Crime Story

If there is an intersection of story and place in downtown Tacoma, it’s the corner of 11th and A Streets. The Perkins Building (long the home of two daily newspapers), the Tacoma Building (once headquarters of the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company), and the Federal Courthouse and Post Office all face into the crossing that funnels east onto the Morgan Bridge.

In spring and summer of 1935, these buildings overlooked a particularly dramatic season of events that seemed to be staged right outside the front door of the workplace for most of the city’s journalists and press photographers.

Beginning in May, a tense waterfront labor strike that led eventually to a bloody clash between mill workers and armed National Guardsmen played out in the street, with clouds of tear gas literally wafting into the newsrooms. But this image captures a bigger, national story.

The moment is 6:35 p.m. on the 12th of the following June, and the snarl of Federal police vehicles, FBI agents and press awaits the arrival of arraignment on charges of abduction and extortion for Harman and Margaret Waley. The couple, along with an accomplice who was still at large, were the kidnappers of 9-year-old George Weyerhaeuser on May 24th. The child had been released only 11 days prior, after a $200,000 ransom was paid – a relieving contrast to the tragic ending of the Lindbergh kidnapping just three years earlier, which had cast a dark shadow over the highly publicized abduction and manhunt.

The Waley’s had been caught in Salt Lake City after 19 year old Margaret tried to spend one of the marked bills. After a flight to Tacoma Field they were convoyed to the Federal Courthouse where they faced U.S. Judge Edward Everett Cushman in his corner Courtroom. Just outside the window and across the street was the headquarters of the company brave little George would one day lead.

weyerhauser[Historic Photograph from Tacoma Public Library: Unique 27482]


Written by

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.


  1. Enjoy reading your articles. At the time this photo was taken and before the weyerhaeuser building, which was built in the late fifties, was a hotel not sure the name, but I had and visited friends there. It was demolished by Bart Dickson’s Co. As a fourteen year old kid I helped.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right. It was the Mason Hotel formerly Alan Mason’s real estate headquarters. The building can be seen in the “Eyes of the Totem” movie from 1926 and I discuss it in the post Mason’s Mummy.


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