From Pantages to Penzance

And now for something completely different…Although this looks a little like a Gilbert & Sullivan opera that escaped through the stage door at the Pantages, it’s actually a marching parade of the fraternal 51st Annual Conclave of the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Washington in May 1938. Not really sure what these guys were all about but they had the best hats, better than the Shriners, the Pythians, the Elks and even the Odd Fellows. We just don’t display enough absurdity and sense of occasion anymore. Interesting that the first guy with a hat like that around here was probably Commander Charles Wilkes who 20 years before the Civil War lead the first American exploring expedition into Puget Sound. Although he came some 49 years after the British explorer George Vancouver, his maps were way better and they pretty much locked up Washington as American Territory. Wilkes could have been a character in a Gilbert & Sullivan opera, arrogant, self important and puffed up like a prancing cartoon flag waver but he had one thing going for him, brilliant mapmakers. The Wilkes expedition maps are a thing of beauty and they cover all of the geography that surrounds us. Like any great artwork they had to begin somewhere. When expedition cartographers began the massive undertaking of documenting everything around them and drew their first map of a deep water harbor in the summer of 1841 they naturally named it Commencement Bay.


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