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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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.

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