Seattle Now & Then: Mack’s Totem Curio Shop, late 1930s/1940s

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(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: Dating between 1938 and the mid-1940s, this postcard is a pre-Photoshop consolidation of two photos of Mack’s Totem Curio Shop, elevated above street level at 71 Marion Street Viaduct. In its first few years, Mack’s was a few doors west at 63-1/2. Be sure to click this photo twice to see the mismatch at bottom center. (Courtesy Dan Kerlee)
THEN2: Albert Angus “Mack” McKillop stands at the entry to his shop, which bears a slightly different name, likely at 63-1/2 Marion Street Viaduct in the mid-1930s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
NOW: Wearing an ivory pendant made by her grandfather, Victoria McKillop of Ballard stands on the Marion Street Viaduct where her grandfather operated Mack’s Totem Curio Shop from 1933 to 1971. The viaduct was truncated during the 2019 demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Pedestrians now walk between First Avenue and Colman Dock along a new elevated walkway that doglegs via Columbia Street. (Clay Eals)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Oct. 29, 2020
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Nov. 1, 2020)

Totem-shop postcard turns the corner on a curious puzzle
By Clay Eals

With this week’s “Then” photo, we present a visual puzzle whose clue is quite difficult to detect.

The subject is Mack’s Totem Curio Shop. Most Seattleites today associate the word “curio” with Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, for 121 years a tourist fixture with ghoulish attractions at several spots near or along the downtown waterfront, now at Pier 54.

But not much farther than a mummy’s throw away, Albert Angus “Mack” McKillop competed with Ye Olde for 38 years, from his store’s inception in 1933 to his death in 1971. His wares ranged from Native American carvings and Belfast cord (used in macramé) to fossils and walrus ivory (whose sale came under federal regulation in 1972).

Mack’s operated from the Marion Street Viaduct, a second-story bridge guiding countless pedestrians from First Avenue across Alaskan Way to the Colman Dock ferries and vice versa. Talk about storefront visibility.

That’s where the puzzle comes in. With carved panels, totem poles and bauble-filled windows, the shop stood near the middle of the elevated block. So why does this postcard depict Mack’s on a corner?

A detail of the mismatch in our “Then.” (Courtesy Ron Edge)

Our sleuths strained for clues by studying old maps, aerial photos and window reflections. Finally, Ron Edge enlarged the card to reveal that the lower bricks of the depicted corner do not exactly line up. Thus, discounting potentially poor masonry, we assume the card is a mash-up of two images, one facing east and the other facing south, to create a faux angle.

The postcard is among artifacts preserved by the family. Did McKillop create and sell the fabricated portrayal for his shop to be perceived as more conspicuous and prosperous? Did he assume newcomers, conned by the card, would forgive the deception upon their arrival? The answers remain … a curiosity.

Born in Manitoba in 1896, McKillop spent early adult years as a schooner seaman near Point Barrow, Alaska, before heading south at age 37 to start his Seattle business. His carved ivory gavels, earrings and belt buckles became a specialty.

His most celebrated showpiece, glaring from high on an interior wall, was a walrus head with four tusks. In 1956, McKillop told The Seattle Times he had found the rare remnant in a local tavern. His research indicated the animal was shot in 1915 in Siberia, and he claimed it was the world’s only known four-tusker.

McKillop was both craftsman and salesman. So one can wonder at the monogram — a mix of his A and M initials — visible at the base of the totem poles appearing at each end of the postcard. Did Mack commission or acquire the poles or carve them himself? Another unsolved puzzle!

WEB EXTRAS

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Big thanks to Dan Kerlee, Ron Edge, Barbara Manning and especially Victoria McKillop for their invaluable help in assembling the elements and thrust of this column!

Below are 53 supplemental photos, a map, four certificates and, in chronological order, 43 historical clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and other online newspaper sources that relate to Mack’s Totem Curio Shop, A.A. McKillop and the Marion Street Viaduct and that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

A detail of the mismatch in our “Then.” (Courtesy Ron Edge)
1905, site of future Marion Street Viaduct, looking west on Marion Street. (Courtesy Ron Edge)
Pre-1930s Marion Street Viaduct, looking west. (Courtesy Ron Edge)
Nov. 29, 1951, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop along the Marion Street Viaduct, looking west. (Seattle Municipal Archives)
1950 Sanborn map address numbers for Marion Street Viaduct (north is up). (Courtesy Ron Edge)
A.A. McKillop and son John (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
April 1, 1931, A.A. McKillop seaman’s application. (Courtesy Barbara Manning)
Undated A.A. McKillop registration. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
April 2, 1931, A.A. McKillop seaman’s protection certificate. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
July 27, 1939, A.A. McKillop marriage registration, Victoria, B.C. (Courtesy Barbara Manning)
1934 McKillop listing in city directory. (Courtesy Barbara Manning, Ron Edge)
Undaetd, Albert Angus McKillop at his counter. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Albert Angus McKillop at desk with ivory. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Albert Angus McKillop outside shop with bird totem. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, A.A. McKillop at shop entry. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
1954 Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking east. (Courtesy Seattle Public Library)
Undated, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking east. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking east. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking east. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking east. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking south. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking south. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Mack’s Totem Curio Shop looking south. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, seven masks at Mack’s exterior. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, totem outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, masks outside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, inside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, inside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, inside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, four-tusk walrus inside Mack’s. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, four-tusk walrus postcard. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
Undated, Mack’s panel detail. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel detail. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel detail. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel detail. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Victoria McKillop with Mack’s panel. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel detail. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel detail. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel detail. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel. (Clay Eals)
Undated, Mack’s panel. (Clay Eals)
Mack’s two-tusk walrus head. (Clay Eals)
Andrew Angus “Mack” McKillop signature on letter to wife. (Courtesy Victoria McKillop)
March 10, 1909, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 13.
March 11, 1909, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 6.
July 3, 1909, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 12.
Oct. 17, 1909, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 25.
Dec. 18, 1910, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 22.
Oct. 27, 1910, Seattle Times, page 76.
Oct. 18, 1911, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 7.
April 10, 1914, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 14.
Nov. 17, 1914, Seattle Times, page 17.
July 20, 1916, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 2.
Oct. 7, 1916, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 4.
March 4, 1917, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 10.
Sept. 30, 1917, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 30.
Oct. 6, 1918, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 9.
Nov. 3, 1918, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 30.
Dec. 8, 1918, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 39.
Jan. 1, 1920, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 17.
April 24, 1920, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 22.
June 9, 1921, Seattle Times, page 20.
Dec. 5, 1923, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 5.
Sept. 10, 1939, Seattle Times, page 25.
Aug. 7, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 19.
June 7, 1942, Seattle Times, page 24.
Sept. 6, 1943, Seattle Times, page 17.
Nov. 24, 1947, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 16.
Oct. 30, 1949, Seattle Times, page 23.
June 22, 1955, Seattle Times, page 31.
Dec. 30, 1955, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 23.
March 6, 1956, Seattle Times, page 26.
May 6, 1956, Seattle Times, page 115.
Oct. 20, 1959, Seattle Times, page 23.

 

Feb. 1, 1961, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 13.
Feb. 2, 1965, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mike Mailway column, page 8.
Dec. 10, 1967, Seattle Times, page 75.
Oct. 20, 1969, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 1.
Oct. 21, 1969, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 18.
July 17, 1971, A.A. McKillop obituary, Vancouver Sun. (Courtesy Barbara Manning)
Nov. 17, 1971, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Emmett Watson column, page 11.
May 17, 1972, Seattle Times, page 60.
Dec. 19, 1972, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 31.
March 16, 1979, Seattle Times, Mack’s successor The Legacy, page 78.
March 8, 1981, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mack’s successor The Legacy, page 84.
July 13, 1982, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mack’s successor The Legacy, page 29.

One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Mack’s Totem Curio Shop, late 1930s/1940s”

  1. Interesting. The Canadian McKillops are distant cousins. I don’t remember hearing of one in Seattle before. Another of their distant cousins runs one of the local genealogy libraries. Small world!

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