Alonzo at the Fair

Portrait of Alonzo Wardall
Portrait of Alonzo Wardall

Looking for information on one topic frequently yields some unexpected discoveries.  I was recently trying to finish up the catalog record for a manuscript collection, Alonzo and Elizabeth Wardall diaries, account books and other materials (Manuscript collection 118).  A Civil War veteran and an activist in the cooperative movement, Wardall led a long and peripatetic existence, turning up in a number of different places before spending the last fifteen years or so of his life in Seattle.

I enlisted Edna’s assistance in trying to sort out a few biographical details.  We also spent one morning in the reading room having a look at some of the actual diaries in order to confirm whether or not those volumes truly contained substantial entries (or if they were more along the lines of appointment books).  They were indeed diaries!  Alonzo Wardall proved to be a highly disciplined diarist, if not much of a literary stylist (sadly, far fewer of Elizabeth’s diaries survive).  As we excitedly examined a sampling of journals from various years, I think it suddenly occurred to us almost simultaneously to check out the one for 1909 just to see…

And there it was — proof that everyone in Seattle (even utopianists with beards) went to the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition — an entry recording Alonzo and Elizabeth Wardall’s trip to the opening day of the fair!  Here is a transcription from that diary:

Tuesday June 1, 1909
At A.Y.P. Fair

Fine — cool — cloudy.  Rain again.  The great A.Y.P. Fair opened today & wife & I spent the day there — seeing the sights.  It is certainly a grand affair & most creditable in every way & in almost complete condition.  A great crowd out — said to be 82,219 [annotated above the line “official”].  The day was perfect & the grounds very beautiful.  We spent most of our time strolling about, admiring the buildings and the beautiful floral arrangements & looking at the people.  The Pay Streak was swarming with fun loving crowds.  Hard rain at dark & all night spoiling the plows forever.  Ray & Josephine were caught out in it.

Opening day crowd at the Pay Streak, Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition
Opening day crowd at the Pay Streak, Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition

Could Alonzo be out there as part of this opening day crowd (from an image in the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition Postcard Collection, PH Coll 777, Digital Collection Order Number AYP641)?  Alonzo and Elizabeth Wardall not only participated in the opening day festivities, but returned frequently to the fair (both together and separately) throughout the summer and fall months.  Alonzo attended Swedish Day, Norwegian Day, Children’s Day, and Prince Edward Island Day, and also dined at the Roast Beef Pavilion on occasion.  Stay tuned for some possible further adventures!


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Although I am a native New Yorker, I seem drawn to the Pacific Northwest. My current gig as Manuscripts & Special Collections Cataloging Librarian at the University of Washington Libraries represents my third stint out here. Prior to coming to the UW, I have worked at the New York Public Library, King County Archives, New York University, and Columbia University (to name but a few).

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