Seattle as the anchor of the Pacific Northwest.

The Seattle Waterfront [Colorized Panoramic Photograph]

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SKU: NL-01400 Category: Tag:
Cartographer(s): Pierson & Company
Date: 1917
Place: Seattle
Dimensions: 120.5 x 19 cm (47.5 x 7.25 in)
Condition Rating: VG+
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This is a rare, partially-colorized 1917 panoramic photograph of the Seattle waterfront published by Pierson & Company. Oriented towards the east, it shows buildings and piers along what is now the Alaskan Way, as well as buildings further inland and uphill in the background. 

Most of Seattle had been destroyed by a large fire in 1889 and the city seen here is the result of the post-fire reconstruction. Despite the disaster, the city rebounded quickly and continued to grow, benefitting significantly from the Klondike Gold Rush. Merchants in the city provided prospectors with all the equipment and supplies needed for their excursion, while the Alaska Steamship Company (located at Pier 2 on the far right) became the main method of conveying prospectors to the region. Fishermen, financiers, and just about every other industry in Seattle profited from the gold rush.

Seattle became a magnet for money and people, and by the time this picture was taken had grown to become the third largest city on the West Coast after San Francisco and Los Angeles. Elites in the city wanted imposing architecture to reflect the city’s increased stature, and from the late 19th century efforts were made to build a skyscraper in Seattle. The tall building at the right is Smith Tower, completed in 1914, not long before this picture was taken. It was the tallest building on the West Coast until the 1960s when it was overtaken by the Seattle Space Needle. 

To celebrate the wealth created by the gold rush for Seattle and the Pacific Northwest more generally, the Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition was held in 1909. Similar to other expositions of the era, it was a grandiose, carnivalesque undertaking that left permanent marks on the host city. Most notably, the fairgrounds and some of the structures became the basis for the University of Washington’s current main campus, defined by its incredible views of Mt. Rainier.



Only two other examples of this photograph are known to exist, held by the Library of Congress and the University of Washington, respectively.


Pierson & Company

Pierson & Company was a commercial photography firm located in Seattle and active in the first half of the 20th century.

Condition Description

Very good. Some toning along edges and at upper-left.