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Each month the Archives highlights items of interest from its collections.


Beer and baseball
Comptroller File 145668 contains
the following letter from the Seattle Baseball Club:

December 22, 1934

To the Honorable City Council

Seattle, Washington

Gentlemen:

The Board of Trustees of the Seattle Baseball Club Inc. has instructed the undersigned to respectfully call to the attention of your honorable body that at no time during the 1934 playing season of Baseball at the Civic Auditorium was the selling of beer and the drinking thereof the cause of boisterous, noisy or objectionable conduct on the part of any one in attendance. That from careful observation it was learned that in almost every case the drinking of beer was done in a temperate manner.

That the members of the Board of Trustees feel that to curtail or abridge the right of the public to purchase beer at the playing field, of the Civic Auditorium, would certainly be denying it the privilege accorded said public by the repeal of the 18th Amendment.

Respectfully yours,
C. Norman Dickison
Secretary, Treasurer
Seattle Baseball Club Inc.

"Cutlet Curfew"
In 1965, the Seattle Junior Chamber of Commerce led the charge to amend a decades-old law that prohibited the sale of packaged meat after 6:00 pm in Seattle stores. The ordinance stated that a "licensed meat salesman" (i.e., a butcher) must be on hand for customers to make a purchase. Since butchers did not work past 6:00, this meant no meat could be purchased after that time. The Chamber collected over 15,000 signatures from citizens who agreed it was time for the law to be changed, and some media outlets joined the campaign as well.

Clerk File 252480 includes six editorials run by KAYO Radio asking for evening meat sales. One of the spots noted that the existing ordinance was written in 1931 "when refrigeration and other protective devices had not reached the development of today's modern equipment." Another editorial noted that it was possible to buy fresh fish and poultry without a butcher being on hand, "and this one fact makes the antiquated meat ordinance ridiculous." KAYO also noted that in both Spokane and Tacoma, it was possible to buy meat after 6:00 - "Why not Seattle?" In summary, "We must concede that it surely takes a qualified butcher to cut and wrap your fresh meats property, but it completely escapes us why it takes a butcher to sell that packaged meat."

A cache of postcards addressed to "MEAT, KIRO Radio" shows that KIRO had also been involved in the issue, soliciting opinions from the city's meat consumers. Messages on the postcards ranged from "Meat Yes" to "I have long resented the ruling that interrupts the sale of needed meats - hours have nothing to do with our needs." to "I definitely would like to see the 'cutlet curfew' abolished."

The Director of Public Health was somewhat reluctant to change the ordinance, other than to strengthen it to include poultry, rabbit, and fish. He noted that the original law was written because meat from animals with diseases ("tuberculosis, brucellosis, trichinosis…") was being sold, and because "unscrupulous operators were adulterating the meat…through the use of preservatives, water, flour, ketchup, borax, sulfides, benzoids, tomatoes, blood…" and pointed out that the ordinance had done its job of keeping the meat supply safe. However, he seemed to see the writing on the wall, and recommended that a committee be appointed to write any amendments. The ordinance was indeed amended in April 1965 to allow the sale of prepackaged meats between 6:00 and 9:00 pm.

Unsanitary Board of Health headquarters
In 1904, the following article appeared in the Seattle Times:

CONDEMNS OWN QUARTERS
Health Office Complains of Unsanitary Condition of Yesler Way Site
Asks to Have City Houses Vacated - Board's Headquarters Unsanitary

Worse than many private houses condemned by the health department, is the judgment of the city health officer, regarding the Board of Health's headquarters, located at Fifth Avenue and Yesler Way. Included in this verdict are the three city houses, located in the same block and fronting on Terrace Street.

The health department asks that these houses be vacated. A communication has been addressed to R.H. Thomson, superintendent of buildings, bridges and wharves. A copy of the letter so addressed, on file at the health office, contains the following comment:

Health Office Unhealthy
The health office itself is in a most unsanitary condition owing to condition of the walls, which have not been kalsomined or papered in fifteen years, and it is doubtful if the building was ever painted. When ladies honor the department with their presence, as they are often compelled to do to make complaints, they throw up their hands in holy horror on account of the conditions.

Garbage is dumped in the vacant space west of the health office, in rear of Nos. 416, 417 and 419 Terrace Street, by the tenants and by the public in general. Plumbing in these three buildings is defective in every detail. The health department earnestly suggest that these three buildings be vacated. We close houses every week that are less unsanitary than these.

Office Should Be Sanitary
It is supposed that this office should be a criterion for the public to copy after, but whenever they do so we have good reasons to enforce the various sanitary ordinances. It would be a great help to this department could it have the entire top floor of the building we now occupy. The amount of desk room and air space we have had the past few years has been very limited.

Children's Orthopedic Hospital
Proving that NIMBYism is not a recent phenomenon,
a petition was signed by over 30 Queen Anne residents in 1908 protesting a proposal to build a Children's Orthopedic Hospital in their neighborhood. Their reasons included:

  • The proposed lot was "entirely too small";
  • All but one of the other lots on that block contained "a valuable residence" with families who had spent "many thousands of dollars in making permanent improvements";
  • The lots were "in the heart of a choice residence part of the City" and property values would "greatly depreciate" for many blocks around if the facility was built;
  • The hospital was to be used "for the treatment of deformed and crippled children and especially those who are deformed because of Tubercular troubles, and...the sight of said crippled and deformed children being constantly before the residents in the vicinity of said hospital will be a constant source of annoyance and in fact may cause permanent injury to women under certain conditions of health and cause their children to be hideously deformed who are born under such conditions."

The petition stated that of course the signers believed the purpose of the hospital was "commendable" - but "under no circumstances" should it be built in their neighborhood. The City Council's Health and Sanitation Committee was apparently persuaded by their argument and recommended that the Board of Public Works reject the permit. However, the permits were eventually approved, and a facility known as Fresh Air House was built on the site. The hospital expanded nearby a few years later, and in 1953 moved to the present Laurelhurst site of what has become Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center.

Wage increase
The
following petition, signed by close to 200 city employees, was submitted in August 1907:

TO THE MAYOR AND THE MEMBERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SEATTLE.

Gentlemen:

A little less than one year ago, we the undersigned laborers in the employ of the various departments of the City of Seattle, made request to you that our wages be increased from $2.25 to $2.50 per day. This request was made necessary by the increased cost of living. It must now be evident to you that this increase, which you kindly granted to us about the first of the year, is not sufficient to enable us, and especially those of us who have families to support and educate, to adequately care for ourselves and them.

We do not wish to be unreasonable. As society is now organized we do not expect to receive more than enough to furnish us with the means of subsistence and a few of the ordinary comforts of life; but believing that your own experience will convince you that our present wage of $2.50 per day is inadequate even to furnish the necessaries of life for ourselves and for our children; and believing that it is your wish that the standard of living amongst the laboring class shall be as high as possible in this country, we the undersigned laborers, representing the laborers in the employ of the City, do now request that our daily wage be increased from $2.50 to $2.75 per day.

The petition was put on file, but it does appear that wages were adjusted the following year.

SEA-VAC
The Seattle Veterans Action Center (SEA-VAC) was established in 1971 to provide readjustment assistance to veterans, especially minority, disadvantaged and disabled Vietnam War veterans. The agency's work included employment assistance, benefit counseling, and referrals to services. In the early 1970s, the organization wrote a number of public service announcements to air on local radio stations. The spots were aimed both at veterans, to advise them of services available to them, and at the general public, to raise awareness of the needs of veterans in their community.

Many PSA's were short announcements about things such as how to access GI Bill benefits, upgrade a less-than-honorable discharge, or claim a newly passed Washington State veterans' bonus. One announced a free daylong party for veterans to be held on the beach at Sand Point Naval Air Station ("Climb out of that hole and join us!"). Other short spots encouraged employers to list their job openings with SEA-VAC, reminding them of all the reasons veterans made good employees.

In 1972, radio station KBLE ran a series of SEA-VAC's ads featuring one unemployed veteran each day, outlining his job qualifications and experience, and encouraging anyone who had job leads for him to contact SEA-VAC. One example ran, in part,

Three years in the Army and they put you in the unemployment line. That's the way it's been for over ten thousand King County Veterans during recent months. That's the way it is for Vietnam-Era veteran James Leslie Mearns, Jr. During his time in the Army, Jim did solid work as a clerk and as a translator-interpreter in Polish. He's a skilled typist, speed-writer, and operator of office duplicating machines. But he's been unemployed for five months now. All Jim is looking for is a chance to earn an honest living… If you know of a job for Jim Mearns, call Seattle Veterans Action Center.

SEA-VAC was not above trying to speak the language of the youth. One PSA began, "Say, veteran: Are you tired of the same old jive? No bread, no gig, getting nowhere fast? Well, get hip to a whole new scene: SEA-VAC." Another told vets that "there's heavy stuff going on in Congress and it's going to mean more bread for you." But the organization was also blunt about the challenges faced by this generation of veterans, as in a spot that began, "The Vietnam Veteran: It's different for him. He doesn't come home to cheering crowds and welcoming parades. He faces instead a silent public turning away from his cries for help."

Ryther home
Olive Ryther was an early resident of Seattle who became well known for her work caring for orphaned children, and the organization she founded still bears her name today. For a period in the 1890s, Ryther also ran the City Mission Foundling Home which served unwed mothers and their babies, and which was located in the Ryther family home near Ninth and Alder.

Not all her neighbors were happy about this aspect of her work, and eleven of them signed onto a complaint letter to the City Council in 1896. The letter noted that "the Ryther Home…is ostensibly used for charitable purposes and particularly for the reformation of fallen women and as a 'lying-in' establishment." They claimed the building was overcrowded and poorly ventilated, and that the wash and laundry water "is thrown on the ground to run into the alley and adjoining lots."

The letter expressed alarm about "diseases of a deadly nature" that had broken out in the home, noting that smallpox had killed one patient and quarantined several more. However, their main concern seemed to be about the types of people the facility served. They complained that "in the immediate vicinity many families reside who are exposed to continual danger to their health by reason of the class of persons kept therein the 'home' and the negligent manner in which the same is kept; that said 'home' in the way in which it is conducted and the kind of people kept there is a continual menace to the citizens and their families for blocks around."

As requested by the petitioners, the Council's Sanitation Committee conducted an investigation of the facility, but did not reach the conclusion the neighbors were hoping for. The committee report recommended that the Board of Health instruct the Rythers to improve their plumbing, but otherwise noted that the Board "[did] not recognize the Home as a nuisance more than any other well regulated hospital."

Ballard water dispute
The
following letter was sent to the Ballard Mayor and City Council in 1903 [sic throughout]:

Ballard Mar 17th 1903 Block 4 Gilman Park & Ship St

Your Honerable Mayor & Council Gentleman

This is something that some of the Council knows before, but if you please Mr Clerk read this aloud so they will all hear it now.

This is concerning the water trouble between Mr Porter & Mr H Langenbacker & myself Johan Jansen. Some two months ago Mr Porter went to work on Sunday & worked hard wheeled all the ashes he found at the schoolhouse on to his lot, packed & covered up his waterdrain that had been running through his lot, so the water had no outlet, then the water had to run on the top of the ground & over on to Mr Langenbacker's lots, & on part of mine. The three waterclosets got full & overflowed, so it was bound to leave a kind of a dung soup on three lots.

And now when the sun comes out warm it is bound to steam so we will not need any other kind of perfume in this neighborhood.

Now then I want the City Council & the City Atty & the Health Officers to let me know if that was right for Mr Porter to do so.

Now then if it is right for Mr Porter to do so certainly it must be right for me to close up the drain that runs through my lot so Ship St be flooded and those that join Ship St.

Mr Porter came to me last Sunday & said to me now if you do not stop the water from running over my lot, then I will go right to work & build a concrete wall along the fence between us, so then you will have all the water on your lots.

If I was living on Mr Porter's place then I would open the drain & give the water an outlet so that the dirty water would not run up to my kitchen door, or neither would Mr Porter & Mr Langenbacker had to come to me last Sunday for to give me a racket, because I did not stop the water & rain from coming down from above here.

I for my part am very sorry that there is such men that can make such a racket with neighbors without any cause.

Yours Resp. Johan Jansen

German Club
In the late 1930s, the existence of a German club on First Hill caused some consternation among the club's neighbors. A Richard G. Lewis repeatedly wrote to the City Council complaining about excessive noise, swearing, and drunkenness.
He protested the "disgraceful conditions" and claimed that "it is nothing to see a young or middle aged lady drunk." He went on, "It was a great mistake for them to come up here at all. The way they carry on they should be on the tide flats." He often got his neighbors to sign on to petitions complaining about the club, and some neighbors wrote their own protest letters complaining of drunkenness and immorality.

The police chief sent a report to City Council in response to one of Lewis's letters, saying the police had investigated the complaints and had found no reason to make any arrests, finding the club to be in compliance with local and state laws. He wrote, "Mr. Lewis has made some very slanderous statements of the German people. My own experience with men and women of German ancestry is that they are law abiding citizens. Their fraternal societies surely cannot be conducted in the manner described by Mr. Lewis."

In response to the barrage of complaints, the License Committee eventually recommended that the German House no longer rent out the building for dances, so that the only ones held there would be events sponsored by the organization itself. The club agreed to do this "if it will be helpful in dealing with this class of problems," but noted that "this requirement is not made of other similar organizations."

As Germany gained more power on the world stage, a new sort of complaint arose about the German House. In 1937, newspapers reported that a pro-Nazi meeting took place at the club, and the License Committee was asked to investigate. In response, the club's leaders stated that they rented the hall without knowing the purpose of the meeting, and had "no direct knowledge" of what happened. "However, as loyal American citizens, we pledge ourselves not knowingly to rent our premises to any individual or organization for the purpose of anti-American propaganda be that Communist, Nazi or Fascist." This satisfied the Committee and the club's dance hall license was not revoked.

Epidemics
Early Clerk Files hint at the effect communicable diseases had on Seattle in the late 19th century and the actions taken by the city government to limit the spread of infections. In 1895, scarlet fever hit the population to such an extent that the Board of Health ordered all books from Rainier School and South School to be burned in order to prevent further contagion. However, a
City Council committee report noted that the burning was done "indiscriminately" and included books "that had not been in the school rooms at all during the time of said epidemic."

After the burning, the question before Council was, who should pay to replace the textbooks? Since the books were owned by the students, not the school, this was a sticky question. The Board of Education offered to fund half of the cost, and the committee recommended the city fund the other half - "not because we believe that the city is liable for the same, but…we feel duty bound to reimburse the parents of children for the loss they have sustained by such arbitrary authority of the Health Officer." Attached to the memo was a list of the destroyed books, which included spellers, dictionaries, and books on arithmetic, geography, and music.

Three years after the scarlet fever epidemic, diphtheria hit the city. Looking for ways to halt the spread of the disease among Seattle's children, the Board of Health asked that a carousel in Belltown be closed indefinitely. The carousel was located at First and Wall, near where four cases of the illness had recently been diagnosed. In a letter to City Council, the Board noted that "large numbers of children congregate here every day, and as long as diphtheria exists in that part of the city, the running of this place of amusement will be a means of spreading the disease." The ride was indeed shut down, and several months later, after petitioning the city, the carousel's operator was credited his license fee for the period of time he was ordered to be closed.

Unnatural Practices Commission
Throughout 1978,
Seattle's citizens vigorously debated Initiative 13, which aimed to remove sexual orientation from the city's Fair Employment and Open Housing ordinances. This would have the effect of making it legal once again to discriminate against gays and lesbians in housing and the workplace.

In the midst of the debates and demonstrations, some anti-13 activists filed an initiative petition of their own, which sought to establish an Unnatural Practices Commission. This commission would include an officer of the John Birch Society as one of its seven members, and was to enforce standards of behavior and "exempt certain purveyors of unnatural practices from the civil rights to employment and housing" - namely, the same thing Initiative 13 was attempting to do to gays and lesbians.

How did the petitioners define "unnatural practices"? To begin with, they claimed that "over ninety per cent of the child molestation incidents reported to medical and/or legal authorities in the City of Seattle have involved abuse perpetrated by heterosexual males." Therefore, it was proposed that no heterosexual male should be protected by civil rights ordinances if his work involved contact with minors, or if a minor lived within 1000 feet of him.

The long list of others with unnatural practices included "males who shave the corners of their beards," "persons who work on the Christian sabbath," "persons who drink coffee, tea or alcoholic beverages," and "men who carry bags or purses, women who wear pants and eunuchs who wear anything."

The proposed ordinance also made some organizational changes within the city, stating, "The powers of the Department of Human Rights shall be transferred to the Director of the Mississippi Highway Patrol…The powers of the Office of Women's Rights shall be transferred to a METRO bus heading toward Burien." The final section of the ordinance reads, "The duration of this ordinance shall be eternal."

City agencies engaged in some internal debate regarding whether to certify the initiative for signature gathering, given that the measure "is so clearly and palpably unconstitutional or illegal in most respects." City Attorney Doug Jewett wrote a lengthy legal analysis, listing federal and state constitutional provisions clearly violated by the proposed ordinance. However, he could find "no authority under judicial precedent in Washington to reject the measure or refuse to process the same," so a ballot title was supplied.

In the end, the sponsors did not turn in signatures for the initiative, and may not have even attempted to gather them, as they were mainly looking for publicity for the anti-Initiative 13 cause. In the end, a majority of Seattle's citizens came down on their side, and Initiative 13 ended up being defeated by a significant margin.

Liquor and amusements
A group of about forty Seattle businessmen petitioned the Mayor and City Council in 1895 to permit amusements (such as concerts, dances, shows, and the like) to be allowed in conjunction with saloons. They wrote that they believed "the best interests of the City of Seattle would be subserved by, and that large revenues could be derived from licensing and allowing amusements under proper restrictions to be carried on and conducted in, and adjoining to places where intoxicating liquors are sold." Signatures on the petition included prominent local citizens such as banker Jacob Furth and a representative of the Schwabacher Company.

In response to the idea, dozens of temperance-minded citizens signed a separate petition protesting the idea of passing such an ordinance. They stated, "We believe that the passage of such an ordinance would reestablish in our city the disreputable variety theater and dance house against which we earnestly protest. We believe that such places are detrimental to the best interest of our City and do our citizens a thousand times more harm than can be compensated by all the revenues derived therefrom."

After consideration of the petitions, the Council's Committee on Police, License and Revenue reported a split decision. The minority believed that the Council should go ahead with the ordinance, claiming that a license system "would keep the places to be regulated under proper control and restraint," and noted that the petition bore the signatures "of the majority of the best business men of our city." However, the majority - which reported "adversely" on the idea - won the day, and liquor was kept separate from other entertainments for the time being. Nevertheless, it was not long before the temperance movement lost the battle and Seattle's saloon quarter once again became a fully operational entertainment district.

Stray baseballs
With spring comes baseball, and with baseball comes broken windows. Over the years, citizens and businesses have complained to the city about stray fly balls damaging their property and asked what could be done.

In one example, three Mount Baker neighbors wrote a joint letter to the City Council in 1920 requesting an ordinance to prohibit playing baseball within 50 feet of "any dwelling, garage, or other private owned property." The neighbors complained [sic throughout], "we have suffered all kinds of damage to windows, shrubery, fruit trees, lawns, gardens, and buildings by the boys who congregate in a vacant lot ajoining us. What incentive is there to labor with gardens shrubery or lawns if they are constantly exposed to the danger of being ruined in one sunday afternoon." They closed their letter by asking, "Are we obliged to bear with this state of affairs when we are at the same time taxed so heavily for the upkeep of playgrounds all over the city?"

Almost forty years later, a funeral parlor located across from Broadway Playfield (now Cal Anderson Park) complained that baseballs were wreaking havoc on their property and endangering people on the sidewalk. Their letter stated, "Last Spring a ball was hit through a second floor window narrowly missing the head of an elderly lady sitting in her apartment in our building. Last Sunday a ball came over the fence hitting a light cable, was deflected into the street and hit a parked car. Except for the cable, it would have broken the Cathedral glass window in our new mortuary building."

The Parks Department had previously hoped to fix the problem with an educational campaign, by posting notices at the field and alerting coaches to the issue. The funeral parlor, and apparently also the Council, found this to be an unsatisfactory response, prompting the department to take another look at the question.

The Superintendent of Parks acknowledged that "the more lively baseball and improved batting eye of some of our Broadway players have proved that our present fencing is inadequate." He said they had considered prohibiting "hardball" from the field, "but this playfield has a long history of hardball playing and we have no alternate site to offer." His suggested solution was building a 40-foot-high fence, but he noted that the estimated cost of $2,391.00, "including state tax," was going to have to come out of money committed for some other project.

Trash disposal
Disposal of garbage was a problem in Seattle's early days, as the city's population was growing while needed infrastructure was still evolving. In 1897, citizens living near a dump at 6th and Lane sent a petition to the Council stating that the site was "an intolerable nuisance, which is incompatible with the health and comfort of those residing in the vicinity."

Responding to the complaints, the City Council's Health and Sanitation Committee paid a visit to the landfill to see its operations in person. Compared to the city's previous practice of "dumping in the Bay and littering the same, to be washed backward and forwards by the tides," they found the dump's method of burning and covering the trash to be preferable. They did, however, urge "all due caution" in preventing odors, writing that "at no time should the sun be allowed to shine upon the [trash] any longer than a man can cover up or burn it." If these measures were observed, the committee believed the dump would "ultimately be a blessing rather than a curse to all parties concerned."

However, in the ensuing two months, the Committee had received another petition complaining about the site, and at that point acknowledged the problem with dumping trash "so near dwelling houses." They recommended that garbage be "taken farther out of the city and burned in a fenced place to prevent the above floating away by the tide." City Engineer R.H. Thomson suggested a site on Railroad Avenue between Connecticut and Atlantic Streets for this purpose.

However, moving the dump further out did not eliminate complaints about garbage odors. By the following summer, there were enough protests about the smells from garbage wagons traveling through the city that the City Council passed Ordinance 4955, which ordained that "any wagon, cart or other conveyance used in the removal of swill within the City of Seattle shall have a tightly closed body, box or receptacle for the swill…to prevent the escape of any odor, or the escape or leakage of swill." The ordinance also prohibited the transport of garbage except between the hours of 10:00 pm and 8:00 am.

Protection Secretary's report
From 1909 until 1912, the Seattle City Council appropriated $175 per month to the YWCA to fund the "protecting and caring for young women and girls." Protection Secretary Mary Martin wrote to Mayor Hiram Gill on the last day of 1910 to give
her report of the year's activities.

Martin said that she investigated 368 cases during 1910, involving 730 calls and 1616 interviews. Her work included:

  • Investigating sixteen runaway girls, of which ten were found
  • Sending seven women to the State Insane Hospital
  • Reporting two women to their probation officers
  • Sending about a dozen girls and women to maternity homes
  • Removing four girls from the Mammoth skating rink and one from the Dreamland dancing pavilion
  • Referring twenty women to employment agencies
  • Reporting three girls to truant officers
  • Ensuring the arrest of two men for seduction
  • Finding a kidnapped girl
  • Holding two forced marriages "to legitimize five children"

Her report stated that "the number of young wives who have been deserted by their husbands is increasing each month," and wondered if there was some way the men could be compelled to work to support their families. She encouraged the establishment of some sort of workhouse or laundry for women serving time in the city jail, feeling "it would be far better for these women than sitting playing cards." And she expressed special concern for women between 45 and 70 years old "without home or friends" who were not served by existing programs for younger women, and who could not get into the existing Old Ladies Home, which had a long waiting list. She hoped a municipal lodging house could be founded so that these women had lodging options other than the county hospital or poor farm.

Martin praised the cooperation she had received from the Police Department, but did have some suggestions for improvement, particularly greater enforcement of the curfew law. She noted that "Children of tender years, both boys and girls are on the streets until very late hours at night," and that if everyone knew the curfew would be enforced by all officers, "I feel sure the work of looking after young girls would not be so hard."

Gun control
In June 1914, Seattle's chief of police
wrote to the mayor and city council urging passage of a gun control ordinance, attaching a recently passed Chicago law that he thought was a good model. The law required sellers to obtain a license and to report all sales, and required buyers to obtain permits, which could be refused to minors and criminals. It also prohibited the display of weapons in store windows. The chief stated that "a number of officers in this department believe that such an ordinance, if enacted in this city, would do very much good."

A bill based on the Chicago law was introduced about a month later (after a second urging by the police chief), but languished under discussion for another 18 months. During that time, citizens and other interested parties made their views on the proposed law known to the council. Owners of sporting goods stores wanted the law to forbid secondhand and pawn shops from stocking the regulated weapons. If the law was passed as drafted, they were concerned that "legitimate dealers will adhere strictly to its terms while the second hand and pawn shops will violate it freely, selling to anyone, licensed or unlicensed. In this way we will be at a greater disadvantage than now."

Another store owner protested the proposed $25 yearly license fee to sell firearms, claiming it "operates to the benefit of the big Gun dealers and will bring the death knell of such firms as our own." He stated that his store had been "doing a straightforward, honest, clean business in Seattle for the past twenty odd years…and no one can point the finger of reproach at us for furnishing arms to crooks." He claimed the law "will never prevent crooks getting guns, but will make it difficult for honest citizens to obtain them for legitimate use."

However, the other side was speaking up as well. One woman wrote in support of the proposed regulations because "every fool nowadays can by [sic] a weapon and come and shoot other[s] down." She wrote of talking to a woman whose cat had been stolen; the woman had told the writer she would "fix the party so she would never again take a cat" by shooting her. The writer believed that if guns were harder to obtain, there "would be less crime and expense to the country."

The ordinance was finally voted on and passed in January of 1916 - but was promptly vetoed by Mayor Hiram Gill. He disliked both the sellers' license fees and the buyers' permits, saying the latter created a hassle for law-abiding citizens "who purchase weapons for the protection which they will give women at home," while criminals would always find a way to get a gun. He also argued that most weapons were not used for criminal purposes, claiming that "the greatest protection which homes have is where the ordinary criminal believes there is a firearm." He added, "Many people have been killed with axes, and you might just as well legislate against them."

Councilmembers were not persuaded by the mayor's arguments - they voted to override the veto, and the passed bill became Ordinance 35790.

Municipal Band and Orchestra
In 1926, the Chief of Police wrote
a lengthy letter to City Council requesting that Seattle establish a Municipal Band and Orchestra "which will function on call for Federal, State, and Municipal celebrations or entertainments." At that point, a Seattle Police Band had been in existence for eleven years, but the Chief argued for its promotion and funding as an official city group, saying, "It is my thought that this city is large enough and important enough to afford a Municipal Band."

The existing Police Band consisted of 25 members of the Police Department as well as five members of the Fire Department. The letter highlighted the accomplishments of the band, noting that at many civic events, "without our own music, the occasion loses its gaiety and enthusiasm." The group performed for a variety of audiences, including veterans, children, hospital patients, and shut-ins, and appeared at civic events from flag raisings to picnics to bridge dedications.

The letter went on to quote at length many testimonials and letters of thanks from groups who appreciated the band's performances. The Red Cross stated that concerts "seem to be one of the most beneficial forms of entertainment for the men [at the Veterans Hospital], and it is very apparent to all that the music puts life into them as nothing else can." The manager of the Pantages Theatre, noting the amount of applause they received there, hoped "that arrangements can be made whereby we may play the Band for a return engagement."

After noting all the praise the group had received, the letter went on to make its pitch: "The Band has done all in its power to inspire the community and for this reason the community should in turn encourage the Band." A suggested ordinance included an extra $15 per month for each band member and an extra $60 per month for the band director, as well as a provision that band engagements be considered a day's work for its members. Despite the lengthy and carefully crafted argument, it appears that the Council simply put the letter on file and no action was taken to create an official Municipal Band.

WAAC, WAVE, and SPAR
In the midst of World War II, Seattle's Civil Service Commission struggled with how to classify women who were serving in the WAAC (Women's Army Auxiliary Corps), WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, otherwise known as the Navy Women's Reserve), and SPAR (Coast Guard Women's Reserve). All three reserve units were meant to free men to fight overseas by allowing women to fill their roles at home, but their noncombatant status led to a gray area as to how to categorize them.

In 1940, the City passed Ordinance 69816, which granted leaves of absence to City employees who were in active military service. The Civil Service Commission was unsure whether this ordinance should apply to women serving in the reserve units, and wrote a memo to the Law Department in 1943 looking for guidance.

Corporation Counsel A.C. Van Soelen went back to the federal laws authorizing the women's units to determine their status. In the case of the WAAC, he cited parts of the act providing that "the Corps shall not be a part of the Army, but it shall be the only women's organization authorized to serve with the Army, exclusive of the Army Nurse Corps" and that "the Corps shall be administered by the Secretary [of War] through the channels of command of the Army."

Van Soelen also noted that the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act was amended to include the WAAC in its list of those in military service. As to WAVE and SPAR, he noted that the law established them as branches of the Navy and Coast Guard. Given this legal framework, Van Soelen found that members of these units "are in the 'active military service' of the United States and therefore within the provisions of Ordinance No. 69816, and you are so advised." Based on this decision, the City's female employees in military service were granted the same benefits as their male counterparts.

McMahon's New York Circus
In preparation for what would be his third summer setting up shop in Seattle, John McMahon purchased a circus license from the city for $50. The license gave him permission for two performances of his McMahon's New York Circus, on May 14 and 15, 1892.

From what we can tell, the May 14 performance went off as expected. However, according to a letter McMahon wrote to the Mayor and Common Council, the city's "authorized officials prevented said exhibition" on the 15th. He claimed this cost him several hundred dollars, and asked that his $50 license fee be returned to him. The Committee on Police, License, and Revenue considered his request, but stated that since the circus "gave part of a performance on May 15th and did not return money collected," they advised against granting the petition.

Two weeks after the shortened performance, the Council considered the following resolution: "Resolved, By the City Council that the license heretofore issued to McMahon's Circus, be and is hereby directed to be revoked, and that the license officer be directed to collect the amount provided by ordinance for a circus license, to wit - one thousand dollars per day + fine said circus company." The resolution was indefinitely postponed and not voted up or down.

The Post-Intelligencer did not report on the shutdown of the circus in Seattle or the dispute with the Council, so the back story to these events remains unclear. The circus had gotten good reviews in other cities, with particular praise for McMahon's bareback riding skills and his trained elephants. The Tacoma Daily news said the circus had "the finest railroad cars, the finest ring horses and the finest elephants in the world." The only hint of trouble in area newspapers was a May 12 mention of financial trouble reportedly caused by a "wicked advance agent who ran away with the funds of the show."

McMahon's story ended six months later, when the Tacoma Daily News reported that he had died of consumption on a train en route to Chicago.

Anti-Japanese League
In a
letter to City Council dated October 24, 1919, the Anti-Japanese League called for "radical steps" to curb the increase of the local Japanese population. They feared that "people now living will see the day when the Pacific Coast will be a Mongolian instead of a White Man's Country." The letter expresses concern about a supposedly high birthrate in the Japanese community, as well as the fact that Japanese residents were "rapidly acquiring retail grocery stores, Dye Works, and various other lines of business." Of particular concern was the purchase of a dairy, which the writers felt was sure to lead to unsanitary milk being fed to children.

Attached to the letter was suggested ordinance language for Council to consider. A sample ordinance item read, "That no space in any Market owned or controlled by the City of Seattle be granted to anyone except citizens of the United States, and where a corporation is seeking a site in the Public Market, that no site be granted to any corporation, unless all its stock is held by citizens of the United States." The league recommended the same license requirements for hotels, rooming houses, secondhand dealers, restaurants, grocery stores, meat markets, bakeries, pool rooms, vaudeville and movie theatres, and transportation services. As the naturalization laws excluded Japanese immigrants from becoming citizens, these ordinances would inherently prevent them from obtaining these licenses.

The League was starting their lobbying at the local level, as they believed that it would take a while for officials in Washington DC to "see the danger as clearly as the Pacific Coast people see it now." Their ultimate goal was the passage of a national Japanese Exclusion Act, similar to the Chinese Exclusion Act that was already in place. The letter concluded, "It is up to you, Gentlemen, to take the first steps along the lines of self-preservation."

Notice of the League's proposed bill was printed in the newspaper, which prompted a local minister, Rev. U.G. Murphy, to write his own letter to Council. In it he took issue with many of the League's claims about the current Japanese population numbers and the community's birthrate, saying the League's numbers were "absolutely ridiculous." However, his strongest language was saved for criticism of the proposed laws: "To deprive a man of the privilege of citizenship by Federal enactment and then punish him because he is not a citizen…is about the superlative degree of injustice. Such a measure has no hint of the American spirit about it."

1902 Elks Carnival
In August 1902, the Seattle Elks Lodge hosted a carnival and street fair in downtown Seattle. This was quite a big affair, extending over almost two weeks and a good portion of downtown. Ordinance 8369 granted the Elks permission to build temporary wooden structures "between Second Avenue and Fifth Avenue, Pike Street and University Street, on Third Avenue, on Union Street, on Fourth Avenue and upon the grounds known as the Federal Building Site and the Old University Grounds."

Planning efforts were elaborate; the committee doing the legwork even had their own letterhead. The committee tried to plan for every eventuality, including petitioning the city to have a fire engine with horses and men in a designated location on the grounds throughout the event. They even went so far as to get City Council to pass a resolution banning the carrying or use of feather dusters during the carnival, as they were deemed "annoying and dangerous."

Another resolution was introduced banning any competing "circus or like performance" during the period of the carnival, "except such circus or entertainments of like character as are permitted to exhibit under the auspices of the Elks carnival committee." However, this legislative attempt at killing the competition was indefinitely postponed and apparently never passed.

In late July, the Elks decided it would be a good idea to invite city officials to participate in the event and sent a letter to City Council asking them to be in a parade on August 19th, which was designated as Seattle Day. Apparently at least some accepted, as another clerk file dated August 18 informed them that five carriages would pick them up at City Hall the next day to assemble for the parade.

The parade seemed to have been the City's last official interaction with the carnival planners, save for one final document: in October, the Council passed a resolution requesting that the planning committee be asked to take down a bandstand which was erected for the fair and was still standing two months later.

Nuisance fireworks
Comptroller File 159643 contains a July 8, 1938, letter from Mrs. Ellie Barnhart of White Center complaining about fireworks being shot off near her home in White Center. She begins by declaring, "I am a tax payer…and I want protection." The letter notes that she wrote with the same complaint the previous year, but that "nothing was done because the Police were not here just at the time of the shooting." She states that this year fireworks began on May 1, "and will no doubt last till Christmas, if something is not done about it."

Also in the file is a petition on the same topic signed by Mrs. Barnhart and about 30 other White Center residents. The petition asks City Council "to afford us some abatement of the Fireworks nuisance, which is upsetting our nerves and making us ill…We have repeatedly called the Police Department, only to be told they can do nothing unless they can apprehend the culprit committing the act. By the time the Police Car can get from West Seattle the noise is over." The petitioners felt the problem was worse that year due to the sale of both fireworks and liquor south of the city limits.

The police department sent two officers to talk to Mrs. Barnhart on July 14, at which time she reported that no fireworks had been shot off in the past two days. The memo which documented this contact also reported that investigations showed most of the fireworks were being bought and exploded outside the city limits, which were two blocks south of Mrs. Barnhart's house.

Building the Space Needle
In 1960, officials from the Century 21 Exposition were in discussions with Seattle city officials over the construction of a 550-foot tower "to be used for restaurant purposes" on the grounds of the upcoming World's Fair. Joseph Gandy, president of the Exposition, claimed that the proposed structure would be "of tremendous excitement, interest, and value" to the fair, and opined that it would become "one of the greatest tourist attractions in any metropolitan civic center area." He said that the design of John Graham & Company had been chosen, and that "the engineering that has gone into this design has been very substantial."

Cheerleading for the project aside, there was much negotiation to be done about how to proceed with the project, and particularly its funding. Gandy pointed out that while title to the land belonged to the city, financing for its construction would need to come from private, not municipal, sources. Gandy suggested an agreement whereby the city would issue revenue bonds to finance the construction, which would then be purchased by private funders, and then would grant the funders a 20-year operating concession for the tower. He stressed that "time is precious if we are to see to it that this tower is actually constructed and in operation during the Exposition."

Asked for his response to the proposal, the city's Superintendent of Buildings Fred McCoy expressed some reservations about "the desirability of authorizing a private company or corporation to construct such a facility," and wanted to be sure any agreements were clear that the lessee "would assume all responsibility for construction, operation and maintenance."

However, McCoy's main concern was what would happen if the lessee failed to make the project financially successful, obliging the city to take it over. He wanted to be certain the city would not become responsible for a "550-foot high white elephant" Space Needle.

Trouble at the Goo Goo Saloon
Clerk File 14547 contains
the following report from Police Chief John Sullivan, dated April 24, 1902:

I beg leave to report to your honorable body that on the night of April 23rd, 1902, H.H. Wilkins Jr. and a party of friends entered the Goo Goo Saloon and Concert Hall, on the southwest corner of 2nd Ave. South and Main streets, in this city. He drank a glass of beer and in a few moments was taken sick. A waiter came rushing up, gave him a glass of seltzer sour, and told his friends to take him out. As soon as they reached the sidewalk with him he became unconscious. Dr. DeSoto, who happened to be in the vicinity, applied restoratives, and Wilkins was brought to the police station. Dr. Bories was then called to attend him, and, after an examination, said that Wilkins had been given a large dose of chloral, and had it not been for the prompt attention given him by Dr. DeSoto he undoubtedly would have died.

James Sloan was picked up in the same place about two hours afterwards in a dazed condition, undoubtedly suffering from the effects of chloral, claiming that he had been robbed of fifteen dollars.

This report is made to your honorable body in order that you may take such steps as you deem best in the premises.

The Seattle Times filled in more details about Sloan's case, saying that a patrolman had noticed him inside the saloon in a "dazed condition" and left to call a patrol wagon to take Sloan to the police station. When he came back inside, Sloan was gone, and the bar's occupants "professed not to know what had become of him." About 15 minutes later, the patrolman found Sloan "in a box, where he evidently had been placed by some one."

The Times reported that at the ensuing trial against the proprietors of the Goo Goo, a former bartender testified that chloral poison was kept behind the bar to mix in the drinks of "customers who happened to exhibit any large sum of money on their person." However, the defense attorney got the victim Wilkins to admit that he had drunk whiskey earlier in the night and wasn't feeling well all evening. Despite the two doctors' testimony that they believed Wilkins' symptoms to be from poison, the judge ended up dismissing the case.

Working wives
High unemployment during the Great Depression led to scrutiny of families with more than one wage earner, particularly if one of those employed was a woman.
A 1930 letter to a local newspaper complained that the wife of a fireman of the writer's acquaintance "works in a store and lets two children run wild. The husband gets good pay and has steady work. What can be done about this?" The newspaper's Mr. Fixit suggested writing to the Fire Chief, George Mantor, to have him determine whether "the conditions justify action."

Two anonymous citizens did just that. One, who signed her letter "A Poor Working Girl," complained of a fireman's wife who had been working at a tea room for two years: "[T]hey have no children and have a good time besides, and keeps us girls who need work out." She claimed such wives worked for selfish reasons like "swell clothes." Another writer, signing as "Yours for Fair Play," complained of a fireman who hadn't missed a day's pay in eight years, worked on his vacations as well, and had "no sickness or any trouble of any kind…to call for the wife's working." (She sold ties at the Bon Marche.) The letter continued, "I for one think it is high time that men living off the taxpayers should at least keep there [sic] wives from doing another tax payer out of a living."

Chief Mantor was uncertain about how to reply to these complaints. In a letter to the Central Labor Council, he asked whether the unions had a policy on the issue or if it was considered a personal decision for each employee to make. Mantor stated, "[W]e have been hesitant to make any comment or take any action - even though we believe that it is not a matter of good policy for our personnel who are steadily employed to permit their wives to fill positions that should go to the unemployed."

The Labor Council replied that they agreed this was a problem in principle; "however, there are extenuating circumstances that justifies some married women working… [D]uring the war, women were pressed into service, filling the places of men in many instances, and after the war was over they just remained undisturbed." While the council had no fixed policy on the matter, the letter stated that it was "a big question that should have been given attention years ago, and for our negligence, we are all subject to criticism… [T]he time is not far distant when there will be a general awakening when something will be done."

Jail conditions
In March 1907, Seattle's Unitarian Club investigated the conditions at the city jail and sent a letter to the City Council outlining their findings. While the visitors approved of the building's cleanliness and the prisoners' food, they did emphatically state that "the male prisoners working on the chain gang…should not be compelled to sleep on the cement floors and without blankets." The letter continued, "It seems to us that it is far from humanitarian to compel these men, many of whom are not especially bad characters, to work for the municipality, and then give them no place to sleep, other than a damp cement floor."

The Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds concurred with the club's opinion and recommended that cots be provided to the men. However, this suggestion was apparently not followed, at least not right away. A clerk file from November 1907 - eight months after the committee's recommendation - contains a letter from Charles James, a representative of the International Prison Commission from New York, who once again found the prisoners sleeping on the floor.

In his letter, James noted that it was "the first instance in which I have found the above described condition, altho [sic]…I have visited jails and kindred institutions in all parts of the country." He continued, "[H]umanity, nay common decency, commands that such degrading conditions should be ameliorated…at once."

It is possible that improvements were already in the works when James wrote his letter. Ordinance 17219, passed shortly before his visit, authorized the purchase of "necessary furniture" for the jail, although it does not specify what that furniture was to be. Meanwhile, an agreement in another clerk file outlines what the prisoners were to be fed: steak, potatoes, bread, and coffee for breakfast; roast meat, potatoes, gravy, vegetables (carrots, beans, peas, or corn), bread, and coffee for supper; and a repeat of either breakfast or supper for dinner. The city paid fifteen cents for each meal.

Dance marathons
Seattle's first and only dance marathon began on July 23, 1928, at the city's armory. At these events, contestants competed for cash prizes by dancing for days at a time, with only short rest breaks each hour. As the days went on and the contestants became more and more exhausted, they struggled simply to stay on their feet, and often suffered hallucinations and other symptoms of severe sleep deprivation.

An ad recruiting contestants for the Seattle event called attention to the $2000 in prize money and encouraged, "If you are out of work why not enter? ...No entry fees, no expense to you whatever." Another ad highlighted the fact that a waitress had won first prize in Minneapolis. Publicity for the event noted that "physicians' services will be available throughout the marathon."

Thirty couples entered the contest, and while one dropped out after the first day, the rest carried on. Organizers placed ads in the Seattle Times publicizing the ongoing event and encouraging spectators: "They have danced over 112 hours and are still going strong - Come any time, day or night"; "215 hours of dancing and the hoofers are still plodding away."

As the condition of the dancers deteriorated, complaints increased from women's clubs and city officials, who demanded that the contest be ended. Finally, on August 13, the National Guard forcibly removed the three remaining contestants from the floor, saying that the armory was needed for military drills. The city's health officer had also declared he would shut down the contest that day because of the garbage that had piled up on the dance floor. The Times reported that "to prevent any of their number being adjudged winner by reason of leaving the floor last, the dancers linked arms and limped away together."

Many in the city were appalled by the whole thing and lobbied for City Council to pass an ordinance outlawing future dance marathons. A Times editorial opined, "That witless contest against fatigue should never have been permitted. As a spectacle it takes rank somewhat below that of flag-pole sitting or coffee-drinking contests. It appeals to morbid tastes which find pleasure in human suffering or in side-show freaks… Before Seattle forgets the repugnant affair entirely, it should take what steps may be necessary to prevent a repetition of the spectacle."

Council obliged by passing Ordinance 55985, which required anyone wishing to hold a physical endurance contest to first obtain a permit from the Chief of Police. The ordinance also specified that any such contest "shall terminate at or before midnight of the day on which it begins," thereby outlawing dance marathons in one fell swoop. The ordinance was amended in 1931 to note that the law "shall not be construed as related to or prohibiting the holding of six (6) day bicycle races."

Alaskan Way Viaduct
Seattle's citizenry was generally enthusiastic about building the new Alaskan Way Viaduct. However, its construction disrupted normal life in the work zone. In 1950, Ivar Haglund
wrote to the city's traffic engineer complaining that construction-related lane closures on Alaskan Way were limiting access to businesses on the water side of the street, leaving them no alleys for delivery and no parking areas. He asked that at least one additional lane be opened, as it would "be considerable help to the great volume of fish handling and shipping."

Haglund wrote, "I feel that we should have some immediate and friendly consideration, and you will find us cooperative and also very seriously concerned." In response to this letter, along with a similar one from the Washington Fish and Oyster Co., the city engineer wrote a dispatch to the Public Safety Committee in which he outlined traffic changes that he hoped would alleviate the construction difficulties.

Even in the midst of the inconvenience to his business, however, Haglund was quick to note that "we are all definitely pleased to see the Viaduct come and are interested in anything that will further its speedy completion." This civic pride extended through the construction period and culminated in Resolution 16304, passed by City Council on April 6, 1953, to mark the occasion of the viaduct's debut. The document expressed appreciation to the mayor and two city engineers who guided the project from conception through construction, and stated that "this magnificent thoroughfare stands out as one of the greatest structural achievements in the history of Seattle."

Spanish-American War veterans
One of Seattle's earliest celebrations of its veterans came in 1899 upon the return of the First Washington Volunteer Regiment from the Spanish-American War. The 1200 volunteers fought around Manila for six months, with 129 killed and wounded. According to a
City Council resolution, the soldiers "won a world wide reputation for bravery on the field of battle and have brought renown to the State of Washington."

The resolution proposed that "some especial recognition should be given" to the soldiers as they were mustered out of service, calling for a committee to be formed to raise funds for a "suitable celebration" that included fireworks. Council designated the mayor, representatives from the three daily newspapers, the Board of Education, public school teachers, and the Chamber of Commerce to plan and fund this event. Ordinances were passed to pay for decorating and illuminating the streets for the celebration, as well as to ban streetcars from the area during the multi-day event.

The regiment arrived in San Francisco in November 1899 and from there made their way back to Washington. Dozens of boats greeted the Seattle contingent's ship as it arrived in Elliott Bay, and tens of thousands of people cheered them in the streets. Celebrations continued for three days.

Seattle continued to look for ways to memorialize the veterans, and eventually decided to name a public space in honor of those who had died in the war. Of the two places eventually proposed - the "City Park" and a triangle at Yesler and Second Avenue South - a committee of veterans chose the former, which became Volunteer Park.

Chinese Exclusion Act
In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which suspended most immigration from China for ten years and blocked Chinese residents from becoming citizens. During the difficult economic period of the mid-1880s, Chinese workers were seen as taking the jobs of white residents. Resentment spilled over into riots, as mobs first in Tacoma and then in Seattle forced their Chinese residents to leave the city.

The Exclusion Act was renewed in 1892 for another ten years. As its 1902 expiration date began to loom, local governments on the west coast wanted to make sure the rules stayed in effect. Clerk File 12298 contains a missive from the mayor of San Francisco urging Seattle to join in lobbying Congress to extend the law, "as the Pacific States are exposed to Chinese immigration... If Chinese coolies can freely come, it means the displacement of our white population."

Enclosed with the mayor's letter was an announcement of a California state convention to discuss ways to ensure the Act was extended, along with a "Call to Action" addressed to the citizens of California. This document warned that "should the bars be let down an enormous immigration of Chinese coolies would inundate this country and overwhelm its free working population. The standard of American civilization, our schools, churches, employment and family life, our greatness in peace and power in war are at issue."

Seattle mayor Thomas Humes forwarded the San Francisco materials to City Council. In the transmittal letter, Humes wrote, "It is my opinion that the re-enactment of this law would prove of great benefit to the people of this city and state, and that the same is desired by the people generally. Any action that you may take, therefore, apprising Congress of the will and desire of the people of this State in reference thereto will meet my most hearty approval."

The law was indeed renewed in 1902, and remained in effect until finally repealed in 1943.

Air parks
In the 1940s, there was discussion of building one or more "air parks" in Seattle. Commercial traffic had Sea-Tac Airport, which opened in 1944 and had a civilian terminal by 1949. Meanwhile, private pilots and "air visitors" were looking for a place to land within the city limits.

Interestingly, women seemed to have been the most vocal in lobbying the City Council to build an air park in Seattle. A Mrs. Robert Wittig wrote to the council in 1946 expressing great disappointment in the lack of any plan for air parks. A Seattle native who had moved east of the mountains, she and her husband made frequent trips to the city for business and pleasure, and had bought a light plane for that purpose. She wrote, "As part of a vast number of people far from shopping and business sections, we are increasingly conscious of the value and inevitable progress of aviation, of which the average urban housewife (and a few city 'fathers') are grossly ignorant and totally unaware." She argued that air parks were inevitable, and by delaying their construction the city would be spending more money in the long run. She also implored, "Please don't let the unfortunate 'buzzing' of a few 'screwballs'…sour you on anything as big as Aviation."

The following year, Lorinda Miskell wrote to City Council on behalf of the Seattle chapter of the International Organization of Women Pilots, also known as the 99'ers. The group was concerned that Seattle was falling behind other cities "in opening its doors to private flying and progress. Many would be 'air visitors' now avoid our city because of the expense and inconvenience in transportation from one of the outlying private fields." The letter closes by arguing, "Just as a few years ago, good highways brought growth to a city, now in this day and age, accessible Air Parks will bring Commerce."

Urban livestock
Livestock of various types was a common sight in early Seattle. In 1894, a Mr. Wolfe
wrote to the City Council requesting that he be refunded the two dollar impound fee he had paid to reclaim his lost cow. He explained that dogs had driven the cow out of his pasture at 22nd and Lane "through no fault of his own," at which point the cow "was seized upon by the poundmaster." The file shows that the police chief investigated the matter and agreed that the petitioner's facts were correct, and therefore recommended that the refund be given.

The same police chief had previously written to the Council requesting reimbursement for money spent recovering a stolen police horse. The horse went missing from a pasture in south King County, and Chief Rogers "sent two men up White River on horseback to look him up." After the search went as far as Tacoma, Rogers presumed the horse was not lost but stolen. He printed up flyers offering a $25 reward for its recovery, which resulted in the horse being located in North Bend and returned. Concerned about being reimbursed - he apparently did not get prior authorization to offer the reward - Rogers explained, "I took upon myself to offer the Reward as time is a very important factor in a matter of that kind," and further noted that $45 was a good investment to gain the return of a $150 horse.

Ten years later, animals were starting to be pushed out of the city limits. Mrs. George Sgorzelski wrote to Council in 1903 asking that something be done about cows running loose. She complained that several neighbors "have bells on their cows and they are running at large both night and day and are a nuisance to us." Her husband, who worked nights, was unable to sleep during the day because of the noise, which "we would like…to be stopped at once." She also requested that the boundary of the cow-free zone be moved north to 52nd Street; not coincidentally, she lived on 51st.

Swimming pool technology
Correspondence from the Parks Department illustrates how far swimming pool technology has come in recent decades. In 1920, Seattle's Parks Superintendent, J.W. Thompson, wrote to his counterpart in Spokane about that city's plans for a new heated pool. Thompson showed his skepticism, writing, "One of our Park Commissioners…has been very anxious to put in a heated tank at Alki. I have not been in favor of this tank. We have a magnificent one here in the city, called the Crystal Pool, and there has been a great deal of trouble on account of the disinfectant used causing sore ears and eyes." In another letter, Thompson described a pool in Yakima that used "an artesian well of sulphur," calling it "the best arrangement I have ever seen."

Apart from issues surrounding the heating of swimming pools, there was also the problem of keeping them clean - especially when the pool had dirt walls. The manager of the Alki pool, H.G. Viney, wrote a report in 1928 detailing the difficulty he was having clearing the pool of "seaweed, boards, and glass." Only three walls of the pool were cemented, while the fourth wall and the floor were dirt, causing the water to become "exceedingly muddy."

Viney wrote, "The seaweed in particular was very hard to clean out owing to the fact that the pool is the same depth at each end and we cannot entirely drain all the water out. This makes raking almost impossible." The Fire Department assisted by attempting to hose out the seaweed, but "did not meet with any great success."

Changing the water was no easy task either. "The tank must be filled at extreme high tide and emptied at low tide. Sometimes high tide being at 2 A.M. which means that someone must be on hand to close the gate at that time." He explained that a thirteen-foot tide was needed to fill the pool completely; lower tides resulted in only five or six feet of water.

Viney ended his report with a plea to cement the pool, predicting the improved facility would be "a great success," while leaving it as is "would raise much unfavorable comment."

Ball bouncing ban
Clerk File 263824 tells the tale of Mr. Horst Petzold, a West Seattleite who was tormented by the sound of bouncing balls. Petzold met with Councilmember Phyllis Lamphere on May 16, 1969, to discuss whether the city's noise ordinance could be amended to include a prohibition on bouncing balls where they would annoy others.

After this meeting, Petzold hired a lawyer to prepare a proposed ordinance to transmit to City Council. The ordinance declared unlawful "the steady and repeated bouncing of a ball on a pavement or other hard surface in a public place or any other place so as to annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of persons in any dwelling or residence in the vicinity."

The Public Safety Committee sent this language to the police chief for his review. Chief Ramon responded with skepticism, saying that the amendment "would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to enforce… Applied literally, this ordinance could prohibit the playing of basketball any place in the City of Seattle." He noted that Mr. Petzold lived several blocks from a school or playfield, so assumed that "some people in his area have put up basketball hoops and the children use them." He recommended the petition be filed without action.

While the committee did invite Petzold to a meeting where his petition would be discussed, they took Chief Ramon's advice and did not go on to ban the bouncing of balls within city limits.

Elk gone rogue
Part of the Board of Park Commissioners' meeting on January 9, 1914, was taken up discussing the issue of
city-owned elk gone rogue. The group was read a letter received from a Mrs. Agnes Olds, who was requesting compensation from the board. Mrs. Olds was the owner of a small ranch on Mercer Island which was an unwilling host to the aforementioned elk.

This herd usually resided in Seward Park, but escaped in September 1913, swimming across Lake Washington and taking up residence on Mrs. Olds' ranch. In the several days they spent on her property, they did an estimated $125 in damage to her orchard and garden.

The board decided to hand the matter over to Assistant Superintendent Fuller, who had removed the elk from the ranch. (Unfortunately the minutes do not specify how the removal was accomplished.)

At the next board meeting, it was reported that Fuller had visited the Mercer Island property and determined the claim of $125 to be "a reasonable one." The board approved the payment to compensate Mrs. Olds for her unwanted visitors.

World War II dam protection
In May 1943, the British Royal Air Force blew up two dams in Germany. This led to
an exchange of letters between the superintendents of the lighting departments in Seattle and Tacoma.

Tacoma's Verne Kent wrote to Eugene Hoffman of Seattle City Light, saying, "The recent torpedoing of two dams in Germany (I hope they wreck them all) brings to mind the enclosed letter we received March 12, 1942." He attached a communication from F.D. Camerer, who had spent several years working as a rigger and hoisting engineer on several dams. Camerer claimed to have had a conversation with a Japanese Navy commander who said, "We'll torpedo your dams from planes."

Camerer believed that the Japanese "can and will send a couple of planes" to torpedo dams in Washington State, followed by "military movements to and fro and maybe some alibi-ing by politicos." To prevent catastrophic damage, he suggested hanging wire nets upstream to block torpedoes. He claimed that "what this country needs is more American initiative and less party hack Bureaucracy."

Kent wanted to know what Superintendent Hoffman thought of Camerer's idea. Hoffman said he had "no information as to what type of net is needed to stop a torpedo." He felt that the most effective dam protection would consist of "ample smoke screen facilities and personnel…[and] adequate anti-aircraft protection."

Hoffman wrote that he had repeatedly discussed the issue with military officers and Federal Power Commission officials. In what reads as perhaps a sarcastic tone, he told Kent, "I had just about come to the conclusion that the Army was satisfied that we were in no danger here, since they have done nothing to protect the power plants along the Pacific Coast, and they certainly are the heart of our industry, for without electrical energy nothing can be done to manufacture products for our war effort." He felt there was renewed interest in the subject since the British attacks, and that he expected to take an Army officer up to the Skagit dams in the following week.

Chinese New Year fireworks
In January 1884,
a petition was submitted to the mayor and city council by nine Chinese-American residents, asking that the ban on exploding fireworks within the city limits be suspended during that year's Chinese New Year celebrations.

The petitioners explain that it is "the great national holiday of the Chinese empire and a holiday universally observed throughout all parts of the world" and that "the firing of fire crackers and the exploding of Chinese bombs constitutes one of the main features of the celebration…and is an important and essential part thereof."

Knowing that one of the reasons for the ban was the possibility of fires, the petition argues that "at this time of year there is no danger whatever of fire from the firing of the said fire crackers, bombs and explosives." The petitioners promised that "the greatest care will be maintained" to prevent fires, and also offered to pay for police or watchmen to guard against any conflagrations.

The petition notes that "in all other cities of the Pacific Coast where Chinese residents constitute any considerable portion of the population of the city and where similar city ordinances prohibiting the firing of fire crackers are in force it is usual and customary without exception to grant, under restrictions, and with such provisos as the common council of the said cities see fit to impose, the privileges prayed for during the continuance of the said holiday."

There is no council document attached to the petition, so we do not know whether the prohibition was suspended for the holiday, thus fulfilling the petitioners' request to be allowed to explode firecrackers without being held "liable in any way to prosecution therefor."

Seattle Supersonics
Clerk File 257656 contains the following resolution adopted by the Washington State House of Representatives on March 4, 1967:

WHEREAS, Basketball is a great sport for the youth of our United States; and

WHEREAS, The State of Washington is a great basketball state; and

WHEREAS, The National Basketball Association has seen fit to establish a team in the City of Seattle; and

WHEREAS, The City of Seattle has wisely awarded a franchise to the National Basketball Association for a basketball team to be known as the "Seattle Supersonics"; and

WHEREAS, The Seattle Supersonics is the first major league team to represent the Pacific Northwest;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, By the House of Representatives, that the City of Seattle, Mayor Braman, members of the City Council, and the officials of the Seattle Center are congratulated on their foresight and efforts to bring a major league team to the City of Seattle;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives wishes the greatest success to the men responsible for bringing the major leagues to our state, namely Seattle Supersonics owners, Eugene V. Klein and Samuel Schulman; Seattle Supersonics general manager, Don Richman; and Seattle Supersonics business manager, Richard Vertlieb;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That a copy of this resolution be transmitted to the City of Seattle and to the Seattle Supersonics.

New Year's Eve
The issue of New Year's Eve celebrations pops up periodically in city records. An early mention shows up in Resolution 3067 from 1910, which was concerned with enforcement of liquor laws. Council President William H. Murphy made edits before signing the document, so that the final version directed the police chief "to see that the laws of the State of Washington and the ordinances of the City of Seattle as to the sale and use of intoxicating liquors and the closing of drinking places are strictly enforced on New Year's eve the same as such laws and ordinances are enforced on other nights in the City of Seattle." One might infer from Murphy's edits that he believed these ordinances were not enforced strongly enough on any day of the year.

A 1952 Comptroller File contains a plea from the Associated Tavern Owners of Washington, asking that taverns and cocktail bars be allowed to stay open an extra hour on New Year's Eve. The police chief recommended to the Council that this request be granted, and drinking establishments were thus permitted to stay open until 2 am on that night.

1970 saw another appeal for extended hours on December 31, this one from the Rainier-Beacon Junior Chamber of Commerce. While the Teen Dance Ordinance in force at that time required dances to end at 11:45 pm, the group asked that an extension to 12:30 am be granted on this and all succeeding New Year's Eves. The director of Seattle Center urged the Council to grant their request, mainly so as "not to release a large number of teen-agers to the streets at five minutes to Midnight on New Year's Eve."

"Pioneer ghost town"
A front page story in the November 14, 1960, Seattle Times alerted readers to the existence of a "pioneer ghost town" underneath Pioneer Square. According to the article, most "old-timers" had no idea the underground city existed. Fire Chief William Fitzgerald led the reporter on a tour below the streets, recalling his parents' stories of hangings that had taken place in that area before the city was rebuilt on higher ground after the fire of 1889.

The article prompted at least two citizens to write to the City Council asking whether the city could preserve the remains of the underground as a tourist attraction. One writer said, "I know I'd like to see it and I'm sure others would also." Another compared it to underground passages she had visited in Paris, and asked, "What could our City Council do about this golden nugget beneath our own Skid Road?"

The Council did not feel there was a role for the city in the preservation of the "ghost town," but forwarded the letter to the Central Association of Seattle, a downtown development organization, for the group's consideration. Just a few years later, the very same Central Association was behind the proposal to raze much of Pioneer Square for the construction of a new arterial road.

Bill Speidel began independently offering tours of the underground in 1965, paying rent to building owners in exchange for access to their lower levels. Meanwhile preservationists, alarmed at the urban renewal plans, led a movement to preserve Pioneer Square, studying its architecture and renovating some properties. Their efforts led to the creation of the Pioneer Square Preservation District in 1970, the city's first historic district.

Hallowe'en depredations
Reports from the Police Department's Junior Safety Division in the late 1930s show that the authorities were closely tracking Halloween pranks and the damage they caused to both city infrastructure and private property.

Each year they would create a report titled "Hallowe'en Depredations" that documented problems that had been reported on that year's holiday. The top section of the reports compared numbers of false fire alarms, broken streetlights, stolen street signs, and the like with the previous year's totals. The following section contained a list of each incident reported to the police in the current year, including times and locations.

Activities on this list included things like boys throwing tomatoes, honking car horns, tearing up shrubbery, letting air out of tires, and turning on fire hydrants. The 1936 document reports that at 10:59 pm, a roaming police officer found three manhole covers that had been removed. Eleven minutes later, horses and mules were discovered to have been turned loose. At 12:45 am, a large boiler was found in the middle of the street.

In an effort to prevent this annual holiday mischief, the police worked together with the Parks Department and the schools to promote "Safe and Sane Halloween." Student groups held all-city meetings before the holiday in which they shared ideas for thwarting vandalism. Their plans included organized talks within their schools, dances and other events planned as alternate Halloween activities, and volunteer patrols. On Halloween night, City-organized events at playfields and community centers drew hundreds of kids, which "held mischief-making to a minimum," according to the newspaper.

Kent State shootings
Two days after the shootings at Kent State in 1970 - 40 years ago in May - City Council President Charles Carroll gave
the following statement:

Each and every person mourns the tragic and senseless deaths of the four students killed at Kent State University on Monday. Moreover, each one of us mourns the terrible loss of lives in the Viet Nam war. Each of us fears the possible consequences of the president's decision to move troops into Cambodia.

Our paramount concern lies with violence and fear in our own country - and in our own city. I appeal to all Seattle citizens, and to the American public, to see clearly the tension and possible repression which exist in our society. We cannot permit our sorrow, or our anger, to breed more violence - whether for the sake of destroying what some may call evil institutions or repressing revolutionary students.

The events in Asia, and at Kent State University, and elsewhere in America should cause each of us - student, public servant, housewife, businessman, working man - to pause and reflect. We must realize that our own hasty actions may bring about the undoing of our society, something that no other power could bring about in our history.

I ask that Friday, May 8, be a Day of Reflection in the City of Seattle. To this end, I have asked [UW] President Odegaard to authorize the use on Friday of the University of Washington Husky Stadium for a community forum for free and open discussion by all who wish to participate. We invite the student leadership from the local colleges and universities to suggest to us a plan for the management of a community forum, dedicated to reflect on the tragic events of recent days and to discuss ways we together can build a better society and a better city.

I urge all Seattle citizens to observe this Day of Reflection by participating in the community forum or in their own way.

As the acting Mayor, I intend also to urge all city officials to join your discussions at the stadium on Friday. Perhaps together, we can begin here in Seattle to resolve the escalating American crisis.

Seafair royalty
In the early days of Seafair, the selection of the festival's royalty was big news in Seattle. Shortly before the start of the first Seafair in 1950,
the P-I announced that Victor E. Rabel had been tapped to serve as King Neptune I. The article described how Rabel had been "sitting in his office…studying the barometer and thinking of the golf prospects for the week-end, when the news came that he has been elevated to purple." He was told of his new status by two Seafair sponsors who arrived in a Cadillac and "apprised the new monarch that fate had beckoned him; that the responsibilities of royalty now devolve upon him, and that his time isn't his own anymore."

The selection of Seafair Queens also merited thorough news coverage in the 1950s. When Iris Adams was chosen for the crown in 1952, a photo of her brushing her hair accompanied an article describing her background. Born and raised in England, she had immigrated to America with her parents three years earlier at the age of 21. She was quoted as saying that some relatives had told her America was wonderful. "Now I know it is…We didn't have contests like this back home."

As the end of her reign neared in 1953, the P-I published Adams' advice to her successor. She forewarned hopefuls that the Seafair Queen had to appear at events at any time of day or night and didn't have much of a private life, adding that an understanding boyfriend and a lenient boss were a must. She also advised that one must be prepared for public speaking on little or no notice, and said, "I have found the shortest speech is the best speech, especially if you're scared."

A postscript to Adams' story came in a 1954 item in the Seattle Times announcing her engagement to a Navy lieutenant she had met during her reign as Seafair Queen.

Disco Week
The
following document was found in Mayor Uhlman's proclamations:

WHEREAS, the City of Seattle is vitally concerned about developing and maintaining a high quality of life for all its citizens, including social and recreational activities promoted in the private sector; and

WHEREAS, thousands of people in our area enjoy the color and excitement offered each week in Seattle's 25 discotheques; and

WHEREAS, on Saturday, December 12, 1977, Seattle's Disco King and Queen will be named at a party to be held in one of our finest local discos and will win an expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles as the guests of Paramount Pictures to represent all Seattle disco goers;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, WES UHLMAN, Mayor of the City of Seattle, do hereby proclaim December 12-18, 1977, as "DISCO WEEK" in Seattle, in recognition of our local disco businesses and their contributions to Seattle's evening entertainment.

Mayor Edwards recalled from office
Frank Edwards bears the distinction of being one of only two Seattle mayors to be recalled by voters. First elected in 1928, he won a second two-year term in 1930, but would be removed from office before completing his tenure.

In this era, there was a major debate in Seattle about whether electric utilities should be publicly or privately owned. City Light Superintendent J.D. Ross was a popular and highly visible proponent of municipal ownership, and he often got into power struggles with the Mayor and City Council over the cost and scope of City Light projects.

The public power issue heated up in January 1931 with the proposal of a charter amendment that would give City Light control of its construction projects. The debate provoked by the amendment spilled over into the City Council races that were to be voted on at the same time.

One day before the March election, Mayor Edwards fired Ross, claiming he was "inefficient and disloyal…extravagant and wasteful," and citing him for "willful [sic] neglect of duty." The negative reaction from citizens was immediate, resulting in the passage of the charter amendment and the election of pro-City Light candidates to City Council.

Petitions for Edwards' recall quickly began circulating, and more than eight times the necessary signatures were gathered. A special election was held on July 13, 1931, and voters chose to oust Edwards by a wide margin.

Robert Harlin was appointed by City Council to serve out the remainder of Edwards' mayoral term. One of Harlin's first official acts was to reappoint J.D. Ross as the head of City Light, where he served until his death in 1939. Edwards ran for mayor again in 1932 but did not make it out of the primary.

"The Right to Health"
In 1978, Mayor Charles Royer gave a speech to the King County Medical Society titled "The Right to Health," in which he previewed many of the arguments and concerns that were aired during our recent debate over the new federal health care legislation.

Royer stated, "Politicians have been involved in the health care of Americans since 1798, when the Public Health Service had its origins, and probably earlier. Today, the federal government is the source of payment for 40% of the hospital bills in this country." He went on to discuss examples of how government at all levels participates in the medical care of citizens, continuing by saying, "Clearly, there is no question about government's involvement in health care. We are involved - and invested - up to our necks. The real issue is the effectiveness and sensitivity of that involvement."

Again anticipating more recent discussions, the mayor said that everyone had examples of how the health system had failed people, and gave a few examples of his own. He said he believed that "local government must be the patient's advocate in breaking this red tape."

The mayor outlined several ways in which the city was working to improve local health care services, particularly for low-income citizens. He highlighted improvements in jail health services, the use of firefighters to monitor blood pressure for neighborhood residents, and the establishment of community clinics in underserved neighborhoods, and discussed how new services were attempting to meet the needs of diverse populations.

However, his main concern was with access to care for those without adequate resources, pointing out that "with medical costs rising at a far faster rate than wages, more of our working people are becoming medically indigent." He concluded his speech by emphasizing that "economic barriers are the single largest impediment to health care in Seattle, in King County and in the rest of our country… All the other issues - geographic access, coordination and citizen participation - are but side issues in comparison to the need for economic justice in our health care delivery system."

Fire Department horse
In 1913, Elizabeth J. Virtue of the King County Humane Society
wrote to the mayor with a complaint about a member of the Fire Department. The letter stated, "This man drives a good looking heavy horse up and down Queen Ann [sic] hill daily. While he seems to be in no hurry on level ground, he always seems to be going to a fire when going down hill." She condemned this "unnecessary racing of so large a horse down hill" and claimed that "a more unwarranted method of ruining a horse could hardly be found."

The mayor referred the complaint to the Fire Chief, who replied:

"The member referred to is a Batallion [sic] Chief who is required to respond to alarms with a horse and buggy owing to the lack of automobiles in the Department. This same conveyance he uses in going to and from meals. A very natural desire to expedite matters as much as possible in order that he might be on duty again at the station may be accepted as an apology for any annoyance inadvertently caused to the residents of that section."

Miss Virtue thanked the chief for his prompt reply, but added that he seemed to have missed a crucial point in the original letter:

"May we, however, refer you to the fact that the complaint stated that the annoyance was caused by the fact that 'there seemed to be no haste after level ground was reached.' We do not wish to be over critical or cause any unnecessary annoyance to anyone and would have paid little attention to the complaints if they had not been as above. They were made by prominent citizens whose motives cannot be doubted."

Civilian War Commission
During World War II, the Civilian War Commission coordinated Seattle's civil defense activities. Established by ordinance in October 1941 - before Pearl Harbor - it was originally called the Municipal Defense Commission, but changed its name in May 1942 to reflect the country's state of war. Members included the mayor, city council members, retired military personnel, local business and labor leaders, and representatives of groups like the Red Cross and the PTA.

The Commission submitted a final report in 1946, summarizing in detail its activities during the war until it was disbanded in December 1945. In the report, Mayor Devin summed up the achievements of Seattle's citizens and the Commission that coordinated their efforts:

  • 60,000 civilians volunteered a total of over 30 million hours in roles such as air raid wardens, auxiliary police, and recruiters for defense industry and farm workers. Over 12,000 young women served as "junior hostesses" for servicemen passing through the city.
  • Salvage efforts netted over four million pounds each of tin cans and waste fats, 90 million pounds of scrap metal, and 100 million pounds of waste paper.
  • Thousands of volunteers participated in concerts and other performances to entertain troops. Citizens donated 300,000 books and 700,000 magazines for the use of servicemen, and the War Athletic Council sponsored sporting events for their entertainment.
  • Over 100,000 victory gardens were planted in the city.

Mayor Devin wrote, "Each resident who donated an hour, a book or a tin can toward the war effort helped make possible this peace we are now enjoying. The War Commission, an over-all volunteer organization headed by civic-minded volunteers who gave unstintingly of their time, has done a tremendous job in coordinating the volunteer effort of the community and in directing that effort toward the most essential war jobs."

Parking meters come to Seattle
SMA's holdings include a set of issues of Seattle Municipal News, the newsletter of the Municipal League. The
September 27, 1941, edition has a front-page story entitled, "Let's Have Meters!" At the time, Seattle was in the midst of legislative and legal turmoil over installing parking meters on downtown streets. The article claimed that from the time the issue was first broached, "the subject has been bandied about like a gas-filled balloon, never coming down to earth."

The City Council had passed an ordinance in March of that year authorizing the purchase and installation of meters. The Board of Public Works studied the issue, put the project out to bid, and awarded a contract. However, the language of the contract differed from the Board's specifications, which provided an opportunity for a lawsuit by those against the implementation of parking meters. Indeed, future governor Albert Rosellini wrote to the Council claiming that all of the bids were invalid, and added a reminder that the State Supreme Court had ruled meters were "proper for regulatory purposes only and definitely improper from a revenue standpoint."

The Municipal News article claimed the contract was perfectly acceptable, and deplored how councilmembers who supported the meter plan "have been subjected to almost-libelous attacks by forces opposing parking meters. These attacks have not been backed by any presentation of evidence, and on the basis of the available facts are clearly unjustified and unfair."

The article refrained from commenting on the merits of the lawsuit, but did express hope that the city would prevail, ending the "petty bickering" and allowing the city "at long last, [to] have its meters." This wish came true by the following year.

West Seattle secession
Clerk File 286835 contains documents relating to a 1978 citizen petition. Given the name Initiative 14, the petition aimed to put on the ballot the question of reducing the city limits of Seattle - specifically to eliminate West Seattle from the city's boundaries, with an eye toward establishing the neighborhood as a
new independent city.

West Seattleites were frustrated with what they saw as the Seattle city government's lack of movement on constructing a high bridge to connect the neighborhood to the rest of the city. The old, lower bridges were frequently opened for marine traffic and had major congestion problems. Some West Seattle citizens began to question whether they would be better off seceding and reincorporating as their own city, after which they could independently seek bridge funding from the state.

Initiative 14 was rejected by the city attorney upon determination that, by state law, the issue was not one that could be decided by initiative. Shortly thereafter, the bridge question became moot when a ship crashed into one of the old bridges, severely damaging it. The loss of this span led to the planning and construction of a high bridge, which opened in 1984.

However, this was not the last time West Seattle threatened to secede from Seattle. In the 1980s, a movement to leave the city rose again in reaction to Seattle's plans for busing to combat racial segregation in schools. Secession plans went forward again in the 1990s in response to the city's plans to establish high-density urban villages in the neighborhood. In that instance, a state senator from West Seattle sponsored a secession bill; the bill passed in the legislature but was vetoed by the governor.

Complaint of firemen's wives
In 1912, Fire Chief Frank L. Stetson received the following
anonymous letter:

We being wives of firemen at Station 4 kindly ask you to see if something can not be done in regards to a Young Lady namely Gertie Cooper who is making trouble in our homes by her actions around the station. We do not wish to cause trouble or scandall [sic], so kindly ask you if you will aid us by keeping her from the station.
Sincerely,
Firemens Wives

The chief in turn wrote to Captain S.H. Horne, who was in charge of the engine company in question. Stetson explained the letter he had received, and then went on to say:

Now, I have no reason to doubt the character of the young lady in question, and no reason to believe the statements made are true, nor am I inclined to pay much attention to anonymous communications, but in this instance, I would suggest that you speak to her, informing her how the matter was brought to my attention, and request her to kindly make her visits to the station less frequent, and confine them as far as possible to occasions when she may have to use the telephones or other business. I think she will then see the position we are placed in. I presume that the communication was written through jealousy, and possibly a continuation of the visits, that is, if frequent, will cause more or less trouble.

Unfortunately the file does not tell us how the situation was resolved.

1960 rapid transit plan
In 1960, the Seattle Transit System published a
report exploring public transportation options as part of the Central Business District Comprehensive Plan process. The document looked at how high-speed rail might fit in with Interstate 5, then still in the planning phase.

The authors stated that rapid transit "can provide a practical means for moving people in lieu of providing all the highway lanes that are and may be desired." Pointing out that the proposed freeway route "takes for all time the most direct and the lowest cost right-of-way," they argued that rail should be designed into the freeway plans, as developing another route and right-of-way would be "ill-advised and nonsensical."

The report continues with a detailed outline of a potential rapid transit system to be established in the median of the freeway, stretching from Tacoma to Everett. Trains would operate at speeds up to 70 miles per hour, with a capacity of 40,000 passengers per hour on each track. Two downtown stations were envisioned - one at Westlake and Olive and the other at Fourth and Jackson - as well as a maintenance shop on Holgate.

The document includes detailed plans for the downtown stations, maps outlining the proposed route, and charts showing travel times and capacities, as well as analysis of legislation needed to fund and administer the system. Despite all the planning, the proposal ended up becoming another of the area's unbuilt rail projects.

"Cubic air" ordinance
In 1885, the Seattle City Council passed Ordinance 694 "for the regulation of sleeping apartments and for the preservation of good health." The law stipulated that all lodgings must contain at least 512 cubic feet of air space for each person sleeping there. The ordinance criminalized not only proprietors of buildings that did not meet the cubic air requirement, but also anyone over 14 years old who slept there.

Violators would be found guilty of a misdemeanor and fined "in any sum not exceeding one hundred dollars." Police and health officers were charged with enforcing the ordinance and were authorized "to enter and inspect [lodgings] whenever they…have cause to suspect that the same is overcrowded."

Similar "cubic air ordinances" had previously been enacted in San Francisco and Portland. As in these other cities, Seattle's law seems to have targeted the Chinese community, many of whom lived in overcrowded conditions in the International District. Resentment of Chinese workers was widespread during this period, as unemployment was high and the Chinese were seen as competitors for scarce jobs. This anger boiled over in 1886 during Seattle's notorious anti-Chinese riot, in which a mob rounded up hundreds of Chinese and attempted to force them onto an outbound ship.

The year after the riot, the law was superseded by Ordinance 824, which maintained the same cubic air regulations but changed the punishment to a fine of between five and fifty dollars or a jail sentence of up to fifteen days. This stayed on the books until it was repealed in 1906.

Segregated military recreation center
In 1942, the City Council passed an ordinance authorizing the construction of "a recreation center in Seattle for colored troops." This action prompted
the following letter from the NAACP:

The Seattle Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, representing 2000 Seattle citizens, wishes to call to your attention the fact that the committee who voted for the resolution on May 22, 1942 at The Rialto Building for setting up a Service Men's Club for Negroes, to-wit:

"Be it resolved that the Negroes of the City of Seattle pledge their full cooperation to the War Commission in the establishment and operation of a Service Men's Club for Negroes."

did not represent the majority of the Negro citizens of Seattle, nor was that group representative of the Negro citizens of Seattle.

We regret very much that the Seattle War Defense Council has gone forward with a segregated project for Negro Service Men on the resolution of this group of people, apparently highly selected because of their conformity to an idea.

The membership of the Seattle Branch NAACP wishes to protest the establishment of this segregated club for service men.

The membership protest, also, the passage of Ordinance No 71983, authorizing the expenditure of $10,000 for a segregated club for Negro service men. Although this ordinance makes some effort to meet the need of Service Men, in its present form it amounts to class legislation.

In the above protests, our local organization is backed up by our national organization, representing seventeen million people, white and colored.

We shall greatly appreciate your efforts to remedy this situation.

It is not clear from the record whether or not the recreation center was built.

"Graftitis" in the City Council
In late 1904, Presbyterian minister and civic reformer Mark Matthews gave a lecture in which he claimed that certain City Council members exhibited symptoms of "graftitis" (i.e., corruption). The Council discussed his accusations (sadly, before the days of taped meetings), and
appointed a three-member subcommittee to visit him and ask for specifics. (Bonus fact: the resolution establishing the committee was signed by Comptroller John Riplinger, who was later prosecuted for embezzling city funds.) Matthews would not provide details at that time, but did offer to appear before the Council and give his evidence, "provided he be allowed to deliver his address uninterrupted by members of the Council."

He was invited to do so, and his speech is preserved as a Clerk File. He stated up front that he believed at least four Councilmembers were "immune" from graftitis, but then went on to enumerate 19 different "symptoms" of the disease, including:

  • The Council asking for $7,500 in return for a franchise for the Snoqualmie Power Company.
  • The existence of a contractors’ syndicate that controlled most city construction projects, apparently with the Council’s blessing.
  • Councilmembers who "attempt, one moment, to enforce said ordinances and charter, and the next, to voluntarily, or for some other reason, represent and defend the gambler or gamblers who had violated said ordinances and charter," often intervening to prevent the revocation of licenses from saloons operating illegally.
  • The fact that "parties putting up buildings are blocked and interfered with unless they use a certain kind of roofing, the manufacture of which is controlled by a firm of which a certain Councilman is a managing officer."

Matthews wrapped up his address by stating he would not discuss the matter further except before a grand jury, if one were to be called. In spite of the charges, Council President Hiram Gill was elected mayor in 1910, and apparently continued many of these corrupt practices until public outrage finally grew to a critical mass. Reverend Matthews was instrumental in a successful recall campaign that removed Gill from office in 1911.

Seattle's first stoplight
In 1924, the city installed its first traffic light on a trial basis. A
memo from the Traffic Subcommittee of the Board of Public Works described the pilot project and made the case for installing lights on a permanent basis.

Almost a full page is devoted to explaining how the growing number of automobiles was beginning to create traffic tie-ups, especially given the "human weakness of 'beating the other fellow to it.'" At that time, traffic was controlled by police officers' whistles and arm gestures, and "semaphore signals." These consisted of "four semaphore arms bearing the words 'Go' and 'Stop.' The officer rotates this signal to indicate the direction traffic shall flow."

Several reasons were given for the desirability of an "Automatic Manual Control Electric Signal," including greater visibility of signals and increased freedom of movement for the officer on duty. A 30-day test of an automatic signal was done at 4th and Jackson, one of the three busiest intersections in the city. Although the signal allowed for both automatic and manual control, the officer did not manually change the signal, determining that the automatic timing worked better.

The committee was pleased with the results of the test, reporting that traffic now cleared by 5:45 pm instead of 6:15 or later, and that the number of collisions at the intersection had dropped significantly. Another plus was that an officer was free to follow any vehicle violating a traffic law to issue a ticket, as the signal would continue to operate without him. (This was compared to the semaphore system where "traffic runs wild" as soon as the officer leaves the corner.) The report stated that local businesses were so pleased with the signal's operation in the afternoon rush hour that they requested it be used in the morning as well, and thus "the morning patrolman has been supplied with a key to the signal and turns it on at 7:00."

Given these results, the committee recommended purchase of the signal at a cost of $685.

Labor relations in early Georgetown
Although the language sounds formal to modern ears, the
following letter suggests significant tensions in turn-of-the-century Georgetown and hints at labor disputes spilling into the streets. Handwritten on letterhead of the Brewery Workmen's International Union of America, Local No. 261, it was dashed off mere hours after the incident described within. (Spelling errors in original.)

Seattle, Wash. May 22, 1905

To the Honorable Mayor and City Council of Georgetown.

Gentlemen! -

We the United Brewery Workmen of Georgetown and vacinity beg leave to protest against the actions of some of the so called deputy sheriffs in the City of Georgetown.

The actions of some of these officers are wholly uncalled for, in interfering with peaceable residents of this City on the public highway, who have commited no crime and have no intention to commit any crime.

They are being interfered with just that they happen to be members of organized labor.

The question refered to in this protest occured at or about one oclock A.M. May 22 when two brewers were approached in the Public highway known as Bateman street at a point opposite the residence of Mr. Wm. Zahn.

The men in question were compelled by force and a display of fire arms to accompany these so called deputies to seek the night marshal. We protest in the most emphatic manner of such treatment as we are not looking for trouble. The excuse for this outrage on the manhood of these citizens was that they had passed the residence of the supt. of the Seattle Brewing Co.

We believe every patriotic citizen should protest against such uncalled for insults. Such actions are apt to have a tendency to incite the most humble to anger.

John Schuier, George Schaab, H.R. Rogers, Committee
Endorsed by J.L. Ex. Board, Hans Puttrick sec.

Old Woodenface pitching contest
From 1921 until at least 1968, the Seattle Times ran a
pitching contest in conjunction with the Parks Department. At playfields all over the city, kids would line up to try their hand at throwing baseballs toward a wooden frame called "Old Woodenface" or "Old Woody." Old Woody served as an "automatic umpire" - any balls that went through the hole were considered strikes. Thousands of contestants tried their hand each year.

The Times gave the contests extensive coverage, sending a reporter and photographer not only to the finals but also to the dozens of preliminary rounds. One article predicted that "the Christy Mathewsons, the Walter Johnsons and the Grover Cleveland Alexanders of the future will all register from Seattle and will owe their start to fame to Old Woodenface." (Indeed, the 1931 winner went on to play professional baseball, and Fred Hutchinson's brother won the contest in 1923.) The contest sometimes included pitching duels between local officials, and throughout the 1930s the finals took place in Sick's Stadium before a Rainiers game.

Not everyone who wanted to participate was able to, however. A newspaper article about the 1922 contest discussed the girls who wanted to have a go at Old Woody, stating that playfield superintendent Ben Evans had been asked "hundreds of times" when the girls would have a chance. Lillian Burns, an adult playfield leader, advocated for the girls, saying that they had been "practicing just as hard as the boys."

Evans was quoted as responding, "All right, all right… But first, we must decide the great big important question, 'Who is the champion boy pitcher of Seattle?'"

City Light customer attitudes
In April 1978, City Light
interviewed 808 customers to evaluate their attitudes about the agency and about energy issues. The survey concluded with an open-ended question asking what respondents would tell City Light's management if they had a chance to sit down with them.

The question elicited divergent opinions about many issues. Comments about electric rates ranged from complaints that they were too high to thanks for keeping them low. Many respondents grumbled about the agency's managers. One said that he would "give them a little bit of what's on my mind, tell them to clean up their act," while another stated that he would say, "You are fired! That's it."

The survey also reflects arguments about energy that are still occurring today. Many customers agreed with a respondent who said, "They should be spending a lot more on researching other sources of power: solar power, wind power, geothermal power," but others said things like, "It seems unrealistic to try to develop solar and wind power. Not practical. I don't want my tax money spent on that." Some wanted to raise Ross Dam and increase hydroelectric capacity; others believed environmental concerns should come first. One said, "They should have gone with nuclear power"; another said, "Absolutely not nuclear power." Other suggestions for energy sources included garbage, home-based passive energy collectors, and kelp beds.

Respondents took the opportunity to share some miscellaneous beefs. One said she wanted to tell City Light about "the neighbor that leaves lights on inside and out even when not home. They shouldn't be able to do that when others are trying to conserve." Another asked that they "put street lights back up. I don't want anyone to smack the **** out of me." And yet another wanted the agency to "quit sending stupid sized envelopes inside their envelopes."

World's Fair housing crunch
As Seattle's 1962 World's Fair approached, some landlords saw an opportunity to make money by hosting out-of-town visitors, and received permits to convert their apartment buildings to transient housing that would be charged by the day. Unfortunately, some of these property owners decided to make room for the visitors by evicting current tenants en masse, which caused a stream of letters to pour in to the City Council.

A woman who had been in her apartment for 30 years wrote, "Yes, today is Valentine [sic] Day, and today, we, at the Baroness Apartments, received a Valentine in the form of an eviction notice… I have been an ardent booster for Seattle and the Fair. I have personally invited 50 guests to the Fair… I hate to tell them to go to the New York Fair instead." Another wrote on behalf of his evicted friends, whom he called "the finest, most upstanding young women in this entire city and that takes in a lot of women, including your wives, gentlemen."

An outraged citizen stated, "If the City does not take care of its citizens first, it is lousy and, besides, to the Dickens with the fair." Another asked, "Are we displaced persons expected to become pioneers in space while the local hotels and apartment houses wax fat on their six months spoils?" Still another declared that if he was evicted, "it will take the Sheriff to remove me."

With this evidence that the permits were having unintended consequences, the Council agreed to work on legislation that would allow apartments to be used as hotels during the fair as long as they didn't evict current residents. They also passed a resolution pleading with local businesses and landlords to avoid price gouging.

Fire engine pollution
A series of letters in 1911 illustrates the concern about pollution caused by the Fire Department's new horseless fire engines. A citizen named William Perkins wrote to the Fire Chief saying that he'd seen one of the "Fire Dept Auto Combination Hose Carts" on its way up Pike Street and that there was "smoking gasoline just filling the street - worse than a locomotive crossing the Cascades."

Chief Stetson replied to Perkins, thanking him for bringing the "offensive smoking of one of our auto-moving pieces of apparatus" to his attention. He noted that through "careful analysis" they had determined that the smoke was coming from lubricating oil and not gasoline, but admitted he did not know of a remedy.

Meanwhile, the Chief also forwarded Perkins' letter on to J.L. Phillips of the Gorham Engineering & Fire Apparatus Co., noting the complaints about the smoking of the "auto-moving cars" and saying he had heard there were "other makes of auto-wagons" that did not smoke. He requested that a device be attached to the trucks to cut down on the smoke and fumes.

Phillips responded by saying that he was aware of some smoking from their "motor propelled fire apparatus," but was at a loss to suggest any mechanism that would take care of the problem and prevent further citizen complaints.

Seattle songs
Over the years, many have memorialized Seattle in song. In 1961, one Ethelyn Hartwich sent the Council a ditty about keeping Seattle clean. Twenty years later, a man wrote from Mexico sending his own Seattle song, written entirely in Spanish.

A song called "I Want to See Seattle" was sent on CD and included lines such as, "I want to see the river/Where the sockeye salmon quiver." Another CD contained a 2001 salute to baseball titled "All Star Town," with verses that included:

It's goin' down in Seattle Town
Everyone comin' round
Getting stoked - cup a Joe
Biggest ticket in the show

One song that received wider distribution was titled "Seattle, My Own Home Town," which was written in 1952 and recorded by the Mercer Island Children's Choir in the early 1980s. A citizen sent Mayor Royer the sheet music along with a P-I column which claimed that if you could listen to it without tapping your feet, "then part of you is dead."

However, Seattle's official song predates all of these. In May 1909 Arthur O. Dillon petitioned the City Council to adopt "Seattle the Peerless City" as the city song. A representative verse goes as follows:

Her bosom's gemm'd with pearly lakes,
The mountains tower near;
The fir tree forest skirts her bound;
The beauty of earth is here.

The Finance Committee recommended the song be adopted, providing Councilmember Frederick Sawyer sang it for the Council. Sawyer apparently did so, as the petition was subsequently granted.

Ivar's salmon banner
After restaurateur Ivar Haglund bought the Smith Tower for $1.8 million in 1976, he installed a
16-foot salmon windsock on the flagpole at the top of the building. Seattle's Department of Buildings promptly notified him that the flag was in violation of the city's building code and asked that it be removed. As Ivar was known for writing in verse, the Superintendent of Buildings, Alfred Petty, sent a poem in addition to the official violation letter. It read, in part:

Since your kite is clearly in violation,
You must remove that illegal installation.

Word about the dispute got out and the poetry flew. The P-I wrote an editorial in verse that ended:

Ivar has our sympathies in this fight
Against these bureaucratic shams.
We adore his salmon banner,
Swimming over acres of clams.

Citizens also wrote to the city on the issue. Apart from one writer who thought it was a "disgrace" that the salmon was being flown higher than the American flag, the rest of the feedback supported Ivar and the banner. Letters stated that "small, dull thinking shouldn't knock [the flag] down," and that "Seattle needs a free spirit like Ivar's." One citizen got into the spirit and wrote a poem that began:

We know that you must do your job,
But don't be petty, Petty!
What matter if the salmon flies
From building or from jetty?

The city eventually granted Haglund a variance (the hearing examiner's decision concluded with four stanzas of verse) and the flag was allowed to stay. According to the P-I, Ivar said the best part about the decision was that it would stop a lot of bad poetry. After he died in 1985, the salmon banner was flown at half-mast.


Fan letter
The following
letter was received by the Mayor's Office in 1971:

March 2, 1971
5:00 p.m.

Dear Mayor Uhlman,
This is sort-of a fan letter and sort-of not. This will probably sound stupid, but here goes anyway. I just want to say that I think that you are doing a great job as mayor. No one else could do a better job.

In case you are wondering, I'm a fifteen year old student out here at St. Edward's Seminary. To be truthful, I'm writing this letter to ask a favor of you. If it is at all possible, I would like very much if I could meet actor Richard Chamberlain. I figured that you are the man to help me meet him. I hope that you get to read this letter, because if no one else thinks that this letter is important, I do.

I'm one of Mr. Chamberlain's biggest (I'm only a little over 5 ft.) fans, and I'd do just about anything to meet him. So please help me to meet him. If you want you could tell Mr. Chamberlain that it could help publicity.

Thank you very much for all your trouble. Thank you very much.

Sincerely,
[name redacted]

Note: Chamberlain appeared in Richard II at the Seattle Rep that year. It is not known whether the student (or the mayor) ever met him.


Bowling alleys
The loss of bowling alleys has recently created some gloom in Seattle, but in earlier years, the building of such facilities often caused alarm. A 1950 petition from Queen Anne residents protesting plans to build an alley in their neighborhood cited parking problems, "noise and racket," and depreciation of property values. It also claimed that "such a bowling center contributes nothing to the best interests of the community" and would be "certain to become a hang-out for juveniles." Additionally, the petition objected to the expected presence of pinball machines, concessions, "and other devices designed to extract money from the public."

A 1945 plan to build an alley on Roosevelt Way brought out similar concerns from neighborhood residents. A petition argued that since Roosevelt "is a very important arterial highway" used by ambulances and fire trucks, adding more traffic to the street would put the whole city at risk. One woman wrote that the bowling alley would be "not only a bad influence on our dear children, but it must be very hard on our dear old neighbors… These poor old souls, who never do anyone any wrong, will have to suffer for it all, I'm afraid."

One citizen had a more specific complaint. In a 1945 letter, he described how he "was subject to the demands of the bowling alley to rent their shoes… The result was Athlete's Foot." After describing his attempts to fight off the disease and keep it from spreading to his family, he went on, "You may wonder why I am writing such a detailed report on this… I am wondering if you can't in some way…stop this awful practice of renting out shoes." He said the alley manager claimed they sterilized the shoes three times a week.

The city's Chief Sanitation Inspector believed the writer's complaint to be "well founded" and suggested that bowling alleys, skating rinks, and costume shops be required to disinfect footwear between each rental. An ordinance to this effect was passed exactly a month after the citizen wrote his letter.


Frog jumping
In 1975, Seattle and Snohomish jointly sponsored a frog in the Calaveras County (Calif.) frog jumping contest. In a
letter to the contest manager, Mayor Uhlman spun a tall tale about how frog jumping originated in Washington when lumberjacks would use high-jumping frogs attached to ropes to bring down tall trees. He claimed that Snohomish was currently required to alert the Canadian government before their town's frog-jumping contest "to assure the safe return of any who might inadvertently cross the international boundary."

The mayor further described the superiority of Washington's amphibians, asserting that frog jockeys "unfamiliar with the particular characteristics of our local breed have been known to suffer bruised or broken ribs from standing too close at the time of the jump." He finished the letter with a request: "If ABC's Wide World of Sports covers the event again this year, our frog is not to be requested to grant any interview to Howard Cosell. Our local Humane Society has very strict rules about such things."

Radio station KWYZ financed the frog's entry, and station employee Randy Thaut served as travel escort and frog jockey. A naming contest sponsored by the station resulted in the chosen frog being christened Lord Sno-Sea the 123rd. In a letter to Thaut, a mayoral assistant signed off with, "If you don't win, forget about coming back."

A mayoral assistant worked with the Woodland Park Zoo amphibian curator to prepare a box in which the frog would be flown to California. The curator also suggested a diet of crickets and earthworms "to insure maintenance of the frog's stamina and physical agility."

The file does not include the contest results, and a query to the current Calaveras County frog-jumping contest staff elicited no historical results. If Lord Sno-Sea the 123rd proved the superiority of Washington frogs over those from California, the proof is unfortunately lost to history.


Bubbleator
A file in Mayor Uhlman's records details a campaign to
save the Bubbleator at Seattle Center. The Bubbleator was a distinctive glass elevator originally installed as part of the Coliseum's "World of Tomorrow" exhibit for the 1962 World's Fair. It was moved to the Food Circus (now the Center House) after the fair, but in 1973 was scheduled to be removed as part of a major renovation of the building.

Hundreds of citizens wrote letters and signed petitions in protest. One letter began, "For Heaven's sake what is this we hear about doing away with our 'one and only' much loved Bubbleator!" One writer described it as "one of those things which creates the unique charm of the Center." Another asked, "How many other cities have bubbleators? Let's keep Seattle on the map!" An Everett resident contended that "if San Francisco had it they would have post cards of it and really play it up." A postcard from a child read, "I'm only 5 years old and have only ridden in the bubbleator 2 times - please don't have it removed - I want to ride it some more." And a Seattle man directed his ire at the mayor, writing, "I've shaked [sic] your hand a lot of times and NOW I want to shake the rest of you!"

The outcry caused city leaders to rethink their plans. A rather unenthusiastic memo from the Seattle Center's director outlined possible options for changing the architectural plans. A mayoral staffer attached his own analysis, suggesting that a change order should be put in, as the Bubbleator "is unique in the city and… preserves some sense of continuity between the present facility and the remodeling." The mayor attached a note saying, "Agree! Implement!"

The Bubbleator's reprieve was only temporary. In the 1980s it was removed for good, and was sold to a man who used it as a greenhouse in his yard. The operator's chair was donated to MOHAI in 2005.


1920 rapid transit plan
A 1920 report lays out a
plan for rapid transit in Seattle that includes subways, elevated trains, and "motor busses." Written jointly by the city engineer, superintendent of public utilities, and superintendent of railways, the document proposes a rapid transit system "suited to present needs, but planned for future enlargement."

The authors envisioned a subway running beneath Third Avenue from Virginia to Yesler, coming to the surface near the railroad stations - essentially the route followed by the present-day tunnel. Trains going up to Capitol Hill would follow a line up Pine Street that would be alternately underground and elevated, ending at 15th Avenue East. An elevated line would serve Pigeon Point in West Seattle, while surface rapid transit would connect with the existing streetcar service at stations in Fremont, lower Queen Anne, and the University District.

Additionally, the report proposed installing escalators between First and Fourth Avenues on selected streets. The authors believed that "the construction of such escalators in the business district of Seattle will tend very greatly to develop this district and to do away with the present handicap occasioned by the steep grades between our main north and south streets. We have no doubt that once in use they will find themselves immediately in favor."

The report estimates the savings of this system over the current streetcar system to be $1.2 million per year. An integral part of the plan was the removal of streetcar tracks downtown, thereby creating "an enormous benefit …The savings in time for trucks, delivery wagons and automobiles has a very real cash value." As for the expected expenditure to build the system, the authors claim that "the interest and depreciation charge on such cost will probably not exceed one-half of the total saving in the cost of maintenance and operation," but do not give an actual cost estimate.


Black Panthers
In early 1970, Mayor Uhlman turned down a federal request for cooperation in a raid on the local Black Panther headquarters (which ended up not taking place). He expressed concern over "Gestapo-type tactics" and argued that violent raids as had recently occurred in other cities only served to radicalize more people. His actions made national headlines, and he received letters from citizens from across the country.

Almost half of the letter writers favored Uhlman's actions, praising his "courage," "fairness," and "good judgment." One telegram expressed "deepest admiration for not forgetting history and not being stampeded into the vigilante tactics of too many hysterical public officials," and another said that "a nation's police look better without armbands."

Those who opposed his decision felt strongly that he was wrong. Some claimed he was a communist and "not a true American." One writer said, "I don't see why the federal agency had to ask a jerk like you whether they could stage a raid on the black panthers [sic]." Another wrote, "May I suggest you save your money and buy a TV, then you'll see some of the happenings across the country that involve the 'Panthers' who you protect from us vicious tax paying, law abiding citizens."

Responding to one critic, the mayor wrote, "The Panthers, as any other group, will be held responsible for the legality of all of their activities in Seattle, but will not be harassed or treated prejudicially by the City… However, there exists already enough racial fear and mistrust on both sides without creating more through unwarranted investigations and other activities."

In 1971, a clerk for attorney Johnnie Cochran wrote to Uhlman to ask him to testify for the defense in a case against thirteen Panthers in Los Angeles. Uhlman declined to do so, saying that the incident "has strained relations between local and federal law enforcement agencies" and that he would prefer not to aggravate those tensions.


Seattle Pilots baseball
Seattle's first experience with Major League Baseball was brief and tumultuous. The
Seattle Pilots played the 1969 season in Sick's Stadium, a minor league park that was built in 1938. The stadium needed extensive renovations, and construction continued right up until Opening Day. However, the American League still declared the stadium to be "inadequate" less than two months later. The facility's problems and the owners' shaky finances led to the purchase of the team by Bud Selig, who moved them to Wisconsin. The players went to spring training as the Seattle Pilots but were the Milwaukee Brewers by the time the season started - a move so sudden that their uniforms weren't ready for their first game.

In the mid-1960s, while the city was working to attract a team, the mayor received correspondence from citizens eager to make Seattle a "Big League Baseball city." One writer castigated Mayor Braman for not working harder to get a franchise, saying, "I cannot understand your apparent apathetic attitude in not AGGRESSIVELY getting behind this movement." Another argued that the economic benefits were too great to ignore, asking, "How can we afford NOT to have a major league stadium and team?" However, another writer expressed skepticism about what would happen after the initial enthusiasm died down, fearing that Seattle "could well have a white elephant on its hands."

When it became apparent that Seattle was in danger of losing the team, citizens began writing in with solutions. One suggested that the franchise issue stock, believing that local residents would buy in ("100,000 loyal baseball fans like myself at $35.00 equals 3½ million dollars"). Another recommended a special election be held to authorize King County to buy the team. Eddie Carlson, who was involved with the World's Fair, tried to put together a community ownership plan. None of these ideas worked out, but the city's lawsuit against the American League eventually resulted in the new Mariners franchise.


Potlatch riot
Clerk File 52924 illustrates the aftermath of an anti-Socialist riot during the Potlatch Festival in 1913. Spurred by an incendiary article in the Seattle Daily Times, a large group of soldiers, sailors, and civilians roamed the downtown area on a Friday night ransacking any property they identified as "red" (along with a mission that was the victim of mistaken identity).

The file includes damage claims from various Socialist Party officials outlining items destroyed in the riot, which included desks, tables, a typewriter, benches, books, two pianos, and (ironically) ten American flags. Windows were smashed, a newsstand was demolished, and furniture was burned in the street. A police report estimated the crowd at over 3,000 and cited "the influence of liquor."

Mayor Cotterill assumed emergency control over the police department and issued orders banning street meetings and closing saloons until the following Monday to protect against "a renewal of disturbance of public order." He also accused the Times of willfully inciting the riot through its "exaggerated, false, and perverted publications," and directed the police to stop all distribution of the paper for two days unless the proofs were first approved by the mayor.

Police did indeed attempt to stop an edition of the Times from being distributed, but publisher Alden Blethen went to court and got the order overturned. A huge headline in the next issue of the newspaper trumpeted, "Cotterill attempts to suppress Times; Tries to shift blame for last night's riots." The paper also recapped the events of the previous night in detail, clearly in sympathy with the actions of the mob. Toward the end of the article, the writer declared that "the sailors were entirely orderly last night with the exception of their attack on the reds."


Anti-war demonstrations
A day after the shootings at Kent State University in 1970, more than 7,000 demonstrators blocked Interstate 5 in a march from the UW campus, and protests continued in the city for days. These incidents prompted numerous letters to Mayor Uhlman, the majority of them critical of both the "rabble rousers" and the mayor himself.

A petition signed by almost 250 citizens stated, "We the undersigned feel that the tragedy at Kent State University was the FULL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DEMONSTRATORS." One letter writer wrote with outrage about "allowing our Flag to be worn by these dirty people down our streets." Another wanted to know "just how long MOB RULE is going to override law and order… If you didn't stop the cars from driving on [the] Interstate during a demonstration, there would probably be only one such demonstration."

The mayor's decision to fly the flag at half mast to memorialize the Kent State students generated some critical letters as well. One writer suggested that the flag be lowered for all deaths resulting from traffic accidents, falls, and so on, saying that "all of these occasions for sorrow are fully as valid as the deaths of the students, and probably more so." The man also stated his belief that "much of the disturbance is instigated by behind-the-scenes maneuvering of enemies of our nation."

Not all the correspondence criticized the mayor's actions. One letter stated that "Seattle is fortunate to have had you as mayor during the past weeks of anti-war demonstrations." Seventeen employees of Bank & Office Interiors also signed a letter stating their appreciation for "the restraint, as well as the calmness, the Seattle Police Department has shown" during the protests.


Quarantines, swill milk, and nuisance laundries
The city's early General Files cover several topics relating to public health:

  • In 1894, a hotel owner filed a claim for damages after his hotel was quarantined for 19 days during an epidemic. He listed the loss of pillows, blankets, and mattresses that were destroyed or taken to the "Pest House," and also claimed expenses for rent, licenses, and lost lodging income. The Claims Committee recommended he be reimbursed for the destroyed bedding but not for the last three items, as "all persons engaged in this business assume the risk of epidemics."

  • Over 100 Seattleites signed a petition in 1891 asking that the sale of "swill milk" - milk from cows that were fed discarded malt from breweries - be prohibited in the city. The petitioners claimed that "it is a known fact that the milk produced from such feed is very injurious and conducive to diseases." Health Officer G.H. Sparling appended a note to the petition stating that swill milk was "the cause of a great number of deaths from cholera."

  • An 1890 letter to the mayor and common council complained of a "disagreeable nuisance" on Yesler Avenue. A sanitary officer subsequently inspected the property and discovered that the issue was "slops flowing from a Chinese Wash House." He explained that the laundry, along with several others in the city, had no sewerage connections, causing its "slops and filth" to run out over the ground and under the sidewalk. He stated that all such laundries constituted "a Public Nuisance and a menace to the health of the neighbors," but offered no solution to their runoff problem.

Astronauts visit Seattle
A file in Mayor Uhlman's records documents the 1970 visit to Seattle of the three Apollo 12 astronauts, Charles Conrad, Alan Bean, and Richard Gordon. The Apollo 12 mission was the United States' second manned lunar landing, and occurred during a time of high national excitement about the space program. Gordon was from Seattle, which gave the visit additional meaning for local residents.

The astronauts came to Seattle directly from Pasadena, where they served as grand marshals of the Tournament of Roses parade on New Year's Day. Numerous local officials, as well as Senator Magnuson, took part in the festivities. The itinerary for the visit included two welcome ceremonies, a luncheon hosted by Boeing, a motorcade and parade through downtown, a dinner, and two receptions. The astronauts also presented a public program at the Pacific Science Center to discuss the Apollo 12 mission and answer questions.

The visit brought out the musical talents of local residents, showing how the space program had captured the nation's imagination. A Seattle man rewrote the lyrics of "I've Been Working on the Railroad" with "new space age lyrics" that began:

      We've been riding on a moon ship, all the live long day
      We've been flying on a moon ship, along the Milky Way

The man suggested the song could be used as part of the ceremonies, and that perhaps the "moon men" would like copies of the lyrics.

Additionally, a Bothell woman had written and self-published sheet music for a "march song" entitled "You're the Pride of the Human Race." The lyrics read, in part: "We are proud of ev'ry one for a job well done/That has made our space dream come true." She sent a copy to the mayor and apparently was able to present one to the astronauts in person as well.


Seattle Rumor Center
Files in the archives describe the establishment and activities of the Seattle Rumor Center. Modeled on similar programs in cities like Chicago, the center provided "a central source of accurate and reliable information on subjects of concern to the citizens of Seattle and affecting the public peace, safety and welfare."

The Rumor Center opened on an experimental basis in 1968; by 1969, it was open from 10:00 am to midnight seven days a week. In addition to fielding calls and serving as a rumor clearinghouse (one "minor incident" at the Seafair Torchlight Parade led to over 200 calls to the center), the staff also produced a biweekly rumor report, documenting everything from fights at Meany Middle School to buzz about an upcoming "rumble" between motorcycle gangs.

In a 1969 letter to the mayor, the Rumor Central General Secretary sounded off on the kind of damage his center worked to prevent: "Recently, a group of drivers started what they considered a humorous rumor. It spread throughout a portion of the City until a fire station phoned asking us for verification. In this case, we were able to trace the course of the rumor to its source and to explain what harm this 'fun' had caused."

The center's annual report for 1971 described how local events affected the types of rumors that were circulating. School desegregation plans prompted a rumor that there would be mandatory busing of 4-year-olds, and the Boeing layoff led to a number of rumors related to the potential cancellation of unemployment benefits.

The work of the Rumor Center did not go unnoticed. The mayor praised them for their "fine work," and the Superintendent of Schools wrote, "We believe that on a number of occasions serious trouble has been avoided because of the splendid service rendered the community by the Center."


Women's Protective Division
In the early part of the 20th century, the Police Department had a Women's Protective Division that specifically looked after the welfare of women and children. Annual reports of the Division give a flavor of the kinds of issues officers dealt with.

The reports recount how the Division's officers helped children find medical treatment, avoid workplace exploitation, and escape abuse and neglect. Women newly arrived in the city were assisted at the docks and railroad stations, and homeless women were referred to the Salvation Army.

The 1916 report relates how "for many girls, family homes and employment were secured and for several marriages arranged, thus legitimatizing [sic] children who otherwise would have been nameless. In many cases misunderstandings between parents and children have been settled, restoring harmony to the house."

The dedication of Division officers to their work is apparent in the reports. One 1916 case where a man was accused of taking advantage of a minor girl was successfully prosecuted based on shredded letters found in the girl's room. It took "hours of painstaking effort" to piece the missives together, but the reconstructed evidence led the man to plead guilty.

As part of their protective services, officers investigated "soft drink parlors," skating rinks ("frequented, to a large extent, by sailors and young girls"), and other places of amusement. The 1920 report contended that "moving picture shows" and their "false ethics" were increasing juvenile delinquency, and suggested banning the exhibition of any films that depicted a crime being committed.


Elvis Presley
Several Clerk Files from 1956 contain letters from teenagers (all girls) protesting the city's refusal to allow Elvis Presley the use of the Civic Auditorium, apparently over concern about potential unruly behavior by youth attending the concert.

The arguments took several tacks, with some following the fairness angle. One girl wrote, "What did we teen-agers ever do to deserve this? Nothing!…Why have we teen-agers of Seattle been refused when teen-agers all over the U.S. have not?"

Many contended that Seattle's youth were being condemned based on what those in other cities had done. An Elvis Fan Club member asked, "Are we the kids in the other towns? No we are not… Then why are you afraid we'll start something?" Another girl attempted to reassure the Council that "so many kids want a chance to see him, that they wouldn't let a riot start."

Others defended the music itself. A girl from Renton argued, "The reason some people don't like him is usually because he has a different way of singing, and people don't like anything that's different." A Seattle teen wrote, "Elvis has a good 'beat' to his music. It's different. It isn't this drawn out mushy slow music." Another argued, "Think of when the Charleston was the craze and the teen-agers were crazy over Sinatra!"

However, one girl conveyed a different message than she intended when she wrote, "I want Elvis Presley to come to Seattle because we have never had a Rock and Roll riot in Seattle before, and I think it would really be fun."


Swimsuit regulations
A 1934 folder in a Parks Department collection highlights the changing standards for proper beach attire. Seattle was apparently behind other parts of the country in terms of what styles of suits were allowed on city beaches. A Bon Marche vice president complained to the Park Board that "practically all the bathing suits in demand from a fashion standpoint would be barred." The sporting goods manager from the University Book Store
contended that men wanted to wear trunks (rather than one-piece suits with tops), and since trunks were not permitted on city beaches, they would "avoid the beaches and risk their lives swimming in places that are dangerous or at least unprotected."

He also argued that scantier swimwear was good "from a hygienic standpoint…because we have so little sunshine." In a similar vein, the Bon Marche vice president claimed that "no one will deny that acquiring a good coat of tan…has much to do with one's well being."

These and other petitions persuaded the Park Board to look at their policy. A representative from Olympia Knitting Mills appeared at a May 1934 board meeting, along with several models, to show the new styles of suits. The board decided to allow men to wear topless trunks, while women were allowed for the first time to wear white suits (as long as they were wool). Two-piece suits were still barred, however; the P-I reported that the board decided "a strip of bare anatomy between trunks and tops…isn't quite decent." The paper quoted board president Samuel Martin as saying, "Ah, ha! Now we're modern at last!"


Prohibition
The archives holds almost twenty leather-bound volumes detailing search warrants and court cases related to the illegal possession of alcohol during Prohibition. Seized liquor varied from amounts as small as half a pint to thousands of bottles. Officers also confiscated stills, mash, funnels, and jugs.

Prohibition in Washington State began in 1916, three years before the U.S. Constitution was amended to outlaw the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcohol on a national level. Here, as elsewhere, the law was widely violated. Bootleggers and rumrunners did a thriving business supplying Washingtonians with illegal liquor, and many people built stills to manufacture their own. Bootleggers even held a convention in Seattle in March 1922.

Seattle civic leaders cracked down on this activity to varying degrees. Mayor Hiram Gill was among the more severe, establishing an unpopular "Dry Squad" to raid businesses and homes suspected of violating the ban. The squad's excessive zeal caused thousands of dollars in damages and managed to alienate even die-hard temperance activists. When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the Seattle City Council immediately passed an emergency ordinance allowing beer and wine to flow in the city once again.


1960s miscellany
Three items of note discovered in one day in the 1969 Mayor's Office records, proving that the sixties were alive and well in Seattle:


Pete Seeger
A 1965 file in Mayor Dorm Braman's records contains dozens of letters from citizens protesting a scheduled Opera House performance by Pete Seeger. Many of the writers asked the mayor to enforce Ordinance 91981, which prohibited "the rental or use of any city-owned buildings…to any subversive organization, or member thereof."

Letters cited Seeger as "an identified Communist" and noted that "he edits the magazine 'Sing Out' where Communist Party songs appear." One writer described his performances as "a large dosage of Red propaganda interspersed with bad music," while another warned that "communism uses the arts - including music perhaps most of all - to destroy us." Several writers were concerned that he would take profits from his Seattle concert and donate them to the Communist Party.

Many of the correspondents had apparently written first to the Superintendent of Buildings, Fred McCoy. McCoy replied with a form letter stating that he had reviewed the program and determined it was not subversive. One citizen took exception to his judgment, asking, "Have you been trained in the methods of Communist psychological warfare and brainwashing?"

A response letter from the mayor explains that the city did not have legal justification for canceling the performance, as no government agency would definitively label Seeger as being "dedicated to the destruction of our form of government by force." But Braman was proud that as a result of the city not making a public fuss, "the attendance at his show was very small compared to others."


The embezzling comptroller
The archives holds a set of audits and reports relating to the alleged embezzlement of city funds around the turn of the last century. A 1907 audit discovered that over $68,000 in city funds were missing. Also missing was the former Comptroller, John Riplinger, who served two terms from 1902 to 1906.

The city attempted to locate Riplinger using Pinkerton detectives. When he was eventually found in Honduras, the City Treasurer worked with the State Department to negotiate an extradition treaty. Within a month of the treaty's enactment, however, Riplinger "voluntarily" returned to Seattle, claiming the timing was coincidental. (Meanwhile, a "Lee Christmas" had offered to kidnap the fugitive for trial.)

Riplinger was charged with nine counts of larceny by embezzlement. The prosecutor decided to try the strongest charge first - a case where the state was able to prove both the delivery and the cashing of a check by Riplinger, and where a City Council member witnessed him carrying the cash out of the bank.

Riplinger's defense was based on the claim that the cashed check, while initially written to the city, was later offered as a personal loan. Riplinger could not account for why he had not come forth with this explanation two years before when he was first accused.

The jury deliberated for only 30 minutes before finding him not guilty. The prosecutor, stunned by the verdict, said he still planned to try the other eight counts, and threatened to prosecute Riplinger for perjury. However, he later dropped the charges, admitting "there would be little hope of securing a conviction." Riplinger, in the free and clear, immediately made plans to return to his banana business in Honduras.


Cows in Ballard
At the turn of the last century, the City of Ballard was starting to become more urbanized but still retained many aspects of rural life. In 1905, a law was passed restricting where cattle could graze, prompting citizens to write to the mayor and city council to comment on the new limitations. Dueling petitions found in the Ballard City Clerk's files show some of the conflict that resulted from the town's development.

One petition pleaded that the city government "give we people owning cows a chance to live, as well as those that do not own such." The signers claimed that by "pushing the boundary of herd law back so far, many will be obliged to sell their cows which in many cases is over half of their living."

However, another petition claimed that the law didn't go far enough and that the herding limits should be extended further. The petitioners state, "We consider it an imposition to have 25 or 30 cows herded right in our door yard and each cow with a bell on. They also herd on the Bay View school grounds where the children have to play, and annoy and make the Teachers nervous. Also those herd boys use all kinds of profane and obscene language in the presence of women who come near them."


The Beatles
A 1964 file in Mayor Dorm Braman's records contains a number of letters from teenage girls in a high state of excitement about the Beatles' impending Seattle concert. They ask the mayor for favors ranging from front row seats ("I promise you, I will not scream") to advice on what the band members might like as gifts (the mayor claimed ignorance about their preferences) to a declaration of an official
Seattle Beatles Day ("I have talked to several of my friends about this and they think it's the greatest idea since cornflakes"). One girl asked that she and three of her friends be allowed to officially greet the Beatles when they arrived, while another was hoping to escort the band up to the top of the Space Needle after hours.

The lone letter from a citizen over the age of 18 was from a Mrs. Pinkham, who wanted to be sure taxpayer money wasn't paying for expenses associated with the visit, which she claimed "upset the whole city."