The Great Waterfight


Its August 1885 and Bellingham is celebrating the arrival of the first Canadian Pacific train connecting the city with a transcontinental line. Somebody has this great idea that the Whatcom and Sehome volunteer fire department hose crews should create an arch of water over the dignitary filled passenger train as it pulls in windows down and ambassadors waving at the crowd. Unfortunately there is a problem with getting full water pressure simultaneously(perhaps having something to do with another kind of liquid consumed liberally by both crews) so the Sehome hose soaks the uniformed, button polished Whatcom crew, which in turn levels their hose at the Sehome firemen. As the water fight reaches a drenching frenzy, the train pulls in and the dignitaries take a bath. Welcome to Bellingham Bay! Atop a nearby building the famous Klondike gold rush photographer E.A. Hegg captures the moment of slapstick history in this pricelss photo.



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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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