Asahel Curtis

Here’s Asahel Curtis in a selfie from 1910. When I think about the quintessential Pacific Northwest deep woods portrait this composition always comes to mind-the undercut gash in a giant conifer with some guy and his ax or saw laying in the opening like a circus lion tamer with his head in the jaws. The subtext of course is that the lumberjack’s work is only half done and once the shutter has clicked its back to the hard work of falling the tree. In 1910 Curtis was indeed not even half way done with his life work creating an astounding treasure of photographs that record our history over a 40 year period. Asahel’s brother Edward is more widely known for his monumental work documenting North American native people but the 50,000 glass plate negatives made by Asahel still represent a breathtaking view of our part of the world between the Klondike Gold Rush and the beginning of the Second World War.
Here are some samples and the link to the on line collection of Asahel Curtis Images at the Washington State Historical Society.…/la…/collection/curtis

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This site is about the way history, in this case of a city and it's surrounds, is remembered or recorded in stories and small bits of memory. It's also about the way images and stories go together, how they inform and enrich each other and how we as thinking people fill in the content between a narrative and a visual document. So here is my city in time past, the way it looked and the people and events that create its character. For more than 20 years I have taught a 5 credit course on the History of Tacoma at the University of Washington Tacoma. With an average of 30 or 40 students a year, each doing a research paper as their primary focus for the course, I have benefited from many paths of inquiry and many researched and assembled stories. Here are some of them in the retelling along with the treasures of photographs and images in the collections of the Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma Public Library, University of Washington Digital Archives, Washington State Archives at the Office of the Secretary of State, Library of Congress, Washington State University, Alaska State Library, and many other archives, libraries and private collections.

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