Moon Ships

This image is from about 1885 at the Northern Pacific Railroad wharf. It shows a forest of masts on sailing vessels loading cut lumber. If you drive along Schuster Parkway and notice the cluster of pilings near the grain silos you are looking at this view. Though steam was revolutionizing marine propulsion on passenger vessels and driving the locomotives reaching Tacoma over land and mountain, the ships carrying non perishable lumber continued to rely on wind and sail. Ships made from the renewable timber they carried, running on the dependable power of the wind, on journeys across the most expansive distances on earth in their time. The ships in this picture would easily travel 500,000 miles collectively in a year-a distance that would reach the moon and back. Think of them as ethereal spacecraft launched a century ago from here.
moon ships

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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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