Sleight of Hand

Sleight of hand (and eye) by a president to be.
On August 21, 1926 Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover was in Tacoma as a guest of the Chamber of Commerce where he took the opportunity to give a big speech, shake some voters hands, praise prohibition and sign a completely bizarre and fabricated “Pledge to the Mountain” on the rooftop of the then brand new Winthop Hotel. For the occasion, Mrs Scott Howe costumed herself in theatrical Native American dress and then declared that thereafter Hoover would be known as Chief Coolee-Chuck (“Running Water”). The pledge was administered entirely in the Chinook language. In it, Mr. Hoover “swore and promised by the Great Spirit of the Mountain to journey whenever possible to the “Mountain that was God” in order to breathe in the pure air, drink the sparkling waters, and gaze upon its wondrous beauties”. He promised to “acquaint himself with the lore of the red men and learn about the legends of the mountain’s origins and sacredness. Should he violate this solemn obligation, he could foresee his wickiup burning, racehorses dying and coyotes devouring all his rabbits”.
Teetering on the edge of credulity, the ceremony was duly photographed and then in the days way before Photoshop, the lab techs and publicity folks spun their magic. Look carefully at the first photo which was published with the news story. The mountain has been moved and blown up fantastically, the Washington Building, which had been scandalously standing as an unfinished steel skeleton for most of the decade, is also manipulated in size and the rooftop signage has been turned toward the camera.
The entire vignette is bogus and false but Hoover went on to be elected our 31st president in 1928. It didn’t go well for Chief Coolee-Chuck.


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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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