Easy Rider

And here is one of Chapin Bowen’s amazing glass plate negative street portraits, undated but likely from the mid 1920’s(license plate is 1926). The easy rider is identified by the photographer as a driver for the Tacoma Times, but the sign on the rear fender and the dashing wardrobe suggest he may be a thrill seeker dare devil type guy on a long distance ride posing for a little publicity. Whatever the story, its the sharp lines and crisp contrast of the black and white image that makes an impression along with the striking composition, expression and watery background focus. 1926 was the year H.C.Weaver Studios made the silent film Eyes of the Totem in Tacoma, probably shooting on the same street we see behind the motorcyclist and his bike. There was a theatricality to Tacoma in those days and this image seems to capture some of that mood and disposition, the way Dennis Hopper created a time capsule for the 60’s as Billy in Easy Rider.


Enter a caption

Washington State Historical Society; 1957.19.26677, Call Number: 1943.42.26677


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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.

1 comment

  1. The rear Fender’s sign says 3 Flag Economy Test. Vancouver BC to Tijuana Mex.
    Heck of a ride nowadays. Hell of a ride in 1926!!!!


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