Night Watchman, 1910

Sun is going down and there isn’t really a story to tell yet. This anonymous watchman will soon begin his all night shift, casting the light from his polished brass oil lamp into the dark places of the rail yard, the half opened freight car doors and  three walled switch sheds that form a railroader’s nightscape. The punch clock hanging around his neck like a pendulum will record his time and place as he passed by the watch stations scattered around his territory, himself a sort of night train moving along a time table. No gun or ax handle for company, his main job is just being there and his most valuable tools are his night vision and capacity for staying awake. A laconic Diogenes from the age of steam.

Aberdeen night watchman 1910

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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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