Category Archives: Guest Post

Happy 100th birthday, Gordon Hirabayashi!

April 23, 2018 marks what would have been Gordon Hirabayashi’s 100th birthday. As a young man, Gordon learned the hard way that without a vigilant and engaged citizenry, our Constitution is little more than a scrap of paper. He took a stand and became one of the best known resisters to World War II incarceration—and we have much to learn from his example today.

Just days after his 24th birthday, Gordon challenged the government’s right to target and forcibly remove Japanese Americans without due process of law, and turned himself in to the FBI rather than going along with the forced removal. He paid a high price for his act of civil disobedience, spending the next nine months in a jail cell while awaiting trial and appealing his conviction, before being sentenced to prison when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously against him. It would take more than 40 years to correct that injustice–but Gordon never gave up, and instead continued to fight for the rights of himself and all Americans.

In this excerpt from A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States, Gordon talks about how he arrived at the decision to disobey curfew orders and, later, exclusion orders:

Returning from New York, I became one of the leaders of the UW student conscientious objectors group right after the first peacetime conscription law [Selective Training and Service Act of 1940] was passed. . . . As for confronting the government, with all the information I had, I thought, “They’re wrong!” For me, my position was a positive one, that of desiring to be a conscientious citizen. It was this desire that prevented my participation in the military as a way of achieving peace and democracy and other ideals for which we stood. How could you achieve nonviolence violently and succeed? War never succeeded before. War has always caused more problems than it solved. I can’t say it’s wrong for everybody, but I can’t approve of it for myself. I couldn’t put my life on the line and put my efforts toward war with how I feel.

I wanted to work toward justice and peace in my own way. And there were others with whom I could do that, namely, liberal members of churches and political parties. We had a lot of protection actually. If we had to go to prison, treatment was all right, since the concept of conscientious objection was not ipso facto disloyal.

On Sunday, December 7, 1941, I went to the Quaker meeting as usual. After the meeting, a student came down from an apartment across the street: “I skipped the meeting this morning. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor! We’re at war!” It didn’t sound real. It was unbelievable, but it slowly sank in.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, acting under his emergency war powers, issued Executive Order 9066, which delegated broad powers to the secretary of war as well as U.S. military commanders to protect the national security. That protection included the right to remove any suspect individuals from military areas.

A proclamation, generally referred to as the curfew order, was issued on March 24, 1942, restricting the movement of certain individuals. General John L. DeWitt, who was the top military man in charge of the Western Defense Command, issued the curfew. It was applied to all enemy aliens—Germans, Italians, Japanese, plus non- aliens of Japanese ancestry—confining them to their residences between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., and restricting their travel to areas within a radius of five miles from their homes. The government and military kept using this term “non-alien” in identifying the second-generation Japanese Americans, who, after all, were actually U.S. citizens by birthright. The military seemed to feel more comfortable carrying out these orders if they didn’t have to think about applying them to other Americans. At first I responded as an ordinary citizen and obeyed government orders.

As I thought the situation over, however, I reasoned that a citizen is a member of a state: a person, native or naturalized, who owes allegiance to a state and is entitled to protection from it. An alien is someone who is not a citizen. What, then, is a “non-alien”? I felt forsaken as a citizen to be included in this strange kind of categorization. It appeared that the federal government was more interested in suspending citizens’ rights than in protecting constitutional guarantees regardless of race, creed, or national origins.

At my YMCA dormitory, there were about fifteen of us, mostly locals, but some from different states and a few internationals: one or two Chinese, a Filipino, and some Canadians. They became my time- keepers. “Gordon, it’s five to eight,” and I would rush back from the library, which was about two blocks from my UW dormitory, Eagleson Hall. And then it happened. One night, I thought to myself, “I can’t do that. I have to change my philosophy or I can’t do this, or I’m not true to myself, and if I’m not, I’m not a very good citizen to anybody. Why am I dashing back and those guys are still down there, and I could stay longer and get some more work done, too?”

So I went back to the library, and the first dorm mate who saw me said, “Hey! What are you doing here?”

I said, “What are you doing here?” “Working,” he responded.

I retorted, “Well, I’ve got work to do, too, same as you. Why should I be running back if you’re not running back? We’re both Americans!” My dorm mates never turned me in. They could have. I never was arrested for curfew violation or caught as I was roaming around the University District. If I had been living a half a block away at the Japanese Students Club, I would have been one of the forty or so residents who would be returning at five to eight. If that had been the case,I wonder whether openly confronting the racist curfew order would have occurred to me?

Members of the University of Washington Japanese Students Club in 1941. Courtesy of the UW Nikkei Alumni Association.

If I were to maintain my integrity in terms of my belief that I am a first-class American citizen, but then accepted second-class status, I would have had to accept all kinds of differences. But how is it that I could raise a question about being a first-class citizen when every day I experience differences that restrict my rights because of my ancestry?

The curfew and exclusion orders were issued, making the Nisei subject to those restrictions purely on the grounds of ancestry, but many Nisei found it possible to find a way to accept those orders in the name of loyalty and patriotism. I heard various reports from the Japanese community. Nisei came to have their lunch at the YMCA, and I dropped over to the Japanese Students Club from time to time. I heard that the Issei leaders were being picked up.

Among the community, all sorts of rumors were rife, and the concentration camp fever hit us all. Others will be picked up. There was a kind of resignation among us that because the Issei were prohibited from naturalizing, they were still Japanese subjects. And with war, they were technically enemy aliens. Therefore we expected that some restrictions would fall on them, that they would all be put into some kind of confinement. I remember trying to assure the Issei that, at worst, some things like that could happen, but if they did, we Nisei would look after their needs.

Shortly after the curfew order, the government posted an official proclamation on telephone poles and post office bulletin boards: NOTICE TO ALL PERSONS OF JAPANESE ANCESTRY, BOTH ALIEN AND NON-ALIEN. Civilian Exclusion Order No. 57 commanded all Japanese and Japanese Americans out of their homes and into special, totally segregated, camps.

In response to the Army’s Exclusion Order Number 20, residents of Japanese ancestry appeared at Civil Control Station in Sacramento. Photo by Dorothea Lange, Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Soon enough, the districts of Seattle were on a deadline to move all persons of Japanese ancestry, “both alien and non-alien.” All this time I was thinking that when the last bus came, I would probably be on it. About two weeks before my time came, I said to myself, “If I am defying the curfew, how can I accept this thing? This is much worse, the same principle, but much worse in terms of uprooting and denial of our rights, and the suffering it’s going to cause.” While I had to agonize over that for a couple of days, the answer was inevitable. I found it necessary to keep myself internally intact.

I was a senior at the University of Washington. At the end of winter term in March 1942, I dropped out of the university. It was clear to me that I would not be around long enough to complete spring session. I volunteered for the fledgling local American Friends Service Committee, with Floyd Schmoe as my boss. [. . . .]

The top priority was to sensitively respond to needs arising among the Japanese Americans. The Quakers were responding to calls for help. My assignment involved helping those families with little kids whose Issei fathers had been picked up and interned immediately after Pearl Harbor because they were leaders of the community. The mothers were busy closing the houses, arranging for storage, and preparing young children to carry their things on the trek to camp. Gosh! Something seems wrong; helping people to go behind barbed wires and into flimsy shacks. What a mixed-up life this is—the American way. It really horrified me to help these families pack up their belongings, drive them down to the temporary camp at the Western Washington Fairgrounds in Puyallup, and leave them behind barbed wire.

Japanese Americans from Seattle arrive at the Puyallup detention facility, which was also known as “Camp Harmony” (a euphemism coined by army public relations officials days before the first Nikkei arrival and a name in common usage by camp survivors). Courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry.

Those who saw me waving goodbye expected to see me within a few weeks, a prisoner myself. Then, somewhere in a period of a few days, it occurred to me that if I can’t tolerate curfew, how can I go with this camp deal, which is much worse? As long as I had come to this stage, I thought I couldn’t do it. It was only about a week before the last evacuee left, but by then, I knew I wouldn’t go! [. . . .]

My parents, who still lived in Thomas, were expecting to be uprooted sometime in May, and because we lived south of Seattle, the family was initially going to be sent to the center for Japanese Americans erected at Pinedale, California. They thought that I would be home in time to join them for the exodus. I had to explain what was happening to me and tell them that I would not be joining them. Because of travel restrictions and demands on my time by the Quaker service work, I had to telephone home to give my parents the unpleasant news.

My mother pleaded, “Please, put your principles aside on this occasion, come home, and move with us. Heaven knows what will happen to you if you confront the government. You are right and I agree with you, but this is war. We’re all facing unknowns. We are going to be moved, but we don’t know where or for how long. The worst of all would be that if we are separated now, we may never get together again.”

That was quite a concern to her if I continued to defy the government. My brother Ed heard Mom crying and begging. She had read The Count of Monte Cristo, and as that was her only reference to jails and prisons, she worried about the consequences of my decision. I might face the firing squad or something like that. I told her, “If I change my mind because of your pressure, it wouldn’t be good. I need to retain my own self-respect, because when I take this stand, I am following what I think is right. I can’t change my views, since I’d rather remain true to my beliefs and be true to you as your son.”

After the war, my brother Ed observed, “Once they had done all they could do to dissuade Gordon and saw they couldn’t change his mind, they became his greatest supporters and were proud of him, in spite of the terrifying thought of his being in prison.”

In a 1999 interview with Densho, Gordon reflected on his mother’s support, and his decision to take a stand:

Excerpt from A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States
By Gordon K. Hirabayashi
With James A. Hirabayashi and Lane Ryo Hirabayashi

This post originally appeared on the Densho Blog.

Our city, our pets: Guest post from ‘The City Is More Than Human’ author Frederick L. Brown

Today we are featuring an illustrated guest post on the history of our favorite furry and feathered friends by The City Is More Than Human: An Animal History of Seattle author Frederick L. Brown. Brown was recently awarded the 2017 Virginia Marie Folkins Award from AKCHO (Association of King County Historical Organizations) for his book, published last fall, and also delivered the 2017 Denny Lecture at MOHAI.

Read on to learn more about the role pets have played in Seattle’s urban history!

Credit: Christy Avery

Dogs are rarely seen reading urban history – the bright-eyed fellow pictured above notwithstanding – but dogs have played a vital role in urban history. Over the last century, their numbers have increased dramatically. One rough estimate is that their population has increased from five thousand in 1905 to 150,000 today. The working dog is not absent from the city today: from guide dogs, to guard dogs, to dogs in police K9 units. Yet, the role of pure companion, with no expectation of work, predominates. Many of us couldn’t imagine urban life without our furry friends.

Credit: MOHAI, SHS12890

A century ago, dogs were friends to be sure, but also as guard-dogs, hunting dogs, ratters, and workers at other tasks. Often, the role of work and play blended. For instance, the dogs in the front row of this 1898 image of McVay Mill, in Ballard, may have blended roles as mascots, pets, and watchdogs. One newspaper ad from 1921 captured the mixing of roles: “Police Dog puppies. The most intelligent and faithful companion, excellent as watchdog and ideal as pet for children.”

Credit: MOHAI, 1974.5923.46; photo by McBride Anderson

Other dogs had a role as pure companions a century ago. Here for example, Priscilla Grace Treat cuddles her dog, around 1920. Seattleites had deep connections of love and friendship with their dogs. For instance, one family wrote of their German shepherd in 1935, “He is treated as a member of the family and with a laugh takes the rocking chair, when he feels like sitting in it.”

Credit: Frederick L. Brown

Cats generally have better things to do than read urban history, making this curious girl from the Central District hard to explain. But they too have been woven into the city’s history, since its founding. Cats’ urban role has perhaps undergone an even greater transformation than that of dogs. Before the widespread use of cat litter in the 1940s, it was considered unsanitary for them to spend much time indoors.

Credit: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, Hester 10587; photograph by Wilhelm Hester

A century ago, most cats had a working role killing mice and rats, in private homes and in businesses. They had an important role in any business storing, selling, or transporting food that might attract mice and rats. They hunted rodents on docks and ships and, many believed, afforded sailors good luck, making them honored members of ships’ crews, as their presence in numerous crew portraits attests. Here, the crew of the British vessel Penthesilea sits on the deck in a Puget Sound port in 1904. A crew member in the back row holds a cat.

Credit: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, Warner 3107 (detail)

Although cats typically had working roles in the early twentieth century, people also enjoyed them for other reasons. At the Warner residence in Seattle around 1900, a man and woman smile and watch a kitten.

Credit: Frederick L. Brown

Backyard chickens have become popular in recent years. Some refer to the pleasures of seeing chicken curiosity and their lively exploration of backyards (and even the occasional historical monograph) as “Chicken Television.” In the late 1990s, the Tilth Alliance found soaring interest in its backyard chicken classes. For some city-dwellers, these increasingly popular creatures are “pets with benefits” – the benefits being eggs.

Credit: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, KHL195; photo by Ambrose Kiehl

A century ago, backyard chickens were not primarily pets. They were a vital source of eggs, and also meat, to urban dwellers. Yet the daily act of feeding chickens allowed human connection, and children  especially, often saw them as pets. Here Miriam Kiehl holds a chicken for a portrait at Fort Lawton in 1899.

Credit: MOHAI, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Photograph Collection, 1986.5.4202.3

Yet, as The City Is More Than Human explores, chickens illustrate the paradoxes of urban pet-keeping. Backyard chickens have remained in the city, and yet increasing numbers of chickens live in large-scale operations far from the city. This battery for laying hens in Woodinville in 1935 was one step along that journey to greater and greater industrialization.

For every one backyard urban chicken today, there are thousands of chickens in faraway industrial-scale farms that provide meat and eggs to Seattleites. Some of the chickens, indeed, provide the meat that feeds urban cats and dogs. That moment of great connection and caring, when we feed our cats and dogs, is also a moment where we generally are ignorant of the lives of those faraway creatures. So, as we think about the wonderful place of urban pets in our lives, let’s also remember those faraway animals that are integral to urban life and urban pet-keeping.

___

Frederick L. Brown holds a PhD in history from the University of Washington and works on a contract basis as a historian for the National Park Service.

Photo Essay: ‘The Hope of Another Spring’

This Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month we are excited to share special features with authors and editors of new and recent titles that celebrate Asian and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

Today we feature a guest post from The Hope of Another Spring: Takuichi Fujii, Artist and Wartime Witness author Barbara Johns exploring some of the most powerful and intriguing pieces by Issei artist Takuichi Fujii (1891-1964).

Her book, published this spring, reveals Fujii’s life story and work and gives a telling alternative view of the wartime ordeal of West Coast Japanese Americans. The centerpiece of Fujii’s large and heretofore unknown collection is his illustrated diary, which historian Roger Daniels calls “the most remarkable document created by a Japanese American prisoner during the wartime incarceration.”

Please join us to celebrate the publication of The Hope of Another Spring at these events:

Wednesday, June 7 at 7 p.m., Folio with Elliott Bay Book Company, Denshō, and the Wing Luke Museum, Seattle, WA

Thursday, June 8 at 7 p.m., Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA

Wednesday, September 13 at 7 p.m., In conversation with Tom Ikeda, Seattle Public Library – Central Library with Elliott Bay Book Company and Denshō, Seattle, WA Seattle, WA

Saturday, September 16 at 2 p.m., Exhibit opening and curator talk, Washington State History Museum, Tacoma, WA

Wednesday, September 20 at 7 p.m., Friends of Mukai at the Vashon Land Trust building, Vashon Island, WA

Saturday, October 7 at 2 p.m., Kinokuniya, Seattle, WA

Saturday, October 14 at 2 p.m., University Book Store, Tacoma, WA

Friday, October 20 at 1:30 p.m., Walla Walla Art Club, Walla Walla, WA

The Washington State History Museum in Tacoma will present the corresponding exhibition, Witness to Wartime: Takuichi Fujii, from September 21, 2017 – January 4, 2018.

After the exhibition closes in Tacoma, it will travel to the Alexandria Museum of Art in Alexandria, LA from March 1 – June 27, 2018.


Takuichi Fujii (1891-1964), Chicago, ca. 1953. Fujii, pictured here in his early sixties, moved to Chicago after World War II. During the war Chicago became the center of Japanese America as the result of the War Relocation Authority’s resettlement policy. Fujii moved to the city after the war and spent the remainder of his life there.

Photo courtesy of Sandy and Terry Kita.

Fujii, High School Girl, ca. 1934-1935. Fujii immigrated from Hiroshima to Seattle at the age of fifteen, established a small fish sales business, and by the 1930s was a well-recognized artist. This painting pictures his daughter, a student at Broadway High School.

Oil on canvas, 22 3/4 x 29 in. Wing Luke Asian Museum Collection. Photo: Richard Nicol.

Fujii, Evacuation, 1942. Executive Order 9066, issued on February 19, 1942, authorized the army to establish military zones “from which any or all persons may be excluded,” targeting although not naming persons of Japanese ancestry. The mass forced removal began in late March, and by June, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast were incarcerated under armed guard. Fujii began an illustrated diary that he would keep throughout the war, and here, shows his family leaving home.

Diary frontispiece. Ink and watercolor on paper, image 4 1/4 x 4 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Fujii, Diary entry, 1942. Fujii wrote, “We arrived at the Puyallup Assembly Center. Those who had been sent here earlier greeted us from inside the barbed wire.” Fujii’s diary, nearly four hundred pages of text and images, gives a detailed account of the “camp” experience from an inmate’s perspective.

Ink on paper, 8 x 5 1/2 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Puyallup Assembly Center, Washington, 1942. Crudely built barracks on the Western Washington Fairgrounds and surrounding area housed more than 7,000 Japanese Americans from May to September. Meals, latrines, showers, and laundry were communal. Inadequate plumbing, noise, endless lines, and mandatory roll call were daily conditions.

Denshō, courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ6-1654, http://encyclopedia.densho.org/sources/en-denshopd-i217-00021-1/.

Fujii, Puyallup Assembly Center. In addition to his diary, Fujii produced well over one hundred watercolors that replicate or complement the diary drawings. He writes in the diary entry on which this watercolor is based, “The south side of the camp: the place where there was a tall watchtower.” His drawings and watercolors repeatedly trace the means of confinement and specify his viewpoint, positioning him as a witness.

Watercolor on paper, 4 x 6 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Fujii, Puyallup Assembly Center, man standing by barracks. This watercolor enlarges a detail from the diary drawing, as Fujii continued to reflect on his experience.

Watercolor on paper, 14 x 10 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Fujii, Minidoka War Relocation Authority camp. Minidoka occupied 950 acres of desert land in south-central Idaho and at its peak, housed over 9,000 Japanese Americans. This painting is one of three related images to picture this portion of the fence, including the tumultuous montage on the cover of The Hope of Another Spring. Fujii’s diary reads, “This is the barbed wire and [the scene] around Block 24.”

Watercolor on paper, 13 1/2 x 10 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Fujii, Minidoka, pounding mochi for New Year’s day. At the end of December 1942, two generations of men pound steamed rice for mochi in preparation for the first New Year at Minidoka. An Issei, or immigrant-generation Japanese, he often contrasts his and the younger generation in his diary, but here, he describes their shared social celebration as “we pounded the [mochi] shouting enthusiastically.”

Watercolor on paper, 6 1/4 x 4 1/2 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Fujii, Minidoka, drawing by flashlight. Fujii pictures himself in usual perspective as he draws inside his barrack, as if to make the viewer a witness alongside him.

Watercolor on paper, 14 3/4 x 10 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Fujii, double portrait of himself and his wife, Fusano (on the left), ca. 1943-1945. This unique sculpted pair shows the strong, supportive union between Fujii and his wife. The dimensions suggest the wood was scavenged from fence posts when a portion of the hated barbed-wire fence was dismantled.

Carved wood, the taller, 9 x 4 x 3 1/4 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection. Photo: Richard Nicol.

Fujii, Diary entry, Minidoka, October 2, 1945. Fujii and his wife, having received eviction papers, await their departure from Minidoka to an unknown future. He describes the acute anxiety aroused by the announcement of the closure of the camps in 1945, particularly among the Issei, who had lost their homes, farms and businesses, possessions, and, for many of them, their health.  His diary is exceptional in recording his experience from the forced removal in 1942 to his leaving Minidoka as the camp closed.

Ink on paper, 8 x 5 1/2 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Fujii, abstraction, early 1960s. Moving to Chicago after the war, Fujii continued to paint and experimented with abstraction in a broad range of styles. His work culminated in a series of bold, dynamic black and white abstractions in the last years of his life.

Enamel on canvas, 24 x 36 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection. Photo: Richard Nicol.


Barbara Johns, PhD, is a Seattle-based art historian and curator. Her previous books include Signs of Home: The Paintings and Wartime Diary of Kamekichi Tokita, Paul Horiuchi: East and West, Jet Dreams: Art of the Fifties in the Northwest, and Anne Gould Hauberg: Fired by Beauty.

‘What makes work meaningful?’: Q&A with ‘The Social Life of Inkstones’ author Dorothy Ko

The following interview originally appeared at Barnard News and is adapted and used with permission. (Courtesy of N. Jamiyla Chisholm, Barnard College, New York City.)


To honor Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, Barnard College professor of history Dorothy Ko offers a peek into ancient and modern-day Eastern culture and politics.

According to the Library of Congress, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month takes place in May for two reasons: May 7, 1843, marked the immigration of the first Japanese citizen to the U.S.; and on May 10, 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed, mostly by Chinese immigrant workers.

Credit: Marvin Trachetenberg

Dorothy Ko explores the subjects of gender and body in early modern China. In her books, Ko unravels the complex worlds of Chinese footbinding (Cinderella’s Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding), fashion (Every Step a Lotus: Shoes for Bound Feet), and feminism (Teachers of the Inner Chambers: Women and Culture in Seventeenth-Century China). Her latest, The Social Life of Inkstones: Artisans and Scholars in Early Qing China, introduces the West to the world of ancient Asian stones and includes close to 100 images (see slideshow below). Ko explains the significance of this highly specialized art form.

What exactly is an inkstone and what is its significance in East Asian culture?

An inkstone is a piece of polished stone about the size of an outstretched palm. Before the invention of fountain pens, let alone laptops and iPads, every student, writer, or painter in East Asia had to grind a fresh supply of ink at the desk by dipping an ink-stick in water and rubbing it on the surface of the stone. This process was as instinctive to them as recharging our iPhones is to us. Day in and day out, the writers and painters developed deep attachments to their implements. More than an instrument for writing, the inkstone was a collectible object of art, a father’s gift to his school-bound son, a token of friendship, and even a diplomatic gift between states.

Why is this tool so unfamiliar to Western civilizations when it has represented so much for the East for more than a millennium?

Europeans drew ink from an inkpot so they had no use for an ink-grinding stone. Nor did the early European collectors appreciate its subtle beauty as the Chinese connoisseurs did. The color of the inkstone tended to be deep purple or black; it is small and does not display well in a stately home or fancy apartment. So it is no wonder that there is no notable collection of inkstones in Europe or America.

Your book shines a light on craftswoman Gu Erniang who became famous for her inkstone-making skills, which were refined between the 1680s and 1730s. What made her such a standout?

Her extraordinary skills. Gu Erniang was a remarkable woman who thrived in a field dominated by men; she became more famous than her male colleagues. Her name was associated with technical and artistic innovations as well as refined taste. It is also interesting to mention that she enjoyed more gender freedom than her genteel sisters in that she could receive male patrons in her studio to discuss commissioned projects face-to-face.

How has the significance of inkstone artisans changed over time?

Gu Erniang was one of the first inkstone makers in China to attach her signature mark on her work, suggesting a heightened respect that exceptional artisans like her enjoyed. Today, because the inkstone is no longer a functional object, all inkstone artisans have to present themselves as creative artists.

What interests you most in this topic area and what are some of the biggest “ah ha!” moments you had conducting research for the book?

I love all the modern conveniences we enjoy but increasingly feel the need to look back and reassess the heavy price we pay for such “industrial development” or “progress.” I became interested in the craftsmen because theirs was a sustainable livelihood that was environmentally responsible. Through their eyes, I arrive at tentative answers to my big question at the moment: What makes work meaningful? The craftsman’s answer: Making one-of-a-kind objects with attention and skill in a collaborative environment. Craft makes us more human by inspiring us to strive for perfection.

How does the research conducted for this book connect to research from your previous publications on footbinding and Chinese feminism?

As a historian of gender, I’m sensitive to power inequalities and trained to analyze the operations of power. In the same way that I had retrieved women in Chinese history in my earlier books, I set out to retrieve the artisans from erasure in the hands of male scholars. Little did I know that the latter turned out to be a far more difficult project.

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Photo Essay: Hidden Treasures and Surprising Views from ‘Seattle Walks’

In Seattle Walks, David B. Williams weaves together the history, natural history, and architecture of Seattle to paint a complex, nuanced, and fascinating story. He shows us Seattle in a new light and gives us an appreciation of how the city has changed over time, how the past has influenced the present, and how nature is all around us—even in our urban landscape. With Williams as your knowledgeable and entertaining guide, encounter a new way to experience Seattle. Here Williams shows us some of his favorite hidden spots and surprising views of the city. Do you know them all?

Learn more about Washington’s urban history and celebrate the publication of Seattle Walks at these events:

April 30 at 4 p.m., Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island, WA

May 21 at 4 p.m., Village Books, Bellingham, WA

Scroll down to the bottom of the post to enter for a chance to win a free copy of the book (US residents only).


Discovery Park Terra-Cotta Figure – This is one of three terra-cotta figures, all of which came from the White-Henry-Stuart Block, which was destroyed in 1978 for the Rainier Tower. This one is in Discovery Park (Walk 9). Native American heads of the same design can also be seen on the Cobb Building downtown (1301 4th Avenue; Walk 5). With their feather headdresses, these figures are not based on local Native Americans, though they were made by a local craftsman, Victor Schneider, who worked at the Denny-Renton Clay and Coal Company. Schneider also created the terra-cotta triptych on the Seattle Times Building.

Credit: David B. Williams

$15 million sundial – This small sundial is on the southeast corner of the house built by Samuel Hill, a lawyer and railroad executive who moved to Seattle in 1901 (E Highland Drive and Harvard Avenue E; Walk 13). Hill began work on his Capitol Hill home in 1908. The quote on the dial is from Rowland Hazard, a woolen manufacturer and friend of Hill’s from Rhode Island, who had a sundial on his house. The former Samuel Hill house is now on sale for $15 million.

Credit: David B. Williams

Great Seattle Fire Plaque – One of several panels in Westlake Plaza created by school kids. The panels, based on geographic and historic questions and answers, are oriented in three rows each consisting of four question tiles and one answer tile. In case you don’t know the date, the answer is on a nearby panel (Walk 4).

Credit: David B. Williams

Waah! – Located on the Interurban Building (167 Yesler Way), the carved figure was done by an unknown artist for an unknown reason (Walk 5). Perhaps it was a colleague or the carver was simply having fun. Walking Seattle’s downtown core reveals a vast urban safari of carved and molded creatures in stone and terra-cotta.

Interurban Building / Credit: David B. Williams

Octopus’ Garden – Artist Lezlie Jane designed several parks along Beach Drive SW, just south of Alki Point (Walk 17). This piece and a 32-foot-long tiled wall nearby highlight the nearshore wildlife in Puget Sound. The Constellation Park and Marine Reserve is also the best public place in the city to learn about the constellations visible from Seattle.

Credit: David B. Williams

Seattle Skyline View from Dr. Jose Rizal Park – One of the surprising views from north Beacon Hill toward Seattle (Walk 14). The small green space became park property in 1971. Three years later members of the local Filipino community, part of which centered on Beacon Hill, worked with city local government to name the park in honor of Dr. Jose Rizal, a Filipino social reformer, ophthalmologist, poet, and novelist who was executed in 1896 by the Spanish colonial authorities in Manila when he was 35 years old. If you want the best views, come in winter when the park’s forest of red alders and bigleaf maples have dropped their leaves.

Credit: David B. Williams

Last Bluff in Downtown Seattle – When settlers first arrived in Seattle, most of the shoreline surrounding Elliott Bay was high bluffs of sediment. This bluff is the last one remaining in the downtown area (2000 Alaskan Way at Lenora Street; Walk 1). If you imagine yourself here in 1850, just before the European settlers arrived, you would have been standing on the shoreline. Another way to consider this landscape is to realize that most of the land west of the fence did not exist in 1850. It is all made land, created primarily by the building of Seattle’s original seawall and the filling in of the area behind it with sediment.

Credit: David B. Williams

Fremont Bridge – The view from Streissguth Gardens on west Capitol Hill (10th Avenue E and E Blaine Street; Walk 13). Started by the Streissguth family, the garden is now owned by the city.

Credit: David B. Williams

View over Puget Sound – The hill with the brick building atop it on Alki Point exists because it is consists of a layer of 23- to 28-million-year-old sandstone, known as the Blakely Formation, that resisted erosion during the last ice age 16,400 years ago (55th Avenue SW and SW Charlestown Streets; Walk 17). Imagine standing here during the last movement of the Seattle Fault about 1,100 years ago, when the ground rose 20 feet. Prior to the earthquake, the mound would have been a seastack rising directly out of the water. Perhaps at very low tide, you could have walked across a beach to it. After the uplift though, the mound and its sandy surroundings would have been thrust up above the high-tide line to their present position.

Credit: David B. Williams


David B. Williams is a freelance writer focused on the intersection of people and the natural world. His most recent book was Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography, which won the 2016 Virginia Marie Folkins Award, given by the Association of King County Historical Organizations to an outstanding historical publication. Other books include Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology and The Seattle Street-Smart Naturalist: Field Notes from the City. Williams is coauthor of Waterway: The Story of Seattle’s Locks and Ship Canal. He lives in Seattle and continues to explore and travel through the city by foot and by bike.


Furry Attractions: Polar Bears in the Zoo

International Polar Bear Day, which falls every year on February 27, raises awareness about the conservation status of polar bears in a warming Arctic. In this guest post, Ice Bear author Michael Engelhard shares this photo essay about the history of polar bears kept in zoos.

In the western hemisphere, polar bears have lived in our midst since the Middle Ages, a result of our fascination with these charismatic carnivores. From their very beginnings as cultural institutions, zoos have tried to balance entertainment and education. Today, with climate change and habitat loss from development threatening the polar bear’s natural habitat, many have added conservation to their mission, with captive breeding programs and scientific research. This gallery offers a brief stroll through zoos past and present, a glimpse at how we have kept and presented the Arctic White Bear.

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Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

The menagerie in the Tower of London, one of Europe’s oldest and longest-operating zoos, in an illustration from 1808. Already in 1252, Henry III of England kept a muzzled and chained polar bear there, which was allowed to catch fish and frolic about in the Thames.

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Courtesy of E. K. Duncan.

Polito’s Royal Menagerie at the Exeter ’Change in London, 1812. A collection of exotic animals owned by Stephen Polito, a touring showman in Georgian England of Italian descent who had come from his own country to find fortune in London and the provinces. The artist Edwin Landseer came here to study and paint polar bears “true to life.” Continue reading

10 things a clueless eater can do: Guest post by ‘The Deepest Roots’ author Kathleen Alcalá

DeepestRoots_AlcalaKathleen Alcalá is a Bainbridge Island writer who has long been one of the Pacific Northwest’s most powerful voices in fiction, essays, and memoir. Her most recent book, The Deepest Roots: Finding Food and Community on a Pacific Northwest Island, combines deep historical research and personal interviews in a rousing narrative that uses her home island as an example for exploring issues around sustainability and society. Alcalá meets Japanese Americans imprisoned during World War II, and learns the unique histories of the blended Filipino and Native American community, the fishing practices of the descendants of Croatian immigrants, and the Suquamish elder who shares with her the food legacy of the island itself.

In the spirit of the New Year, this guest post from the author offers steps each of us can take to live more thoughtfully and sustainably, so we can take better care of ourselves and our communities—both now and for the future.

10 Things a Clueless Eater Can Do

Join us for this special author event:

January 10 at 7 p.m. // Elliott Bay Book Company co-presented with Friends of the Farms, Capitol Hill

Kathleen Alcalá makes her welcome Elliott Bay return with her newest book. Joining will be Heather Burger, director of Friends of the Farms, a nonprofit that helps the farmers tell their stories as well as market their products, and Bob and Nancy Fortner of Sweetlife Farm, who are eager to share their back to the land story.

1. Keep a garden!
Even if you have no land, or in our case, sun, you can borrow or rent land suitable for gardening. If not, keep potted herbs on your windowsill. Indoor plants also improve the quality of the air.

2. Save seeds.
If your garden grows in abundance, note which plants do especially well in your climate. Let a couple go to seed, and keep some of the seeds to be stored in a cool, dry, dark place for the following year. Be sure and label them with the date, and anything else you know about the plants. This means that the seeds best suited to your micro-climate will be preserved and passed on.

3. Join Community Supported Agriculture.
Subscribe to a local CSA that will provide you with groceries almost year-round. You can pick up your groceries once or twice a week, and many deliver to a location near you. Besides vegetables, many CSAs now offer dairy and meat products. Continue reading