliest occurrences stood out.

The Washington Standard, November 26, 1886

The Washington Standard was one of the first newspapers to publish the word Spokanite. On November 26, 1886, the newspaper reported that the city of Spokane Falls had won back the county seat of Spokane County, after having it stolen away just six years earlier. The short, sixty-three word article recounts a defining moment in the history of the county and purposefully uses demonyms to differentiate the two parties involved: Cheneyites and Spokanites.

Patent Image of Boyle’s Saluting Device

The earliest occurrence of Spokanite on Google Books is from ten years later. The American Stationer, a magazine focused on the stationary and “fancy goods” businesses, used the word in March of 1896. The publication ran a feature about a peculiar invention from a Spokane man named James Boyle, whom they identified as a Spokanite. The invention, a “Saluting Device,” allowed a hat-wearer to automatically tip their hat in salute by simply bowing their head. At the turn of the century, it was expected for men to tip their hat as a sign of respect. According to the article, this device was “intended to relieve the wearer from the labor of lifting his hat.” Boyle received a patent for the invention but, unlike the word Spokanite, his Saluting Device did not catch on.

Share with your friends: