Showing 71 results

Authority record

Gerald Davis

  • 2.3.1
  • Person
  • 1926-

Gerald Davis was born in England and moved with his family to Seattle in 1937. In 1941, his father Norman purchased Heidelberg Brewery and the family relocated to Tacoma and lived at 424 North D Street. Davis attended Stadium High School and began working at the brewery in the bottle shop warehouse. He joined the Navy in 1948 and attended the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. He then attended the University of Louvain in Belgium where he studied the chemistry of brewing. He then worked as an apprentice at Cardinal Brewing Company in Fribourg, Switzerland. He then returned to Heidelberg Brewery to work in marketing and advertising. The company was sold to Carling Brewing Company in 1958 and Davis joined Carling as Assistant to Director of Marketing.

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.

ASARCO

  • 2.4.1
  • 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.

Bertha Snell

  • 2.5.1
  • Person
  • 1873-1957

Bertha Marguerite Denton Snell was a lawyer in Tacoma in the early 20th century. According to the Tacoma News Tribune, she was the first woman to be admitted to the bar in the state of Washington. Born in Ottawa, Illinois in 1873, she was soon sent to live with an aunt and uncle in Galway, Saratoga County, New York. Her uncle, the Honorable Patrick H. Meehan, ran a law office and post office in Galway. Bertha graduated from the Teachers’ Institute at Saratoga in 1888. In 1889, she moved to Washington where she worked as secretary to the governor of the newly established State of Washington, Elisha P. Ferry. She also served as a legislative intern. In 1893, she married Tacoma attorney Marshall King Snell. In 1899, Bertha Snell passed the bar and became the first woman lawyer in Washington State. She became a partner in her husband’s firm and together they built a successful practice. They first operated out of the Equitable Building and then relocated to the Puget Sound National Bank Building. Among their cases were suits dealing with land in Pierce and Whitman counties, and a controversial irrigation and water rights suit in Idaho (Nelson Bennett & Co. vs. Twin Falls Land & Water Co., 1906). Marshall and Bertha Snell helped develop the town of Ewan, Whitman County, Washington, where they owned property. They also owned property in Spokane, North Puyallup, and elsewhere in Pierce County. The Snells had a personal interest in history and supported the establishment of the Washington State Historical Society. The Snell Law Office drew up the Constitution and by-laws for this organization in 1898, and Marshall Snell served as an early trustee. Marshall K. Snell died in Tacoma on April 19, 1939. Bertha Snell continued to practice law until 1953. She died on October 20, 1957.

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.

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.

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.

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.

George M Miller

  • 3.2.2
  • Person
  • 1889-1964

George Miclea Miller was born in Palos, Romania on October 5, 1889. He immigrated to the United States and lived in Ohio before relocating to Tacoma in 1923. He worked as a longshoreman and checker for 32 years. He served eight years as President of the Local 38-97 International Longshoreman's Association (ILA), five years as the President of the Washington State Maritime Trades Group, and five years as President of the ILA District Council. Miller represented the longshoreman during the Streamline Strike of 1936 and helped lead a demand for higher wages for Pacific Coast longshore workers in 1940. He died in November 1964 at the age of 75.

Arthur J. Miller

  • 3.2.3
  • Person

Arthur J. Miller was a lifelong labor and civil rights advocate, born in San Diego but primarily active in the Puget Sound region after 1989. In 1967, he became involved in the anti-war movement and was allied with the Black Panther Party in the late ’60s. He made a career as a pipefitter in shipyards across the United States, joining the Industrial Workers of the World in 1970 at the suggestion of an I.W.W. member. His contributions in distributing radical leftist literature for the Panthers, and later his own publication Bayou La Rose, made him the target of disruption efforts of local and federal authorities. Arthur Miller passed in 2021.

Puyallup Valley Japanese American Citizens League

  • 3.3.1
  • Organization
  • 1930-

The Puyallup Valley Chapter (PVC) of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) was established in 1930,(1) but first appeared in newspapers on November 18, 1937, hosting a "bazaar" at the Fife High School auditorium, featuring prizes and a 26 pound turkey feast.(2) According to PVC member and Fife mayor Robert Mizukami, this type of event was typical of the group's social orientation during the pre-war period.(3) The fairs were intended as a means of "acquainting the public with the citizen's group and it's activities," which included ceremonial dancing, traditional dress and promoting the Japanese language schools that operated in neighboring cities of Fife, Firwood, Sumner and Tacoma.(4) The JACL consisted of Nisei, or second generation, Japanese Americans, rather than their parent Issei generation.(5)

On June 18, 1938, PVC president Dan Sakahara hosted an event introducing the editor and publisher of the all English language Japanese-American Courier in Seattle and national chairman of the JACL James Y. Sakamoto.(6) The difference between these two speakers was representative of the economic and educational rift between chapter presidents and JACL leaders. While Sakahara was successful, he sustained his family through farming on Vashon Island, just outside of Tacoma.(7) In contrast, Sakamoto made his living by skillfully navigating between Japanese and American language and culture.(8)

George M. Egusa (9) was elected president in 1939 followed by Lefty (Saturo) Sasaki of Orting, from 1940 through 1942.(10) Throughout this period the organization continued to hold public events demonstrating Japanese culture alongside patriotic adherence to American values. In a press photo from August 1941 at the National Bank of Washington, Lefty Sasaki is shown posing with PVC Secretary and Publicist Tadako Tamura and other group leaders around a banker's desk to invest in defense savings bonds.(11)

By that year, the JACL had grown to 55 chapters across sixteen states with Los Angeles holding a regular Nisei Week annual event.12 On October 30, the PVC hosted an event supporting National Defense Week to help unify efforts between the 250 Nisei soldiers active at the Fort Lewis Army base and Caucasian soldiers.13 The evening included an informal dinner with Issei family members, dancing and singing the American national anthem, "marching forward, arm in arm with their fellow young Americans." (14)

This purpose was expressed on a larger scale by JACL National Secretary and Field Executive Mike Masaoka earlier that month in a series of public letters to President Roosevelt and US Senators. Masaoka, a twenty six year old veteran and former professor of rhetoric at the University of Utah, (15) was asserting the patriotic loyalty of the JACL amidst rumors that the organization was acting as a fundraising branch of "Japan's war chest," and demanded "an investigation to prove our loyalty." (16)

Following the PVC's National Defense Week celebration at the Odd Fellow's Hall, soldiers from Fort Lewis turned out in droves at the Puyallup Valley Chapter's annual winter event on December 2, 1941 the largest in the organization's history. Over 1,500 visitors poured into the Fife High School gymnasium to celebrate the organization's "social, cultural and civic activities."(17) Five days later, the Japanese government attacked the American military base Pearl Harbor, which led to America entering WWII, causing a nearly immediate shift in the JACL's function up to that point. Four days after the bombing, Mike Masaoka issued his Japanese-American Creed, a policy of "unswerving loyalty" to the United States. In it, he pledges:

"to support her constitution; to obey her laws; to respect her flag; to defend her
against all enemies, foreign or domestic; to actively assume my duties and
obligation as. a citizen cheerfully and without any reservations whatsoever, in the
hope that I may become a better American in a better America." (18)

This same day the Tacoma News Tribune released a statement that there was a "flood" of applications for birth certificates amongst the Nisei community to establish their US citizenship. (19) Just as the organization had helped the community attain their driver's license registration in the past, (20) Lefty Sasaki of the PVC and leaders of the Tacoma chapter offered to help process these requests from many of the estimated 8,882 Nisei living in Washington as of the 1940 census. (21) This seems to be the inciting incident which caused some Japanese Language schools to reopen as headquarters for civilian defense, as was the case in Tacoma's Japanese Language School becoming the Japanese Community Center.(22) Schools that were not converted to these functions were shuttered by a resolution from James Y. Sakamoto on grounds that they would arouse "misunderstanding of the loyalty of Japanese in America." (23)

When Executive Order 9066 was issued by President Franklin Roosevelt on February 19, authorizing the forced "evacuation of all persons deemed a threat to
national security from the West Coast to relocation centers further inland," (24) these makeshift community centers across Washington became registration stations, which would facilitate the US government to route citizens to camps. JACL members also organized these efforts independent from the US government. As Seattle JACL secretary noted "We don't know where we're going- or when we are going but we do know we are going. The United States government has complete information about us, but we want our data, too." (25)

In the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor, the JACL leadership established working relationships with the FBI and naval intelligence officers to pinpoint "subversive Japanese organizations on the west coast." Recorded informants include JACL leaders Saburo Kido, Ken Matsumoto and previously mentioned Field Executive Mike Masaoka. (26) Masaoka maintained a working correspondence with Milton Eisenhower, the head of the War Relocation Authority (WRA), beginning in March of 1942, sending recommendations for how to operate the camps, which both parties attest to influencing later designs.(27) Masaoka also worked with the US government to indict possible Japanese American subversives in court (28) as well as before War WRA committee hearings. (29)

In early March 1942, Seattle JACL leader James Sakamoto spoke publicly about having an "intelligence unit" which collaborated with the FBI and explained how this
relationship could be used as a means of avoiding forced removal, suggesting that the Issei could be placed under custody of the Nisei. If the Issei generation didn't report twice a week to the Nisei, "the league's intelligence unit would inform the FBI." (30)

Soon after, Sakamoto's longtime newspaper competitor Dick Takeuchi, editor of The Great Northern Daily News in Seattle, submitted their final issue on the topic of expulsion, before Takeuchi himself was incarcerated at the Minidoka War Relocation Center. (31) The Great Northern's final issue was one page of English and seven pages of Japanese, consisting of the latest news and illustrated maps of the newly developed concentration camps, (32) including Camp Harmony in Puyallup, WA, where Sakamoto was elected Chief Supervisor on the 24th of April. (33)

"Camp Harmony" or the Puyallup Assembly Center, was really the Washington State Fairgrounds, converted into a series of barracks with a central mess hall over the course of 14 days. (34) Camp Harmony was staffed entirely by Japanese Americans, under the direction of the US military, so they might "resume their activities in Puyallup with as little inconvenience as possible." There is little hard evidence that this staff was made up of the Seattle JACL members that Sakamoto led, but some appointed staff, such as the Seattle Hotel Building Cooperation's William Y. Mimbu indicates that administrative positions were assigned to prominent figures in Sakamoto's political orbit. (35)

The Puyallup Valley Chapter leaders are nowhere to be found on this staff list, and at least one leader was incarcerated there. League Secretary and Publicist Tadako Tamura wrote this testimony for the Tacoma News Tribune just after arriving in Camp Harmony:

"At this time, we don't believe it necessary for us to leave a message of farewell
to this part of America. Or many Caucasian friends have bade us the most
reassured goodbyes 'for the duration.' The soil we worked... has become too
much a part of us to leave so easily. We hope the valley which was, and which is
our home, will continue to yield." (36)

In an account the following month, the Tacoma News Tribune caught up with Tamura building a small flower garden outside of her barracks in Area C, where other former
residents of the agricultural towns Fife and Orting had settled. This drive to get back to farmland and out of the camps was capitalized on by the US government who coordinated "emergency harvest camps" and "victory vacations," where young Japanese Americans were allowed out in order to compensate for the nation's recent agricultural vacancies. (37)

The article goes on to note an American flag floating over the entrance of Area C, which had recently been raised in a patriotic ceremony where Sakamoto was the main speaker. (38) This event was typical of the camp's emphasis on "the spirit of Americanism and democratic process," suggested by Masaoka in his April 6th letter to WRA director Milton Eisenhower. (39) While Masaoka's suggestions are generally concerned with education and maintaining civil liberties under incarceration, there is a dissonance in Masaoka's direction that "no intimation or hint should be given that they are in concentration camps or in protective custody, or that the government does not have full faith and confidence in them as a group and as individuals." (40) Masaoka indicated repeatedly throughout the 18 page letter that camps were intended to prove Japanese American loyalty, when their very existence demonstrated a government who strongly believed the contrary. In addition, demonstrating proof of innocence becomes exponentially more difficult from behind bars.

Tadako Tamura surfaces again in October 1942 as a contributing artist for The Minidoka Irrigator, the six page weekly newspaper for the 10,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated at the Minidoka War Relocation Center, founded by displaced Seattle newspaperman Dick Takeuchi. (41) The first two volumes traveled back to Seattle describing Minidoka as "a vast stretch of sagebrush, stubble and shifting, swirling sand... the sort of place people normally would traverse only to get to another destination." Throughout the course of 1942, the JACL lost favor within the community for failing to push back against the US military, deporting potential rivals and removing Japanese language reading materials. (42) Another issue which emerged over time was incarceration leading to seized property and land that the Issei had devoted their lives to developing. While these actions were brought on by major increases of Alien Land Law prosecutions, archaic legal holdovers from the nineteenth century which prohibited Issei citizens from owning property, very often, land titles were lost due to the chaotic nature of displacement. (43)

Faced with incarceration, former PVC president Dan Sakahara, who introduced James Sakamoto at a league event earlier, leased his farm on Vashon Island to Deputy Sheriff Finn Shattuck before he and his family were eventually moved to the Tule Lake Relocation Center in Northern California. Despite continued requests through 1944, Finn Shattuck sent no money for the crops harvested on Sakahara's land. When the family was freed, Dan Sakahara did not legally pursue the funds he was owed for his farmland, the largest acreage on Vashon Island, and instead chose to begin a new life in St. Louis. (44)

Following the repeal of Executive Order 9066 in 1946, the Puyallup Valley Chapter went dormant, not surfacing in newspapers again until 1958.45 According to future PVC president Robert Mizukami, (46) the reason for this was a scarcity of potential members. (47) This scarcity was described by Mike Masaoka, who emerged back into the public sphere in 1947 as the Washington D.C. Legislative Director of the Antidiscriminatory Committee for the JACL. In the article, Masaoka detailed the current state of Japanese American displacement. "Approximately 60 percent of the West Coast Japanese evacuated in 1942 have returned to the area... 15 percent have permanently settled in the East and Midwest and the other 25 percent are in a state of flux." (48)

This scarcity led to the Puyallup Valley Chapter and the Tacoma chapter combining members to reform the organization, with Kaz Yamane as PVC president and weekly meetings at the Tacoma Buddhist Church. (49) The group's ideology and mission changed in the chapter's reactivation. As Mizukami notes in an oral history conducted by the Densho Digital Archive, "it became more of a civil rights group than we were before. I think, like I said previous, prior to the war, it was more of a social group that did all these other activities. So since the war, I mean, its purpose has changed a little."

One of the most significant impacts that the organization made was the repeal of the Alien Land Law, which PVC president Dr. Sam Uchiyamo made a "prime objective" of the Northwest Council of the JACL beginning in 1960.50 After an extensive grassroots campaign organized by the Seattle JACL and defeated twice by referendums, (51) the law was finally repealed in 1966. (52) The repeal of the law wasn't publicly celebrated by the PVC, then led by Frank Mizukami. Instead, the league president appeared in newspapers donating copies of America's Concentration Camps, marking the 25th anniversary of the event,53 holding piano recitals for elementary school children54 and highlighting his expansive primrose greenhouse located in Fife. (55)

Since this accomplishment, the Puyallup Valley Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League has remained an active member of the Puget Sound community, contributing to a scholarship fund, (56) hosting historical programs for adults as well as school children (57) and continuing to host their annual cultural outreach events featuring ceremonial dance and traditional dress in Fife High School, just as they had in 1937. (58)

Joseph Seto

  • 3.3.2
  • Person
  • 1925-2021

Joseph "Joe" Seto was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1925 to Toraichi and Kiyo Seto. In 1942, Joe and his family were forced by the US Government to report to an incarceration camp in central California. They were then transferred to the Tule Lake War Relocation Camp in northern California. As part of a wartime labor program, Joe was temporarily released from Tule Lake to harvest sugar beets in Montana. He then joined his brother Matthew in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There he worked a variety of jobs before enrolling at Augsburg College. He completed a BS degree at the University of Minnesota. He then completed a Masters and PhD in Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin. In 1957, he completed his postgraduate doctoral studies at UCLA where he studied the Influenza virus under Professor Fred Rasmussen. He became a member of the West Los Angeles United Methodist Church where he met Grace Keiko Nakano. Joe and Grace married in August 1959. They then moved to San Francisco where Joe began teaching at California State University San Francisco. The following year, Joe joined the Department of Microbiology at California State University Los Angeles. He taught, conducted grant funded research, served as Department Chair, and managed the Public Health Program. He took four sabbaticals in Germany where he conducted research at the Institute of Virology at the University of Giessen. The Seto family, including his children Susan and Steven, joined him in Germany. He continued collaborating with his colleagues in Germany after retirement, traveling there annually until the 2010s. In 1998, he retired as Professor Emeritus. Seto died in 2021 at age 96.

Ancient Order of Vikings, Ship Tacoma No. 1

  • 3.3.3
  • Organization
  • 1892-1955

The Gamle Vikingers Forbund, or Ancient Order of Vikings, Ship No. 1 was created in 1892 as an extension of The Haabet (Hope) Literary Society, which had been active in the Tacoma community since 1890, providing an “English school for newcomers.” The organization, whose motto was “Brotherhood, Protection and Charity” included the founding members: Chas. Evans, Engvald Haug, Chas. Woog, Severin Haug, Ole Moen, Dirk Blaauw, G.O. Sande, C. Knutson, N.L. Ormsrud, Haakon Bader and Tom Knudson.

The society first appeared in newspapers in 1895, holding their annual celebration of Norway’s May 17th Constitution Day, which would frequently be attended by Tacoma political figures, including Mayor George P. Wright and accompaniment from the Walhalla Military Band. The organization also held annual Christmas celebrations which featured both Christian and Norse ceremonies, including a “representation of the ancient offering of sacrifice to Odin and Thor.”

In 1905, the society reserved a special train for members to visit Portland’s Lewis and Clark exposition together. In 1908, the 220 member organization purchased three acres in the north side of Fox Island at the entrance of Hales Passage for a lodge and picnic grounds for $50,000. The Ancient Order of Vikings eventually sold this property in order to invest in the Normanna Hall building at 1502 Martin Luther Way.

In 1941, the society donated their “Viking Library” to the Pacific Lutheran University, which included items which dated back to the Haabet Literary Society. Although the organization seems to have waned and revived on multiple occasions, a typed note within Log Book Six written by historian Hjalmer Jensen describes the final meeting of the order taking place on February 2nd, 1955.

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.

Helen Stafford

  • 3.4.2
  • Person
  • 1899-2002

Helen Cecile Beck Stafford (1899-2002) was a long-time community and civil rights advocate in Tacoma. She was born on November 15, 1899 in Wamego, Kansas, the tenth of eleven children born to a formerly enslaved father. In 1920, she graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in home economics and a minor in sociology. She taught in Kansas schools before moving to Tacoma in 1926 where she met and married her husband, Wendell P. Stafford. Openly denied a teaching position in Tacoma because she was Black, she later became the first African-American case worker for what was then the Tacoma Department of Public Assistance. During her years in Tacoma, Helen Stafford was a community leader and actively involved in many local civic and cultural organizations. In 1927, she organized the Matron’s Club, a social gathering of young Black married women who were mothers. In the early 1930s, Stafford helped to organize the Tacoma chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and served as its president. She organized the first Pacific Northwest chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, as well as the Tacoma chapter of The Links. She was involved with the Tacoma Urban League, and served on the board of the YWCA and the Tacoma Colored Woman’s Club. She was also an active member of the Allen AME Church, where she sang in the choir and was the long-time superintendent of Sunday School. After retiring in 1970, Stafford remained active in numerous local organizations, and in 1971 she was named the State Woman of Achievement by the Washington State Business and Professional Women’s Clubs Association, becoming the first African-American woman in the state to receive the honor. She received many awards, including the Finer Womanhood Award from Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Tacoma Municipal League, the Tacoma NAACP Service Award, and the YWCA Woman of the Year Humanitarian Award. In 1986 she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Puget Sound for humanitarian services, and in 1987 she returned to Kansas State University to receive the Alumni Medallion, a lifetime achievement award. On November 15, 1999, when she turned 100 years old, the Tacoma City Council declared the day “Helen Stafford Day.” She died on August 27, 2002 in Tacoma.

League of Women Voters of Tacoma-Pierce County

  • 3.4.3
  • Organization
  • 1920-

As the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote was passed by Congress in 1919, the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) reorganized to form the National League of Women Voters. Women in the Tacoma area had been active in statewide and national efforts to secure voting rights for women. Emma Smith DeVoe, of Parkland, served as President of the National Council of Women Voters which provided assistance and support to new voters in states where suffrage for women had been secured. In March 1919, DeVoe attended the NAWSA convention in St. Louis where President Carrie Chapman Catt began the National League of Women Voters. In January 1920, DeVoe and other local members of the National Council of Women Voters joined this national effort and converted to the state League of Women Voters in Tacoma. The Tacoma League began the Woman Voter newspaper in 1922 and took an active role in local politics. While the League became involved in work around restructuring city government as early as 1946, it wasn’t until the 1950s that membership expanded as a result of increased attention to local politics and restructuring efforts. By the end of the 1950s, there were 200 members of the Tacoma league. As more women joined from other areas of Pierce County, the League began to expand their focus to cover local issues outside of the City of Tacoma. In 1962, the group officially became the League of Women Voters of Tacoma-Pierce County to reflect their broader membership and scope. In 1974, the League dropped their requirement that members be women to join, allowing anyone with an interest in local political engagement to become involved. The group continues to produce and distribute The Voter newsletter. They also produce studies on a range of local and regional political topics and TRY (They Represent You) directories of elected officials in Pierce County.

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."

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.

Elizabeth Sale

  • 3.5.6
  • Person
  • 1886-1981

Elizabeth Sale (1886-1981) was a poet, novelist, and literary editor who spent her formative years in Tacoma, Washington. She was born Bettie Sale Clemmons June 26,1886, in Monroe County, Indiana. When she was three years old, her extended family moved to Tacoma, Washington, where her father and uncle worked as letter carriers. She married James Murdoch Stewart (1885-1956) in 1908 and they adopted a son, Harry Edward Skarbo (1908-1956) sometime after the death of his birth mother in 1911. Their second son, James Murdock Stewart, Jr., (1914-1999) was born November 24, 1914.

She was a charter member and the third president of the Tacoma Writers’ club, which was inaugurated in 1919. Her poetry was published in Washington State journals The Tacoman and Muse & Mirror, as well as syndicated in newspapers in the United States and Canada. She performed on KOMO radio in the late 1920s as “Aunt Missouri Jackson”, a Black “mammy” character in skits that she wrote every week. Her son Harry was to have his own fame in radio, nightclubs, and movies performing in Swedish dialect as “Yogi Yorgesson”, the Hindu mystic. By 1930, she was divorced and living in New York City. On April 14, 1931, she married Christoffer Fotland (1891-1972), a Norwegian sea captain, and had relocated to the Los Angeles area in California. She continued to be active in poetry circles in California and joined the San Pedro Writers’ Guild in 1936, of which she was later president.

She had begun writing her first novel as early as 1934, when she lived in Tacoma for two months while doing research. This year she began her collaboration with Virna Haffer (1899-1974) on a volume of erotic poetry and photographs, called Abundant Wild Oats. It was to be published by The Writer's Press in New York City in 1938, although it was never produced. A mock-up of the cover survives, along with a promotional brochure, a few poems, and a handful of Virna Haffer’s photographs. Her novel, Recitation From Memory (1943), was set in Tacoma and based on her early childhood experience. Her reminiscence continued through her second novel, My Mother Bids Me Bind My Hair (1944), which followed her life up to her first marriage. For ten years (c. 1938-1948) she worked as poetry editor of Rob Wagner’s Script, a weekly literary and film magazine published in Beverly Hills. Two volumes of her poetry were published, The Field (1968), and Where Lies the Land (1974). She lived the last two years of her life with her son James in Grand Junction, Colorado, where she died February 5, 1981.

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