Hop Pickers

Hop pickers from the turn of the 19th Century. We can thank the unforgettable Ezra Meeker and other early settler in the Puyallup and Auburn valleys for the beer maker’s essence that grew so well on all sides of the city that were not water. I’ve been researching and writing about Tacoma’s brewery district and it has led me to a trove of summertime photographs, that capture the diverse seasonal workforce that harvested the crop. Meeker called them the people in the hop gardens, the women, the kids, the people with dark skin and the people who worked for the day pay. Strange that they don’t stand in groups within the group photographs. They are blended together by the act of harvest and the equality of the work they are doing- more joy than struggle in their expressions, more familiarity than distance in their poses, more purpose than boredom on their faces. The first photo shows Ezra Meeker with his people about the same time he stood up to a mob determined to drive the Chinese community out of Tacoma and 30 years after he voted to acquit the Puyallup tribal leader Leschi. In most of the group photos from this era, people are assembled to be remembered for their likeness, their uniforms, organizations, religions or achievements. The hop pickers are none of that.

 

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