Philemon Beecher Van Trump, Mountaineer

In August 1911 Philemon Beecher Van Trump sat for this glass plate negative portrait by Asahel Curtis. The two men looking at each other through the cut glass lens that day witnessed our part of the world from the high country, as mountaineers.
On August 17th, 1870 Van Trump and fellow climber Hazard Stevens recorded the first documented ascent of Mt. Rainier (Tahoma). At the time he was the 32 year old private secretary to Territorial Governor Marshall F. Moore and Hazard was the son of Washington’s first governor Isaac Stevens. Van Trump became a part of the mountain, living much of his later life at Longmire hot springs, guiding John Muir to the summit in 1888 and Fay Fuller (the first woman to summit) in 1890 and working with the Sierra Club on the designation of the National Park in 1899.
The steady trusting gaze in this portrait reflects a long friendship between the subject and photographer. Van Trump and Asahel Curtis trekked many miles together in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest even though Curtis was 35 years his junior. Its not at all difficult to imagine the two men stopping together on a high country trail, sharing a sense of wonder and setting up a camera to capture the moment. You can see it in the images.
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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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