Tag Archives: urban history

American Society for Environmental History 2018 Conference Preview

We are delighted to attend the annual American Society for Environmental History conference (#ASEH2018) from March 14-18, 2018 in Riverside, California, and to celebrate this year’s theme, “Environment, Power & Justice.”

Senior acquisitions editor Catherine Cocks and exhibits, advertising, and direct mail manager Katherine Tacke are representing the Press. Join us at our booth to recognize new titles across environmental history and studies, including in the Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books and Culture, Place, and Nature series.

Meet our authors at scheduled book signings and learn about other featured titles below!

Book signings with Andrew N. Case and Joanna L. Dyl

Thursday, March 15 at 10:00 a.m.

Seismic City: An Environmental History of San Francisco’s 1906 Earthquake
By Joanna L. Dyl
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter

Combining urban environmental history and disaster studies, this close study of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake demonstrates how the crisis and subsequent rebuilding reflect the dynamic interplay of natural and human influences that have shaped San Francisco.

The Organic Profit: Rodale and the Making of Marketplace Environmentalism
By Andrew N. Case
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter

Where did the curious idea of buying one’s way to sustainability come from? In no small part, the answer lies in the story of entrepreneur and reformer J. I. Rodale, his son Robert Rodale, and their company, the Rodale Press. For anyone trying to make sense of the complex tensions between business profits and the desire for environmental reform, The Organic Profit is essential reading.

Book signings with Brett L. Walker and Melanie A. Kiechle

Thursday, March 15 at 1:00 p.m.

A Family History of Illness: Memory as Medicine
By Brett L. Walker

In this deeply personal narrative, professional historian Walker constructs a history of his body to understand his diagnosis with a serious immunological disorder, weaving together his dying grandfather’s sneaking a cigarette in a shed on the family’s Montana farm, blood fractionation experiments in Europe during World War II, and nineteenth-century cholera outbreaks that ravaged small American towns as his ancestors were making their way west.

Smell Detectives: An Olfactory History of Nineteenth-Century Urban America
By Melanie A. Kiechle
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter

What did nineteenth-century cities smell like? And how did odors matter in the formation of a modern environmental consciousness? Smell Detectives recovers how city residents used their sense of smell and their health concerns about foul odors to understand, adjust to, and fight against urban environmental changes.

Book signings with Sarah R. Hamilton and Jakobina K. Arch

Thursday, March 15 at 3:00 p.m.

Cultivating Nature: The Conservation of a Valencian Working Landscape
By Sarah R. Hamilton
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter

Shifting between local struggles and global debates, this fascinating environmental history of the Albufera Natural Park reveals how Franco’s dictatorship, Spain’s integration with Europe, and the crisis in European agriculture have shaped the working landscape, its users, and its inhabitants.

Bringing Whales Ashore: Oceans and the Environment of Early Modern Japan
By Jakobina K. Arch
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter

In this vivid and nuanced study of how the Japanese people brought whales ashore during the Tokugawa period, Arch makes important contributions to both environmental and Japanese history by connecting Japanese whaling to marine environmental history in the Pacific, including the devastating impact of American whaling in the nineteenth century.

New and Forthcoming in Environmental Studies

Footprints of War: Militarized Landscapes in Vietnam
By David Biggs
November 2018

Centering on the landscape of Central Vietnam, Footprints of War reveals centuries of military activities embedded in the landscape and explains how events such as the Tet Offensive and the Battle of Hamburger Hill shaped patterns of land use as well as local memories of place.


Environmental Justice in Postwar America: A Documentary Reader
Edited by Christopher W. Wells
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter
Weyerhaueser Environmental Classics

This reader collects a wide range of primary source documents on the rise and evolution of the environmental justice movement. The documents show how activism by people of color and low-income American spurred the environmental justice movement of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Featured in Environmental Studies

Culture, Place, and Nature

Organic Sovereignties: Struggles over Farming in an Age of Free Trade
By Guntra A. Aistara
April 2018

This first sustained ethnographic study of organic agriculture outside the United States traces its meanings, practices, and politics in two nations typically considered worlds apart: Latvia and Costa Rica. Situated on the frontiers of the European Union and the United States, these geopolitically and economically in-between places illustrate ways that international treaties have created contradictory pressures for organic farmers.

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: 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.


American Society for Environmental History Conference Preview

2017 marks the 40th anniversary meeting of the American Society for Environmental History (#ASEH2017), and we look forward to commemorating the special anniversary conference from March 29 through April 2 in downtown Chicago.

Editor in chief Larin McLaughlin and senior acquisitions editor Catherine Cocks are representing the press. Join us and UBC Press at our booth as we celebrate 40 years of environmental history and debut new titles across environmental studies, and in the Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books and Culture, Place, and Nature series.

Author Darren Speece will sign copies of Defending Giants at the booth on Thursday, March 30th at 3 p.m.

New and Featured in Environmental Studies

New from Weyerhaeuser Environmental Classics

Culture, Place, and Nature

Photo Essay: ‘Walking Washington’s History’ through Main Street Moments

In Walking Washington’s History: Ten Cities, a follow-up to her bestselling Hiking Washington’s History, Judy Bentley uses engaging guided urban walks to trace the state’s history and show each city’s importance in the unfolding story of Washington state. By walking each city, Bentley suggests, you gain a deeper understanding of how history connects with the visible markers overhead and underfoot. Here Bentley offers a glimpse of these cities through photos of their historic main streets.

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

Seattle Public Library with Elliott Bay Books, Central Library, Sunday, April 24 at 2:00 p.m.

Words, Writers, and West Seattle at Barnes and Noble, Westwood Village, Friday, May 6 at 5 p.m.


Every historic city in Washington had a main street although it wasn’t always called that. Sometimes it was a trail that became the main way through town—the Nez Perce Trail in Walla Walla, the Oregon Trail in Olympia. Sometimes the main street was a river, such as the Columbia River in Vancouver or the Spokane River in Spokane; a bay could also be the central thoroughfare, as in the case of Commencement Bay in Tacoma or Port Gardner Bay in Everett. In Seattle the first main street was a skid road for logs, now known as Yesler Way. These arteries were the centers of civic life, the places where the most important moments in a city’s history occurred.

fig-1.02

Courtesy National Park Service.

 

The wagon road at Fort Vancouver, established in 1825, paralleled the Columbia River, the first avenue of east-west transport in the region. The town of Vancouver grew on the river’s banks west of the fur-trading post, starting in the 1840s and 1850s. It ballooned as a city during World War II when Henry Kaiser located shipyards on the river’s northern and southern banks.

Continue reading

Q&A with ‘Too High and Too Steep’ author David B. Williams

TooHigh-WilliamsIn his new book Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography, David B. Williams tells an engaging story about the radical ways in which the leaders and inhabitants of Seattle have altered the landscape to better accommodate their visions for the city. Williams uses his science and nature writing background, extensive research and interviews, and deep knowledge of Seattle to illuminate the real physical challenges and sometimes rather startling hubris of these large-scale transformations: the altering of the original shoreline and lowering of the inconvenient bluffs; the filling in of the vast tideflats at the mouth of the Duwamish to make new, flat land; the creation of the ship canal to link Puget Sound with Lake Union and Lake Washington; and the removal of millions of cubic yards of earth in order to lower Denny Hill at the north end of downtown. He also helps readers connect the landscape of today with the landscape of the past and find the visible traces of the ways the topography has been changed. Senior acquisitions editor Regan Huff spoke with Williams about the book, published this fall.

Join us for these events:

Saturday, October 10, 2:00 p.m. // Seattle Public Library with Elliott Bay Book Company

Thursday, November 12, 7:00 p.m. // Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park

Regan Huff: Topographic change is an unusual subject. What led you to it?

David B. Williams: I have long been interested in Seattle and its landscape. In particular I am intrigued by how our geologic past has influenced and continues to influence the city in many ways, from where we build to how we move through the landscape to why Seattle even came into existence. Several years ago I got involved with The Waterlines Project, a Burke Museum endeavor that focuses on Seattle history through an examination of its shorelines. Working with them, I realized that the incredible story of topographic change—of regrades, tideflat filling, and waterway replumbing—had never been told in a detailed, accessible manner. As I dug deeper into the topic, I became more and more fascinated with the stories, people, and engineering and how they provided an intriguing way to tell a history of Seattle.

Q: Do you see any relationships between the subject matter of your book and the current much-publicized woes of Seattle’s urban tunnel project?

David B. Williams: Yes, on several levels. The first is that the problems we’ve had with groundwater and sinking buildings are due precisely to our history of altering the landscape. If the city were built on bedrock instead of a stew of fill, including sand, coal, old lumber, piles, and cinders, those concerns would not exist. Hard rock does not have the hydrology and building stability issues that are creating our present-day problems.

Author David Williams. Photo by Andrew Croneberger.

Author David B. Williams. Photo by Andrew Croneberger.

The second relationship has to do with how we view landscape. I think that altering our topography has become part of our collective DNA. So many projects took place in the past that it created the mentality that large scale engineering was the only way to deal with our challenging topography. This is certainly what we are seeing with the new tunnel, the removal of the Viaduct, and the new seawall. Each is a response to the landscape, both natural and human created.

Q: You have said that one aim of your book is to help Seattle readers become better observers of their city; in other contexts you’ve expressed a lot of enthusiasm for urban walks and urban exploration. Why do you think this is important?

David B. Williams: On the most basic level, getting out and exploring the city and paying attention to what one sees simply makes this a more interesting place to live. It allows one to make connections between disparate areas and ideas and also promotes a stronger connection to the place itself. By discovering these stories of the land and people, we have richer and I would argue happier lives. Research even shows that such connections make us healthier, more creative, and smarter.

In addition, by getting to know the city more intimately, we are better able to understand the issues it faces, whether it’s salmon in our streams, troubles with tunnels, or too many geese. For instance, consider the recent news about sinking buildings. Walk around Pioneer Square and you cannot help but notice that there is something odd underfoot. Tilting sidewalks, buckling streets, and below grade sinking foundations all point to the fact that the city has been settling long before Bertha. That does not mean that the tunnel is not problematic, but that it is not the lone issue challenging the engineers.

Q: Did you come away from your research admiring or questioning the hubris of Seattle’s past efforts to change the urban landscape?

David B. Williams: It’s hard not to be both amazed and flabbergasted by our predecessor’s projects. None of the large-scale changes I write about could take place today. We have too many regulations and too many people who would protest. Back in the day, all it took was a person with an idea and the ability to raise money and the project could begin. Nor can we even fathom the scale of these projects. Filling the tideflats, cutting down hills, and rejiggering lakes were epic, landscape-scale changes with profound consequences economically and ecologically. Nothing taking place at present compares.

I am not saying that I approve of the projects but I cannot condemn them either. The people who undertook them truly believed that they were making Seattle a better place to live. Yes, they often benefited financially, but that was not typically what drove them. You have to remember that these endeavors were undertaken when Seattle was not the hip, trendy, financially successful place it is now. It was a relatively small city, or even a town, on the edge of the continent. These projects developed because their proponents often thought they had no other choice; in their minds, these projects were essential for growing and developing the city’s business and industry. Without them, Seattle would not survive.

Fall 2015 Events Preview

This fall the University of Washington Press is thrilled to celebrate the publication of the first two books made possible by the Northwest Writers Fund: Reclaimers by Ana Maria Spagna and Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography by David B. Williams

The Northwest Writers Fund promotes the work of some of the region’s most talented nonfiction writers. We extend a special thanks to all of the fund’s establishing donors including Linda and Peter Capell, Janet and John Creighton, Michael J. Repass, Robert Wack, and others. To contribute to the fund or for more information, please contact Beth Fuget at (206) 616-818 or bfuget@uw.edu.

Below please find a preview of some of the exciting local book talks and signings we have planned for Too High and Too Steep and Reclaimers. We hope you will join us.

Check out our full events calendar for more opportunities to meet our authors in Seattle and beyond!

Too High and Too Steep by David Williams

TooHigh-WilliamsResidents and visitors in today’s Seattle would barely recognize the landscape that its founding settlers first encountered. As the city grew, its leaders and inhabitants dramatically altered its topography to accommodate their changing visions. In Too High and Too Steep, David B. Williams uses his deep knowledge of Seattle, scientific background, and extensive research and interviews to illuminate the physical challenges and sometimes startling hubris of these large-scale transformations, from the filling in of the Duwamish tideflats to the massive regrading project that pared down Denny Hill.

In the course of telling this fascinating story, Williams helps readers find visible traces of the city’s former landscape and better understand Seattle as a place that has been radically reshaped.

Watch the trailer:

More information here.

Wednesday, September 9, 7:00 p.m. // University Book Store – Seattle

Wednesday, September 16, 7:00 p.m. // Village Books (Bellingham)

Saturday, September 26, 1:00-3:00 p.m. // A Book for All Seasons (Leavenworth)

Saturday, October 10, 2:00 p.m. // Seattle Public Library with Elliott Bay Book Company

Thursday, November 12, 7:00 p.m. // Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park

Reclaimers by Ana Maria Spagna

Reclaimers-SpagnaAcclaimed literary writer Ana Maria Spagna drives an aging Buick up and down the long strip of West Coast mountain ranges–the Panamints, the Sierras, the Cascades–and alongside rivers to explore the ways and places in which people (mostly women) have worked to reclaim land that has been co-opted by outside, usually industrial, forces. In uncovering the heroic stories of those who persevered for decades, Spagna seeks a way for herself, and for all of us, to take back and to make right in a time of unsettling ecological change. Her wonderful first-person narrative opens readers up to the urgency of recognizing the place of the natural world and nudges us all to remember that it’s not too late to make a difference.

More information here.

Friday, September 25, 7:00 p.m. // Elliott Bay Book Company

Wednesday, October 7, 7:00 p.m. // Lopez Bookshop (Lopez Island)

Thursday, October 8, 7:00 p.m. // Village Books (Bellingham)

Friday, October 9, 3:00 p.m. // A Book for All Seasons (Leavenworth)

Friday, October 9, 6:30 p.m. // Leavenworth Library (Leavenworth)

Thursday, October 15, 7:00 p.m. // Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park

Thursday, October 29, 7:30 p.m. // Powell’s Books on Hawthorne (Portland, OR)