Seattle Now & Then: The Great White Fleet, 1908

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: About a year after he recorded this fashionable throng on Second Avenue celebrating the visit of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet in the spring of 1908, Frank Nowell became the official photographer for Seattle’s six-month-long Alaska Yukon and Pacific Exhibition in 1909.
THEN: About a year after he recorded this fashionable throng on Second Avenue celebrating the visit of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet in the spring of 1908, Frank Nowell became the official photographer for Seattle’s six-month-long Alaska Yukon and Pacific Exhibition in 1909.
NOW: As a guide, Jean Sherrard’s ‘repeat’ includes, on the far right, a glimpse of the Moore Theatre at the southeast corner of Virginia Street and Second Avenue.
NOW: As a guide, Jean Sherrard’s ‘repeat’ includes, on the far right, a glimpse of the Moore Theatre at the southeast corner of Virginia Street and Second Avenue.

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.

A fuller view of the stands and the Moore Theater too. The Washington Hotel, at the northeast corner of Stewart and Second Ave., is on the far right. The subject looks north, of course. (Courtesy, Bob Royer)
A fuller view of the stands and the Moore Theater too. The Washington Hotel, at the northeast corner of Stewart and Second Ave., is on the far right. The subject looks north, of course. (Courtesy, Bob Royer)

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. 

 

A worn print of the Harvard at the northwest corner of Second Ave. and Virginia Street. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry aka MOHAI)
A worn print of the Harvard at the northwest corner of Second Ave. and Virginia Street in the early 1890s. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry aka MOHAI)
The Hotel Harvard in need, clipped from The Seattle Times for February 19, 1901.
The Hotel Harvard in need, clipped from The Seattle Times for February 19, 1901.

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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

A detail from a nearly full page adver for the Bon Marche keying on the patriotic needs for Ostrich feathers to greet the thousands of sailors parading in their uniforms. The clip was pulled from the May 21, 1908 Seattle Times.
A detail from a nearly full page adver for the Bon Marche keying on the patriotic needs for Ostrich feathers to greet the thousands of sailors parading in their uniforms. The clip was pulled from the May 21, 1908 Seattle Times.  CLICK TO ENLARGE
A Seattle Times cartoonist shows that broad-brimmed hats might get in the way.
A Seattle Times cartoonist suggests that broad-brimmed hats might get in the way of fleet sight-seeing.
A Seattle Times satire printed on the same May day as the cartoon above.
A Seattle Times satire printed on the same May fleet-week day as the cartoon above: May 26.
Asahel Curtis' stock postcard shot of the Atlantic Fleet on Puget Sound.
Asahel Curtis’ stock postcard shot of the Atlantic Fleet on Puget Sound.

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.  

Looking west on James St. from the Collins Building at its southeast corner with Second Avenue. Some of the Fleet-visit bunting can be seen here draping a corner of the Seattle Hotel.
Looking west on James St. from the Collins Building at its southeast corner with Second Avenue. Some of the Fleet-visit bunting can be seen here draping a corner of the Seattle Hotel.   The feet is also seen parked in Elliott Bay. 
One of the most-favored decorations was the illuminated battleship hung above First Avenue between Marion and Madison Streets. Its sponsor, the
One of the most-favored decorations was the illuminated battleship hung above First Avenue between Marion and Madison Streets. Its sponsor, the Seattle Electric Company, anchored it in the Hotel Rainier Grand, see here on the left.   Below: looking south on First Avenue from Madison Street, most likely after the parade.

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The days of the Fleet's visit were filled with a variety of sensations including visits to the battleships and fireworks.
The days of the Fleet’s visit were filled with a variety of sensations including visits to the battleships and fireworks.

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.   

Above: The Grote Rankin department store used the Fleet's visit to sell bedding, which the
Above: The Grote Rankin department store used the Fleet’s visit to sell bedding, which the Century Furniture Co., below, use it to go out of business.

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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.  

WEB EXTRAS

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.

THEN: Steel beams clutter a freshly regraded Second Avenue during the 1907 construction of the Moore Theatre. The view looks north toward Virginia Street.

THEN: In 1910, a circa date for this look north on First Avenue across Virginia Street, the two corners on the east side of the intersection were still undeveloped – except for signs. The Terminal Sales Building, seen far right in Jean Sherrard’s repeat, did not replace the billboards that crowd the sidewalk in the “then” until 1923. (Seattle Municipal Archive)

THEN: An early-20th-century scene during the Second Avenue Regrade looks east into its intersection with Virginia Avenue. A home is being moved from harm's way, but the hotel on the hill behind it would not survive the regrade's spoiling. Courtesy of Ron Edge.

THEN: Where last week the old Washington Hotel looked down from the top of Denny Hill to the 3rd Ave. and Pine St. intersection, on the left, here the New Washington Hotel, left of center and one block west of the razed hotel, towers over the still new Denny Regrade neighborhood in 1917. (Historical photo courtesy of Ron Edge)

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THEN: Looking south from Pine Street down the wide Second Avenue in 1911, then Seattle’s growing retail strip and parade promenade. (courtesy of Jim Westall)

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THEN: With feet nearly touching the Madison Street Cable Railway’s cable slot, five “happy workers” squeeze on to the front bumper of an improvised Armistice Day float. (Photo courtesy Grace McAdams)

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=========

OTHER VISITS

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.)

The Bellingham Parade
The Bellingham Parade, above and below.

 

Bellingham above and below.

Tacoma light show.
Tacoma light show.

OTHER FLEETS

A visit to Elliott Bay by the Navy in 1936. Pier 54 is on the far right, although it was then still number Pier 3. Next to it to the right is the fire station and then the Grand Trunk Pier and Colman Dock.
A visit to Elliott Bay by the Navy in 1936. Pier 54 is on the far right, although it was then still number Pier 3. Next to it to the right is the fire station and then the Grand Trunk Pier and Colman Dock.
Resting in Lake Union, the unique war surplus of Woodrow Wilson's Wooden Fleet.
Resting in Lake Union, the unique war surplus of Woodrow Wilson’s Wooden Fleet.  This is the southeast “corner’ of the lake and that’s Queen Anne Hill on the left horizon.   A hint of the Gas Works shows itself far right.

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