A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk / Along the briny beach

Man harvesting oysters; J.J. Brenner Oyster Co.

It may not be an ‘r’ month, but we recently dug up the Oyster industry scrapbooks from the J.J. Brenner Oyster Co. in Olympia.  These scrapbooks are full of clippings and advertisements, recipes and pamphlets, as well as a few photographs, letters, and posters. They also contain numerous clippings and letters concerning water pollution in the South Sound and its effects on native Olympia oysters.  Oyster growers’ fight with Rayonier, which had a pulp mill  dumping “sulphite waste liquor” in the South Sound during the 1950s, is particularly well-documented. There is also a plethora of oyster advertising, including a World War II era poster urging people to contribute to the rationing of meat by eating oysters instead. My personal favourite, however, may be the ‘diet’ which involves consuming nothing but oysters and alcohol with the promise of becoming the best-looking alcoholic around. There’s nothing like a little truth in advertising.

The Oyster industry scrapbooks consist of four volumes dating from the early 1920s through the 1980s. The first three volumes, with materials from the 1920s through the 1960s, appear to have been compiled by Earl G. Brenner, J.J. Brenner’s son. As part of Washington Sea Grant’s ‘100 Years of Oyster Culture’ celebration, these three volumes were copied into Washington Oysters: A Scrapbook. The fourth volume, clippings from the 1980s, appears to have been the work Brenner’s son Earl R. Brenner.

Image Credits:

J.J. Brenner Oyster Co., Oyster Industry Scrapbooks, vol. 1.


Vaudeville in Seattle – the Orpheum Theatres

Moore Theatre - Orpheum Circuit, Oct. 1922

Before television and the internet, there was vaudeville.  Seattle, like much of the rest of the country, had several competing vaudeville theaters throughout the early twentieth century, including a string of Orpheum Theatres.  Carl Reiter, manager of Orpheum Theatres in Seattle, as well as in Omaha and Portland, kept scrapbooks of newspaper clippings and ephemera, like the program below,  from and about the theaters he managed. He included reviews, interviews and stories about the Orpheum’s and its competitors’ acts, including such luminaries as Sarah Bernhardt, Harry Houdini, and Marie and Alice Lloyd. There are also advertisements, programs, notes (in both English and Chinese) in the margins, and other ephemera.

Orpheum Circuit News and Program, Sept. 1916

Reiter’s  Orpheum Circuit Scrapbooks, sixteen volumes in all, date from 1904 to 1924.  Clippings about Seattle’s Orpheum, Moore, and Alhambra Theatres, are predominant, but there are a couple of volumes dedicated to the Orpheum Theatres of Omaha and St. Joseph, Nebraska and Portland, Oregon.

Image credits:

  • Moore Theatre, Orpheum Circuit Advertisment, October 4, 1922, Orpheum Circuit Scrapbooks (PN 1968.W2 .R45 1904), vol. 15.
  • Orpheum Circuit News and Program, September 1916, Orpheum Circuit Scrapbooks (PN 1968.W2 .R45 1904), vol. 11.

Bridges and Bradford

Birds-eye view of Harbor Island and the East Waterway, Seattle, circa 1915

Robert Bridges and James E. Bradford were Seattle activists and politicians in the first decades of the twentieth century. Bradford was a Progressive; Bridges was a Democrat and later a Populist.  Both were strong advocates of government ownership of public utilities.

Bradford was a lawyer who became the city’s Corporation Counsel in 1911. In addition to being a proponent of the municipal ownership of utilities, he tried to enforce the minimum wage, which seems to have made him rather unpopular with the Seattle business interests. He fought and lost a hard election with Hugh Caldwell, who later became the mayor of Seattle, for the position in 1916. The same year he ran for governor on the Progressive party ticket, and two years later he ran for mayor of Seattle. Bradford later returned to his legal practice, and, among other things, acted as counsel for the Port of Seattle. During the Great Depression, he held state directorships for several New Deal programs.

The UW Special Collections Division has collections of Bradford’s letters and scrapbooks. Most of these materials are from his time as Corporation Counsel. They include newspaper clippings, election ephemera, as well as drafts of speeches, articles, and letters about women’s suffrage, minimum wage, the Municipal League of Washington, and public utilities.

Bob Bridges was a Scottish miner, turned shop-keeper, turned farmer, turned politician. A union organizer during his stint in the coal mines of Black Diamond, Bridges remained adamantly pro-labor and highly controversial.  He was a stout proponent of the public ownership of rail and harbor facilities throughout his political career.  Bridges was elected the state’s Land Commissioner in 1896 after turning down a free ticket from the railroads and walking to Ellensburg for the convention. He became a Port Commissioner when the Commission was formed in 1911.  Like Bradford, he was unpopular in many quarters.  He earned a great deal of enmity for his unwavering opposition to the Harbor Island scheme.  This plan involved the construction of a large harbor terminal to be operated at a profit by a private company using a mix of public and private funds.  Bridges opposed the project so vehemently that he refused to certify Port decisions in the matter, and had to be removed from his office as the Port Commission’s Secretary, according to then Port President Hiram Chittenden (of Ballard Locks fame).  The Seattle Times and the P-I vociferously criticized the Commission and called for Bridges’ resignation. Unfortunately for the plan’s backers, the plan fell apart, since the man claiming to represent the company that was to build and manage the terminal had only just managed to quit before he could be fired.  After Bridges resigned from the Commission in 1919,  he unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1920, as part of the newly formed (and seemingly short-lived) Farmer-Labor party.  Bridges died a year later.

We have four scrapbooks from Robert Bridges. The Bridges scrapbooks include newspaper clippings from his time in politics, which refer to him, public utilities, and harbor facilities. One of his scrapbooks was made out of an old business ledger, sections of which are still visible.

Submitted by Jessie

Image credits:

Bird’s eye view of Harbor Island, Seattle postcard collection (PH Coll 798); Digital Collections order number SEA2156

Election ephemera, circa 1912, James E. Bradford scrapbooks (F899.S453 B73 1899), Box [3], Folder 2

Letter of recommendation from Bradford in support of Robert Bridges as Collector of Customs, 1914, Seattle Port Commission records (Acc. 4230-001), Box 4, folder30