Sunday, February 8, 2015

Fighting World War I in the woods of the Pacific Northwest

The American participation in World War I was bracketed by two violent events that showed just how dangerous and volatile was work in the Pacific Northwest woods.  Logging and milling wood has always been dangerous, but external events upped the ante in the early part of the last century.  The tensions between national security interests, the opportunities of large timber companies to make lots of money and the goals of tough guy labor unions unafraid of violence combined with the Spanish Flu to create a very hard edge to life in Pacific Northwest forests.  Ultimately, these circumstances brought 30,000 US Army troops into the woods

Everett Library Northwest Collection
The first event was the Everett Massacre in November of 1916.  In support of a Shingle Weaver’s Union strike in Everett, two boats containing 300 men chartered in Seattle by the Industrial Workers of the World attempted to land at an Everett dock.

As the passengers on the first boat, the Verona, approached, they were greeted by 200 armed men deputized by Snohomish County Sheriff Don McCrae.  The Sheriff and his deputies believed that the IWW radicals were going to burn down their city and Sheriff McCrae shouted at the men on the boats that they were not going tie up in Everett.  There was a shot, stunned silence for half a breath, and then an enormous barrage that killed five on the boat and two on the dock and wounding many.  It is quite possible that others on the boat were killed but never found as they fell, wounded or dead, into the receding tide. 

Jack Miller, last surviving passenger on the Verona.
He died in 1986.  This is his booking picture taken the day
after Bloody Sunday
Everett Library Northwest Collection 
When the Verona and the Calista returned to Seattle, 30 miles south, many who had been on those boats were arrested and returned to Everett.  Ultimately, only one person on the Verona was tried for murder and he was acquitted.  No one on the dock was tried.

The other event was the Centralia Massacre.  Four young veterans were killed, along with a Lewis County deputy sheriff and an IWW veteran during a November 11, 1919 parade celebrating the first anniversary of the Armistice.  The IWW had opposed America’s fighting in Europe and had tried to close the woods with a vigorously enforced strike over the eight hour day and the appalling conditions for loggers even as timber was becoming a critically important part of the war effort.

Clockwise, from left.  Ben Casagranda, Warren Grimm,    
Arthur McElfresh, Dale Hubbard, Legionnaires killed.
The IWW and the citizens of Centralia had tangled the year before during a parade and the IWW hall had been destroyed and its inhabitants beaten.  This time, the seven men waiting in the union hall were armed and they had stationed other armed men with line of sight to the hall. 

The men in the parade were set on violence, prepared for it and, as expected, charged the hall.  While it is not entirely clear, I think it is more likely than not that the Wobblies fired first.  Two in the parade died immediately and two others were shot by Wesley Everest, a veteran and IWW organizer, as he dashed out the back door and was cornered.  Everest was captured, jailed and later mutilated and lynched by a mob who broke into the jail and hung him on a bridge over the Skookumchuck River.

In between these events, the Spanish Flu ebbed and flowed, piling up the bodies of far more people than the fighting in Europe or at home. 

Perry Cross
At this moment John Cross, who preferred his middle name, Perry, reported for duty in the US Army at the Vancouver Barracks, across the Columbia River from Portland. Cross was homesteading and making moonshine near the Crook County village of Hampton, Oregon 60 miles southeast of Bend in what is the northern edge of the Great Sandy Desert. His mother, Mary was with him as was his older brother, Frank. Hampton had enough rain to support cattle then and even had a post office, which would close in 1953.  The cattle were mostly gone by the time Perry left his claim as the desert crept north.

The picture here shows him in a US Navy uniform.  It’s hard to read on his cap the ship he’s assigned to, but it’s the Charleston.  The ship was stationed at the Bremerton Navy Yard between 1912 and 1916 and served as a “receiving ship,” a temporary assignment for new recruits until things got sorted out and a permanent assignment for the recruit was found. 

The USS Charleston on Puget Sound
The temporary assignment never got permanent and Cross left the Navy after just five months, likely sometime in 1916, I believe.  When he registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, he noted his Navy experience and wrote that he had been a coal passer, a person with a shovel at the interface of a very hot fire and a very large pile of coal.  Clearly, the Navy assignment didn’t go well for Perry.  Perhaps he couldn’t stand the dust, heat and noise in the bowels of the Charleston, or perhaps he busted something up in Bremerton, maybe a colleague.  His kids think the jagged scar on his throat stemmed from that time.

Spruce Loggers
Note that they are splitting this log in two, lengthwise
Cross was thirty when he registered for the draft, which would put him at the high end of the draftee manpower pool.  Perhaps that was the reason for his assignment to the Vancouver Barracks, a place where he and 30,000 other soldiers reported to the Spruce Production Division and fanned out across the Northwest to logging camps.  His assignment was a camp not far from Grays Harbor, along a narrow band of the Pacific coast where the Spruce thrived.  It had become a strategic war material critical for use in wood frame airplanes. 

The combination of strength and flexibility made the Sitka Spruce the ideal wood for the cloth covered bombers and fighters used by the allies.  British airframe manufacturers had identified the value of Sitka Spruce and had tested it in British Columbia in 1914.  As Europe began blundering into war, they decided it was by far the best airplane material for their air force, overtaking Fir, not as strong and 35% heavier than Sitka Spruce.

Spruce Production Division
Meeting the design requirements for aircraft quality wood was difficult and the demand for properly prepared Sitka Spruce seemed impossible meet.  There could be no knots of any kind in the wood.  Knots created weak points unable to stand up to the stresses of flying.  Milling the wood to keep the grain in the wood at its strongest, required techniques not invented before the war.  Initially, only ten percent of the Spruce tree would meet design requirements after it was milled.  Drying the wood properly took many months.  But national security is a powerful motivator and problems got solved with enough money and men.  Work at the University of Wisconsin led to a new technique that would dry the wood in a matter of days and loggers started splitting the wood in the field to keep the grain intact and also made the giant logs more manageable.

Demand was massive.  At the beginning of World War I, Russia, France, Great Britain, Italy and the United States had just 688 warplanes between them and they played a limited role in combat strategy.  By the end of the war, the allies were flying more than 12,000 combat aircraft in many different strategic roles.  There were long range bombers, anti-submarine aircraft, torpedo fighters and many other specialized planes being built and deployed. Aircraft were also falling out of the sky in astonishing numbers.  France, England and Russia lost 116,000 planes in just four years.

Price for Sitka Spruce was twice what Fir could command and airplane quality wood was selling at $105/thousand board feet.  Despite a strong price incentive, the demand continued to exceed delivery. According to the Lumberman, an industry publication in Portland, there just weren’t enough workers in the woods. Combined with the technical problems and the difficulty of getting equipment to the right stands of trees, production of aircraft quality wood was well-below the expectations of the war managers.  The workforce left in the woods was unreliable and highly politicized.  Many former loggers were now fighting or working in European forests and the percentage of IWW men in the woods was higher than ever before. Their strikes, slowdowns and industrial sabotage was becoming a national issue. In 1917, the Lumberman published a tough editorial outlining the problem:

“In the Spruce camps of Oregon and Washington are to be found a steadily decreasing number of Americans...Among the men of the woods there is to be found a certain percentage who have developed an outright antagonism to this
Fine Art America
country and its institutions.  We will not stop to consider or analyze the causes of their mental attitude.   They are bitter. They have no interest in the nation’s affairs at home and are not concerned with its success on the battlefields. Their resentment is manifest.  Their influence for evil is world-wide.

The nation must rise to the emergency.  This is not the time to quibble over hours, or the price of logs or the percentage of acceptable grades.  This is a national crisis.  To delay action with the view of harmonizing individualistic views is well nigh treasonable.  Unionism and employers’ associations should be forgotten while the insidious, stealthy and criminal acts of sabotage should, upon conviction, be met by death.”

Spruce Production Division
Military intelligence had labeled the woods of the Pacific Northwest a volcano ready to explode.  The war department decided that a fresh set of eyes were necessary and they found them in a retired Lieutenant Colonel who had, before the war, decided to start a new career as the warden of the Michigan State Prison System.  As the American entry into the war became more evident, Brice Disque wanted to get into the European fight as an infantry commander and was lobbying the army for a command.  Instead, he was asked to remain a civilian and make a study of the situation in the Pacific Northwest forests and bring back recommendations to meet the demand for Sitka Spruce. 

A University of Washington professor who studied union/management issues, Carlton Parker, was one of the people Disque turned to for advice.  Parker was a student of working conditions in the woods and was aware of a recent study by the Commission on Industrial Relations that specified the cruel conditions in the logging camps.   Half of the camps were infested with bed bugs and only half had showers.  Forty people slept in a tent designed for twelve, two people sleeping in the lower bunk with another two overhead.  The majority of mattresses were nothing more than hay dumped into a bunk.  Food was dreadful, turnover was off the charts.  

Parker took Disque on a tour of the camps.  Disque, who had served during the
Henry Suzzallo
UW Collections
Philippine Insurrection, noted that they had treated prisoners there better.  He was appalled by the conditions and thought attitudes of the companies and the IWW and the other forest unions had long since frozen in place.  Company spies were everywhere and The IWW was growing in strength, as many as 100,000 IWW in the northwest forests. 

“My wonder was not that production was low but that there was any production at all,” Disque wrote. 

Working with Parker and with University of Washington President Henry Suzzallo, who was serving as Chairman of the Washington State Board of Defense, Disque devised a plan that would address working conditions, install military discipline and standards and create a labor union that could work with the companies and have the respect of workers.

Spruce Production Division
Disque recommended that military camps be set up near the Spruce forests and the private camps were expected to apply the same standards to their workers as the military.  Each camp had to have designs for sleeping quarters, bathing, latrines and recreation that met US Army standards.  If the private companies could not, military teams would step in and build them.  The food was double the military ration in Europe and mostly better in quality.

General Black Jack Pershing, head of the War Department, liked the recommendations and asked Disque to implement them. 

As 1918 approached, Disque, who was suspicious of politics, showed some excellent political instincts.  The pay would be standardized and each skill would be paid accordingly, the same for the civilians as for the military.  Also, Disque announced that there would be an eight hour day in the forests of the United States Army.

The companies preferred firing people rather than compromising with them and were completely shocked by what Disque was doing.  So was the IWW and the American Federation of Labor, who competed for the loyalty of the loggers.  The unions thought the Army was simply a strikebreaker, but here they were giving the unions their key issues -- the eight hour day, on-site medical care, better food, better pay and decent housing.

There was a catch.  Workers and companies who did not sign the patriotic pledge as a member of the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen had a tough time finding work in the woods.  While never claiming to be a labor union, the Spruce Division made the LLLL the only game in the forests.  The constitution of the LLLL defines a role far more benign that it actually was: 

“The Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen is not a labor union in the common acceptance of that term, but is purely a patriotic association of both operators and operatives engaged in this essential war industry.”

In the twelve months from November 1917 to October 1918, aircraft quality Sitka Spruce production went from under 3,000,000 board feet/month to well over 30,000,000/month.  Not only did actual logging and milling increase dramatically, but the infrastructure being built by the army was an asset of considerable future value to the region.  New logging roads, bridges and rail lines opened up billions of board feet to Sitka Spruce production, but also for whatever other forest products were in the way.  

In November of 1918, an exhausted Europe laid down its arms and the Spruce Production Division its shovels, axes and saws.  Men like Perry Cross were sent to the Vancouver Barracks to be mustered out. At the same time the great pandemic, the Spanish Flu, was at its peak in Portland and on the way to killing 50,000,000 people in the rest of the world by the end of 1919.

The flu was always big news in our family.  It took the man who would have been my uncle.  Joe Royer died at 15 in Grovont, Wyoming, one of the first fatalities in Wyoming.  The disease ended my father’s formal education.  The schools closed in Grovont and my father, a fourth grader, never returned. 

When Cross left the woods, he likely would have spent some time quarantined at the Vancouver Barracks.  Had he gone into Portland, he likely would not have seen one of the vaudeville shows at the Pantages Theater.  He might have been unable to join other soldiers at a bar. It's possible he would have been barred from riding a trolley without a cotton mask.  Portland was ambivalent about preventative measures like these because of their impacts on business, and put them in place and abandoned them throughout 1918.  The mayor and others in Portland found a silver lining just about everywhere, and decided to believe the epidemic was on its last legs.  Some weeks cases might wane somewhat, but they came back with a vengeance throughout the year and well into 1919.

The disease was especially hard on young, healthy people for reasons still unknown today.  Here are the heartbreaking death notices for December 27, 1918 from the Seattle Times:

Charles Henry Herman, 3; Matilda Kotiranta, 28; Victor Denton, 51; Leonard S.  Martin, 25; Marjorie Hilda, Dolores, Howard Prosser, 4, 2, and 6 months; Myrtle Hoffman, 33; Frederick Harvey, 55; Wells Perigo, 36. 

December, 1918 nurses log at the Long Beach, Washington
 hospital in Southwestern Washington coast
Who can say how many fatalities might have happened in the woods if the conditions Brice Disque found in 1917 existed in the flu years?  Medical care, better food and clothing, and better housing kept fatalities in the Northwest woods in the lowest quartile of death rates around the country.

A unique 1919 study among wage earners across the US, Harvard professors Lee Frankel and Louis Dublin studied rates of death based on insurance claims among 12,000,000 policy holders across the United States.  The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company sold life insurance policies to industrial workers over
many years.  Analyzing that data base, the two professors compared claims before and after the pandemic. They found that the rate of death from flu and pneumonia between the pre-influenza years 1911-1917, was 125/100,000.  If that number were applied to 1918, it would have meant 14,000 deaths.  However, the death rate they found during the epidemic was 774/100,000, translating to more than 71,000 deaths of policyholders between October of 1918 and June of 1919.  Nearly 75% of those deaths happened in the Fall of 1918.  

National Geographic
Spanish Flu got the name because Spain was neutral during World War I and did not have the kind of press censorship the allies practiced.  Accordingly, it seemed worse in Spain than anywhere else.  The real origins of the flu are disturbingly vague.  An early outbreak occurred at Fort Riley near Manhattan, Kansas and killed 48 soldiers in March of 1918.  It has long been thought as the beginning of the pandemic.  Today, a Canadian historian points to the formation of the Chinese Labor Corps, a 100,000 people who came to Canada from China by boat and shipped across Canada by train before reporting to France as laborers, freeing up servicemen for the front. 

Before leaving, the Chinese had been exposed to an evolving flu virus coming from the mixing of birds and pigs in China that produces our influenza today. As the virus evolved, it would soon turn into the killer it became in 1918/1919.  The laborers' early exposure to a more benign virus made them less susceptible to being sick later.  People born after 1889 and never been exposed to a flu epidemic were highly vulnerable.

Like so many other veterans demobilized at the Vancouver Barracks, Cross felt fine in the morning and sick as hell in the afternoon. Soon, he was wheezing inside a hospital tent, the regular hospital completely full and he toes poking into and under the wet canvas.  He couldn’t keep track of the time, dozed on and off and woke to a strange voice above him saying:  

“Well, this one’s moving.”

His mother and brother were then in Portland and Cross recuperated there before making his way to Hampton where he found his homestead stripped of most things that were useful.  The house still stands though the bunch grass that surrounded the place, “belly deep to a steer,” no longer is part of the desert landscape.

He wasn’t long for Hampton.  In a couple of years he traded the homestead for an orchard in Mosier, in the heart of cherry country near The Dalles. He met a woman there and she moved in.  Just about the time she thought they had become orchardists, they moved on to Harrison, Idaho, where Cross made his life as a ranch hand and whiskey-making entrepreneur way up lake Couer d’Alene.  He said he never drank his own. There, even in the mid-twenties, people needed a good ranch hand and especially someone good with all animals.  He rode horses everyday until one day he couldn’t get up on one.  He had six children.

The Charleston is still working.  Towed to a Powell River log pond next to a mill, she was part of a breakwater fleet of hulks on Vancouver Island keeping the logs close to the mill.  In danger of sinking, she was towed a short distance away and protects Kelsey Bay, though scuttled now and sitting on the shallow bottom. 

Brice Disque was made a Brigadier General by the end of the war but soon found himself before The House Investigations Committee on Wartime Spending trying to explain why a railroad he built into the Olympic Peninsula cost so damned much a mile.  

A great many things came together after the war that made the wartime decision to send 30,000 troops into the woods of the Pacific Northwest seem as radical as it was.  The 1920 presidential election loomed.  Some private lumber companies who felt they could have done it better than the government wanted an opportunity to complain.  Other timber companies wanted a return to the 50 hour week and the two dollar day.  Canada, they said, didn’t put its army in its forests and still put out Spruce in the millions of board feet. Still others saw the infrastructure in place and wanted to buy it or steal it.  

Disque was a guy who liked the offense, felt partisan politics a despicable profession and was proud of what he’d done.  He didn't like where he was and the pique came out. In a deposition, he was told by his inquisitors that the person who was going to testify negatively was the brother of the President of Columbia University:

“The brothers of a lot of prominent men are the worst crooks that you meet,” he said.  Later, he asked the the statement be dropped from the record.

The storm passed and Disque supervised the biggest surplus sale of federal equipment since the building of the Panama Canal. 

The Sitka Spruce has none of the elegance, say, of a True Cedar, Sequoia or Ponderosa Pine.  It is simply big, often with great burls just above its feet, limbs pointing every which way, moss along its shaded side.  It is a loner, a kind of alien dropped into a community of meek, skinny trees keeping their distance. 

On the road between Seaside and Portland our family drove by such a tree for years, a sign by the road saying “World’s Biggest Sitka Spruce.”  It stood close to the highway, down a path from a small parking lot.
 
Klootchy Creek Spruce
The conversation, starting in the early 1950s and lasting, with mostly different participants, until 2007, started this way, beginning in the back seat:

“Daddy.  Can we see the tree?”
“No, it’s late.  We have to keep going?”
“Just this time?”
“Okay.  Just this time.”

Monday, August 25, 2014

From horses to cars in Seattle


The restoration of an older brick building on Western Avenue has me thinking about the transition from horse transportation to automobile transportation in Seattle.  The building, five stories high, originally opened in 1910 as a stable for horses, three hundred of them, in fact, the biggest, most modern stable in town.  Better than anything else West of the Mississippi, the owners, V. D.  Maddocks and Scott Benjamin liked to say.   

There were many stables on Western Avenue then, two of them just a block to the South and the big Bon Marche Stable a block to the North, home for the store’s delivery horses and wagons.  In fact, Seattle had 38 public stables in 1910, the zenith for that Seattle business category.

I wondered about the wisdom of building a fancy horse stable in 1910. Wasn’t the transition from horse to horseless well underway by then?  I somehow had the transition happening more quickly than it did.  And I wondered about the quality of the transition.  Did people see it a good thing?  Or, were they exchanging a slower, less polluted time for a noisier, dirtier, more dangerous time?

The answers are pretty simple.  Among the leading problems of the good old days was the horse.  The horse had been the center of transportation and other work for centuries, but by the beginning of the last century, there were too many of them serving people who increasingly lived in crowded cities.  For example, in the 30 years between 1880 and 1910, Manhattan's density doubled from 20,000 people/square mile to 40,000. The bulky horse was asked to work squeezed into crowded, noisy streets where they were dangerously prone to panic in all the noise and clatter.  Over 200 New Yorkers lost their lives to horse accidents in 1890.  It went both ways.  Horses worked until they fell, frequently left dead on the streets.  The great city disposed of 15,000 dead horses in 1890, about 10% or the city’s equine population.


The old Seattle garbage man Josie Razore once told me that the principal reason he got an early solid waste disposal contract in Bellingham back in 1929 was that he committed to the city that fewer dead horses would wash up on the Bellingham shore. Garbage, manure and other unpleasant things, like dead horses, were then loaded on barges and taken out into Bellingham Bay on a retreating and dumped.  It was discomfiting to a generation that was discovering how wonderful recreation was to come across a big horse on the beach ripped apart by sharks and pecked apart by gulls and vultures. 

Razore knew about horses at the end of their lives.  The garbage wagon was usually the last stop for older horses who broke into the transportation game in Bellingham as muscular fire horses pulling bright and expensive equipment.  Later, when Mr.  Razore had them, they plodded slowly along to the end of their days.  Sometimes, however, when the firebell rang, their training and adrenaline kicked in in and off they’d run to the firehouse, ruining Razore’s carefully planned pick up routes.

The more complicated and dense environment was tough on the urban horse.  Pulling a rail carriage each day took the work of 11 horses and there were 297 horse cars in 1890 New York.  Each horse needed 1.4 tons of oats a year and 2.4 tons of hay, the products of five acres of nearby farmland.  The average life of a horse pulling a trolley car down the middle of a New York street was just over two years. 

UW Collections
Today's site of the Virginia Inn
Each horse left behind 25-35 pounds of manure each day and two quarts of piss – 2,250 tons of material each day in Seattle that mixed into the streetscape and formed a gelatinous goo in the winter and a fine windblown grit in the summer, ground down by the iron tires of the wagons as they gritted, banged and rolled over cobblestones, gravel, dirt and fresh manure.

The picture at right shows a 1904 protest put together at Seattle's First and Virginia Streets calling attention to the state of Seattle's muddy roads -- thick enough to pull a shoe off a foot, but thin enough, the protesters said, to harbor a salmon.  

Sometimes the manure had value to scavengers, but sometimes the manure markets collapsed and the manure just piled up.  It was sometimes deposited in vacant lots or pushed into the river or bay and sometimes not.  It was further distributed about the city by the big horseflies.  Public health officials in New York thought at the turn of the century felt that 20,000 residents a year became seriously sick because of the stuff.  When the horses got sick, as they did in a horse epidemic in the late 1870s, the economy shuddered as well.

The first international convention of city planners came to New York in 1898 and they were quick to place the urban horse on top of their agenda.  They concluded that the horse in the urban environment had become unsustainable.  

But the horse was hard to replace, largely because the new auto industry early on concentrated on custom built automobiles.  Two years after the planner’s convention, a grand total of just 4,192 automobiles had been sold in the United States.

On a Friday, just before Christmas weekend in 1904, a handful of city workers completed a traffic count at the corner of Second Avenue and Pike Street that showed the horse was still king in Seattle:


Type of Conveyance  Number      Horses
Express wagons pulled by one horse 1,375 1,375
Express wagons pulled by two horses 1,682 3,364
Lumber wagons pulled by two horses 571 1,142
Lumber wagons pulled by three horses 32 96
Lumber wagons pulled by four horses 72 288
Horse trucks pulled by two horses 32 64
Horse trucks pulled by four horses 3 12
Buggies pulled by one horse 178 178
Automobiles 14
3,959 6,519

                                                                                               
Though I’ve never seen a horse census for Seattle, applying the same ratio of horses to population  that existed in several cities during the first decade of the 20th Century, the number of horses in Seattle at the turn of the century would have been 12-15,000 horses. 

French street scene.  Note the lack of lanes.
As horses, street cars and automobiles crowded the streets of the turn of the century city, the lack of order and the chaos quickly became apparent to a little boy of nine years whose family Barouche was stuck in a New York traffic jam in the 1880s.  He became fascinated by traffic then and it stayed with him.  His fascination turned to sophistication as he grew up. His wealthy circumstances took his curiosity global.  When ten or so, his dry goods and New York real estate magnate father took him to Europe where he spent many days in Paris enthralled by the sight of the city’s magnificent streets as the people on them fell into a hell of shouting, swearing and fist fights brought about by the lack of rules.  In London, he was impressed by how thoughtful they were and how rules of the road propelled their complicated commerce more efficiently.

William Phelps Eno developed traffic rules globally and his snippy letters and relentless personality helped implement them around the world, starting at New York in 1903.  He described one way streets, stop signs and a host of other strategies that make up today's traffic safety regime.  He thought cars were a fad but what he did to create order among horses and the wagons they pulled allowed the car to ultimately thrive in the crowded city.

The old stables rehabilitation I am watching is the Union Stables Building, completed in January of 1910.  The owners had previously owned Pony Stables on Third Avenue between Pike and Pine and made a great deal of money buying the Pony Stables property and selling it shortly after the new commercial core of Seattle was emerging.
 
UW Collections
Their lucky streak continued in June of 1910.  A spark from a passing Great Northern train ignited the warehouse and stable that was the Galbraith and Bacon Building four blocks away.  The fire was second only to the Great Seattle Fire that leveled the downtown twenty years before.  Nine square blocks were completely destroyed and 40 mile an hour winds made it happen in a hurry.  Then a biblical Seattle downpour arrived and shut down the fire a block from Union Stables.  Thirty-six horses stabled in the area died but a heroic evacuation of a hospital nearby resulted in no human casualties.  

In 1912, traffic counts in London, Paris and New York all showed that the car had overtaken the horse.  A Seattle traffic count in 1915 quantified traffic going to West Seattle and showed that horses still held market share in delivery functions but were losing out to street cars and motor vehicles for hauling people.  From 5 AM to midnight on that November day, 291 street cars carried 11,699 people, 692 automobiles carried 1,501 people and 203 motorized taxis carried 744 people.  Just 155 horse-drawn vehicles carried 187 people.

Later, in 1917, one in eight vehicles passing by the intersection of 4th and Jackson Street was powered by a horse.  Just three years later, it was one in a hundred.  The year 1915 was the high water mark for the number of horses in America, nearly 27,000,000 animals, but they weren’t working as hard as they had in the past.  Today, there are ten million horses living in America.  

Even as the automobile thrived, The Union Stables were very busy in the horse business and it still carried its traditional dangers.  One of the owners of Union Stables, Vernon Maddocks, was driving a team of horses in 1915 that were helping him haul feed and other goods back to the stable.  He decided to head down the short but steep Cedar Street hill and take a left at the bottom, on Western, to go the final five blocks South to the stables.   Something happened, perhaps an automobile backfired, but Maddox only remembered the growing alarm he felt as the horses broke down the hill and blasted across Western over an embankment of wet blackberry bushes and emerged next to the railroad tracks as a pile of twisted horse bodies, bales of hay, bags of oats and the completely unconscious body of Mr. Maddocks.  He spent Thanksgiving in the hospital, though he recovered and would live in his fine Capital Hill home for many more years.

Mr.  Maddocks' lucky survival came as the Ford Motor Company was in the middle of one of the most amazing business accomplishments in the country’s history.  In 1908, a basic Ford Motor car cost $850 dollars.  In 1924, an automobile from Ford cost just $240.  While there were many automakers, they tended to make larger, more expensive cars, custom-built jobs, leaving Ford mostly alone in the affordable car arena.  Ford's 1921 market share was 60%.  Fifteen million Ford Model Ts were built between 1908 and 1927.

The Ford automobile was pretty much the final decider for the urban horse.  However, horses remained a big part of farming in American life until the end of World War II.  It was 1944 before there were more tractors deployed on the farm than draft animals like mules and horses. 

A lovely memoir about growing up in a First Hill mansion written by Edward Dunn, "1121 Union," tells us that some of his wealthy neighbors took their time turning in their horses and kept them well into the 1930s. 

”A regular Sunday occurrence was the arrival of Mrs.  A. H. Anderson in her shiny black coach pulled by two beautiful chestnut horses with a plump coachman on the box and a skinny footman attired in full black uniforms and silk toppers.  Mrs. Anderson was one of the wealthiest women in the state as the widow of a prominent lumberman.  She arrived every Sunday to take our neighbor, Lillian Riley, to the Christian Science Church.”

“I don’t remember when the horses were retired, but it must have been in the late 1930s.  I do remember how the horses became plump with age as did the coachman.  The footman became skinnier.”

Seattle Police Chief William Severyns was just shutting off the light at 10:30 PM, December 19, 1923.  He was trying to get the city’s Civil Service Commission out of his mind.  The commission kept getting in the way of cleaning up a police force constantly tested by the loose money blowing around during prohibition.  In fact, the biggest bootlegger in Seattle was a charming police captain and most people knew it.  But, when Severyns would fire a crooked officer, the commission traditionally reinstated him.  Then the phone by his bed rang.

A voice he couldn’t identify told him in a matter-of-fact tone that the Union Stables was home that night to nearly 250 cases of illegal liquor and wine, assuming the chief was interested. 

Soon, investigators from the night shift of the department were chatting with the night watchman, a Mr. A. N. Blood, who was, of course, completely unaware of any alcohol on the premises and could produce no keys, when confronted, to the multiple padlocks on a storage room door at the back of the building.  Soon, the lads were tallying up 230 cases of liquor and fine wines, valued between $100 and $170 each “at bootleggers’ prices.”  The chief said that the cases had little blue tags on them containing the names of ‘several prominent citizens.’

The chief later wondered out loud to the Seattle Times if he should give the names on the tags to the grand jury then impaneled and looking at violations of the state and local laws implementing the Volstead Act.  The little blue tags never came up again, though Severyns’ problems with the Civil Service Commission continued, earning him the wrath of Seattle’s first woman mayor, Bertha Landes.  The next year, 1924, he speculated at a big meeting downtown that if he had his way as many as a hundred officers would not be working in the department. 

This intrigued Council President Landes, then serving as temporary Mayor while Mayor Edwin Brown, a dentist, was at the Democratic National Convention in June of 1924.  She sent a letter telling Severyns to identify and fire the 100 officers or she would fire him.  He didn’t.  She did.  In her dismissal letter she told him to turn the department over to Assistant Chief J. T. Mason, whom she notified while he was at a golf course, but thought better of it over the weekend and appointed herself as chief on Monday.  I can’t help but wonder whether Assistant Chief Mason finished the round before assuming his new duties, which might have cost him the job.  Mayor Brown re-instated Severyns when he returned and the Seattle Daily Times threw up its hands on the editorial page:

“Of one thing there need be no doubt, Seattle is sick and tired of government by hysteria and police activity with brass bands!”

It was hard to be Chief of Police during Prohibition.

The year Mrs.  Landes was actually elected Mayor, 1926, there were only three stables remaining in Seattle and the car now ruled.  Union Stables grew into the automobile and supported several business models supporting the car -- parking, storage, repair and towing before turning into a Volkswagen dealership where I once looked at a car. Later, it became a Continental Furniture, a bargain furniture outlet and has been mostly empty during the recession.

Every energy source leaves some kind of legacy, even the horse.  Modern sewer systems were designed during the horse transportation era and combining sewage removal with stormwater runoff helped removed horse manure from the streets and treated it -- most of the time.  When there were big storms, however, the volume overwhelmed the treatment facilities and untreated manure from the streets along with human feces spilled into the water.  

King County has been dealing with Combined Sewer Overflows since the 1960s and has reduced the amount of untreated sewage and modern day chemicals flushed into Elliott Bay by nearly a third, about a billion gallons a year. When the job is finished, well into the future, it will have cost $600 million dollars. 

The building will become the business offices of Lease Crutcher Lewis, a construction firm that is doing the remodeling.  There will be a penthouse on top that will have amazing views of Puget Sound and Seattle's new waterfront, as it develops.  The renovation will leave the building looking much as it did when it was brand new with its lovely terra cotta representation of a horses head, buffed and shiny, fetchingly looking over its shoulder at all that has happened along its home above Western Avenue.












Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The arrival of the Great White Fleet in Seattle and a big party at the New Washington Hotel

Museum of History and Industry
The Washington Hotel began rising from its top of the hill location in 1890 and was originally known as the Denny Hotel, after one of the Seattle founders, Arthur Denny.  Squabbling among the partners kept the hotel closed for its first three years and the Panic of 1893 did the rest, closing it for another decade.  Finally, it was sold to James A.  Moore whose Moore Theater stands next to it and still packs them in today.  Moore’s first guest, Teddy Roosevelt, gave the hotel all the cache it needed to be successful and it was a success for the three summers of life ahead of it, before the hoses leveling what we call Belltown today washed its footings away.  



Moore sold the land at the corner of Second and Stewart to two powerhouse developers who were just finishing the Alaska Building, the first true Seattle skyscraper.  J. E. Chilberg and J. Crawford Marmaduke paid $200,000 for the land and had in mind a turnkey hotel project, something that could be built but not fully furnished and sold to a competent hotelier who'd finish the job.

As they closed in on the groundbreaking date, the architects, the esteemed Eames and Young from Chicago, said that another $200,000 had been added to the original $600,000 cost of the structure “because the great growth and the magnificent prospects of the city merit it,” said Mr. Eames.  There were to be 350 rooms in the hotel and, the Seattle Daily Times noted, “every room will have a private bath.”  The doors to the closets were to be constructed so that “when opened, the closet will be flooded with electricity.” 

The Alaska Building underway
August 22, 1904
UW Collections
The construction of these new, taller buildings should be understood in the context of the San Francisco Earthquake that occurred in April, 1906.  Clearly, the great city was damaged goods and the events in the Bay Area gave Seattle a strategic advantage that would ensure something more than backwater status.  Also, Chilberg and Marmaduke had just finished the Alaska Building and wanted it to be seen as safe.  Its all steel construction helped that point along as did the choice of Eames and Young from Chicago.  Also helping was the fact that people then knew absolutely nothing about how earthquake prone their region was.

The hotel was on a schedule that would have it comfortably ready for the great world’s fair, the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition that Seattle planned first for 1908 and then delayed for a year to June of 1909.  St.  Louis and Portland had just completed expos celebrating the start and the end of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  Now it was Seattle’s time with a fresh topic, the gold rush plus the emergence of an American Century in the Pacific.   However, soon, the inevitable delays came Materials didn't arrive on time and, also, the realization that the basic business scheme devised by Chilberg and Marmaduke needed to be revisited.  The destruction of San Francisco sent a strong economic shock, that reverberated across the entire western economy.  Then, manipulators tried to corner the copper market which led to a collapse of copper stocks and a slowing of mining that hit the national economy in 1907. The slowing economy made the idea of finding a turnkey buyer unlikely, so Chilberg and Marmaduke turned to a public stock offering to raise the $250,000 necessary to furnish the project and install the interior spaces that would complete the hotel.  The coverage at the time seemed sober and straight forward, a small wrinkle in the plan, but clearly the back story demonstrated a significant fear that Seattle could be left with another empty hotel, just like the one Arthur Denny tried to build. 

Events also crowded in.  A great fleet was moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and would visit Seattle in the Spring of 1908.  The purpose was to demonstrate President Roosevelt’s famous saying, "Speak softly and carry a big stick."  The Great White Fleet was the big stick part and sent a clear signal to Japan that the Pacific was an American lake as well.  When it became clear that sometime in May, 1908 the big ships would visit, there was a possibility that the city’s new showcase hotel might not be ready. It had the potential for a world class embarrassment to a city with world class presumptions. 

Chilberg and company were cutting it very close. They announced on April 19 that the New Washington would be the site of the great reception for the offices of the fleet when they arrived on May 23.  The Seattle Daily Times felt it necessary to underscore the community's expectations by saying that "the reception will take place in the big hostelry which will be finished by that date."

One step ahead of the sheriff, with workers racing to complete so many details, the officers’ reception began with the admirals being led to the ornate mezzanine so they could take in the lovely lobby. They then left the mezzanine and proceeded down stairs to the dining room/ballroom where the officers formed a reception line. They would greet 3,000 people inside the hotel while an estimated 30,000 milled around outside, where music was available and the police department scanned the crowd for pickpockets. 
They got some, like E. Larson, known as the “Frisco Kid” who had $125 on his person.  Ike Borenstein had filched $193 and, over at the post office, Joe Medford, who tried to outrun the cops, knocking over a group of ladies and a stroller.  He had $130 on him. Big money in those days.

New Washington and Moore Theater across from
grandstand on Second Avenue.
Note people standing on utility poles.
UW Collections
Then, three days later, the greatest parade ever in Seattle marched down First and up Second Avenue. The Seattle Daily Times, using a tortured analysis, had the attendees at half a million.  Let’s not argue with Alden Blethen, it would be a hopeless endeavor, let’s just say there were a lot of people.  They went South down First Avenue to Jackson Street, then back up the gentle slope on Second Avenue where they went by the official bandstand located across the street from the New Washington and the Moore Theater. 

Organizers had roped off the sidewalks from the parade route, using 33,000 feet of half inch rope. 

Original Poster
The military part of the parade was all starched uniforms and crisp, shouted orders, but the civilian part was down home.  The City of Aberdeen brought 16 black bear cubs who were to be escorted along the route by the 16 fattest men in Aberdeen.  A view of the parade route by the bear escorts led to a change in plans due to the rigor of the march and the long climb north on Second Avenue.  Younger, thinner men escorted the Teddy Bears along the streets.  After the parade, each of the 16 battleships received a bear cub as a mascot.

The hotel that Chilberg and Marmaduke made spanned the two World’s Fairs in Seattle, the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition – the youthful Chilberg was its president -- opened June 1, 1909 and Century 21, April 21, 1962.  Performers in both events stayed at the Washington.  Most notable, of course, was Elvis Presley, here to film “Take Me To The Fair,” later released as “It Happened at the World’s Fair.”




The Depression of 1893

The Great White Fleet and its Purposes

Very intelligent discussion of the 2001 earthquake in Seattle

The Elvis History Blog -- in Seattle