Seattle Now & Then: Piper on Front Street, 1878

THEN1: A.W. Piper with son, Walter, and dog, Jack, pose on Front Street and Madison circa 1878. The ghostly apparition of another couple owes to a long camera exposure. Henry Yesler’s wharf and mill can be glimpsed between the looming Woodward Grain House (center right) and a section of a balcony (far right) attached to the Pontius Building, where Seattle’s great fire would begin a decade later. (Peterson Bros. Photographers, courtesy Seattle Public LIbrary)
NOW: A camera mounted on a 22-foot extension pole looking south captures two federal buildings and a sidewalk under construction at the corner of First (formerly Front) and Madison. The young family stands very near A.W. Piper’s location in the “Then” photo. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Oct. 13, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Oct. 16, 2022

Bavarian-born Andrew Piper brought sweet treats to 1870s Seattle
By Jean Sherrard

“I scream! You scream! We all scream if we don’t get Piper’s ice cream!”

This advertisement, from May 1874 in the Puget Sound Dispatch, may be the first recorded version of the ever popular ice-cream lovers’ ditty. It was the brainchild of beloved Seattle confectioner, baker, ice-cream purveyor and socialist city-council member Andrew W. Piper.

At age 19, the Bavarian-born Piper had joined the 1848 German revolution, an expression of social unrest sweeping Europe. After its defeat, he fled to the United States to avoid political persecution.

After 20 years in San Francisco, and seeking greener, less-populated pastures, Piper arrived in Seattle in 1873, where he opened the Puget Sound Candy Manufactory, our region’s first candy shop. His large family, including wife Wilhelmina, three daughters and six sons, was welcomed by a community eager for sweets and treats.

Several years of bitterly cold winters provided more opportunities for the ambitious candy man. Hacking great blocks of ice from frozen Lake Union, Piper built the city’s first commercial icehouse. The summertime addition of ice cream to an already booming confectionary and bakery business enhanced his profits and popularity.

THEN: Waring’s Pennsylvanians, a popular band of the 1920s, are often credited with originating this slogan with their 1925 foxtrot. A.W. Piper got there earlier, indicated by this ad in the May 1874 Puget Sound Dispatch. (Washington Digital Newspapers)

His capacious First Hill mansion and a Puget Sound shoreline homestead (today located in northwest Seattle’s Carkeek Park) only confirmed his business acumen.

THEN : A.W. Piper in 1883. The popular baker advertised that his friend Henry Yesler’s health and longevity could be credited to consumption of his German “milk bread.” (Courtesy Seattle Public Library)

The heavily accented German also was an artist. His sketches, paintings and sculptures were widely admired. In his spare time, he served as a scene painter to local theaters.

Our “Then” photo features a portrait of Piper in his prime. Posing with his 6-year-old son, Walter, and their dog, Jack, Piper pauses at the southeast corner of Front Street (today’s First Avenue) and Madison circa 1878.

Perched on the balcony of Maddock drugstore, the Peterson Brothers photographer also captured a view of Seattle’s first major public work, completed in 1877: the regrading of a stump-filled, uneven pathway into smoothly graded Front Street, elevated on timbers above the Elliott Bay tideline.

Piper’s businesses thrived until Seattle’s great fire of 1889. His shop and the Manufactory, along with 25 downtown city blocks, were reduced to ashes. Piper did not reopen until two-and-a-half years later, in November 1891. Increasing competition and a fragile economy hobbled his prospects.

Upon his death in 1904, his close friend, journalist and historian Thomas Prosch, offered an affectionate eulogy. Piper was “invaluable … always able and never failed,” someone of great kindness whom “everybody regarded as a friend.”

Today, the eponymous Piper’s Creek, Piper Canyon and restored Piper’s Orchard in Carkeek Park mark the only extant namesakes of this pioneer. The orchard’s apples reportedly filled his scrumptious strudel.


We can’t find an earlier version of “I Scream You Scream” than Piper’s from 1874. Here’s a link to Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians and their hit song from the 1920s:

Paul Dorpat’s “Now & Then” column on the same “Then” photo, published Oct. 28, 1984, in the Seattle Times.

Stay tuned for our 360 video narrated by Jean.

One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Piper on Front Street, 1878”

  1. Thank you for the “now” photo of Madison and First. The sidewalk construction there is part of the never-ending Madison BRT project. I live at 9th and Madison and have coped with the chaos for months now. No curbs, crosswalks pitted with gouges, periodic cable outages. I know this isn’t the place to comment about MBRT, but there’s nowhere else in the Seattle Times. Glad I can point to this evidence!

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