(click to enlarge photos)
Perched near, and somehow above, the sidewalk on the east side of Second Avenue, Frank Nowell, the photographer of this flood of fashionable pedestrians, is standing about a half-block north of Stewart Street. The crowd seems to spill onto Second from what the Times called the “immense viewing stand” on its west side. The pack has gathered to celebrate President Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Great White Fleet’ during its four-day visit to Seattle. The American battleships were circumnavigating the world in a show of her military prowess.
Designed to support a mix of spectators paying a dollar a seat and free-loading dignitaries, the Chamber of Commerce enlarged the viewing stand from ten-to fifteen- thousand seats in hurried construction the week before the grand parade of Tuesday May 26,1908. Nowell’s camera (for the featured photo at the top) points to the northwest, so given the shadows on both the celebrants’ faces and The Harvard Hotel at the northwest corner of Virginia Street and Second Avenue, it seems likely that this was recorded after the morning parade when its route was safe to swarm.
Before the parade, the Times predicted “a sea of bright-colored summer costumes and striking hats.” Many of those bonnets included ostrich feathers, and surely some of those plumes were purchased at the Bon Marche’s May 21 sale priced from $1.50 to $6.95, depending upon the color and length. The Bon also predicted
that the four-day visit of fourteen battleships from Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet would be “the greatest event in Seattle history.” It may have been, in terms of condensed sensation, remembering that in 1908 there were no radio, television or smart phones to distract one from mixing with others in patriotic fervor and sartorial show.
It was this newspaper’s penchant to print on its editorial page the latest estimate for the city’s booming population. At the time of the fleet’s visit, it was 276,462, plus about 125,000 more who reached Seattle by all means possible. Seattle’s suburbs were abandoned, the Times reported. Full-up, the Great Northern Railroad “left 250 standing on the platform in Wenatchee.” Fifteen-thousand arrived by railroad in one afternoon, which the newspaper headlined, “Chaos Reigns in King Street Station.” In its front-page afternoon summary of the morning parade, the newspaper estimated a total of about 400,000 for those watching the parade and marching in it. The latter included 6000 men from the Fleet.
This newspaper’s weeklong coverage of the Atlantic Fleet’s sensational visit is truly wondrous and often whimsical. Readers, we are fond of reminding them, can use their Seattle Public Library cards for online explorations of the Seattle Times Archives. You will be taken away. And while delving we recommend both historylink’s essay on the fleet’s visit and Bob Royer’s astute reflections on his own blog The Cascadia Courier. Here’s the link http://www.thecascadiacourier.com/2014/07/the-arrival-of-great-white-fleet-in.html. I suspect that many readers will remember his early 1980s term as Seattle’s Deputy Mayor and brotherly advisor to Charles Royer, mayor then and for many years following. Bob Royer is presently historylink’s Chairman of the Board.
Anything to add, lads? Gosh Jean we spent a good part of the afternoon searching the archive here in Wallingford for a sizeable stack of glass negatives of scenes from the fleet’s 1908 visit, but failed to find them. Our club of addendums have now another member. When we find them we will print them. Otherwise we have, as is our custom, a few part features – most of them recent – from the neighborhood. Thanks to Ron Edge for helping us mount them this week again.
The Atlantic Fleet also paused at Port Angeles, and marched in both Bellingham and Tacoma. The first two views below are of the Whatcom parade and the third one shows the Tacoma Harbor -Commencement Bay – light show for the fleet (some fleet – perhaps a later one. I also seem to have misplaced my copy of Building Washington, which includes a thumbnail history of the Tacoma City Hall and clock included in the spotlighted Tacoma scene.)