Looking Back From 6000 Years in the Future

Mid Century design holds a certain fascination for me-the architecture, textiles, artwork, automobiles, graphics, industrial design, literature, theater, film and even radio. Blended in with my podcasts I’ve been listening to an amazing program made in 1956 and 1957 called CBS Radio Workshop. When Tacoma’s Buck Ormsby of the Fabulous Wailers and Chuck Berry died on Saturday, I was listening to an episode called Report on the We-Uns which was based on a story by Robert Nathan that was published in the November 1956 issue of Harper’s. It made me laugh and think on a day I felt like doing neither. Its cynical and witty and completely a product of America at mid-Century.


Robert Nathan (1894-1985) is best known in genre circles for his 1940 fantasy classic Portrait of Jennie. It was filmed in 1948 to critical acclaim and starred Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten. His 1928 fantasy novel The Bishop’s Wife was filmed in 1947 and starred Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young.


“Report on the WeUns” takes place 6,000 years in the future (at the time the story was written) in 7,956 AD. African archaeologists have begun to unearth ruins of an ancient civilization in the continent to the west–the USA–and are desperately attempting to piece together this curious and extinct people from extremely diverse and fragmentary bits of recordings, inscriptions, crumbling monuments and buried buildings.


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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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