Funny Family

Danner and dog

I always wonder about people who see history as a mirthless, somber darkland where everything is dull, black and white and motionless. Of course the shallow perception comes in part from old photographs-unanimated in the viewer’s eye by imagination, warm memory and a sense of humor.

Here’s a real break from that way of seeing the past sent to us from about 1905 by George Hale and his family. The Hale’s raised raspberries in the Fife Valley and that’s George in his field looking back at the camera in the last photo. Those are his kids and nieces getting their pictures taken as Huck Finn and little guests at a dinner of pickles. The older Hale and Danner sisters are posed for a radiant summer day portrait that defines timeless beauty. And in the first shot George stands between his two playful brothers on a fruit scale with a twinkle in his eye and a smile under his mustache that absolutely defies formality and dull seriousness. His handwritten caption on the photo is” A Big [Spludge] on a Small Scale / or In the family weigh”. Not every family included the Marx brothers but that doesn’t mean some didn’t try.


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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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