Kent is a city located in King County, Washington, United States. It is the sixth largest city in the state and third largest in the county. Kent is in the heart of the Seattle-Tacoma metroplex, located 19 miles south of Seattle and 19 miles northeast of Tacoma. Nearby cities include Renton and Tukwila to the north, Covington and Maple Valley to the east, Auburn to the south, and Federal Way, Des Moines and SeaTac to the west. Kent's population as of April, 2010 was 92,411 according to the 2010 census. The total grew to an estimated 122,999 as of July 1, 2012, owing primarily to annexation.
Once a thriving agricultural area, Kent is now home to hundreds of companies. Among the many corporations headquartered in Kent are REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.), Oberto Sausage Company, and the two largest waterjet companies in the United States: Flow International Corporation and Omax Corporation.
The Kent area was first permanently settled by westerners in the early 1860s along the banks of (what was then) the White River, and originally called Titusville. (There is still a 'Titusville Station' sign on Gowe Street near First Avenue.)
During the 1880s the town discovered hops production as the major source of income. Due to an aphid invasion which affected hops crops in Europe, hops from the Puget Sound area were commanding high prices. Hops were shipped from Titusville either by the river or via rail. In 1889 the town was renamed for Kent County, the major hops producing region in England. Hops production in the White River valley come to an end soon after its own invasion of aphids in 1891.
Kent was officially incorporated on May 28, 1890 with a population of 793, the second city incorporated in King County. Seattle was the first.
After the turn of the 20th century the area turned to dairy farming, and was home to a Carnation Condensed Milk plant. Flooding from both the Green and the White Rivers was a constant problem. In 1906, flooding changed the course of the White River, which reduced the flood hazard by half. The Green River continued to present problems until the creation of the Howard A. Hanson Dam at Eagle Gorge in 1962.
During and after the Great Depression, Kent was known as the "Lettuce Capital of the World." After WWII, Kent began to grow more rapidly. From 1953 to 1960 the city's size grew twelve-fold. In 1965 Boeing began building in Kent, followed a few years later by other aerospace and high-tech companies.
Throughout the 1980s, Kent residents had a reputation for being "rednecks". The city was frequently parodied by the Seattle sketch comedy show Almost Live. Sketches included Cops in Kent, where officers would stop a woman for not having big enough hair or stop a man for not wearing a John Deere baseball cap. In 1994, the show's producer announced that they would stop making fun of Kent, a promise they kept for three days.
In 1992, the Greater Kent Historical Society was formed with the intent of promoting the discovery, preservation and dissemination of knowledge about the history of the greater Kent area. In 1996, the City of Kent purchased the historic Bereiter house, the home of one of Kent's early mayors, for use as the Kent Historical Museum. The museum is operated by the Greater Kent Historical Society.