A few days after this picture of 11th and Pacific was taken a steel girder frame skyscraper started going up.
A few weeks after the June 1920 photo was made a young Spokane based Pinkerton detective named Samuel Hammett began experiencing the early stages of tuberculosis.
A few months after the photo Hammett arrived in Tacoma and was admitted to the Cushman Public Health hospital after his weight dropped below 130 pounds. He was coughing blood.
Six months after the photo, a young beat cop fired a warning shot at a running figure in the dark warehouse district. The man died from the completely random ricochet off a granite curb. He was a forty nine year old carpenter named Samuel Hamblet and the chilling name similiarity was noted by the young detective.
Seven months after the photo, work stopped abruptly on the Scandinavian Bank Building being constructed on the corner leaving an iron skeleton on Tacoma’s most prominant intersection.
Nine months after the photo, Hammett relocated to a hospital in California leaving behind the nurse who would become his future wife and memories of standing with her on the corner.
Two years after the photo, Hammett was married with a daughter, living in San Francisco and recovered enough to get his first short story published by H.L. Mencken.
Nine years after the photo Dashiell Hammett published an American literary masterpiece, The Maltese Falcon. In the book a man named Flitcraft stands on the corner in the photo. He narrowly avoids being killed by a steel I-beam that falls off an uncompleted skyscraper.
Today the corner is occupied by the Washington Building, once Tacoma’s tallest skyscraper and forever the inspiration for Noir fiction.

Flitcraft CornerScanAmIm

Tacoma Artist Stan Shaw’s graphic retelling of the Flitcraft Parable from Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon

Flit 1Flit 2Flit 3

Flit 4Flit 5Flit 6Flit 7

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Flit 11Flit 12Flit 13


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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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