Showing 76 results

Authority record

Tacoma News Tribune

  • 5.1
  • Business
  • 1883-Present

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

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

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

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

Willits Brothers Canoe Company

  • 2.6.2
  • Business
  • 1908-1967

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

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

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

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

Planning and Development Services 

  • 1.3.4
  • City of Tacoma Department
  • 1991-

In 1991 the Planning and Development Services Department was created through the merger of the Community Development Department and the Human Development and Planning Department (1). This department's mission is to partner with the community to build a livable, sustainable, and safe City by providing strategic, timely, predictable, cost-effective planning and development services with a culture focused on community engagement, customer service, creativity, accountability, and continuous improvement (2).

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.

Charles Carson

  • CAC1002
  • Person
  • 1970-

Charles Carson, MA, was born on October 25, 1970 in the Eastside of Tacoma. He and his siblings were raised by a single mother in an environment of alcoholism and violence. At age 12, Carson was arrested for theft and sent to Remann Hall Juvenile Detention Center. Before the age of 17, he was detained at the detention center a total of 18 times. As his mother’s alcoholism worsened, Charles would frequently be kicked out of his home and spend the night in abandoned buildings. He began selling crack/rock cocaine and became addicted. During his teen years, he was a frequent witness to deaths, gun violence, and overdoses. In February of 1988, Charles was beaten and shot during a drug-related incident. After being released from the hospital, he moved in with his best friend's family. His friend's mother, Ramona Bennett, a Puyallup tribal leader, activist, and mentor, became a surrogate mother to Charles, encouraging him to quit drugs and return to school. With her support, he enrolled in an alternative high school and completed four years of coursework in just 18 months. Over the next year, Charles was awarded the Boys and Girls Club’s Youth of the Year Award and selected to attend the Washington Leadership Institute. In 1989, he was recruited by the Safe Streets Campaign to support at risk youth impacted by drugs and violence in Tacoma. On March 15, 1991, he founded the Late Nite program in collaboration with the Tacoma Center YMCA. The program has since expanded across Pierce County and has been implemented in other cities across the United States. He has received dozens of national awards and recognitions for public service, including being honored by Vice President Al Gore for his work with Late Nite. Charles went on to earn an Associate’s Degree from Tacoma Community College, a Bachelor’s Degree from Evergreen State College, and a Master’s degree from the University of Washington. He has spoken extensively at colleges, detention centers, and churches. He now works as a musician and author and operates Beautiful Birds Family Services, a foster/adoption agency that helps find homes for children.

Lewis Law Jr.

  • 2.1.7
  • Person
  • 11/22/1929-1/23/1998

Lewis Law, born to Viva Berg and Lewis Law Sr., was a graduate of Stadium High School and served as a US Army reservist. As a lifelong Tacoman Lewis' career at Tacoma City Public Works Department spanned 42 years. There he worked as a sidewalk inspector, principal engineer aid, and in the city's traffic signs department. An accomplished photographer, he was a division chairman and later vice president of the Tacoma Photographic Society. In these roles, he presented on photographic composition and shooting color film, among other photographic techniques. Lewis was also an avid traveler who photographed many of his trips throughout his life. He retired from the city in 1995 and passed away on January 23rd, 1998.

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."

Murray Morgan

  • 6.1.1
  • Person
  • 1916-2000

Murray Morgan was born in Tacoma in 1916 to Henry Victor and Ada Camille Morgan. His father, a Unitarian Universalist Minister, was the publisher of a monthly religious periodical while his mother wrote children's plays and poetry. As a student, he wrote for both his junior high and high school newspapers. Before his 1933 graduation from Stadium High School, Morgan's article "How to Second a Boxer," was published nationally in Scholastic Magazine. He enrolled at the University of Washington where he studied journalism and edited the UW Daily. He graduated cum laude in 1937 and then moved to Hoquiam to report on sports and local news for the Grays Harbor Washingtonian. He briefly returned to Seattle to edit the Seattle Municipal News. While there, he reunited with Rosa Northcutt, who had also attended UW and worked on the UW Daily. On March 5, 1939, Murray and Rosa were married in Tacoma. The couple went to Europe for their honeymoon where they embarked on a kayaking trip through Germany and Austria. Murray's reports on the trip were published in the Tacoma News Tribune. He then wrote for the Spokane Daily Chronicle before returning to the Grays Harbor Washingtonian as the City Editor. In 1941, he moved to New York City to pursue a Master's degree in journalism at Columbia University. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, media outlets expanded their operations and Murray began working on assignments for CBS, Time, and the New York Herald Tribune. Rosa attended his classes and took notes for him while he wrote. With her help, he completed the Master's program and was awarded a Pulitzer Fellowship. He and Rosa moved to Lake Patzcuaro, Mexico where Murray intended to study and write about the Mexican press. Just a few months after their arrival in Mexico, Murray was drafted into the army. His first book, a mystery called Day of the Dead, was published under the pen name Cromwell Murray in 1946. While stationed in the Aleutian Islands, Rosa encouraged Murray to write about the history of the island. She conducted research and sent the information to Murray. This resulted in his first history book, Bridge to Russia: Those Amazing Aleutians (1947). Murray was then transferred to the Pentagon to work as decoder. While in Washington, DC, he worked with Rosa to research the CSS Shenandoah which resulted in the book Dixie Raider (1948). The Morgans returned to Washington and lived on Maury Island where Murray wrote a second novel, The Viewless Winds. They then moved to Trout Lake where Murray would live for the rest of his life. He wrote for dozens of magazines and newspapers including Holiday, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, The Nation, and the Saturday Evening Post. He also worked as the copyeditor for the Tacoma Times and taught courses and advised the student newspaper at the University of Puget Sound. He briefly worked the graveyard shift as the bridgetender for the 11th Street Bridge which would later be renamed in his honor. In 1951, Murray's most successful book, Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle was published. In the early 1950s, Morgan added the role of broadcaster to his growing list of occupations. He and Jim Faber co-hosted a morning news program on KMO and then KTAC where they discussed Tacoma politics and became known for exposing and discussing corruption. In 1956, Morgan joined KTNT to host a morning program called "Our Town, Our World," which would continue for 15 years. In 1963, he started a regular review column for the Seattle periodical Argus. Between 1969 and 1981, he taught a course on Northwest history at Tacoma Community College. During this period, he also taught at Highline Community College, Pacific Lutheran University, and Fort Steilacoom Community College. Over the course of his career, he wrote or co-wrote 23 books. He died on June 22, 2000.

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.

Byrd Family

  • 6.2.2
  • Family

Adam Byrd was born in Ohio in 1796. He and his wife had nine children. They relocated to Illinois first and then moved again to Richland County, Wisconsin where Adam operated a grist mill. In April 1852, the family acquired a team of oxen and embarked on a six month journey on the Oregon Trail. The family arrived in Vancouver, Oregon Territory. Adam continued on with Lieutenant A. Slaughter further north and selected a site at the head of Chamber Creek for a mill. Adam returned to move his family to the site in February of 1853. They stopped at Judge Thomas Chambers' mill on the way where Adam Byrd died on April 26, 1853. Adam's sons Andrew, Marion, and Preston constructed a grist mill and saw mill on the site their father had selected. George Byrd, the youngest son of Adam Byrd, attended the first school session held in Pierce County in 1854. In 1865 George married Mary Ellen White of Olympia who had crossed the Oregon Trail in 1851. George operated the mill until 1868. He later devoted the surrounding land to raising hops. In 1885, he represented Pierce County in the state legislature and served as Justice of the Peace in 1890. George and Mary Ellen had nine children. George was active in the Fern Hill area. He donated the land and financed the construction of the Methodist Episcopal Church and parsonage in Fern Hill and help establish school district number 23. He donated several lots and gave other incentives to encourage the street car to run through Fern Hill. He died June 17, 1915.

Marjorie Jane Windus

  • 6.3.2
  • Person
  • 3/29/1920-12/29/2013

Marjorie Jane Windus was born in 1920 to Louise and Harold Windus. Harold was a movie theatre organist in Seattle during the silent film era. Marjorie attended the University of Washington and after graduating moved to Chicago Illinois where she worked as a hostess/cashier at the Blue Note Jazz Club while pursuing a singing carrier. She returned to Washington where she received her master's degree in social work from the University of Washington. After graduating she became a social worker for the Pierce County Community Worker Unit. She developed the first community-wide resource directory in Pierce County. She also played a role in helping the Puyallup Tribe get possession of the building which would later become their community center (the former Cascadia Juvenile Diagnostic Center). She retired from the Department of Social and Health Services in 1983 and moved to San Francisco until early 2009 when she returned to Tacoma. Until her passing, she attended the Monterey Jazz Festival. She died in Tacoma after a brief illness.

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.

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 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."

Karen Vialle

  • 1.2.4
  • Person
  • 1943-2019

Karen Vialle was born in Tacoma in 1943 to Leo and Arline Ristvet. She graduated from Wilson High School in 1961 and from the University of Puget Sound in 1963. In 1988, she launched her first run for office and was elected to the Tacoma City Council. In 1990, she became the first woman elected Mayor of Tacoma, serving in the role until 1994. She was elected to the Tacoma Public Schools Board of Directors in 2011 and 2017. She also served as an Assistant Professor at the University of Puget Sound, a consultant for the Puyallup and Muckleshoot tribal school systems, a substitute teacher, executive director of Centro Latino, assistant director of the State Budget Office, and deputy chief for the State Insurance Commissioner. In 2019, former Mayor Marilyn Strickland credited Vialle for making it possible for other women and diverse candidates to run for office in Tacoma. As Mayor, Vialle arranged for the purchase and cleanup of the Foss Waterway and led urban renewal and mass transit projects.

Bill Baarsma

  • 1.2.3
  • Person
  • 1943-

Bill Baarsma was born in Tacoma in 1943. He attended Stadium High School and the University of Puget Sound (Class of 1964) where he studied political science. He obtained a master's degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. where he served as a clerk for Senator Henry M. Jackson and as a White House Fellow with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. From 1968 to 2001, Baarsma taught political science, business management, and public administration at the University of Puget Sound. In 1991, he was elected to City Council and, in 2001, he became the 38th Mayor of the City of Tacoma. During his two terms as Mayor, Baarsma was involved in the development of the Click Network, the largest municipally owned telecommunications system in North America.

Mike Parker

  • 1.2.2
  • Person
  • 1947-2019

Mike Parker was born in Renton, Washington on May 23, 1947. He became the youngest legislator in Washington state history when he was elected to the State House of Representatives at age 26. He ran for U.S. Congress in 1976, but lost to fellow Democrat Norm Dicks in the primary. The following year, he launched his mayoral campaign. On November 8, 1977, he defeated state senator Lorraine Wojahn to become the youngest Mayor ever elected in Tacoma at age 30. Parker is most known for his role in developing plans and gathering support for the Tacoma Dome. He also played a key role in establishing a Tacoma Police Department motorcycle fleet and successfully lobbying the state Department of Transportation to include Tacoma in signage and branding for the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. After his term as Mayor, he ran to become the first Pierce County Executive, but lost to Booth Gardner. He went on to pursue a career in the broadcast industry. At the time of his death in 2019, he was survived by his wife Maria and children Michael, Jr. Jeffrey, David, Dianna, and Sara along with seven grandchildren.

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."

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.

J. W. Roberts

  • 6.1.3
  • Person
  • 1836-1912

J. W. Roberts, born July 17, 1836 in Hollingworth, England, was a farmer and early pioneer in Spanaway, Washington. He was born to Elizabeth Wilson and Samuel Roberts and had four siblings: Matilda, Jane, William and George. In 1843 the Roberts family emigrated from England to the United States. Census records show that the Roberts family lived in Wisconsin (1850) and Illinois (1860), but in 1860 J. W. Roberts was no longer living with his family and had presumably headed west. The year when J. W. Roberts arrived in Washington is unknown, though his papers indicate he was living in Pierce County as early as 1866. Other family members, including his parents, brother, and niece eventually moved to Pierce County and purchased land near J. W. Roberts' claim at the southwest side of Spanaway Lake. Through inheritance and investment, J. W. Roberts continued to obtain and lease land in Spanaway and parts of South Tacoma. At the time of his death in 1912, J. W. Roberts was a wealthy land owner, landlord and farmer who had lived in Pierce County for over 40 years. Between 1868 and 1912, J. W. Roberts recorded his daily work on notebooks, loose papers, account books and pieces of cardboard. The journal entries average only a line or two a day and give accounts of details such as the weather and his daily work: tending to livestock, planting, clearing land, and various household tasks. He describes trips to Tacoma and other nearby areas to purchase or sell goods, and visit family. J. W. Roberts’ journals and correspondence also illustrate his family’s movements in Pierce County. His parents settled in Steilacoom in 1870, and his brother George Roberts lived in South Tacoma and ran Roberts Granite & Marble Works at 5304 South Alder St. In the last month of his life, J. W. Roberts’ journal entries made mention of “akes & pains,” swollen ankles, and being “verry sick.” According to his obituary, J. W. Roberts died May 12, 1912 at his brother George Roberts’ home in Tacoma. On May 14 his funeral was held in the Merrow & Storlies Chapel in South Tacoma. He is buried at Oakwood Cemetery. J. W. Roberts died a wealthy man without a wife, children or a will. After his death there were several claims on his sizable estate, estimated at the time to be worth between $70,000 and $90,000. Claimants included his great-grandnephew Charles Larson who petitioned on behalf of himself and his siblings, and a woman named Marguerite Clark Mulroy Snyder of Rockford, Illinois who declared herself a long-lost granddaughter. Both petitions were eventually rejected by the courts, and the claim by Mrs. Snyder declared grossly fraudulent. Included in these papers is a full record of this court case which made front page news and attracted considerable attention in both Tacoma and Rockford, Illinois. In the end, half of J. W. Roberts’ estate was awarded to his only surviving brother George Roberts, and the other half was split between two nieces, Elizabeth Beck and Catherine Rossiter.

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