"Of all national assets, archives are the most precious:
they are the gift of one generation to another,
and the extent of our care of them marks the
extent of our civilization." Arthur Doughty.

About Us

My photo
San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

03 June 2014


Photographer Joe Williamson
Original, cropped 1951 photo from archives of
the Saltwater People Historical Scty©
Ivar's Acres of Clams, site of first meeting of the 
Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society.
Tour boat SIGHTSEER on left.
Cropped photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
Joe Williamson, photographer, historian, and captain of small boats was the sparkplug that pushed the five co-founders into a dinner meeting he arranged at his friend Ivar Haglund's Acres of Clams that resulted in the founding of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society on 1 April 1948. Joe became the first president of the Society and served in that capacity for three terms.
      Joe was born in Seattle. From his earliest days he was drawn to the Seattle waterfront––even to the point of missing his high school graduation ceremonies at Ballard High School in order to take passage on the SS NORTHWESTERN in the spring of 1928. He traveled to Sitka, AK, where he joined the Coast & Geodetic Survey vessel EXPLORER. 
      After his return at the end of the season, he joined the old Merchant's Exchange, where he worked until cutbacks caused by the 1930s depression resulted in his being out of work around 1932. A friend of his, Al Price, who had a photography business, told him to buy a motorcycle––then he would hire Joe to make deliveries and film pick-ups. Al also allowed Joe to work in his darkroom.
      In 1932 Joe married Evelyn Soames. In 1935 he was offered a job in Juneau, AK, with Ordway in their darkroom. He accepted and sailed from Seattle on the SS ALASKA, going steerage. Within a short time, he made arrangements for Evelyn to join him in Juneau. While in the north, Joe's interest in the waterfront ships and shipping led him to explore many Alaskan maritime sites, including the wreck of the Canadian Pacific Navigation's ISLANDER, salvaged in 1934 but still on the beach at Douglas Is. Joe and Evelyn sailed home to Seattle on the ZAPORA early in August, visiting many of the "outports" of south eastern Alaska, en route.
      About 1937, Joe opened his own photoshop on the Seattle waterfront. In addition to selling prints from is own collection, he also developed and printed films for customers. His Marine Salon, located on the upper level of the viaduct connecting Colman Dock with Grand Trunk Dock, soon became a haven for "boat nuts." Joe took the pledge to "photograph anything that would float." In order to assist Joe in fulfilling his pledge, a group of us planned several one-day excursions to Vancouver, BC, the Olympic Peninsula, and Portland, OR, to cover marine scenes (including the shipwrecks of the British freighter TEMPLE BAR and the Russian VAZLAV VOROVSKY, below.)
With a load of steel, wrecked on the Columbia R. Bar, 1941.
Photograph archived the Marine Salon Photo Shop, Seattle, WA.,
operated by Joe Williamson.

Original from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
      Joe moved his shop to the Marion Street Viaduct in 1940. When WW II started and it wasn't easy to take pictures on the waterfront, he began to work with John A. Barthrop who had been called into the Army's Port of Embarkation, and so Joe was able to continue his photography work.
Joe and his PHOTOSHIP.

       He acquired a 32-ft Fellowship fast boat that he renamed PHOTOSHIP, and which he used before and during the war. In 1945, he purchased a 48-ft Stephens and obtained a charter to Southeastern AK. During the next seven or eight years, he spent most summers with various charters of his new ship, which he named PHOTOQUEEN. 

PHOTOQUEEN, with Joe Williamson,
1 July 1947 at Orcas Island, WA.
This copy was purchased from the Williamson Collection archived with
the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society©, Seattle, WA.
Please check with them if you'd like a copy of this photograph.
      During WW II and after, Joe branched out into commercial photography for legal firms. He moved his shop to the upper level of the Colman Dock before his final move to the street level.
      Joe lost his wife Evelyn in 1960. He closed his shop in 1962, about the same time as he and the former Alice Murphy were married. They moved to Bainbridge Island where Joe had a darkroom built in a new waterfront home at Eagle Harbor. There he continued with photography until he retired in 1980.
      His vast collection of photographs was purchased by the PSMHS and is now housed at the Museum of History and Industry reference library, Seattle WA."
Text by Austen Hemion, a long-time friend of Williamson and one of the five co-founders of PSMHS. 
This piece was published in The Sea Chest, June 1994, a quarterly journal for the members of PSMHS.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Archived Log Entries