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Authority record
Business

ASARCO

  • Business
  • 1888-1993

In 1888, Dennis Ryan built a smelter on the Tacoma Waterfront of what would become the town of Ruston. Under the leadership of William Rust, the smelter, called the Tacoma Smelting & Refining Company, processed lead. Ran successfully by Rust until 1905, the smelter changed ownership and names when it was sold it to the Guggenheim brother’s company ASARCO (American Smelting and Refining Company) for $5.5 million dollars. In 1912, ASARCO transformed the plant from lead to primarily copper smelting and refining. ASARCO received a lease from the Port of Tacoma in the 1920’s to expand the plant, which contained multiple processing buildings and the smokestack.

The smokestack, an integral fixture in Ruston’s landscape, transformed over the years. In 1905, it measured at 307 feet tall, and following complaints, was raised to 571 feet in 1917 to disperse smoke higher in the air in order to mitigate its impact to the surrounding area. Ruston’s smokestack was the tallest chimney in the world at the time. However, in 1937, following damage from an earthquake, the stack measured 562 feet tall.

ASARCO owned and operated the smelter until 1985, when it shut down the Tacoma smelter due to the falling price of copper. The smelter played an important role in the economy of Ruston and the South Sound area. Tacoma News Tribune reports that, “the Asarco plant had employed more than 1,300 workers at its peak” [1]. and the Tacoma Daily Index reports that “for most of its years in operation, it provided about 40% of Ruston’s tax revenues” [2]. Additionally, the operation of the smelter created unique environmental impacts in the surrounding areas. Throughout the years of operation, the smelter emitted arsenic both into the air and the soil, and the refining process included pouring molten slag into commencement bay. This resulted in the smelter being designated as a federal superfund site in 1987 [3]. The Washington Department of Ecology explains, “In the mid-1990s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required Asarco to start cleanup work in the Ruston/North Tacoma Study Area under the Superfund program” [4]. The process of this clean-up included demolishing the old smelter buildings, alongside replacing and capping the soil in and around the smelter site.

In January of 1993, in front of a crowd of nearly 100,000 onlookers, the smokestack was demolished with dynamite. The Tacoma News Tribune reported that, “The 75-year-old chimney was dropped in its tracks Sunday by strategically placed explosive charges that knocked away its underpinnings. Crushed by its own weight, the stack crumbled into a 250-foot-long pile of bricks, interspersed with metal bands and a few chunks of masonry up to 15 feet across” [5]. The demolition of the smokestack changed Ruston’s landscape as ASARCO continued the government-mandated clean-up process that would continue on for years. The Tacoma News tribune reports that, “In 2004, workers demolished the last building and finished burying the worst of the contaminated materials in a huge pit” [6]. Additionally, throughout this time, the neighborhoods and public parks in proximity to the smelter were being offered both soil testing and replacement. The Tacoma News Tribune reports that, “from 1993 to 2011, Asarco and the EPA lab-tested 3,570 properties’ soils for pollution, and 2,436 of them had at least a section of soil replaced” [7].

In addition to cleaning up yards, construction began in 2006 on the emerging commercial and residential hub of Point Ruston. Cleanup continued of the surrounding area, and Washington State received a settlement of $188.5 million from ASARCO’s bankruptcy claim in 2009, with $95 million initially set aside for the continued clean-up of the smelter [8]. In 2013, $5 million of these funds were put towards the Metro Trails Project, allowing for the contaminated soil to finish being capped, and the opening of the Dune Peninsula of Point Defiance Public Park opening in July 2019. Today, Point Ruston consists of restaurants, shops, residential facilities, and a walking path alongside Commencement Bay.

Astoria Iron Works

  • 2.6.1
  • Business
  • 1880-1930

Astoria Iron Works was a canning machinery company started in 1881 in Astoria, Oregon by John Fox. In 1906, he was joined in the venture by Nelson Troyer, formerly associated with the American Can Company at Astoria and Portland, Oregon. In 1913 the company opened a large factory in Seattle and became the Seattle-Astoria Iron Works. In 1928 the name changed to the Troyer-Fox Manufacturing Company and the company was bought by the Continental Can Company, Inc. In 1932, Troyer-Fox Manufacturing Company and the Continental Can Company, Inc. of Washington were both dissolved and their assets taken over by the Continental Can Company, Inc. of New York.

C.E. and Hattie King

  • 2.1.4
  • Business

C.E. (Charles) and Hattie King were photographers in Tacoma in the latter part of the 19th century. Charles King was hired by Northern Pacific in the 1870s to photograph land where the tracks were to be laid between Livingston, Montana and Tacoma. In the 1880s, Charles and Hattie were hired to photograph local churches, residences, and ships. Charles was known for being one of the earliest photographers to capture an image of Mount Rainier. Charles King would go on to serve as a Tacoma Police Captain.

Cow Butter Store

  • 2.3.5
  • Business
  • 1892-1944

The Cow Butter Store operated in downtown Tacoma at or near the corner of Pacific Avenue and Jefferson Avenue for 52 years, from 1892 to 1944. The owner and proprietor, James A. Sproule (1865-1949), an immigrant from Ireland, arrived in Tacoma after having apprenticed in the grocery business in Liverpool, England. He was en route to Australia where his sister lived when he discerned the advantages of starting a business in Tacoma. In 1914 he leased his store for two years and traveled to New South Wales, visited his sister, and promoted Tacoma as a place name there.

Mr. Sproule was active in civic affairs and ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1910. He belonged to many fraternal organizations, including Woodmen of the World and the Improved Order of Red Men. When the question of the 1885 Chinese expulsion from Tacoma was revisited in 1895, he served as one of three replacements in the Committee of Fifteen. He was president of the Mount Tacoma Club, which lobbied for changing the name of Mount Rainier, and summited the mountain in 1903. He served as vice president of the Washington chapter of the American Medical Liberty League, and maintained a stance against mandatory vaccination.

He was married in 1893 to Eliza Eccles (circa 1868-1928), and had two children. A daughter Eliza, known as Ella or Babsie (1895-1999), married F. Bernard Wright. He established Wright Western Marine, a marine supply business now known as Tacoma Propeller. His son Jasper Edward, known as Ed (1899-1960) operated Ed Sproule’s Butter Store from 1925-1936 at 1110-1114 Pacific Avenue.

Day's Tailor-D Clothing, Inc.

  • 2.9.1
  • Business
  • 1902-1973

Frank E. Day (1874-1947) arrived in Tacoma from Fayette, Iowa in 1900. In 1903, he and Frank L. Shull filed articles of incorporation to form Shull-Day and Company. The company quickly became known for its "Big 5" work overalls. In 1906, the employees unionized with the United Garment Workers of America forming Local 201. The slogan "Western Made, Union Made" began being used to advertised the company's products. The company was operated out of 100-108 South 29th Street and employed 100 people by 1908. By 1928, the company had changed its named to Day's Tailor-D Clothing, Inc. Frank's sons, Hollis and Judd, took over the company following the death of their father in 1947. The company grew rapidly and began offering casual and dress slacks and sportswear. They became well known for the "College Cords" and "San Juan Slacks." By the 1950s, Day's reported 400 employees and a payroll of a million dollars. They were one of the largest employers of women in the region. They began an affiliate company in Canada called CanaDay's and operated manufacturing plants, distribution centers, and retail stores across the United States. In 1973, the company merged with Warnaco Inc.

Grit City Magazine

  • 5.6.1
  • Business
  • 2017-

Grit City Magazine was founded in 2017 by Sierra Hartman, Sara Kay, and William Manzanares IV. The project began as an online only publication. The first print edition was issued in September of 2018. The magazine is produced quarterly with new issues released in March, June, September, and December.

Richards Photography Studio

  • 2.1.1
  • Business

Turner Richards Studio was founded by Tacoma-born Turner Eugene Richards (1901-1968) (1). The Tacoma-based studio operated from 1919 through 1980 and its output included: moving images, portraits, industrial, society, business, advertising, news, and aerial photography.

The studio was first operated out of the Chamber of Commerce Building (2) where it provided both photograph and moving image services such as the recording of public performances and events for distribution with companies specializing in newsreels (3). One of these events filmed was a local parade staged for the opening of the 1920 film “Last of the Mohicans” that played before the film at the Victory Theater in Tacoma in 1921 (4).

In 1935 the studio moved its location into the Tacoma Hotel the same year the hotel caught fire (2). According to the Tacoma News Tribune, two policemen had to keep Turner Richards from entering his shop to save his expensive equipment. "He made several runs for the smoke-filled doorway but was stopped each time by the two policemen" (5). In the late 1930s, Turner Richards traveled to Hollywood to work as a photographer for Warner Brothers Studio (6). Richards also developed Technicolor and animated films later used in Walt Disney productions (1).

In the 1940s Richards expanded and opened Nancy’s Baby Portrait Studio located at 736 Pacific Ave in Tacoma (7). By this time Turner’s sons, Bob and Nelson, became the photographers at their main studio located at 734 Pacific Ave (8). Richards Studio expanded again in 1963 and opened another portrait studio at Villa Plaza, in Lakewood (9). On Sunday, February 18th, 1968 the Richards’ housekeeper found Turner Richards in his front yard and he is rushed to the hospital where he died. His death was caused by apparent suicide (10). The Studio was then run by Edmond Paul Richards (1905-1984) and continued to operate until 1980 when it closed (11) (12).

Tacoma Land and Improvement Company

  • 2.7.1
  • Business
  • 1873-1923

Soon after it selected Tacoma as the terminus for its western line in 1873, the Northern Pacific Railroad formed a subsidiary, the Tacoma Land Company, to develop the city and sell the town lots. It was first incorporated as the Southern Improvement Company and immediately renamed the Tacoma Land Company. The first president of the company was Charles Barstow Wright, an officer in the Northern Pacific Railroad who had been a member of the committee that selected Tacoma as the western terminus location. Fellow Northern Pacific officer Frederick Billings was vice-president, and John C. Ainsworth, owner of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, was third director. Wright, Billings, and Ainsworth invested personally in Tacoma and were involved with the early development of the city. Tacoma Land Company was reorganized in 1899 and renamed the Tacoma Land & Improvement Co. The Tacoma Land & Improvement Co. was dissolved in 1923. These records are from the estate of former Tacoma Land Company vice-president Frederick Billings, who also served as president of the Northern Pacific Railroad from 1879 to 1881.

Tacoma News Tribune

  • 5.1
  • Business
  • 1883-Present

The Tacoma News Tribune’s history dates to 1883 and was the consolidation of three Tacoma newspapers, The Tacoma Daily Tribune, The Tacoma News, and The Daily Tacoma Ledger.

In 1881, the Weekly Ledger was started by F. Radebaugh and H.C. Patrick, under the firm name Radebaugh & Company. Previously, Radebaugh had served on the reportorial staff of the San Franscico Chronical. He had first visited Tacoma in June 1879. Radebaugh became familiar with Patrick, who owned and operated a weekly newspaper in Santa Cruz. The two came to an agreement to move the business to Tacoma with Radebaugh as the paper’s editor and Patrick as the business manager. The paper quickly became a success and Radebaugh bought out Patrick’s share. Until 1837, The Ledger served as a morning paper. Its name remained on the nameplate of The News Tribune and Sunday Ledger until 1979.

H.C. Patrick purchased the Pierce County News from George W. Mattice and changed the paper’s name to the Tacoma Weekly News. The News was then converted into a daily on September 25, 1883; however, he later sold The Daily News in 1885. R. F. Radebaugh started The Tacoma Daily Tribune in 1908 and sold the publication in 1912 to Frank S. Baker. Baker would go on to purchase the News and Ledger in 1918. Baker was the president of the Tribune Publishing Company and was a highly regarded newspaper man of the western United States. The News and Tribune were combined into an afternoon daily and the first issue was printed on June 17, 1918.

In 1937, The Daily Tacoma Ledger stopped publication. The News Tribune is merged with the Ledger to form The News Tribune and Sunday Ledger. Then in 1979 The Tacoma News Tribune became the official name of both daily and Sunday newspapers. During 1986, Tribune Publishing Company sold the majority of its holdings to Viacom, Inc., and McClatchy Newspapers. That year, the Tacoma News Tribune became a subsidiary of McClatchy Newspapers. McClatchy Newspapers is the second largest newspaper publisher in the United States, and it originally started as Sacramento newspaper in 1857. The Tacoma News Tribune became The Morning News Tribune on April 6, 1987, until October 4, 1993, when name changes to The News Tribune.

Willits Brothers Canoe Company

  • 2.6.2
  • Business
  • 1908-1967

Two brothers, Earl Carmi Willits (1889 – 1967) and Floyd Calvin Willits (1892 – 1962) founded the Willits Brothers Canoe Company in Tacoma, Washington in 1908. They relocated to a shop they constructed on the shores of Wollochet Bay near Artondale, Washington in 1914. The brothers moved the business one last time in 1921 to a factory they built on Day Island, in what is now University Place, Washington. Willits Brothers Canoe Company ceased production upon the death of Floyd Willits on June 10, 1962 and closed for good when Earl died on April 20, 1967. Upon Earl’s death, the company passed to half-brother Leonard Homer Willits, who expressed interest in continuing to produce canoes, but he died in 1973 without advancing the business beyond making a few repairs on canoes and selling some of the existing inventory of paddles and other accessories.

Willits Brothers Canoe Company (which the brothers incorporated as Willits Brothers, Inc. in 1926 and then reverted to the original unincorporated business name in 1937 after the state dissolved the corporation for non-payment of incorporation fees) produced a single model of a 17-foot double-planked canoe. The canoes built by the brothers evolved over time, and with the 10th model becoming the last version in 1930. After a few years of experimenting with Spanish cedar planking and oak and teak trim, the brothers settled on the standard materials of red cedar planking, mahogany gunnels, thwarts, and decks, white oak stems, and mahogany or spruce seats in their canoes. Most of the 951 canoes made by Willits Brothers Canoe Company were for paddling, although the company offered accessories to allow them to be sailed, rowed, or propelled by outboard motor. Also manufactured were spruce paddles, carrying thwarts, cartop carrier blocks and straps, wooden slat or upholstered seat backs, floor carpeting, copper air tanks, and canvas spray and storage covers. Repair of damaged Willits Brothers canoes and sale of repair parts also was a service offered by the company. The bulk of sales of Willits canoes were in Washington state to boys’ and girls’ camps, rental liveries, the Red Cross, and private individuals, although a significant market developed throughout the United States. Marketing was almost exclusively via word-of-mouth, since no records exist of advertisements being placed by the brothers in boating periodicals or newspapers.

Except for periods during each World War, the company operated continuously from its founding until Earl Willits’ death in 1967. During World War I, production ceased while Earl served in the 137th Aero Squadron in England and France, and Floyd served in the 166th Depot Brigade at Camp Lewis, Washington. The brothers mustered out after the war, Earl as a Sergeant First Class and Floyd as a Second Lieutenant. The brothers were too old to serve in the military during World War II, but restrictions on the materials needed for manufacture of their canoes prevented them from continuing production for a time, even though demand remained strong. While the business was shut down, Earl worked as an automotive instructor at the Mount Rainier Ordnance Depot, and Floyd was on the payroll of the Day Island Club, which served the residents of the Day Island community.

Both brothers married later in life but did not have children. Floyd married first, on April 20, 1939, to Ruth Alice Carter. Ruth had been previously married to Victor Henry Morgan, the half-brother of Murray Morgan, a well-known Tacoma historian, author and columnist. Ruth’s marriage to Victor ended in divorce, but her marriage to Floyd lasted until her death on December 31, 1956. Earl married Laura Magill Smith on December 27, 1944. Laura was the widow of Elmer Smith, the attorney involved in and representing members of the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies) after an incident during Armistice Day celebration in Centralia, Washington in 1919 in which several people were killed and a Wobbly was lynched. Earl and Laura were married for almost 10 years, divorcing in October 1954. Laura died January 16, 1994.