Seattle Now & Then: 'Seeing Seattle'

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: By 1907 it was possible to bump about Seattle on spring seats visiting its favored attractions for a fee.  The ride included both a driver and barker – here the swell fellow in the flattop straw hat arranging his pose in profile second from the right.  (Pic courtesy Lawton Gowey)
THEN: By 1907 it was possible to bump about Seattle on spring seats visiting its favored attractions for a fee. The ride included both a driver and barker – here the swell fellow in the flattop straw hat arranging his pose tending towards profile second from the right. (Pic courtesy Lawton Gowey)
NOW: Just beginning to dip its skirt into Lake Union, a captain-driver takes his decorated Duck and passengers for a little swim along the north shore of the lake.  (Picture by Jean Sherrard)
NOW: Just beginning to dip its skirt into Lake Union, a captain-driver takes his decorated Duck and passengers for a little swim along the north shore of the lake. (Picture by Jean Sherrard)

Probing “greater Seattle” became regular in the 1870s when it was first possible to walk directly through the woods to Lake Union along a narrow gauge railroad bed and also out to Lake Washington by worn and wide paths along Madison and Yesler Way.

Commercial sightseeing arrived in the 1890s with the development of a network of public transportation that reached scenic retreats on the same lakes.  The Seattle Electric Company promoted its cable cars and trolleys for both getting places and seeing them.

While it often took a generation for working families to afford motorcars, by 1907, the year this “Seeing Seattle” carrier posed along the new Lake Washington Blvd, all the necessary materials were in place to invest capital in a sightseeing venture that required neither tracks nor propellers.  Many streets were graded, some of them paved, tires were better, and powerful chain driven “auto cars” could manage Seattle’s hills.

Probably more than tourists the generally car-less but booming population paid the dollar to take the exhilarating ride.  It was not cheap and a souvenir photo was extra.  In 1907 a trolley worker made two dollars a day.  Of course, during the year of AYPE, 1909, many exploring choices were available, by rail, rubber and rudder.  And it has never – during peacetime – stopped.

In 1996 I “instructed” television producer Brian Tracy in the historical sites he hoped recycled amphibious “buses” would soon visit once he got his raucous “Ride the Ducks” tours clapping and singing through the core of this town.  Brian is especially proud of the Coast Guard certified Sea Captains that drive his web-footed fleet of dripping ducks. A friend, and sympathetic spouse of one of these talented captains, enlightened me, “Drive a 26,000-pound machine that gets very, very hot and makes incredible noises while trying to avoid traffic and humans swarming all around and oh yes, be hilarious, tell jokes and sing and clap while you are at it! – It is harder than it looks!”

THINGS having to do with SEEING SEATTLE

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Unidentified thespians play for a joke that is not explained, circa 1915.

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In 1909, the year of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, owning one’s own motorcar was still a rarity.  This booth at the Expo allowed persons to have their photographs taken at the wheel.  Judging by the several examples that survive, it was an attractive Pay Streak offering.

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An advertisement for the Gray Line tour of Seattle during the 1909 AYP.   To distinguishes their service they coined the expression “See Seattle With Us.”

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The AYP bug or logo is printed on the side of the open-bus above.

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The competing Green Line promotes its service with a company history.  The ornamental symmetrical design is a water stain.  [Thanks to Ron Edge for introducing this piece of ephemera. and not attempting to clean it.]

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A safe way to fly over Seattle and its waterfront.  The Golden Potlatch, 1911-1913, was Seattle’s first summer festival.

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Another way to fly – in Soper’s photo studio.

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A photographer’s set designed to parody Seeing Seattle tours, including those run by the local trolley company.

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The Seeing Seattle car run by the Seattle Electric Company circa 1908.  The pergola does not seem to be yet in place.   One of this specially-marked trolley’s destinations was the track that circled Green Lake.  It began its return downtown by passing over and under the rustic bridges of Woodland Park.  Here it waits for passengers in Pioneer Square.

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