(click to enlarge photos)
For more than thirty years I have included this Anders Beer Wilse image in slide shows. It always amuses. Typically, I explain to those in attendance “Here are two members of the Seattle City Council ‘testing Cedar River Water’.” They answer with incredulous variations of “Oh really!”
“Testing Cedar River Water” is written clearly across the pants of the one tipping the bottle. Who is he, where is he and when? I did not know. But now with a little help from friends and fellow heritage travelers I do and it can be told.
Anders Wilse was hired in 1899 by Seattle Public Works to photograph work-in-progress on the Cedar River gravity system. Anne Frantilla, Seattle’s Deputy City Archivist, notes that the Norwegian photographer’s negative number “80.x” is also written on a pant leg. Deducting from other numbered Wilse negatives and also from news clippings of the city council’s long tour itinerary for this Tuesday, we may conclude that our two “inspectors” are joyfully lifting their arms on top of Queen Anne hill beside its then new standpipe. It is early in the afternoon of May 1, 1900.
Using group photos and newspaper election-time mug shots Jodee Fenton and Carol Lo of the Public Library’s “Seattle Room” have identified these two transplanted Oregonians as the newly elected Scott Benjamin on the left and the third term councilman William V. Rinehard tipping the bottle – but a bottle of what?
Fred Cruger and John Cooper, two antiquarian beverage experts, think they know, and independently. That is a long-necked, foil-capped bottle of a malt-extracted low alcohol drink that Rinehard is sampling. It was promoted as healthful, and new mothers were advised to use it to enrich – or fortify – their breast milk. Consequently, it was most likely not pure Cedar River water, which was still months from reaching Seattle, that councilman Rinehard was chugging.