Showing 76 results

Authority record

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.

Virna Haffer

  • 3.5.5
  • Person
  • 1899-1974

Virna Haffer (then Virna Hanson) was born in 1899 in Aurora, Illinois. In 1907, her family moved to Washington to join the Home Colony, an anarchist community located near Tacoma. At age fourteen, Haffer moved to Tacoma where she lived with a local family and enrolled as a student at Stadium High School. She soon began working at the studio of Harriette H. Ihrig, located at 1107 South E Street. After a brief marriage to fellow Home Colony resident Clarence Schultz in 1919, she married Paul Haffer who would appear in many of her photographs. Paul, a labor activist and organizer, wrote for a number of local workers' publications and spent four months in prison for libel over criticisms he made of George Washington in a letter published in The News Tribune in 1916. Their son, Jean Paul, also became a frequent photographic subject after his birth in 1923. In the 1920s, she participated in a number of exhibitions in Seattle and was involved in both the Seattle Camera Club and Tacoma Camera Club. During this period, Haffer opened her portrait studio which she would continue to operate for fifty years. In 1930, she gained national attention with her work included in the Seattle Camera Club Final International Exhibition and reproduced in The American Annual of Photography. That same year, her first local solo exhibition was held in the lobby of the Wintrhop Hotel where she displayed both photographs and block prints. Over her career, Haffer experimented with drawing, painting, sculpture, fabric design, and music. In 1931, she married Norman Randall who would also become a subject of her work. Many other local artists and friends also appeared in her photographs. In the 1930s, she collaborated with poet Elizabeth Sale on a book project, Abundant Wild Oats, that would combine Sale's poetry with Haffer's artwork. The work was never published. In the 1960s, Haffer began experimenting with photograms and became an authority on the medium. Her book, Making Photograms: The Creative Process of Painting with Light, was published in 1969. One of her photograms, "California Horizon," was included in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art's traveling exhibitions and was later purchased by MOMA for their permanent collection. She was awarded the highest honor from the Professional Photographers of America and featured in exhibitions across the country. She died on April 5, 1974.

Thor Tollefson

  • 6.1.5
  • Person
  • 1901-1982

Thor Tollefson was born in Perley, Minnesota on May 2, 1901. He was the oldest of seven children. His family moved to Tacoma when he was ten years old, and when his father died, he dropped out of school to go to work and support his mother and siblings at the age of fourteen. After seven years of working in the lumber mills he went back to school and graduated from Lincoln High in 1924. He then went on to the University of Washington and graduated from law school in 1930. He married Eva Tollefson in 1934 and they had three daughters.

After opening a private law practice, Tollefson was elected Pierce County Prosecutor in 1938 and served in that office until 1946, when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican for the 6th congressional district. He served nine terms in Congress, until he was defeated for re-election in 1964. As a congressman he served as chairman of the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries and was twice appointed U.S. delegate to the Interparliamentary Union. After leaving Congress he was appointed Director of the Fisheries Department for Washington state by Governor Dan Evans in 1965. He retired from the department in 1975 and passed away on December 30, 1982 at the age of 81 years old.

Thomas Handforth

  • 3.5.3
  • Person
  • 9/15/1897-10/19/1948

A native of Tacoma, Thomas Handforth won international acclaim as an artist, author, and illustrator. Born in Tacoma on September 19, 1897, Handforth attended Stadium High School (then Tacoma High School). There he created the art for the high school annuals. Post-graduation he attended the University of Washington then moved to New York for art training. During his service in World War I he drew anatomical drawings in Washington, D.C. After the war, he returned to New York and studied under Kenneth Hayes Miller and later with Mahonri Young. Later he trained in draughtsmanship and painting at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He won numerous prizes and became a member of various societies of etchers.
In 1927 he visited Morocco and in 1929 relocated to Mexico. Two years later traveled to China where he stayed until 1937. It was in China where he developed his skills with lithography. From China, he went to Southeast Asia (then Indo-China) and returned to the United States at the approach of World War II. He returned to service in the Army and after his release returned to Tacoma in 1944 and again in 1945 to make portraits of his many former hometown friends. Handforth is best known for his children's book "Mai Li", published in 1938, for which he won the Caldecott Medal for illustration in 1939. The other books he illustrated include Sidonie, Totou in Bondage, and Tranquilinas Paradise. Handforth died at McCornak General Hospital in Pasadena. His death was attributed to acute coronary thrombosis.

Theo Kissick

  • 3.6.3
  • Person

Theo Kissick and his wife Delilah were active members of the Hix n’ Chix square dance club of Tacoma, Washington. The Hix n’ Chix were affiliated with the Rainier Council of the Square and Folk Dance Federation of Washington. Theo and Delilah were part of the organizing committee of the 30th Annual National Square Dance Convention held in Seattle June 25-27, 1981. More than 20,000 dancers from across the US and from Australia, England, New Zealand, Sweden, Holland and Japan registered for the event.

The Woman's Club

  • 3.7.1
  • Organization
  • 1904-1965

The Woman's Club was launched on October 27th, 1904 in the home of Mrs. J.Q. Mason and led by president Reverend Abbie E. Danforth. Danforth, appointed in 1889, was one of the first female reverends in North America. Danforth had been a pastor at the Park Universalist Church since 1902 after moving west from the Unitarian Church of Kent, OH.

Among the club's contributions to Tacoma were the creation of a female owned and operated "rest room," designed to be a "place offering almost retirement of home during unemployment hours" which would "prove a boon to hundreds of women and girls in Tacoma." The "rest room" appears to have been organized by Danforth in order to do for "women what the Y.M.C.A. is doing for men." This association with temperance groups continued in August 1913 when Danforth was elected president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. The "rest room" was located in the Chamber of Commerce building on December 3, 1904 and led directly to The Woman's Club Hotel, which would open a year later. This institution, also open only to female patrons, was located nearby at 714 Pacific Avenue.

The Woman's Club also opened a physical clubhouse on 426 Broadway St. in 1915, intended to create a physical meeting space for all of the federated study clubs in the city, which remained extant until 1960. That said, Mrs. Abbie E. Danforth is still recorded hosting the final meeting of the Woman's Study Club in May 1965 from her home at 1322 N. Yakima St. The motto of The Woman's Club was "there is no higher duty than to work for the good of the whole world."

The Tacoma Mountaineers

  • 3.6.1
  • Organization
  • 1912-

The Mountaineers was founded in 1906. The following year, Charles and Henry Landes organized the first Tacoma area Mountaineers Local Walk. The walk, from American Lake to Steliacoom, was the third official outing of the The Mountaineers organization. The "Auxiliary to the Mountaineers" was organized in Tacoma in March of 1912. The Tacoma branch was active in organizing multi-day excursions in Longmire and Paradise. During the Great Depression, the group purchased the "Irish Cabin" and surrounding 18 acres of land near the Carbon Rover entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. The Cabin provided a gathering place for chapter events and sleeping quarters for 60 members at a time. The group maintained the cabin until 1978. In 1956, they opened the Tacoma Program Center in Old Town. The building was designed by Silas Nelson of Tacoma. The group hosts excursions, events, classes, and youth programs.


Member Biographies


Catherine Seabury

Catherine Seabury (1880-1970) was an active member of the Tacoma Branch of the Mountaineers, participating in outings and climbs and contributing photographs to the Mountaineer Bulletin. Originally from Peoria, Illinois, by 1919 she and her widowed mother were living together in Tacoma at 3810 N Washington, where she cultivated prize-winning roses. She was employed as a teacher at Sherman and Point Defiance Elementary Schools among others and spent additional time in the mountains at the family cabin in Paradise Valley. She moved to the Franke Tobey Jones Home in 1937, and died in Tacoma in 1970 at the age of 89.


Alma Wagen

Alma Wagen (1878-1967) was the first woman employed as a climbing guide at Mount Rainier National Park. Born in Minnesota, Alma arrived in Tacoma after graduating from the University of Minnesota. First employed at Whitman School, she taught mathematics at Stadium High School beginning in 1909 and had joined the Mountaineers by 1913. Her summer vacations were spent trekking in the Cascade and Olympic Mountains in Washington, Glacier National Park, and Alaska. In 1915 she summited Mt. Rainier for the first time, with a Mountaineer party. When World War I created a shortage of available men, she joined the National Park Service and was the first female guide to work at Mount Rainier. She guided John D Rockefeller, Jr. and his party “like a master”, according to Joseph Hazard, chief climbing guide at the time. In the spring of 1922 she moved to Yosemite National Park, and by the summer had returned to Rainier.

In 1926 at the age of 48 she retired from guiding and married Dr. Horace J Whitacre. A widower with two young sons, he too was a Mountaineer as well as a tennis player and yachtsman. He was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and the North Pacific Surgical Society, president of Tacoma Rotary Club as well as president of the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce. Alma began to be active in civic affairs, being chosen in 1933 to lead Tacoma women in implementing the National Recovery Act. She then served as president of the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Washington State Medical Association, president of the Tacoma Y.W.C.A., and hosted dinners and gatherings at her home at 3803 N Monroe St. After the death of her husband in 1944, she moved to Claremont, California. There she competed in numerous bridge tournaments and did fund-raising for the local Community Chest. She died in 1967 at the age of 89 and is buried at New Tacoma Cemetery.


Willard G. Little

Willard G. Little (1870-1955) and Walter S. Little (1874-1958) arrived in Tacoma from Minnesota with their parents in the first decade of the 1900s. The two brothers remained close their entire lives, Walter living at 2121 N Washington with their parents, and Willard moving one block away, at 2219 N Washington, where he raised his family while working as an accountant. They both joined the Mountaineers, as well as the North End Shakespeare Club, and Willard also named his son Walter (B.). Walter (S.) was employed by the Bank of California and remained single. Willard chaired the Tacoma Branch of the Mountaineers from 1933-1936. It is thought that the photo album in the collection depicts him at this time, although the principal subject is referred to only as “he who needs no introduction”.

Willard’s son Walter B. Little (1909-2002) participated in the Tacoma chapter as a young man, then moved to Seattle and was very active in the Mountaineers there. He would be instrumental in developing the practice of ski mountaineering in Washington State through his work with the club.


Stella Kellogg

Stella Kellogg (1896 -1972) was born in Wyoming and moved to Tacoma in 1927. A member of the Mountaineers from 1931, she climbed the six major Cascade volcanic peaks and was recognized with an award in 1970. She was employed as executive secretary by the Pierce County Tuberculosis and Respiratory Disease Association for 34 years. Active in civic affairs, she was a charter member of the Tacoma Altrusa Club, a member of the University-Union Club, Tacoma Audubon Society and an alumna of the Kappa Delta sorority. She remained single and died in Tacoma at the age of 76.


Minnie Hutchinson

Minnie Hutchison (also Hutchinson) (c.1876- c.1941) was a member of the Tacoma Mountaineers c.1908 - 1917. In 1915, she participated in a publicity stunt developed to promote tourism and bring attention to Tacoma and its proximity to Mount Rainier National Park. On April 27, four cars and a Milwaukee Road train left Tacoma in a race to Ashford. A film cameraman, B.B.Dobbs of the Hobbs Totem Film Company was on hand to document the event and produce a film. Titled “Fours Hours From Tacoma to the Glaciers”, the film was intended to be shown at the San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition and elsewhere. Minnie was a passenger in a car driven by Mrs. O.H. Ridgeway. They drove the 48 miles to Ashford and arrived first before the other three cars, although the train had bested them by just minutes. A prize consisting of a bag of gold coins worth $1000 was awarded to the train personnel, who promptly transferred it to the Mrs.Ridgway. Both before and after the race, promotional events and photographs were arranged, in which Minnie took part.

She worked as an assistant to her brother Ralph Hutchison, a dentist. At some point after his death in 1931, she moved to Oregon and was employed as a housekeeper.


A.H. Denman

Asahel H. Denman (1859-1941) was a principal founder of the Tacoma Branch of the Mountaineers. In 1912, along with John B. Flett and Harry Weer, he organized the meeting that established its by-laws and constitution. He was elected chairman and started the Tacoma winter outings that year.

Born in in New York, he studied law at the State University of Iowa, graduating in 1885. By 1890 he had arrived in Tacoma and began practicing law here in 1894. He joined the Mountaineers in 1909 and climbed the six principal peaks of the Cascades, as well as organizing and participating in many annual and local outings. An avid amateur photographer, he concentrated on documenting the features of Mount Rainier, two of which were named for him (Denman Falls and Denman Peak). He provided photographs and articles to the Mountaineer Bulletin, and delivered illustrated lectures to church and school groups around the state. He advocated changing the mountain’s name to Mount Tacoma and in 1924 wrote a book presenting his views, The Name of Mount Tacoma. He never married and died in Tacoma at the age of 81.


John F. Gallagher Jr.

John F. Gallagher, Jr. (Jack) (1925-2015) was born in Tacoma, and had joined the Tacoma Branch of the Mountaineers by the age of thirteen. He attended Stadium High School and was active in Boy Scouts, attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. He enlisted in the US Navy in World War II, serving in the Pacific aboard the USS Wilkes-Barre. In 1950, he received a BS in Civil Engineering from Santa Clara University and began his career with the Washington State Department of Transportation as a project engineer. The Tacoma Branch of the Mountaineers elected him chairman for 1952-1954. He had a particular interest in skiing and was one of the few leaders of ski tours in the mid-fifties. He continued his involvement with Scouting, serving as Scoutmaster for 33 years from 1950 through 1983. He died in University Place, Washington in 2015 at the age of 89.


Josephine and Stella Scholes

Two Scholes sisters, Josephine (1874-1961) and Stella (1876-1934), collected the materials here. Their parents brought seven children to Tacoma in 1890 via Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and Kansas. All five daughters worked as teachers, and at least three of them, Josephine, Stella, and Emma, participated in Mountaineer outings in their summer vacations.

Josephine, the second oldest daughter, was born in Missouri and taught at the elementary level initially, at Bryant, Franklin, Grant, and Willard Schools. The remainder of her career, from 1933 until retirement in 1940, was spent at Jason Lee Junior High School. She maintained daily entries in three diaries during summer outings.

Stella, the fourth child and third daughter, was first employed at Central School, then taught algebra and geometry at Stadium High School until her death at the age of 58. She climbed the six major peaks of Washington State and served as secretary-treasurer for the Tacoma Branch. She was a member of the 1909 expedition to the summit of Mount Rainier, sponsored by the Mountaineers and offered as a side trip for visiting suffrage conventioneers. Participants planted a pennant from the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition with the motto “Votes for Women” on the summit.


Clarence Garner

Clarence Garner (1892 -1968) joined the Mountaineers in 1920 and soon began a life of active participation in the Tacoma Branch. He served as a member on the Local Walks Committee in 1924, and in 1925 acted as camp helper on the summer outing that year. Thereafter he was a regular helper and/or assistant cook on at least 35 outings and was known for his yodeling at the rising call. He acted in camp skits and pantomimes, singing “Acres of Clams” and other favorites. He was a “Six-Peaker”, and climbed Mount Rainier four times, Mount Baker three, Mounts Baker and St.Helens each twice. An avid amateur photographer, his photographs began to be featured in the annuals in the 1930s. While the bulk of his output was concentrated on the Mountaineers, his interests were varied and included documenting the Seattle Symphony, of which he was a patron, Daffodil Parades, and the construction of the Narrows Bridge. A vice president of the Tacoma Branch in 1931, he served as president in 1943 after having been awarded the Acheson Cup for outstanding service in 1937. A Trustee three times in the late 1940s and 1950s, he served variously as chairman of the Special Outings, Music, and Photography Committees. After the Tacoma Clubhouse was built in the 1960s he was caretaker, and documented the construction of the climbing pylon there.

Born in Buckley, Washington, he lived in Tacoma with his widowed mother until her death in 1932. He remained single and retired from St. Regis Paper. He died in Tacoma at the age of 78, having been a Mountaineer for 48 years.


Curtis & Miller

Curtis & Miller was a Seattle photographic studio that was in business from 1914 to 1916. Its principals were Asahel Curtis (1874-1941) and Walter Miller (1876- 1938).

Asahel Curtis was the younger brother of photographer Edward Curtis. Born in Minnesota in 1874, he moved with his family to the Puget Sound area in 1888. By 1895 he was working in the photography business with his brother in Seattle. He represented his brother’s studio on a trip to the Yukon in 1897, bringing his glass plate equipment into the gold fields. On his return in 1899, he discovered that Edward had taken credit for the trip and some of the resulting photographs, and that led to their lifelong estrangement. He continued working as a photographer with various partners and established his own studio in 1920.

He summited Mount Rainier in 1905 and made an early ascent of Mount Shuksan in 1906. Curtis Glacier on Mount Shuksan and Camp Curtis and Curtis Ridge in Mount Rainier National Park are named for him. In November of 1906 Frederick Cook came to Seattle on his return from his purported first ascent of Denali (then Mount McKinley) and spoke inspiringly of his expedition. That same month Curtis participated in the first meetings that organized the Mountaineers, Cook attending one. In December 1906 the Mountaineers were formed, with a constitution and by-laws, and Asahel Curtis was elected to the board of trustees. He organized and led the first summer outing to Mount Rainier in 1909, and was in the party that brought a pennant from the Alaska-Pacific-Yukon Exposition to the summit.

His involvement with the establishment of Mount Rainier National Park resulted in a break with the Mountaineers, as his ideas for its development differed from theirs. He served as the official photographer for the Seattle Chamber of Commerce and chaired its Development Committee and Highway Committee for years. His studio continued to document people, companies, and features of the state until his death in 1941. 60,000 of his images are held by the Washington State Historical Society.

Walter P. Miller was born in Illinois, and was in Seattle by 1900 and working as a photographer. In 1903 he accompanied explorer Frederick Cook as photographer on his first expedition to Denali, then known as Mount McKinley. He participated again as photographer on the controversial second expedition in 1906, when Cook claimed to have reached the summit, a claim that is now discredited. After Curtis & Miller was dissolved, he continued in the photography business in Seattle on his own until at least 1935. He died of a heart attack on his yacht in Anacortes, Washington in 1938.

Tacoma-Pierce County Opportunity and Development, Inc.

  • 1.7.1
  • City of Tacoma Department
  • 1964-

Tacoma-Pierce County Opportunity and Development, Inc. was formed "to employ the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, Public Law 88-452, 88th Congress, as a means of providing stimulation and incentive for the mobilizing of the resources of the Tacoma-Pierce County community to combat poverty."

Tacoma Public Library

  • 1.4
  • City of Tacoma Department
  • 1894-present

The first movement toward creating a library in Tacoma occurred in “New Tacoma” in 1881. The four block area was established in 1869 by Anthony Carr who feared that the name “Tacoma” would be lost in favor of the more popular “Commencement City.” As New Tacoma grew, residents began discussing the need for a library. In 1881, the articles of incorporation for the New Tacoma Library Association were signed. A small number of books were accumulated but borrowing privileges were limited to residents of New Tacoma who purchased a share in the library.

In 1886, a group of three women were discussing books while they sewed. The city of Tacoma was growing rapidly, but books were difficult to find. What the city needed, the women concluded, was a circulating library which would be open to the public. One of the women, Grace Moore, applied her “untiring energy and lifelong devotion to the cause of education” to the effort and took action toward forming the library. By May 5, 1886, Moore had assembled a group of eighteen women to begin the Mercantile Library of Tacoma. The group ordered a collection of paper bound books and set to work binding them in pasteboard to make them more durable. The circulating library opened in Moore’s home before moving to several different spaces around Tacoma including the Otis Sprague Building on the corner of Ninth and C Streets. In order to pay for repairs to the books and the purchase of new items, a fee of 25 cents was charged to borrowers and an additional 5 cents for use of the space as a reading room. Through fees, donations, and fundraisers, the association’s collection quickly grew to 2,000 volumes.

The success of the Mercantile Library gained the attention of a number of prominent citizens and politicians who encouraged the Mayor and City Council to commit financial support to establish a city library. In January of 1889, incorporation papers were filed with the territory of Washington to form the Public Library. According to these original articles, the Library would be governed by seven trustees which would include the Mayor and two additional members of the City Council. The first meeting was held on April 24, 1889.

In 1890, a “gathering of public-spirited citizens” assembled to discuss municipal funding for the library and a new library building. “The people of Tacoma appreciate that hardly anything, aside from its special work, can advertise the city more than the establishment of a library such as is found in eastern cities,” said one attendee. A local businessman in attendance encouraged citizens to “think of the educational advantages derived from a place from which all who wish can get books.”

City Council soon passed a resolution to fund the Library at a rate of $75 per month. In 1891, the Library moved into the Ball Building on C Street. The following year, the City increased funding to $250 per month and committed the fifth floor of the new City Hall to be used by the Library at no charge. All materials that had been accumulated by the Mercantile Library were gifted to the City. William Curtis Taylor was hired as the first City Librarian and the library moved into its new City Hall quarters in 1894, becoming the Tacoma Public Library.

The Library soon outgrew the City Hall space, especially after facilities problems forced a move from the fifth floor to the second. A group of local citizens worked with librarian Reverend S.B. McLafferty to initiate work on a Carnegie grant to fund construction of a dedicated library building. In 1901, it was announced that Tacoma would receive $50,000 from Andrew Carnegie to fund construction on the condition that “the city will provide the site and guarantee $5,000 annually for maintenance of the library.” Soon after, the Carnegie gift was increased to $75,000 when the city agreed to earmark $7,500 annually for maintenance.

A number of possible sites were discussed before the City settled on the northwest corner of Tacoma Avenue and 12th Street, which was accessible by many street car lines. The building was designed by Jardine, Kent, and Jardine of New York and included “an eclectic Renaissance style punctuated by tawny Tenino sandstone and yellow brick from Seattle.” Construction began in 1902 and the library was dedicated on June 4, 1903. It was the first Carnegie Library completed in the state of Washington. The Carnegie building remained the only library facility until the South Tacoma branch opened on May 3, 1911.

n 1946, Tacoma voters approved a library construction bond. While several sites for the new “Main Branch” were considered, the decision was made to build a new large addition onto the Carnegie building. Initial plans by architect Silas E. Nelson included a rooftop parking lot and renovation of the Carnegie building to match the new construction. However, these measures were eliminated due to cost. Some plans even called for the destruction of the Carnegie building altogether. Groundbreaking for the 64,700 square foot building took place on March 20, 1951 and it opened on November 2, 1952.

Tacoma Police Department

  • 1.3.1
  • City of Tacoma Department
  • 1885-

The origins of the Tacoma Police Department can be traced back to the appointment of Leonard Diller as City Marshal of what would become Old Tacoma in 1874. Following the incorporation of New Tacoma in 1880, Henry Williams became the first City Marshal of New Tacoma. In 1884, Old and New Tacoma combined to form the City of Tacoma. E.O. Fulmer, who had begun as City Marshal of New Tacoma in 1882, became the first City Marshal of the City of Tacoma. New Tacoma's combined police station and jail on the southeast corner of 12th Street and Cliff Avenue served as Police Headquarters until 1899.

City Ordinance No. 77 formally created the Tacoma Police Department on April 15, 1885. Under this ordinance, a chief of police was to be elected by the City Council. The person in this role would be responsible for identifying and hiring officers. Because the role of City Marshal was established by the City Charter, the City Attorney determined that the Chief of Police and City Marshal would continue to serve simultaneously without one taking precedence over the other. The Mayor, R.J. Weisbach, appointed himself Chief of Police while E.O. Fulmer remained City Marshal. In 1886, the City stopped paying Fulmer and he successfully took legal action for lost wages. An 1896 ordinance established funding for the police department at a rate of $25.00 per month.

The development of the police department followed patterns of change nationally. Horses and a bicycle squad preceded the acquisition of the department's first motor vehicles in 1910. During Prohibition, local police were said to have met bootleggers at the docks to safely escort them to their warehouses. As the Great Depression took hold, the Tacoma Police Department and Tacoma Fire Department challenged each other to a football game. Admission was charged and the money was used to purchase flour and beans to distribute to hungry families in Tacoma. In the 1940s, police were responsible for enforcing Executive Order 9066 by forcing local families of Japanese descent into incarceration facilities and confiscating their cameras, radios, and other banned items. Controversial "vice squads" were active in the 1950s. While some supported the work of cracking down on gambling and prostitution, the department was accused of using unlawful tactics and the entire squad was demoted to patrol by Mayor Ben Hanson. "Community based policing" was embraced by the department in the 1960s. Officers began wearing name badges and being assigned to specific neighborhoods. The department came under national scrutiny over tactics used by police during violent clashes with local Indigenous tribes over fishing rights in the 1970s. In the 1980s, there was widespread coverage in local media about racial discrimination and use of excessive force by Tacoma police officers. In the 1990s, officers staged a protest against Chief Phillip Arreola in response to his accusation that officers were covering up the misdeeds of other members of the force. The 2000s saw the establishment of the Marine Services Unit and the opening of a new headquarters at 3701 South Pine Street. In 2020, nationwide protests broke out in response to police violence against people of color. Locally, these protests intersected with the killing of Manuel Ellis, a Black man, by police in March 2020.

As of 2022, the Tacoma Police Department has the following mission statement: "To create a safe and secure environment in which to live, work, and visit by working together with the community, enforcing the law in a fair and impartial manner, preserving the peace and order in our neighborhoods, and safeguarding our Constitutional guarantees."

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.

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 Fire Department

  • 1.3.2
  • City of Tacoma Department
  • 1884-

The first local firefighting company, the "New Tacoma Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1," was established on May 29, 1880. The company was made up of volunteers using donated equipment. When New Tacoma and Old Tacoma merged to form the City of Tacoma in 1884, the two volunteer fire departments were also combined. Lack of equipment and an inadequate water system led to significant fire destruction in the early years of the department. The City Council considered multiple plans to respond to the problem, even a proposal that all households stores 40 gallons of water on their roofs to assist with a fire response if needed. Beginning in April 1885, a new water system, the installation of 40 fire hydrants, and funding for equipment allowed the department to improve their response and reduce fire destruction.

After the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, the Tacoma City Council was determined to invest in its fire department to prevent similar destruction. Tacoma became one of the earliest cities in Washington to convert the volunteer positions to paid jobs. An alarm system was also installed that year which connected 28 alarm boxes with the alarm tower on I Street. In 1899, the tugboat "Fearless," owned by the Tacoma Tug and Barge Company, was outfitted with a pump and hoses to be made available to the department when needed.

By 1900, the department had a fleet of 33 horses. Seven years later the first motorized vehicle had been obtained. The complete transition from horses and steam fire engines to motorized vehicles was complete by 1919. The Tacoma fire fighters organized as the City Fireman's Federal Union No. 15601 and were charted by the AFL in 1917. The following year, they became a charter member of the International Association of Fire Fighters as local number 31. A bond issue passed by Tacoma voters in 1928 led to increased funding and the purchase of the department's first fireboat.

The Tacoma Fire Department today serves the city of Tacoma and provides contracted fire and EMS services to Fircrest, Fife, and Pierce County Fire District 10. They operate 16 fire stations, 5 medic companies, 4 ladder companies, and 2 fireboats.

Tacoma City Council

  • 1.1.1
  • City of Tacoma Department

In November of 1883, the territorial legislature passed a law that resulted in the merging of Tacoma City (Old Tacoma) and New Tacoma. The law stated: "That on and after the first Monday of January, 1884, the city of Tacoma, incorporated on November 12, 1875, and New Tacoma, incorporated on November 5, 1881, shall be consolidated under one city government, to be known as Tacoma."

The law also stipulated that an election was to take place in December 1883 to elect a "mayor, city marshal, and three councilmen for each ward." The city was divided into three wards leading to the election of a ten member council. The merger of the two cities occurred on January 7, 1884 with John Wilson Sprague serving as Mayor. Sprague and the nine council members were to serve for an interim term until another election could be held in May 1884.

In 1910, a commission style government was put in place with elected officials managing utilities, public works, and public safety. In 1952, Tacoma voters approved the Mayor/City Manager System that remains in place today. Under this model, the elected Mayor and City Council determine policy that is implemented by the City Manager. The Council is made up of eight Council Members, representing five districts and three at-large positions, and the Mayor. They are responsible for "enacting and amending City laws, adopting the Biennial Budget, appointing citizen board, committees, and commissions, and providing guidance and direction for actions which affect the quality of life in the City."

Tacoma Centennial Committee

  • Organization
  • 1968-1969

The Tacoma Centennial Committee was organized to plan and oversee all aspects of the city of Tacoma’s centennial celebration in 1969. The celebration included parades, productions, and many other large-scale events.

Tacoma Actors Guild

  • 3.5.2
  • Organization
  • 1978-2007

The Tacoma Actors Guild was founded in 1978 by college professors Bill Becvar and Rick Tutor as a professional theater company. Their first production was "Guys and Dolls." Over their years of operation, the Guild produced musicals, plays, and educational programs. The executive committee made the decision to suspend Tacoma Actors Guild operations in December 2004 due to ongoing financial troubles. The organization had been experiencing losses in the previous few years before the shutdown was announced, and additionally they owed a considerable amount to creditors. However, the Bellevue Civic Theater decided to stage and produce shows for two and a half years in hopes to give TAG time to regroup and continue their work. While that, alongside the leadership of a new executive director provided some improvements, the financial situation failed to change enough, causing the Actors Guild to officially shut its doors in March 2007, following the final production of “Proof.” TAG’s playwright at the time commented, “It's not an easy decision to pull the plug, but the professional midsize theater model is hard to maintain these days."

Stephen Cysewski

  • 2.1.2
  • Person
  • 8/25/1945-7/20/2020

Stephen Cysewski was an American photographer known for his self-described "wandering" style of street photography. Born in Berkeley, California he primarily grew up in the Tacoma area and graduated from Western Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy in 1967. After college, he moved to Alaska as a VISTA volunteer where he lived for a year in the village of Shaktoolik. There he worked many jobs including as a high school counselor for Indian Education at West Anchorage High School. He earned his master’s of Liberal Arts degree from Alaska Pacific University and then was employed as an assistant professor in Information Technology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks from 1991-2009. He retired as a professor in 2007 and was granted emeritus status. Throughout his life, he traveled the world to such places as Korea, Thailand, Europe, Alaska, and Washington State to take photographs. In 1979 Cysewski traveled to Tacoma where he took hundreds of photographs of the downtown and residential areas in the city. Cysewski passed away at home in Alaska on July 20th, 2020 after battling pancreatic cancer.

Stallcup Smith Family

  • 6.2.1
  • Family

The Stallcups moved from Denver, Colorado to Tacoma, Washington in 1889. In Tacoma, they lived at 317 South G St. The family included Judge John Calhoun Stallcup, Mary Shelby Stallcup, and their children: John C. Stallup Jr., Evan Shelby Stallcup, and Margery B. Stallcup.

John Calhoun Stallcup (1841-10/21/1915) Practiced law in Denver Colo. and served as justice of the supreme court of Colorado from 1887 until 1889. In 1889 he came to Tacoma with his family. He was elected to the superior court bench in 1892 on a non-partisan ticket and held the position for four years. From 1897-1900 he served on the state board of audit and control, having received the appointment from Gov. Rogers. For his last five years, he had been a member of the Tacoma Public Library board. He also authored an essay titled "Refutation of the Darwinian Theory" which was published in Tacoma in 1905.(1)

Mary Shelby (Prindell) Stallcup (1846-10/21/1916), a native of Lexington, Kentucky, married Judge Stallcup on Nov. 2nd, 1880 in Kirkwood, Mo. She held office in the Mary Ball chapter of the D.A.R. and was active in the parish, guild, and auxiliary of St. Luke's Episcopal Church. (1) (2)

Evan Shelby Stallcup (1888 -1938) A graduate of the old Tacoma High School and entered Stanford University on his 17th birthday. After two years at Stanford, he entered Columbia University where he completed his Law course then returned to Tacoma to work with his father in his law office. He served in the 91st Division in World War I. After the war, he moved to Phoenix where he became involved in city government. He held the position of City Manager and head of the water department.(3)

Margery B. (Stallcup) Smith ( ?-1946) was admitted to the bar in 1909 (4). Secretary-treasurer of the Buckeye Realty Company in 1910 (5). Married Fredrick A. Smith in 1918 (6). She was a member of the 50 year club, on the board of the American Association of University Women and one of the founders of the Woman's Council for Democracy (7).

John C. Stallup Jr (1886-1920)

Sallie Shawl

  • 3.4.1
  • Person

Sallie Shawl of Lakebay, Washington, has been active in local social justice causes since the 1970s. Born to a Jewish family in San Francisco, Shawl became involved in activism after seeing images of peaceful civil rights protesters being attacked by dogs in the mid-1950s. She attended UC Berkeley before moving to New York City to work with the National Council of Churches. After relocating to Lakebay in 1976, Shawl worked in Tacoma at Associated Ministries and the YMCA Women’s Support Center.

She joined the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action and staged regular protests against the presence of the Trident nuclear submarine base in Bremerton. She was arrested multiple times for acts of civil disobedience. In 1988, she and Renee Krisko, of Poulsbo, were sentenced to six months in jail for blocking a train carrying missile fuel to the Trident base.

In 1991, she began managing the Paint Tacoma-Pierce Beautiful project which organized volunteers crews to paint the homes of low income Pierce County residents. She founded the Tacoma chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace and was a leader in People for Peace, Justice and Healing, Palestinian-Israeli Peace Endeavors, Tacoma Arabs, Jews, and Others for Peace and Occupy Tacoma. In 2013, she was awarded the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize.

Royal Gove

  • 6.1.2
  • Person
  • 1856-1920

Royal Amenzo Gove (1856-1920) was an early Tacoma physician, city council member, and public health officer. He was born in Vermont and raised in Minnesota. After studying medicine and surgery in Chicago, Louisville, and Iowa, Dr. Gove practiced medicine in Minnesota before moving to Tacoma in 1890 to start a new practice. In April 1892 and again in 1894, he was elected to the Tacoma City Council. Dr. Gove also served on the Washington State Board of Examiners. An active Mason, Dr. Gove was Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge of Washington in 1908 and 1909. He was a member of the Evergreen Lodge, Tacoma chapter; Royal Arch Masons; Scottish Rite; the Grotto and Eastern Star; and the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. He was variously President and Treasurer of the Pierce County Medical Society, which he helped to found, and was also a member of the State Medical Society, the American Medical Society, and the Tacoma Commercial Club. He died in Tacoma on January 21, 1920 after a three month illness.

Results 1 to 20 of 76