The hot days of midsummer in 1935 brought a bloody battle to Tacoma and the city side of the Murray Morgan Bridge. Then known as the 11th street bridge, it was the gateway to the mills and waterfront workplaces on the tide flats. As the Depression deepened and jobs became scarce, strikes and labor violence began building toward a full out clash between angry workers and government authorities. Governor Clarence Martin sent the 2nd battalion of National Guard to Tacoma in late June in 16 heavy trucks with full munitions and gas weapons. Tensions grew as strikebreakers were beat up and Guardsmen stepped in to escort them back and forth to work over the bridge each day. Finally on July 12th a flag waving parade of workers inflamed the situation by confronting guardsmen in the shadow of the bridge. With the Weyerhaeuser Building, Federal Building and Perkins Building (which was home to a couple newspapers) all facing the intersection, Tacoma’s WTO riots played out over a tense four hours. Workers were bloodied by gun butts and a gas grenade was lobbed back into a Guard truck destroying it but no shots were fired and no one was killed. But the episode left its ghosts. To those loyal to the labor movement in the Northwest , and its accomplishments during the 1930’s, the stand at the bridge was momentous. The Tacoma artist Virna Haffer, who was married to a union organizer, loved the bridge as a subject and a symbol of that stand. It helped her remember.



Its important to have a bridge that gets us to the tideflats but that’s not the only reason Tacoma saved the Murray Morgan Bridge. We need to remember too.



Written by tacomahistory

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.


  1. My dad, James Flannigan, was there. Marching over 15th Street bridge to run over to 11th Street bridge and be sent back over to A Street, and then back to 15th Street bridge. Bayonets at the ready.


  2. wow I never knew this happened in Tacoma…how blest we are to have those who went before us to make it easier for future generations


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