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).
One of the five men posing beside The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s office may well be Leigh Hunt, who with his wife Lizzie was the owner of both the newspaper and the house. The latter became the P-I’s temporary quarters after the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, destroyed the paper’s office and plant at the corner of Mill Street (Yesler Way) and Post Avenue (aka Post Alley). Before the sign was even in place, the P-I began publishing, here at the northwest corner of Columbia Street and Fourth Avenue.
In 1886, at age 33, Hunt had given up his presidency of the Agricultural College of Iowa at Ames for the exhilarating, if risky, enterprise of running his own newspaper, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The paper had begun in 1873 as the Seattle Gazette, a one-sheet weekly and Seattle’s first newspaper, and carried on with a variety of names and owners. Hunt’s stay lasted little more than six years, ended in bankruptcy triggered by the nation-wide economic panic of 1893.”
Although deep in debt, Hunt’s powers of persuasion soon moved the Great Northern Railroad to help pay his way to Korea, where he founded the Oriental Consolidated Mines and quickly made millions extracting gold. After he returned to Seattle, Hunt opened an office announcing that he was prepared to “meet all his debtors and pay in full.”
Leigh Hunt began the 20th century with a safari to Egypt’s upper Nile “for his health,” but “like the wide-awake American everywhere,” soon developed his trip into a scheme to get richer by growing cotton in the Sudan with British cooperation and the labor of American Negroes. Hunt’s characterization of his plan to give the colonizing blacks opportunities to acquire homes and skills got him no help from the black educator Booker T. Washington, who while in Paris, announced that “I am here merely to study the best known French manual training schools and have no intention of proceeding to Cairo to meet Leigh Hunt.”
In the summer of 1932 the 75-year-old Hunt’s planned visit to Seattle was cancelled when he fell from a twenty-foot ladder while examining a mine near Las Vegas, Nevada, his last hometown. His Seattle Times obituary of October 5, 1933, made claims on him. “It was here that Mr. Hunt entered his business career, which eventually took him all over the world, and it was here that he left the imprint of his genius for organization, promotion and development.” Hunt’s Times obit. is attached immediately below in a context of a few other stories that day.
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Anything to add, Paul?
The best addition is from Ron Edge. It is the clipping from the P-I’s first issue following the fire. It is an extra you have already encountered – we have embedded it in the story above. We will also include a link from 2012, the feature about the Burnett Home across Fourth Avenue from Hunts, at the northeast corner of 4th and Columbia. Include within its link are other features from the neighborhood, including one on the Meydenbauer Home, which was also on Columbia and near by at its northeast corner with Third Avenue.