Throwback Thursday: Exploring 100 Years of UW Press History

UPW-Logo-2015It’s Throwback Thursday (#TBT) on the University Press Week blog tour. The fourth annual University Press Week of the American Association of University Presses (AAUP) continues all week (November 8-14, 2015). The University of Washington Press and more than forty other presses are participating in this year’s blog tour, which highlights the continuing value and relevance of university presses in academia and the world at large: Project MUSE celebrates its 20th anniversary. University of Minnesota Press highlights materials for its 90th birthday. University of Chicago Press throws back with a letter from 1991, the year the PDF was founded. University of Manitoba Press pulls from their 48 years of publishing. Duke University Press showcases surprising journal covers. University of Texas Press looks back through the lens of street photographer Mark Cohen. University of Michigan Press explores the evolution of their book Michigan Trees. University Press of Kansas ties in relevant books with “Today in History.” Minnesota Historical Society Press features Mike Evangelist’s Downtown: Minneapolis in the 1970s. University of California Press reflects on the 2010 publication of Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1. University of Toronto Press Journals looks at cover designs over the years. Fordham University Press takes a trip through NYC’s unbuilt subway system.

Since 2015 marks the kickoff of our centenary celebrations, our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) contribution to the #UPWeek blog tour offers a brief history of the University of Washington Press through highlights from each decade. Happy 100 years, UW Press!


The University of Washington Press traces its origins to the first book published by the university, Edmund Meany’s Governors of Washington, Territorial and State in 1915. Five years later, the University of Washington Press publishes The Poems of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, edited by Frederick M. Padelford, under its own imprint.



In the 1930s, UW Press launches several monograph series on subjects in the physical sciences, including geology, mathematics, and botany.


Dr. William M. Read (left), UW professor of classics, is appointed the press’s first formal director in 1943. Dr. Erna Gunther (right), UW anthropology professor, publishes the influential Ethnobotany of Western Washington, based on research conducted in the 1930s in collaboration with Northwest tribes. The book is still in print and is UW Press’s longest active title.



Raymond V. Allen, UW president

In 1950 the press is established as a separate organization of the university and  is given a de facto charter:

The University Press. . . will be interested in all contributions to knowledge and in manuscripts of scholarly specialization. . . whether written by members of the various faculties or by qualified persons outside the University.


By the late 1950s, the press starts publishing its first popular trade books such as Creating with Paper by Pauline Johnson, a UW professor of art education, and begins using its own logo.

In 1963 Don Ellegood (left), former director of Louisiana State University Press, is hired as UW Press director by UW president Charles Odegaard with a mandate to modernize and expand the press. The press hires Charles Cunningham as editor in chief and Audrey Meyer (right) as art director.


In 1965 the press committee, made up of some of the Northwest’s leading intellectual luminaries, urges Don Ellegood to develop a robust Asian studies list. The same year Bill Holm’s Northwest Coast Indian Art is published and the press adopts a new logo.

Two years later, the press publishes the bestselling Pictorial Anatomy of the Cat by Stephen G. Gilbert, part of a number of successful veterinary dissection books. Since 1967, the book has gone through 12 printings and is a classic laboratory manual.

In 1973 the press publishes a paperback edition of America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan, the first book in what becomes an influential Asian American studies list.



UW Press staff, c. mid-1970s. Standing (left to right): Dick Barden, Ted (Charles) Cunningham, Marilyn Waesche, Don Ellegood, Dan Levant, Audrey Meyer, and Bill James. Seated (left to right): Naomi Pascal and Julidta Tarver.

In the early to mid-1980s, the press expands its publishing program by developing partnerships with local museums and other cultural institutions, repositioning itself as a regional cultural asset.

The press continues to publish Asian American studies, publishing classic works such as Monica Sone’s Nisei Daughter (1979) and John Okada’s No-No Boy (1980). “The press saw the potential of the field and was ahead of the curve,” says Moon-Ho Jung, UW associate professor of history and editor of The Rising Tide of Color.


The First UW Press Advisory Board (1988)

The UW Press advisory board, c. 1988.

The press recruits an advisory board of community volunteers in 1988 to build a robust fundraising program.

In 1991 the Weyerhauser Environmental Books Fund is established to support the Weyerhauser Environmental Books series, with William Cronon named series editor in 1994. Over the next twenty years, the series publishes more than 60 books, collectively selling over 130,000 copies, and situating the press as the leading publisher of environmental history.


Paul Soden at Don Ellegood's 1996 retirement

Paul Soden (left) at Don Ellegood’s retirement (1996)

In 1996, Don Ellegood retires and Pat Soden becomes director. The press collaborates with campus partners to establish groundbreaking series including Critical Dialogues in Southeast Asian Studies, In Vivo, New Directions in Scandinavian Studies, Studies in Modernity and National Identity, and Sustainable Design Solutions from the Pacific Northwest.


Pat Soden retires in 2012 and Nicole Mitchell, former director of the University of Georgia Press, becomes director.

Over the past two years, the press debuts six new series:

Native Art of the Pacific Northwest: A Bill Holm Center Series (2013)
Classics of Asian American Literature (2014)
Classics of Chinese Thought (2014)
Indigenous Confluences (2015)
Global South Asia (2015)
Decolonizing Feminisms (2015)

The press also establishes the Northwest Writers Fund in 2013 to support the work of some of the region’s most talented nonfiction writers.

Two more series, Food, People Planet and Feminist Technosciences, are under development and will publish new titles in the coming years.

Today, the University of Washington Press is the largest scholarly publisher in the Pacific Northwest and is among a handful of university presses to reach the century mark. You can read more about our history and centennial celebration kickoff in Columns magazine. Here’s to the next century of scholarly publishing!

UW Press thanks Will Mari, UW Department of Communication Ph.D. candidate, for his research on the press’s history as 2014-2015 Soden-Trueblood Graduate Fellow.

2 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Exploring 100 Years of UW Press History

  1. Pingback: University Press Week 2015: Blog Tour Day 4

  2. Pingback: University Press Week 2015: Throwback Thursday | University of Nebraska Press blog

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