Sunday Best

By 1910, Carbonado Washington was a thriving mining town owned entirely, land, buildings and services, by the Pacific Coast Coal Company. The giant coal mines fueled the age of steam for the railroads, steamships and industries that formed the early days of Washington State. When the Northern Pacific pushed the transcontinental railroad to its west coast conclusion on Commencement Bay, they were simultaneously laying rails to the huge deposits of coal in the Carbon River Valley. The rail lines between the valley and Tacoma were the busiest in the south sound region, running day and night to provide the black gold to the towering steamship bunkers that once stood along the shoreline between the downtown and Old Town. Mountains of coal were kept by the railroad in South Tacoma and along the rail extensions in every direction.

Coal miners from 40 different countries called1910 Carbonado home where families, church congregations, schools, cultural organization, sports teams and musical groups helped create a buzzing community that rivaled Tacoma in population for a time. And on summer Sundays, there were crisp white dresses (so contradictory in a black coal dust world) band concerts, bicycles, beer taps and baseball games attended by a thousand people, all in their Sunday Best.


Carbonado in 1908
1908, Miner's Band
Miner’s Band, 1908

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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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