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 use our imaginations to 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. It is Tacoma in fragments of recall and record.
For more than 20 years I have taught a 5 hour a week 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. Hi Michael: Great job! I’ve been reading and have been impressed. I’m responding to your call for thoughts about redesign. Couple of thoughts: It would be good to organize your posts into categories so people can sort through them better. This project isn’t chronological in the way that a blog is, and there are things you good do to organize the site so people could more easily browse and discover. I’d also change the front page so the pictures didn’t look so cramped. You have fantastic images that would draw in readers, but the current these doesn’t show them off to best advantage.

    Few other things: The current theme isn’t html responsive, so it doesn’t read well on tablets or mobile. You need a mobile version. And site navigation could be improved. You could also add related stories to each post (easily done). AND you need a contact button.

    I know WP quite well – all of my ArtsJournal blogs are built on it as is the main site. And I have access to a premium WP framework that would add significant functionality, as well as a suite of premium child themes I’d be happy to give you access to. I’d be happy to help you with this if you’d like. Plus it would be fun to catch up.

    In any case: hi. Nice to see you doing this.



      1. I want information on the Merchant’s National Bank of Tacoma, Wa…including financial statements and the like just before it failed in 1891 – 1892, Do you know where I might go?



  2. I would love to take your course – I’m going to go on the UW Tacoma website to find it.
    This is a beautiful site with some super fascinating stuff and I’m so glad I found it.
    Do you know anything about Longbranch? I recently moved to the KP and love learning about the area.


  3. Michael, there was a guy in the 1980’s who was putting together a project called “Tacoma in Film”. He gathered Dept. of Commerce, US Army, and other gov’t footage from the National Archives. He also drew on local sources, such as he could find. I was told about this guy by staff at Northwest Room; he was, they said They said he had details of the subject I was researching (the ‘Pacific Rock’), and that he was a retired history prof (from TCC maybe?). We talked on the phone and he know all about the rock. So I met him at his film’s screening in Tacoma. Audience was a mostly seniors who’d been invited in hopes they might ID people in the film. I was waiting to talk to him after the showing. Then, the September 27, 1963 speech by JFK @ Cheney Stadium came up. Low and behold he had footage of JFK rubbing my little 9-year-old head as the Pres did his meet and greet! I tried to find a copy of “Tacoma in Film” but the library told me someone had stolen their only copy. So after this long intro, I wonder if you know of this film or who has copies?


  4. Hi, I’m trying to get some information on the workings of the walking hollywood horse made by Harold Lloyd, to build one for my children. Are there photographs of the mechanics or diagrams of this design to help me.
    Kind regards Danny Henderson.
    Esperance, Western Australia.


  5. Hi. Great site! I’m writing a piece on “Murder of a City, Tacoma.” The introduction is by Virginia Shackelford, August 1970. I’m just wondering if you may have any information about her? I can’t find much. I’ll link back to your site and give credit if you have anything. Thanks!


  6. Hello!

    As a new Tacoma resident and old soul, I’m going to enjoy every entry on this site. Six months ago I moved into a home constructed in 1946 by the plywood division of the Tacoma Lumber Company. Hopefully, more information about the company and this unique design will be discovered.

    Thank you for sharing your extensive research and expertise. Great find.


  7. Dear Michael Sullivan,
    I coordinate a Life Long Learning program for Senior Services for South Sound located in downtown Olympia. I am always looking for faculty to teach in our Academic program. Would you be interested in teaching for us? I see that you live in Tacoma, so maybe teaching a multiple session class is inconvenient but we also have a speaker’s series that is for guest speakers. I can send you a link to our catalog so you can see what we do, but I think I need your email to do that.
    Thank you for considering us!


  8. I have a copy of railroad strike picture and would like to use it in my new book, Wicked Tacoma. Please advise. thank you. Karla stover


  9. I absolutely love what you’re doing.
    Now I’ve got a History Mystery.
    I came across a personnel access point (formerly known as a manhole cover) at 10th and North L St. It’s marked “P S T & T C”.
    I assumed it stands for Puget Sound Telephone and Telegraph, but, according to TPL and TPU, theres no record of such an organization.
    Any ifea?


  10. In the story mentioning Nettle Craig Asberry by Steve Dunkeberger, he mentions that Nettie is believed to be the first black woman to earn her Doctorate in the nation. Although she did earn her doctorate in 1883, and it was no small feat especially for a black woman, but Georgiana Rose Simpson was actually the first black woman who earned her doctorate in 1865. Small but important mistake.


  11. In the “Clear as Glass” stories (Four parts) about the Mystery Photographer from Tacoma in the early 1900’s, I just posted a few comments in parts III and IV. In looking at the Number of Comments listed above the comments themselves, it doesn’t match the actual number of comments visible. Example is it shows “8 comments”, but there are only three. Curious whether you still monitor, and approve new/pending comments on these pages?? Great stuff here!!


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