Wide Angle

As treasure spots go the Library of Congress online collection of panoramic photographs is worth digging into with Tacoma as a search term. These images mostly date from the late 19th century through the second world war and are the unique product of a rather amazing optic contraption. Panorama cameras used roll film that was pulled through the back as the lens panned horizontally. The machines had an elaborate clockwork of gears inside and took very careful staging on the part of the photographer. The resulting images flattened out the landscape and subject matter captured by the lens so it was not uncommon for a line of people or horses or automobiles to be arranged in an arc around the camera. Once the photo was developed the group would appear to be standing in a straight line shoulder to shoulder. Here’s something to watch for. It was very common in group panorama photos for the person on the end, once photographed, to run around behind the camera in time to be captured a second time on the other end of the line. When the photo gets printed the person shows up twice, like bookends.

The Tacoma panos are downloadable in very high resolution  for free from LoC.


Stadium Pano
Stadium 1913


pano Tacoma 2
City (Thea Foss) Waterway ca. 1909
Pano Tacoma1
North Downtown ca. 1914
North End Residential
Pano Tacoma4
Camp Lewis ca. 1918
Tacoma Hotel Staff.jpg
Tacoma Hotel Staff 1905

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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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