1919, Amazon Still Undiscovered

There was a time long before Amazon and FedEx when people shopped from catalogs and everything from parlor stoves to toothpaste was delivered to your door by the mailman. Mostly it came by foot but the big stuff came in parcel vans and business cars driven by postal carriers like these, Mr. S.P. Hammerbeck and Mr. Charles Matters ably accompanied by Mr. Mut. The three are loading up packages in April 1919 at the once grand south entry to Tacoma’s main Post Office and Federal Courthouse. Today the elegant stairs and bronze light fixtures are gone on the 12th street side of the building. The block long sandstone landmark is largely unnoticed even though its courtrooms hosted U.S. House Immigration hearings just 18 months after this photo was taken that dramatically transformed American foreign and domestic policy. The Bolt decision that pioneered native fishing rights and the relevance of federal treaties was settled in the building in 1971 and many of the most influential Federal judges ever seated in the Pacific Northwest held proceedings within its walls. On the other end of the building, at the intersection of 11th and A Street, the violent conflict between waterfront workers and National Guardsmen would play out in the summer of 1935 (see Bloody Battle at the Bridge). But on this day Messrs. Hammerbeck, Matters and Mut are going about their business in jodhpurs, tweed suits and a winter coat of fur.


Tacoma Public Library unique 36197MailTrucks

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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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