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A New Year’s wish from three of Seattle’s leaders, 1885

by Brian Zylstra | December 30th, 2010

Here is a new addition to the Washington State Library’s Special Collections: Cabinet card showing portraits of H.L. Yesler, Bailey Gatzert and M.R. Maddocks.

Henry Leiter Yesler (b. 1810, Washington County, MD; d. 12/16/1892, Seattle, WA) established the Seattle settlement’s first steam-powered sawmill in 1852 and built the city’s first public water utility.  He bought and sold a large portion of early Seattle real estate, making himself Seattle’s first millionaire in the process.

Bailey Gatzert (b. 1829, Hesse Darmstadt, Germany; d. 04/19/1893) was a partner and general manager of one of Seattle’s earliest hardware and general mercantile stores, Schwabacher Brothers and Company. He also co-founded Seattle’s first synagogue, Ohaveth Shalom, which was dedicated on September 18, 1892.  Ohaveth Shalom was the second synagogue in the State of Washington, the Temple Emanu-El in Spokane being the first. It was dedicated four days earlier.

Moses Redout Maddocks (b. 11/13/1833, Bucksport, ME; d. unknown) was an owner and builder of the Occidental Hotel at Occidental and Yesler in Pioneer Square and later the proprietor of a local drugstore.  He also made his wealth in real estate, much of it near the White River where he spent his summers and ran a dairy. (Bagley, History of Seattle, p.889)

All three of these gentlemen served as mayor of Seattle at some point in time: Maddocks (R) began the trend on June 5 and served until August 5 of 1873. Yesler (R) followed in July 13, 1874, succeeded by Gatzert (Ind.), who served as Seattle’s first – and to date, only – Jewish mayor, from 1875 to 1876.  Yesler was re-elected to the position on July 13, 1885, and served until July 12, 1886.  Gazert and Yesler were downtown neighbors in their respective mansions located on Third Avenue and James Street.

The “Beauty Unadorned” noted on this albumen print is likely referring to the fine vistas and beautiful architecture of Seattle and its environs, but perhaps these hirsute gentlemen were referring to their own handsome and rugged looks?  No matter; in the spirit of the season we can forgive a little vanity.

Also notable is an interesting and timely connection to Washington libraries. The first public library in Seattle opened April 8, 1891, as a reading room on the third floor of the Seattle Hotel on the Occidental Block, site of the first Occidental Hotel that Maddocks built in 1861.  The collection moved many times in the intervening years, but seven years later it found a “permanent” spot in the Yesler family mansion, staying there until it burned down in a fire during the early morning hours of Jan. 2, 1901.  That day was not such an auspicious start to a New Year for Seattle.  Following the fire, the library records, 2,000 volumes of the children’s titles and 5,000 titles that were circulating at the time were kept in Yesler’s old barn, which escaped cremation.  The library was eventually rebuilt with funds from magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  Better to allow Seattle Public Library to chime in on this subject:

Four days (after the fire) came another shock. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer trumpeted its great scoop: Andrew Carnegie had agreed to donate $200,000 to build a new “fireproof” library in Seattle after city officials promised to buy a new library site and guaranteed an annual maintenance amount of $50,000 – such a lofty figure that the nation’s pre-eminent library philanthropist thought it was a mistake in the secret telegram from the distant Northwest. He was assured that $50,000 was “none too large” for Seattle’s needs. Carnegie responded with one of his largest library donations and his notation, “I like your pluck.”

-taken from Brief History of The Seattle Public Library, found online at the Seattle Public Library website.

2 Responses to “A New Year’s wish from three of Seattle’s leaders, 1885”

  1. Stephen Edwin Lundgren says:

    Two questions:
    What means “Our Fifteenth Annual Call” – is this a charity pitch?
    anything like a name on the back of the carte?”

    What is the legend under the photos to left, a photographer name? Can’t quite make it out in the scan

    Interesting
    See Seattle PI online comments

  2. Hi, Stephen:

    Thanks for the questions. I have uncovered some more information about the circumstances surrounding these cartes. According to “Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement”, by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith, these cartes started in 1872 as an annual greeting handed out on New Year’s to the prominent women of the city (Peavy, 1994; p163; p326n94). The men continued this practice until 1893. Initially the three men would go out and hand-deliver them, but in later years the cartes were sent by post (ibid; p330). If there were any ulterior or parallel motives to this tradition, I will leave it to Yesler experts to speculate.

    The photographer named on this card is “Judkins Photo”. This likely means that this image was taken by David R. Judkins (1836-1909), who operated the Judkin’s Floating Sunbeam Gallery, which was based on the waterfront of Elliot Bay, but traveled to communities across the Puget Sound between 1880 – 1884. At the time of this photo, Judkins would have been working from a studio that he opened in downtown Seattle at the southwest corner of Second and Columbia (Palmquist, 2000; pp. 340-342). You can find more information about Mr. Judkins and other early west photographers in “Pioneer photographers of the far west: a biographical dictionary, 1840-1865”, by Peter E. Palmquist and Thomas R. Kailbourn.

    The State Library has a copy of the referenced titles, as do other libraries. Check for a local copy of the Peavy/Smith book at http://summit.worldcat.org/oclc/29259366 and the Palmquist/Kailbourn book at http://summit.worldcat.org/oclc/44089346. I hope that this information is useful. If you have further questions please contact the State Library through its “Ask-a-Librarian” service, at http://www.sos.wa.gov/library/ask.aspx.

    All the Best,
    Sean Lanksbury
    Northwest and Special Collections Librarian
    Washington State Library

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