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Archive for September, 2013

The Devil Fish and Octopus Wrestling

Thursday, September 26th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections | 1 Comment »

Octopus 2From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library

What was a life and death struggle in 1913 became a weird form of recreation in Puget Sound in the 1950s-1960s and then an environmentally taboo practice by the 1970s. I am talking, of course, about octopus wrestling.

Although the story is set near Anacortes, the article was found at random in the Camas Post, August 15, 1913. A note before we start, the term “Devil Fish” was once used to describe the octopus:


Diver is Seized By Octopus in 85 Feet of Water.

Only After Desperate Struggle of 45 Minutes Is Marine Monster Conquered.

“Seattle, Wash.–To fight 45 minutes against a giant octopus 85 feet below the surface of the water, striving desperately to break the relentless grasp of the slimy arms which held him, and at the same time talking over a telephone to his attendants in a scow on the face of the water, telling them of the battle as it progressed, and finally to escape uninjured was the experience of Walter McRay, deep-sea diver, at Alden Banks, near Anacortes.”

“James E. Hill, was in charge of the assistants to McRay, and tells the story of the Octopus 3fight.”

“During the battle with the devil fish Hill stood with the telephone receiver to his ear, listening to the graphic bulletins as they came to the surface from the man ‘on the firing line'”

“The telephones used by divers allow the men underneath to talk to the man on the surface, but the latter cannot reply, and the only encouragement Hill could offer to the diver was an occasional tug on the signal line.”

“McRay was engaged by the Apex Fishing company to examine one of its fish traps on Alden Banks. At the trap the water was about 75 feet deep. He had followed the lead for some distance and was in water about 85 feet deep, when his foot was seized in the vise-like grasp of a giant octopus. At the same time the big, slimy fish emitted a large amount of ink, turning the water in the vicinity absolutely black and making it impossible for the diver to see his assailant.”

“Hill, who was on the surface with the telephone receiver at his ear, heard a slight exclamation from the man below, followed by a violent pull on the line as the diver was thrown off his feet. A few seconds later McRay said over the telephone: ‘Now, keep cool. Don’t get excited. A devil fish has got me.'”

“‘When I heard those words, spoken by McRay as calmly as though he were greeting a friend on the street, my hair stood on end,’ said Hill.”

“‘The octopus, immediately after tripping McRay, had thrown two more tentacles about the diver, one around his body, binding his left arm tightly to his side, and the other between his legs, reaching up his back. The head of the fish was on McRay’s chest.'”

Octopus 4“‘Almost helpless, yet with his right arm free, he was able to draw his knife from his belt and defend himself. Fighting at the great depth of water and under heavy pressure, the strain soon told on the diver, and several times he was on the brink of collapse. Finally the monster fish weakened. It had exhausted its ink supply and was severely wounded. McRay gave the signal and we hauled man and octopus into the boat.'”

“‘When examined by the crew of the scow the octopus was found to have 11 wounds in his body made by McRay’s knife. He measured nine feet in diameter.'”

Now let us fast forward to the post-WW II era. The authors James A. Cosgrove and Neil McDaniel describe an athletic activity even more bizarre than golf in their book, Super Suckers : the Giant Pacific Octopus and Other Cephalopods of the Pacific Coast (2009):

“The rather strange sport of octopus wrestling had its beginnings in Washington state. Using only snorkelling gear, teams of divers had to repeatedly dive, locate octopuses and try to bring the most animals to the surface, where they were weighed. The activity became quite popular and was even televised with up to 5,000 spectators on hand. Afterward the octopuses were eaten, given to a local aquarium or returned to the sea. In April 1963, more than 100 divers took part and captured a total of 25 giant Pacific octopuses, the largest weighing 26 kg. (57 lb).”

“Bill High, a long-time Washington diver and scuba instructor, recalls the early days. ‘The Puget Sound Mudsharks began the World Octopus Wrestling Championship in either 1955 or 1956. When I joined the club in 1957, the competition was well established. I think the last event was held around 1968. My three-man team took first place in 1961, third place in 1965 and fourth place in 1964. Information about octopuses appeared in Skin Diver magazines from the late 1950s and into the 1960s. My research on the giant Pacific octopus was featured in the December 1971 issue of National Geographic magazine. In the first years the competition was breath-hold only, but by 1960 there was a scuba component. Most of the annual competitions were held at Titlow Beach in Tacoma, Washington.'”

In 1972 the Washington State Dept. of Fisheries released a publication entitled Diving for Octopus in Puget Sound, which begings with: “SCUBA diving for the large octopus (Octopus appolyon or hongkongensis) can be a challenging and rewarding experience. Although the octopus is timid, it does posses the capability to harm a diver, and techniques used in capturing the caphalopod should be known to the prospective ‘octopus wrestler.'”

octopus 1

But by the time the 1970s were over, the recreation of octopus wrestling had died out as Washingtonians became more ecologically aware.

Although Ringo Starr supposedly thought up the song Octopus’s Garden while in Sardinia in 1968, I’m betting the real story is that it first entered his brain in 1964, when the Beatles visited Seattle during the heyday of octopus wrestling. Ringo probably first got the idea when the Fabs were fishing in Puget Sound from their window at the Edgewater Hotel.

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Benjamin F. Yantis, 1873-1875

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 | Comments Off on Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Benjamin F. Yantis, 1873-1875

Bejamin Yantis

Benjamin Yantis

 Benjamin Franklin Yantis,

From the Desks of the Central Library Staff

Born Mar. 19, 1807 in Garrard County, Ky., B.F. Yantis emigrated to Missouri in 1835, where he became the Superior Court Judge of Saline County. In 1850 (some sources say 1852) he was part of an overland party to the Oregon country that was an ordeal even by pioneering standards. His wife was included among the several deaths in the group. Judge Yantis ran a stage line to and from points south of Olympia, and in this capacity was frequently the first member of the community to greet new settlers to the town. He was the father-in-law of the previously mentioned Indian War casualty A.B. Moses.

In 1854 he was a member of the 1st session of the Territorial Council (Senate). In the later 1850s Yantis was active in Eastern Washington as part of the “Colville Gold Rush” and even participated in early Idaho Territorial legislative politics. He was also Captain of the civilian militia group, the “Spokane Invincibles” during the Indian War. Returning to Olympia, he served in the 1862 10th Session of the House, and the 1873 4th Biennial Session of the House. Also in 1873 he was the last Territorial Librarian elected by Legislature. Yantis listed his occupation as “W.T. Librarian” in the 1875 census. Yantis’s grandson, George Blankenship, recalled in a 1932 speech:

“My grandfather possessing sufficient political influence to procure the position, which he did not want, turned the office over to me to assist me in procuring what I laughingly refer to as my education, and then proceeded to wash his hands of the matter.”

The Judge died in Feb. 1879. The Yantis name has been part of Thurston County political history for well over a century. WSL has a copy of Psalms and Hymns Adapted to Social, Private and Public Worship in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (1843) inscribed by B.F. Yantis in several places.

[The Territorial Librarian profiles were compiled by Sean Lanksbury, Mary Schaff, Kim Smeenk, and Steve Willis]

Oh, the places you’ll go!

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 Posted in Articles, WSL 160 | Comments Off on Oh, the places you’ll go!

From the desk of Sean Lanksbury. PNW & Special Collections Librarian

As the Washington State Library nears its 160th anniversary, the staff here have been reflecting on the movement, growth, and development of the Library’s collections  and services from the Territorial up through this modern era – and the impact these factors have had on life of Washingtonians.

Follow us over the next few weeks as we trace the movement of the original Territorial Library Collection, which not only lives on at the Washington State Library, but as a part of the Washington State Law Library at the home of the State Supreme Court, also known as the Temple of Justice.  In later months we will focus on the transition of the Territorial Library into the State Library, as Washington State prepares to celebrate 125 years of Washington Statehood.

Introduction: Purchase and Delivery

P9240032The original books, maps, globes, and miscellaneous materials that made up the original Washington Territorial Library collection were secured using funds appropriated out of the Organic Act of March 2, 1853. This act was signed by President Millard Fillmore and provided $5,000 to the newly appointed Territorial Governor, Isaac I. Stevens, for purchases towards the library. Adjusting for inflation this amount is approximately equivalent to $135,950 in the year 2012. With these funds Stevens purchased books from H. Bailliere of London and C.B. Norton and Co. of New York City; collected archival documents from all the states of the union and made arrangements for the casing and portage of these materials through vendors in New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.

The first 2,000 books left New York City on May 21, 1853 on the clipper Invincible.  The ship traveled around the Horn of South America to San Francisco, where the books were held briefly by the Port of San Francisco. The collection then traversed the waters from San Francisco to Olympia, arriving October 23, 1853 on the brig Tarquinia packed in “Massachusetts steamer trunks.” Since the day that brig touched shore, the Territorial Library moved quite a few times around Olympia.

1853: G.A. Barnes’ Warehouse*

George A. Barnes, c.1891

George A. Barnes, c.1891

The first books arrived on Sunday, October 23, 1853, and were stored in an Olympia warehouse owned by G. A. Barnes. George A. Barnes was an eminent pioneer in the city’s history, a member of Olympia’s first Board of Trustees, and the proprietor of its first general mercantile. Barnes also established Barnes’ Hook & Ladder Brigade, the first volunteer fire department, around that same time. Alongside his many other achievements he established Olympia’s first bank, G.A. Barnes & Co., in 1884 [Jones, 337] and served a one-year stint as mayor of Olympia in 1880.
While we are not entirely certain of the exact location of Barnes’ warehouse, sources [Rathbun, pg.17] have placed his mercantile at the west end of what was then called 1st Street (now Thurston Avenue), near Percival Landing on the Olympia waterfront. It is likely that the warehouse was close or next to this mercantile. The books were stored at this warehouse until the arrival of newly appointed Territorial Governor Isaac I. Stevens on Friday the 25th of November. If we are correct in our placement of the location, there is a hotel of modern construction in its place today.

 *No picture of Barnes’ warehouse available. If you have an image or leads towards an image of this historic site, please contact us at [email protected]


Circa 11/1853-11/1854: Oblate Mission’s Buildings*

1860s Olympia WT - looking East across Budd Inlet

1860s Olympia WT – looking East across Budd Inlet. Bridge is 4th Ave. (Image courtesy of Bigelow House)

Sometime shortly following Stevens’ arrival, the materials were moved – likely to one of the two one-room, one-story buildings on the west side of Main Street between 2nd and 3rd avenues. These buildings, measuring 16 feet by 20 feet, had been rented by Governor Stevens for $900 a year from , a missionary of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a monastic Catholic order. One of these buildings was used by the Railroad Commission as it compiled its survey reports for the proposed route for the Northern Pacific Railroad. The other was used by the Stevens family upon their arrival in Washington [Nicandri, pg. 64.]
The first report of Steven’s Territorial Librarian appointee, Benjamin [Bion] Freeman Kendall – appointed February 28, 1854, and elected by the House of Representatives on April 17, 1854 – enumerated 2,130 books (the remaining purchase had arrived) and documents, including the two globes.

Oblate Pascal Ricard

Father Pascal Ricard b.05-16-1805, d.01-09-1862

Father Ricard is best known for his establishment in June 1848 of Saint Joseph’s mission on the east side of Budd Inlet. That land is now preserved as Priest Point State Park. [Ibid, pg. 8] Sensing an Olympia growth boom, Father Tempier of Marseilles had Ricard purchase four lots for the downtown buildings in 1852 or 1853. These lots were the former site of the cabin belonging to Levi Lathrop Smith, Olympia’s co-founder and a tragic figure in Washington territorial history. Ricard did so, and placed the lots in the name of another member of the order, Brother George Blanchet, so as not to appear too land-hungry following his Priest Point purchase. The Oblate’s downtown buildings are long-gone and now the block is home to the Olympia Center, “a public facility open to all members of the community actively participating in programs or meetings.”


*No picture of the Oblate Buildings available. If you have an image or leads towards an image of this historic site, please contact us at [email protected]


Join us next week as the Territorial Collection moves into its first built to suit structure, and first brush with controversy!

The Jean Valjean of Raymond, Washington

Friday, September 20th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections | Comments Off on The Jean Valjean of Raymond, Washington

Harvey_B_Giffin ~ army photo

Harvey B Giffin army photo

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library

Fans of Les Misérables might enjoy the following story, found at random from The Raymond Review, Sept. 3, 1913:



 Is Well Known in Pacific County. Returns Saturday as Harvey Giffin.

 “Victor Hugo’s hero of ‘Les Miserables,’ Jean Valjean, has been exemplified in real life and by a resident of Pacific County, who has during the past five years worked in different logging camps throughout the county as a blacksmith and known to his fellow laborers as J.B. Smith.”

“The scene of Smith’s romance, or Giffin’s, as he is now known and which is real name, was laid in Ohio, from which state he has just returned to again take up his residence in Pacific county, arriving in Raymond last Saturday night bearing with him clippings of his old home papers to substantiate his remarkable recital. His story is most unusual and appears in a Ravenna, Ohio, paper as follows:”harvey 1

I was living in Belmont county, and in 1904 I was helping the Methodist church raise enough money for a bell. One day when I was soliciting names I went down to the depot to see the boys come in from Bellaire, as I knew they would all contribute to the fund.

 A man by the name of Charles Brandon came up to me and began calling me names. He was drinking, and I paid no attention to him. He asked me what I was doing, and I told him. Then he said he would put the cleaner on me. He came at me with his fist, and I pushed him away. He went away, but in a little time came back, and, doubling up his fist, he began to call me names again.

 Kills the Man

 Then I hit him again, and he fell. I thought he was pretending to be hurt, but went over to him and shook him. He didn’t move, so I ran for a doctor, and after an examination, he told me the man was dead. Everybody around there knew I didn’t intend to kill him, but when I asked the doctor what I had better do, he advised me to go and give myself up.

 harvey 3I went to St. Clairsville, the county seat, and told the authorities what I had done. I was put in jail, and after four months I was tried and convicted of manslaughter. They gave me a sentence of six years.

 When I had served 12 months, I was paroled by the old board of managers, who said I should never have been sent there. Then I went back to Belmont county to my father’s home. The family of Brandon never blamed me for killing him, nor did they ever put a straw in my way. They knew it was accidental, and done because Charlie was drinking and tried to fight me.

 But there were some fellows there who claimed to have a spite against me because I had killed Brandon, and they peddled tales about me, and laid traps to try to get me into trouble again. My father died suddenly of heart trouble, and after that those fellows worried me more than ever.

 I didn’t want to get in bad again, so rather than run any risks I decided to break my parole and leave the country. I went to Washington, where I followed my trade of blacksmith. I also lived some time in Oregon. I was out there nearly 7 years.

 Becomes Converted

 I was leading a straight, clean life, and became converted to religion. I read my Bible constantly and have read it through six times. After my conversion I thought it wrong to evade the law, and while I was in Idaho I made up my mind to return to Ohio and give myself up to the authorities. I went to the sheriff of the county and told him my story. Then I sent a telegram to Governor Harmon, telling him that I wanted to come back, and have my case settled, one way or another.

 I waited several days, and getting no answer, I telegraphed again. Still I did not hear anything, and the sheriff told me that evidently the Governor did not want to get out requisition papers for me, and that I might go about my business.

 Returns to Ohio

 I went back to Raymond, Washington, where I had been living until last May. Then I felt unhappy and wanted to see my mother and sisters, and after that to come to Columbus and serve out my sentence, if necessary.

 My mother was living in Ravenna, and two sisters and a brother in Akron. When I had been there a day, a fellow saw me and told the police I had broken my parole, so they arrested me and brought me to Columbus. But you know I had intended coming any way in a few days.

 I was brought to Columbus the 23rd of last June, and immediately wrote a statement of my case and sent it to the board of administration and asked to be set free.

 I am going back to mother. She wants me, and I can make her more comfortable. I will follow the trade of a blacksmith or carpenter and can make good wages.

“The Wheeling, O., Register of the same date had the following account:”

“That will take some figuring, won’t it? But I’ll get it some way, even if I have to make a full and complete statement of all the facts.”

 This from Harvey Giffin, a former well-known local man, who, back in 1904, killed Charles Brandon, at Neffs, O., and for which he was sent to the penitentiary for a six year term. That was in December of the same year. In December of the following year he was paroled and returned to Neffs, where friends of the man he had killed made it so unpleasant for him that he decided to remove himself from this section of the country and went to the west, thereby violating his parole.

 Never at any time a bad man, Giffin had little trouble in making friends. He is a blacksmith by trade and soon landed a job in Washington state. Being sober and industrious, he worked his way to a foremanship. Then he joined the church as well as two fraternal orders, the Knights of Pythias and the Eagles, all under a name which he assumed when he went west.

 Giffin spent a full seven and one half years in the west before coming back. Immediately after joining his church, however, he determined to give himself up to the Ohio authorities for the violation of his parole, and wired Governor Harmon, then chief executive of the Buckeye state, that he was willing to return if wanted. The Ohio authorities didn’t seem to want him, and after a few months more he returned to Akron to visit his aged mother. An officer there took him into custody and returned him the penitentiary. This was in the later part of June last. A month later his parole was put back in force and yesterday he was handed an unconditional pardon, duly signed by Governor Cox.

 Once again a free man, Giffin came direct to this city where he formerly lived, and after spending a day or two with some old friends at Neffs, he will return to Washington. He hopes to take on his right name when he returns to the people who helped him along there and that is what he means, at the outset, when he states that ‘it will take some figuring.

 The crime for which Giffin was sent up will be recalled by many readers of the Register. Charles Brandon, although getting up in years, was a powerfully built man [line apparently missing] … on the other hand, weighs less than 160. Brandon, the testimony went to show, had been at Bellaire, and upon alighting from the train at Neffs, picked a quarrel with Giffin, who, at the time was making collections from the miners for a bell for a church which had just been built. Giffin, it is stated, tried to avoid a fight, but when Brandon closed in on him he struck him with his fist, Brandon went down unconscious and died a short time afterward.

 To a Register man yesterday Giffin made a statement to the effect that while he had been sorry a thousand times that he was even the indirect cause of Brandon’s death yet he always has felt that Brandon died of heart failure brought on by the frenzy into which he had worked himself, rather than from the effects of the blow. He attributes his pardon to the fact that he was able, in seven years test, to prove that he can ‘make good’ notwithstanding t

harvey 4

he general belief that few men sent to the penal institutions of the country ever rise again.

 That Mr. Giffin had the sympathy of the authorities familiar with the case is proven by the following letter written to his mother by President T.E. Davey, of the Ohio Board of Administration, under date of Aug. 16th, 1913, and which is now in Mr. Giffin’s possession:

 “‘Mrs. Sarah C. Giffin,

161 Spruce St.,

Ravena, Ohio.,

Dear Madam:—

I take great pleasure in informing you that your son will be released today; and will also say that we have never had a case come before us that gave us more satisfaction than his. We are only sorry that he did not confer with us long ago, either by mail or in person. However, ‘all’s well that ends well,’ and will close by congratulating you upon having such a clean-minded son.

Very truly yours,

T.E. Davey,


Charles Brandon, the victim of the punch, was a 61 year old Union veteran who had survived two POW experiences during the Civil War. According to his pension papers, he was classified as an invalid.


Photo of Harvey’s headstone, Orting, Washington

Giffin, who was in his late 30s during the incident, was not a large man, but he had considerable military experience as well. He had been in the Army in the 1890s and had served in battles in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. But as we saw, once he returned to civilian life events became even more exciting than any military exploit.

Harvey did not stay a civilian for long. He rejoined the Army in 1916, and first served on the Mexican border during the Villa raids and was later sent to Europe during the Great War. He died August 27, 1939 in the Washington Soldiers Home in Orting, Washington.

The short-lived Raymond Review is one of several newspapers from Raymond, Washington available for viewing or via interlibrary loan from the Washington State Library.

[Photo of postcard sent by Harvey to his uncle, James Giffin. The reverse side reads: “Oct. 3 Dear Uncle i ritte you a fine liner i am OK On top of a Mountain on the Borders of Mexico gurding a pass thrue the Mountains with a Machine Gun. i and 2 more felows we got our guns be hind a stone fort we Bilt if Villey trys to come thru a gin we will get some of them. he has come thru be fore we got Machine Guns in different places Harvey Giffin Eight Ohio Inf Machine Gun bo” then “El Paso Texas.”]

[Photos supplied by Harvey’s great-nephew, Terry Magyar]

WSL Updates for September 19, 2013

Thursday, September 19th, 2013 Posted in For Libraries, For the Public, Grants and Funding, News, Technology and Resources, Training and Continuing Education, Updates | Comments Off on WSL Updates for September 19, 2013

Volume 9, September 19, 2013 for the WSL Updates mailing list

Topics include:







Read the rest of this entry »

Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Isaac Van Dorsey Mossman, 1870-1873

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, State Library Collections, WSL 160 | Comments Off on Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Isaac Van Dorsey Mossman, 1870-1873


Isaac Mossman

Isaac Van Dorsey Mossman, 1870-1873

From the Desks of the Central Library Staff

“We doubt not,” said the Daily Pacific Tribune, “that Mr. Mossman will make an efficient and faithful librarian” when the fourth Territorial Librarian for the year 1870 was named. He was born Aug. 8, 1830 in Centerville, Indiana. Mossman arrived in Oregon City Oct. 20, 1853 as part of the Miller Party. Isaac took part in the 1855-1856 Indian War, holding the rank of Corporal and fighting in the Columbia Gorge and east of the Cascades theater where he was wounded in 1856. For the next few years he held a series of odd jobs in Oregon and Washington, including running a pony express business in the Walla Walla area.

He came to Olympia in 1867 and found employment with the city’s Street Superintendent. Appointed Territorial Librarian by the Governor Nov. 7, 1870. While still in office of Librarian, he was elected Thurston County Coroner in 1872 and Olympia Marshall in 1873. In 1877 he worked as a Sergeant of Arms in the Legislature. By 1879 his poor health forced him to retire from public life, and he made a living by light work and running a used furniture store. Mossman left Olympia for Oakland, California in 1890 and eventually moved to Portland late in life. He died Oct. 11, 1912 in a Roseburg, Oregon soldiers’ home.

Mossman’s autobiographical work, A Pony Expressman’s Recollections, is part of the WSL collection. In this role you could say he was an early promoter of rapid information delivery.

[The Territorial Librarian profiles were compiled by Sean Lanksbury, Mary Schaff, Kim Smeenk, and Steve Willis]

Today We Celebrate our Volunteers

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Today We Celebrate our Volunteers

wtbbl volunteers

Volunteers working at WTBBL

September 18, 2013

Today we recognize the many volunteers in the Olympia area who work in the Washington State Library and Washington State Archives. There will be a celebration this afternoon in the Governor’s Mansion to simply say, “thanks.”

Washington State Library volunteers are not a luxury. They are a necessity. State Librarian Rand Simmons noted, “They help us to better meet our customers’ needs by providing services we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.”

Without volunteers we would not be able to offer such robust services in our Central Library, located in Tumwater, or in our Seattle Washington Talking Book & Braille Library (WTBBL).

Steve Willis, Manager of the Central Library says, “We treat them in the same way we hire staff. We talk with them about their interests and skills and look for a good fit with the opportunities available.”

We have an amazing crew of volunteers at the Talking Book & Braille Library — more than 400 who donate over 30,000 hours each year. The WTBBL volunteers work in areas such as book recording, braille transcription, and other library services. Our WTBBL customers are located throughout the state and materials are sent and returned through the US Mail system by our shipping and circulation volunteers.

In our Digital and Historical Collections program we have three projects involving volunteers. The main project is the indexing of historical newspapers. Volunteers view each page of the newspaper and enter keywords into a database so that researchers can find the articles they need. This labor intensive work makes our online newspapers more searchable.

The newest project is the conversion of some of the historical digital collection to braille. Volunteers are converting selected titles to text files and correcting the text misread by the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. Once this is done, the files will be sent to the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library to be converted to braille. This project is bringing our online material to a wider audience.

Judy Pitchford comments that “Both projects require a lot of reading of historical material, which is what these volunteers appear to love the most.”

Our National Digital Newspaper Program has a goal to upload 300,000 pages of historic Washington newspapers to the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America website by mid-year 2014. Our volunteers are often history and newspaper enthusiasts willing to help correct key terms misread by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software and improve the search results.

Project manager Shawn Schollmeyer says, “The editing they do helps us meet and improve on standards set by the Library of Congress and contributes to online resources used by genealogists and historians everywhere.” We are currently seeking volunteers for this project. Volunteer Rhonda Fabert encourages others to volunteer for the project, “If you are someone who enjoys incredibly interesting work that will benefit generations to come, I highly recommend that you call Shawn Schollmeyer to arrange your own volunteer opportunity with this very prestigious project.”

Gordon Russ is helping to create a database of the library’s historic ephemera files. In doing so, Gordon is improving future subject and keyword access to this extremely useful collection for researchers of Washington State history.

The State Library receives many requests from family genealogists for newspaper obituaries. While we have lost our capacity to fill requests from out-of-state individuals because of staff reductions, the contribution of volunteers enables us to continue to fill in-state requests.

The historic Northwest card file, housed in 180 card catalog drawers, is being converted to an online format by volunteer David Lane. The resulting online database will be available to genealogists, researchers, and historians. The work is slow because each card, an estimated 172,000 of them, must be entered into an Access database which is then made available online.

Rhonda Fabert also created a database of microfilm vendors which allows library staff to more efficiently identify sources of given microfilm titles.

“It is a win-win situation when the library benefits from the volunteers’ work and the volunteers’ experience enriches their lives,” notes Volunteer Coordinator, Marilyn Lindholm.

Rhonda wrote about her volunteer experience, “I’ve experienced an incredible amount of personal and professional growth through interactions with the dedicated staff of WSL over the past year. The project entrusted to me was to design a database which will make access to serials microfilm vendor information quicker and easier. I am delighted to have had the experience of working with Technical Services Supervisor, Shirley Lewis, and look forward to the project’s completion.”

A retired State Library employee and former federal depository specialist, Carol Estep, assists our staff who work with federal publications by doing a wide variety of duties. Her faithfulness helps us bridge the gap left by staff reductions.

Motivation to volunteer varies with each individual. Michele Weaver wrote, “I want to thank the Washington State Library for giving me the opportunity to ‘give back’ as a genealogy research volunteer finding obituaries for patrons. Having done genealogy research for many years on my own family, I know how frustrating it is to hit the proverbial ‘brick wall’, and get stalled with your research. Through the years I have had some kind people do research for me, and I love the thought that I am ‘paying it forward’ by finding obituaries for State Library patrons, and filling in holes in some family trees.”

How do people come to volunteer? The paths are many. Gordon Russ has volunteered for the State Library for about 10 years. He got his start by sending an email to the State Librarian after reading a newsletter article that featured the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company, a subject of particular interest to him as he collects railroad-themed books. The article mentioned that some of the documents would be digitized so he thought he might help with that process.

One thing led to another and he began volunteering for what is now the Digital and Historical Collections Program. Then, one night while reading in bed, he dropped a book he was reading and the spine broke.

Knowing that the State Library had a preservation program, he asked its program manager, Diane Hutchins, how he might repair the book. She pointed him to the “Conservation Kitchen,” a YouTube tutorial developed by State Library staff. That led him to a stint helping the State Library preserve rare materials including some of Governor Isaac Stevens’ books along with maps, photographs, and other rare items dating as far back as the 15th century.

Gordon loves history and that love is evident as he tells colorful stories about Washington. We appreciate his dedication to helping the State Library preserve the history of the state of Washington.

Want to explore volunteer opportunities at the Washington State Library? Please contact Marilyn Lindholm at [email protected] or 360.704.5249.

How do volunteers benefit those of us who work in the State Library? Marilyn Lindholm said it best, “Our volunteers bring creative ideas and a fresh perspective to how we do business.”

Thank you, Kendall Brookhart, Kathie Dexter, Carol Estep, Rhonda Fabert, Karen Fieldman, David Lane, Barb Monti, Brynn Pitchford, Anissa Rajala, Gordon Russ, Kelly Sjoblom, Amelia Turnbull, Michele Weaver, and Mary Webster. Your skills, expertise and service are invaluable in helping us meet the needs of our customers.

2013 Library Employee of the Year – Glenn Parsons

Monday, September 16th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public | Comments Off on 2013 Library Employee of the Year – Glenn Parsons

Glenn ParsonsGlenn Parson’s tenure with the Washington State Library nearly predates any other employee. Glenn was presented with his 35 years of service certificate and pin in 2012.

Glenn’s supervisor, Shirley Lewis notes, “Often working under tight deadlines, Glenn keeps materials coming into WSL Central Library and branch collections efficiently and quickly. His knowledge of fiscal procedures and his willingness to try new technology make him an invaluable resource for WSL.”  He also shares his expertise with staff in other Washington libraries and in other states.

In 2011, WSL’s staff spotlight noted that Glenn was “particularly talented at adapting to a wide variety of databases and computer applications, and has been especially helpful in assisting his co-workers in troubleshooting and navigating through difficult technical problems.”

“A true gentleman, he has a gift for making suggestions without coming across as negative or personally critical. During these times of budget woes, Glenn has made suggestions resulting in savings of thousands of dollars.”

His program manager, Steve Willis, says, “Glenn is one of those quiet and hardworking heroes who helps keep the WSL wheels rolling … His long history here and institutional memory of WSL has been invaluable to Technical Services as [they] strive to learn from the past while planning for the future. Also, his enjoyment of sharing general historical trivia is fun.”

Thanks, Glenn, for your steady, competent service to the people of Washington and congratulations on your recognition as the Washington State Library’s 2013 Employee of the Year.

Col. Patrick Henry Winston and the Statue of Limitations

Friday, September 13th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections | Comments Off on Col. Patrick Henry Winston and the Statue of Limitations

Captain Patrick Henry Winston

Colonel Patrick Henry Winston

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library

The newspaper on microfilm reel grabbed at random this week holds a tale of “Colonel” Patrick Henry Winston and the Statue of Limitations. Yes, I meant to use the word “Statue” rather than “Statute.” You’ll see why.

“Colonel” Patrick Henry Winston, Jr. was born Aug. 22, 1847 in Windsor, North Carolina, the product of a family line that had also raised Patrick Henry, one of the great orators of the Revolution. Winston’s military rank was not bestowed by the Southern Army, nor was it an honorary title given by Kentucky. In any case he was indeed very briefly a soldier in the Confederacy during the last month of the Civil War. As it turned out, he was the sort of man who enjoyed embracing lost causes and relished the fight.

After being licensed to practice law in 1868, Winston seemed to have trouble finding a star to follow. Although he married and began a family that would eventually  number ten children, it took him 20 years to find a city to settle in– Spokane. And it took him even longer to find a political party to call home. First a Democrat, then a Republican, then a Democrat, then a Silver Republican, then– after a bit it becomes too complicated to follow his allegiances. In the end he was a member of Patrick Henry Winston Party. But by 1896 he was part of the Populist Fusion ticket that swept every statewide office in Washington and he was elected the State Attorney General.

Winston 1

In addition to being politically active, Winston was a newspaperman. After his single term in office he started Winston’s Weekly, which ran 34 issues from Aug. 22, 1903 (Winston’s 56th birthday) to Apr. 9, 1904. To call it a newspaper is sort of misleading. Actually it was more of an ancestor to what we call blogs today. The paper gave him a forum to proclaim his views (such as advocating the U.S. takeover of Canada, or promoting the Right to Die), tell stories, and exhibit his devilish sense of humor.

John Rankin Rogers, who was elected Governor as part of the 1896 Populist sweep, switched to the Democratic Party in 1900 and was the only statewide incumbent to be re-elected. But only after less than a year into term two, he died in office Dec. 26, 1901. Soon there was talk of erecting a statue to honor the late Governor. Here’s how his former fellow Populist office-holder reacted to this news, Winston’s Weekly, Sept. 5, 1903:


Statue of Governor Rogers

Statue of Governor Rogers

“In all ages and in all lands monuments have been erected to perpetuate the memory of great deeds and great men.”

“The statue of Napoleon in his imperial robes surmounts the Vendome Column, that of Lord Nelson adorns Trafalgar Square, and a monument to the memory of Washington towers to the sky in the capital of the country of which he was the father. It is a beautiful custom, not only because it is a tribute to departed greatness and a grateful expression of popular gratitude, but because it is an object lesson calculated to inspire coming generations with lofty aspirations.”

“Happily for our country the names of many of her sons are worthy to be inscribed over the portals of immortal fame. Congress has provided a national pantheon in which may be placed by the states the statues of their illustrious dead, and in the Capitol grounds of many of the states there stand monuments erected by a grateful sovereignty to departed worth.”

“In selecting these subjects of a peoples gratitude and veneration the greatest care should be exercised lest what is now an honored and beautiful custom become one of derision and contempt.”

“The state of Illinois could with propriety erect a monument to Lincoln or Grant; Virginia to Washington, Jefferson, or Henry; Ohio to Wm. Tecumseh Sherman; Massachusetts to Samuel Adams; Pennsylvania to Benjamin Franklin; Oregon to Edward Baker; of Washington to General Isaac I. Stevens, her first governor, a brave pioneer, a distinguished statesman, and a gallant soldier.”

“Upon what theory is it proposed to erect a monument to perpetuate the memory of Governor Rogers? What was there in his life as a citizen or career as an office-holder to justify this greatest popular tribute? Except the fact that he happened to die in office, in what respect did his career differ from that of the ordinary run of governors? He was neither a statesman nor a soldier, nor a poet, nor an artist, nor an orator, nor an inventor, nor a discoverer, nor a philanthropist, nor a pioneer. Even as a druggist, which occupation he followed before entering the field of politics, he failed to make any revolution in the science of pharmacy, and although he wrote some ridiculous books which nobody remembers, he never took rank as an author. As a politician he failed to rise above the level of the every day populist politician of the Omaha platform school, beginning his political career by attacking corporations and ending it by soliciting railroad support. After posing as the champion of popular rights, when the opportunity came to go to the front in the fight against the merger, along with Governor Van Sant, he shrunk into pitiable littleness and played the role of a weak and nerveless trimmer.

Clip From the Winston Weekly“It has become fashionable for small minds to attach themselves to what they believe to be popular events and to make merchandise of them.”

“After the exhibition furnished by the last legislature it seemed that the limit of human folly had been reached and that nothing could ever happen again to shock the common sense of the average person in the state of Washington, but the proposition to erect a monument by public subscription to the late Governor Rogers proves that there is no limit to human folly. If the falling political fortunes of these parasites will be temporarily propped by being attached to the remains of John R. Rogers that is no reason why whole communities should be involved in their folly and great state made ridiculous.”

Winston's 1899 Biennial Report

Winston’s 1899 Biennial Report

Winston died Apr. 3, 1904, and his newspaper died with him, the final issue assembled as a printed memorial by his friends. The Rogers statue was unveiled a few months later on the Capitol grounds, known today as Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia. Historian Gordon Newell commented in his book Rogues, Buffoons & Statesmen (1975):

“The body of John Rankin Rogers was buried in his home town of Puyallup, but the school children of the state donated their pennies and nickels to pay for a very bad statue of a good man and the lifesized figure of a frock-coated Rogers stands to this day in Sylvester park, its back to the old gray sandstone statehouse and its face toward a high-rise luxury hotel across from what used to be Main street. Carved in the granite base is the creed of the old Populist … ‘I would prevent the poor from being utterly impoverished by the greedy and avaricious … the rich can take care of themselves.'”

The Washington State Library has a complete run of Winston’s Weekly available on microfilm including via interlibrary loan as well as Winston’s Biennial Reports as Washington State Attorney General.


Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Training and Continuing Education | Comments Off on ALA-APA RECOGNIZES SFCC LIBRARY PROGRAM

ILSSC Logon a press release dated September 5, 2013, the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) announced that it will officially recognize graduates of the Library and Information Services Program at Spokane Falls Community College (SFCC) with the Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) designation.

The ALA-APA had reviewed the SFCC curriculum and determined that it met most of the LSSC requirements. Candidates must also have one year of recent library experience, or meet that requirement within 4 years, in order to receive the LSSC designation.

In the press release, Lorelle Swader, director of ALA-APA, was quoted as saying, “SFCC’s graduates will be recognized for their acquired skills and knowledge with this national certification, which is quickly becoming a standard for the profession.  The LSSC will show employers of these graduates that they have made a commitment to furthering their own continuing professional development and future.”

The Washington State Library congratulates the SFCC Library and Information Services Program on this recognition and achievement.