The Seattle Chamber of Commerce building, its name signed with the luster of gold leaf lettering on each of the heftily-glassed dark doors on the left, is both physically and politically to the right of this cadre of about a dozen demonstrators marching east on Columbia Street up to Third Avenue. Seven of the patrol are wrapped in professionally produced signs that resonate with depression-era concerns and commands.
The original negative is one of the greathoard of Post-Intelligencer photos that are protected by the white-gloved hands of Museum of History and Industry archivists. It is numbered “PI22387” and, quoting MOHAI photographer Howard Giske, “It has a file date of July 15, 1937, on the old PI negative sleeve . . . good enough for me!” Alas, with the help of skilled librarians in the Seattle Room of our central public library, we did not find it in the paper itself.
While it is not unusual for a busy daily to neglect a negative, we will hope that a Pacific reader might visit the central library, and after a more dogged microfilm search than ours, find that this subject of a silent and yet telling moment of protest on Columbia Street was also published and captioned on the pulp pages of the P-I during the summer of 1937.
Meanwhile, for a better understanding of the subject, we recommend retired UW Archivist Richard Berner’s Seattle 1921-1940: From Boom to Bust, which covers local history during the bubbling 1920s up through the Great Depression of the 1930s. Berner notes (on page 409) that a recession, in the midst of the Great Depression, began in August 1937 when “Cutbacks in federal work relief funds coincided with unemployment levels that approached those of 1932-1933.” The timing is such that the event pictured in the ‘then’ photo, snapped in July by the P-I photographer, is prelude to the August recession.
The “red-baiting” that we usually associate with the Cold War was also commonplace during the Great Depression, when communists were thought to be behind every placard. And here, far right, it seems they are. We may have a “commie” in the picture! Held like an umpire’s chest protector, a “newsboy” blandishes a copy of The Daily Worker, the Communist Party’s long-lived publication. Unfortunately, the focus is too soft to read the front page, which by 1937 could have included the latest baseball scores. Might it be that this confrontation of the two dailies, the P-I and the Daily Worker, was reason enough for the former not to print this negative? It is more likely that the bigger daily was distracted by the great mass of its own daily news. Or that we have simply missed it.
Anything to add, Paul? Well, yes Jean, and we struggled over selections from past features of protest or those, again, of the neighborhood. We get both in Ron Edge’s first link below. The others keep to both for the most part, although we have included some of Berangere’s recent reports from Paris. Following the eleven links attached below (and some of them will be very familiar to regular readers – like the Friends of the Market 1971 march in front of City Hall, which was the “top feature” here only two weeks past) we will continue with a few more neighborhood features. Our ending this week will show Jean’s photos of the public art fixed to the front facade of the Chamber’s building on Columbia (although they have long since moved away).