Pioneer photographs of any Seattle street other than Mill Street (Yesler Way), Commercial Street (First Ave. S.), and Front Street (First Ave. north of Mill Street) are rare. Here are two exceptions. Both are on Second Avenue and both were recorded from the same prospect – within inches of one another.
In the 1880s pioneer photographers Theodore E. Peiser and David Judkins set up studios a block apart on the west side of Second Avenue. They were competitors and almost certainly did not plan this propinquity. Peiser’s studio was on the second lot south of Marion Street and Judkins’ on the southwest corner with Columbia Street. The two professionals photographed parades of different sorts near their studios on Second Avenue, and only about six weeks apart.
I am long familiar with Peiser’s May 13, 1886 record of parading members of the secret society Knights of Pythias pausing for his professional snap. As a pioneer classic it has appeared often in publications and exhibits. We used it for its own “now and then” in PacificNW on January 17, 1999. (see above) Judkin’s photo, (2nd from the top) however, I had never seen before last week. I was thrilled.
The alert Ron Edge discovered it while helping the Museum of History and Industry scan some of its oldest prints. The print of Judkins’ line-up of primary school children – about 200 of them on the east side of Second Avenue filling the block between Columbia and Marion Streets, and more – is dated June 23, 1886.
Handwriting on the back makes a claim for Emma Blocksom. It is her “school picture” and Emma is probably one of the posing 200 or so. The Blocksoms are listed once in the 1886 city directory, below, living on Washington Street. The promising family lead stops there. (And for us, now, as well.)
Seattle opened Central School in 1883 four blocks up First Hill from here. Central School was big enough to handle as many scholars, and more, as those lined up. Perhaps this late June day is the last before summer vacation for these students, and taking one school picture is certainly more efficient than several. (In 1886 Seattle’s population of school-age citizens between four and twenty-one years old was 2,591.)
What is not explained for either of these pros is how did they lift or carry their heavy cameras so high above the boardwalk? Here I am again thankful for help from Ron Edge. In the MOHAI collection off older prints, Ron found an 1887 panoramic look from Denny Hill that includes an unobstructed sighting down Second Avenue. While it is soft on focus, it still shows many of the landmarks included here. Most importantly, the leafy tree near the northwest corner of Second and Columbia, on the left in both of the featured photos, is standing in the panorama, a welcomed help for our ‘hide-and-seek’ after the photographer’s prospect. About a third-of-a-block south of Columbia Street a two-story residence stands at the curb and over the sidewalk that uniquely runs below it. The residence, we suspect, was constructed before Second Avenue was developed from a path into a street. Most likely both photographers were invited by this neighbor to shoot their parades from the this second floor veranda.