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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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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