What do these people have in common?
John Anderson – the Swedish immigrant who served as a consulting engineer in the construction of the USS Monitor and after the Civil War settled in King County, where he continued to tinker and invent.
Grover Andrews – “The Destroying Angel” who was a leader the Morrisite Colony in the Waitsburg region in the 1880s.
Donald Archer – The daredevil student from The Evergreen State College who in 1980 donned a costume with wings and big bug eyes, then climbed the side of the Federal Building in Seattle.
Dr. Nettie Asberry – The first African American woman in the United States to receive a doctorate degree, Nettie was an early civil rights activist in Tacoma who lived to the age of 103 in 1968.
Yes, all of them have surnames starting with the letter “A.” And, they are a part of Washington State history as indexed in the Northwest Card File.
This searching tool is comprised of 180 card catalog drawers divided into two groups: personal names, and, topical subjects. The file serves as a finding aid for Washington State newspaper articles, obituaries, book chapters, pamphlets– indexing the collection in much more detail than a traditional card catalog.
It appears the Northwest Card File was started in the early 1950s, although it indexes material much older than that. In the early 1990s the File was basically retired, and the indexing was performed on computer. Stored on Bernoulli drives, the indexes were printed into hardcopy form. By the mid-1990s a more updated online index was introduced and continues to this day.
Throughout 2012 WSL staff from Central Library Services (Glenn Parsons, Marlys Rudeen, Sean Lanksbury, Shirley Lewis) working with Evelyn Lindberg of Library Development, designed a database to provide online access to the Northwest Card File. We are hoping to provide public access to the index in increments as we go. Inputting started on a trial basis in late October, but really began at the start of 2013 when WSL volunteer David Lane joined the project.
Two and half drawers later David has completed the “A” surname file! As he dives into the letter “B” I can either figure out how to clone him, or, make a pitch to our faithful readers out there with strong data entry experience to join the project as a volunteer. If you are interested in helping us build this unique finding aid please contact Steven Willis, Program Manager for Central Library Services, ph: (360) 704-5276, email: firstname.lastname@example.org for details.