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Authority record

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."

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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