Carnation was founded and incorporated as the city of Tolt, named for the local Tolt River. After the 1912 incorporation of Tolt, the city renamed the town Carnation in 1917. The name changed again to Tolt in 1928 and then back to Carnation in 1951 where it has remained so.
Carnation Farms is located in the city and is famous for its condensed milk, used heavily during the 2nd World War for domestic and foreign food rationing.
Today, the city, which is east of Seattle and Bellevue, enjoys a somewhat rural life.