The Mythologist


The man had style didn’t he? At 22 Ezra Meeker’s idea of a road trip was a half continent wagon ride with his wife over the Oregon trail- almost a decade before the Civil War and only six years after the Puget Sound region became American soil. In his late sixties he went to Alaska and the Klondike- four times. He traveled over the Oregon Trail in a wagon, an automobile, an airplane and on foot. At 76 he hitched a wagon to a team of oxen and returned over the Oregon Trail from west to east all the way to New York City and then Washington D.C. where he was welcomed at the White House by President Roosevelt. He repeated the overland journey twice more.Then in 1924, when he was 94, he flew again over the trail in an open cockpit plane landing in Dayton Ohio to meet Orville Wright before flying on to DC for a meeting with President Calvin Coolidge. I know Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill and Johnny Appleseed are all fabled American heroes but I’ll take my legend looking like lead guitar for ZZ Top sitting in a Ford roadster with bugs in the few teeth left in his head completely ready for another road trip.

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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.

1 comment

  1. Simply astonishing. Gives me chills just thinking about what it must have been like for him to peer down from an airplane and observe the Trail from that perspective…at 94 no less.


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