President Rutherford B. Hayes addressing the citizens of Seattle, 1880
The postcard this week is a vintage card and one that is in the historical postcard category. It is unused, sepia toned and printed in 1911 although the photograph was taken in 1880 by Otto Theodore Frasch a Seattle photographer who signed his postcard photos O.T. Frasch as can be seen at the lower right corner with the number 859. The event pictured is the first presidential visit to Seattle by a United States President in office at the time of the visit. In the explanation of the event at the bottom left and center of the card the date is given as 1881 but according to historical records President Rutherford B. Hayes took his tour west of the Rocky Mountains in 1880 not 1881. [Historylink.org provides the exact date as 11 October 1880.]
The Occidental Hotel shown in the photograph was built in 1861 between Mill Street and James Street and torn down in 1883 to make room for a newer, grander hotel by the same name built at the same location. The second Occidental Hotel burned down during the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. In 1890 a third Occidental Hotel was built on the ashes of the second hotel and was known as the Seattle Hotel. It was triangular-shaped and had the inscription 1890 above the fifth story window to signify the year it was completed. This third hotel was torn down and replaced with a parking garage, sometimes called the “Sinking Ship,” in 1961.
The crowd in the photograph is large; however, the total population of Seattle in 1880 was 3,533 and it does not look like quite that many people are gathered at the Occidental Hotel to hear him speak. One account said that at a reception that evening held in the President’s honor at Squire’s Opera House, he shook hands with 2,000 people. It was said that it was the most exciting night in Seattle’s history with stores, houses, and the university all ablaze with candles, lamps, and gas. Bonfires were lit in Occidental Square and a band played while people milled in the streets.
President Hayes was the 19th United States President serving from 1877 to 1881. His “Great Western Tour” involved travel by train, horse and boat as he crossed the country from his native Ohio to California with stops in Oregon and Washington Territory. Accompanying the president was his wife, Lucy, Civil War General William T. Sherman, and Secretary of War Alexander Ramsey. It took them two weeks by horse drawn coach to travel from San Francisco to Ashland, Oregon. The party traveled to Portland, to Forest Grove, Oregon, to Walla Walla, Washington, crossing the Columbia River by steamboat, from there to Tenino, by narrow gauge rail to Tumwater and Olympia and finally by the steamer “George E. Starr” to Seattle, and then on to Port Gamble, Port Blakely and Port Townsend. He gave speeches at his stops but some were short. On the return trip he stopped at Tacoma and Astoria before returning to Ohio in time for the 1880 election. The 1876 election had been contentious with Hayes winning the Electoral College vote but not the popular vote and as part of a compromise Hayes had agreed not to seek a second term. Instead he supported James A. Garfield who won in 1880.
President Hayes was born in 1822 and died in 1893. “As president he oversaw the end of Reconstruction, began the efforts that led to civil service reform, and attempted to reconcile the divisions left over from the Civil War and Reconstruction.” [Wikipedia] He succeeded Ulysses Grant.
For additional information, see:
Paul Dorpat (19 September 2014) “See Seattle’s grand Occidental Hotel in 1887” (http://seattletimes.com/html/pacificnw/202445087_092lnowandtenxml.html). Seattletimes.com