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San Juan Archipelago, 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 650, 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.

07 August 2018

❖ S. S. CITY OF SEATTLE with fireworks and whistles ❖ 1890

1,957 G. tons / 246.6'
Launched in May 1890 in Phil; 

arrived in Seattle in Dec. 1890.
Photo inscribed as dated "c. 1907."

Click image to enlarge.
Original photo inscribed verso, the Williamson Collection,
from the Saltwater People Historical Society

"The outstanding event of 1890 on Puget Sound was the arrival of the new steamer  CITY OF SEATTLE from Philadelphia. When the vessel steamed into Seattle Harbor on 26 Dec 1890, she provided a fitting climax to a year marked by tremendous growth in Puget Sound shipping.
     Twenty-four steamboats were launched on the Sound that year, while more than a million dollars was being added to the value of the inland fleet. No single event, however, impressed the people of Seattle as much as did the arrival of the steamer named for their city. A Seattle newspaper reported that some 27,000 persons boarded the ship in a single day, 28 Dec 1890, when she was opened for visitors. More were turned away, disappointed when visiting hours ended at 4:00 PM. Over in Tacoma, meanwhile, a reporter for the Tacoma Morning Globe wrote that "a stranger in the vicinity would have gained the impression that the CITY OF SEATTLE was the only steamer on Puget Sound.
      Capt D. B. Jackson, of the Puget Sound and Alaska Steamship Co, had ordered construction of the vessel; she was built at a cost of $225,000. Designed for the Seattle, Tacoma, and Whatcom route, she was built in Philadelphia and completed in May 1890.
      The same company had earlier purchased the CITY OF KINGSTON in Philadelphia. Capt Melville Nichols had brought that craft safely to Seattle in Feb 1890. He then returned to the East Coast to take charge of the CITY OF SEATTLE. With Capt Nichols on the CITY OF SEATTLE were Chief Engineer Robert Turner, First Officer Charles E. Ames, and Second Officer F. A. Woodman.
      Since the Panama Canal had not yet been built, it was necessary to make the long voyage around South America. On 9 Nov 1890, a cablegram from Valparaiso, Chile reported that the CITY OF SEATTLE had arrived there safely, but two days late. After taking on a new supply of coal at Valparaiso, she again put to sea.
      On the morning of 26 Dec, the CITY OF SEATTLE came to anchor in the bay of Port Townsend. The same morning, at 10:30, the CITY OF KINGSTON pulled away from Yesler's Wharf, in Seattle, bound for Pt. Townsend with a welcoming committee. On board were 250 excursionists. A military band occupied the bow of the steamer, and a large crowd gathered on the dock to see the vessel off. Cheers and music were mingled, as the KINGSTON backed from the pier.
      In Pt. Townsend harbor, the CITY OF KINGSTON circled the CITY OF SEATTLE, giving the guests an overall view, then landed at the wharf. The passengers then spent two hours in the town, as guests of the Pt. Townsend Chamber of Commerce. Later the group reassembled and boarded the CITY OF SEATTLE at the wharf. The 110 staterooms were then thrown open for inspection, and the entire accommodations of the vessel were placed at eh disposal of the guests. A banquet was served on board, while the steamer sped toward the city for which she was named.
      Her arrival was eagerly awaited, by hundreds of people on the Seattle waterfront. Presently, the brightly lighted outline appeared in bold relief against the dark background of the Olympic Mountains. As she came clearly into view, escorted by the CITY OF KINGSTON, she was saluted by whistles of all the craft in the harbor. The sawmills along the waterfront added their whistles to the din, and even the steam locomotives switching cars on Railroad Ave joined in, with their whistles.
Unknown photographer.

Photo from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©

      Fireworks were displayed from the CITY OF SEATTLE, and her two signal cannons were fired. There was an answering salute from Yesler's Wharf, where the vessel was to land.
      On 6 Jan 1891, the CITY OF KINGSTON had to be laid up for repairs, after her propeller struck a submerged log, off Yesler's Wharf. The CITY OF SEATTLE then took over the Victoria run. On 10 Jan 1891, she made the trip from Pt. Townsend to Seattle in two hours and four minutes. The same day she made the run from Seattle to Tacoma in one hour and 29 minutes. These were not the fastest times ever recorded, but they rate high on the list.
      On the Victoria route, the CITY OF SEATTLE left Tacoma daily except Sunday at 8:00 A.M. On 17 Jan 1891, the Union Pacific steamer OLYMPIAN pulled out of Tacoma at the same time. It was evident to observers along the waterfront that there was going to be a test of speed. As the two vessels headed into the bay, the capt of the OLYMPIAN sounded his whistle, as a challenge. Capt Nichols responded, and at the same time rang the engine room bells for full speed. The CITY OF SEATTLE immediately shot ahead, in a burst of power that surprised everyone. By the time she passed Brown's Point, she was already more than a hundred yards ahead. This was a great surprise to waterfront observers, for the OLYMPIAN was thought to be capable of something like 18 knots an hour. No one had expected the CITY OF SEATTLE to make such a show of her.
      The CITY OF SEATTLE, both ship, and municipality, became part of the exciting new era in 1897, the era of gold discovery in Alaska. On 17 July, of that year, the steamship PORTLAND pulled into Elliott Bay, on a routine trip from the Northland. When she reached her pier, at 7:15 AM, it was revealed that boxes around her safe contained more than a ton of gold; and the value of this yellow dust was $700,000.
       Of the 68 passengers on board, not one carried less than $5,000 in gold dust. Dressed in ragged wool or canvas work clothes, these men came down the gangplank, carrying blanket rolls, brown grips, and black chests. Two men struggled off the ship, bearing between them, a sagging weight in a blanket. Richard Blake, of Dungeness, had a buckskin bag of nuggets. So did Jack Horn, a prizefighter from Tacoma, Harry Anderson, of Seattle, had sold a half interest in his claim on El Dorado Creek for $45,000, and the cash was in the safe on board.
      In twos and threes, the worn and weather-beaten men walked up the dock, into the streets of Seattle, streets soon to be packed with people and mountains of freight; as ship after the ship sailed for Alaska, in one of the greatest gold stampedes of all time.
      At the beginning of the Klondyke rush, in August 1897, the CITY OF SEATTLE was taken over by the newly formed Washington and Alaska Steamship Co. She was advertised as the fastest, finest, and most comfortable ship running to Alaska, and the only one able to make the trip to Dyea and Skagway in 70 hours.
      Capable of carrying 500 passengers, the CITY OF SEATTLE was a steel hulled vessel 246.6' x 40' x 15'. Her cabins were finished in cherry; the dining room was in the upper deck, over the stern, enabling passengers to enjoy the scenery while dining. Her engine was the double cylinder type, the low-pressure cylinder 64 inches in diameter, and the high pressure 32 inches in diameter. Her two boilers were 13' in diameter and 14' long.

She was called the 
"Alaska Lightning Express Steamer."
Two views of her grounding on  15 Aug. 1912.
Near Ketchikan, AK.

Original photos from the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society©

      After long service on the Alaska run, the CITY OF SEATTLE was returned to the Atlantic Coast in 1921. There she was placed in service between Jacksonville, Florida, and Havanna, Cuba by C. L. Dimmmon and Co.
      In 1937, the CITY OF SEATTLE returned to Philadelphia, back to her birthing place to be scrapped."
Above text: The Steamboat Landing on Elliott Bay. Carey, Roland. Seattle, WA. 1962.
1904: The CITY OF SEATTLE struck a rock near Eagle Harbor, sustaining damage of $9,000. 
Aground on Trial Island, BC.
Sept. 1906. 
Click image to enlarge.
Photo from the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©
1914: Completely remodeled and refurnished this year at Seattle Construction & Drydock Co. The cost was more than $100,000. New boilers, new cargo-handling equipment & replacement of wooden upperworks from main to upper decks with steel.

Some of her known officers and crew:

Capt. Melville Nichols brought the CITY OF SEATTLE around the horn to Seattle.
Capt. T.H. Cann, his first command was in 1903 on the CITY OF SEATTLE
Capt. Thomas Johnson. Served the steamer in 1914.
Capt. W. J. Rickards (d. April 1931)
Capt. Charles H. White (d. 1953.)
Chief Engineer Frank Tovey (1865-1942) in command for the gold rush service to AK.
Chief Engineer E. B. Stone
Chief Engineer Robert Turner
Chief Engineer C.B. Harlan
First Officer H. J. Allen 
First Officer Charles E. Ames
Second Officer F. A. Woodman
Purser H.D. Johnson

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