The Remarkable Mr. Stanup

In 1890 Mr. Jonas Stanup sat for this disarming series of portrait photographs. He was a member of the Puyallup tribe and lived his entire long life on the banks of Commencement Bay. In fact he was here when the First American Exploring expedition under the command of Lt.Charles Wilkes appeared in 1841 and named the bay. He was also here when the first white settlers working for the Hudson Bay Company established Fort Nisqually. Astonishingly, he was alive when president Thomas Jefferson dispatched Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Northwest in 1805 and among the prized treasures in his family was a Jefferson Peace Medal. When he was in his 50s Jonas sat with the other tribal treaty signers at Medicine Creek in December 1854. Jonas Stanup was born in 1803 and lived until 1897, witnessing not only most of the 19th century but literally seeing the city of Tacoma come into being. Next time there is a reference to our part of the world as being new or without a long history, think of Jonas Stanup, a citizen of our fair city who lived here for more than 90 years without ever seeing an automobile, an airplane, a movie or even the 20th Century. Ah but the things he did see…

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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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