History’s repeating loop in Seattle


The lead story in The Seattle Times: the city’s efforts to fix an infrastructure problem. There’s also material about the incumbent U.S. president running for reelection and his leading challenger, who both have Ivy League degrees. An article about foreign bloodshed. News about Belltown. Coverage of pre-season baseball maneuvering. And at the top of the front page, the newspaper’s prominent boast of quality news coverage.

Today’s paper? Sure. But I’m also describing the one from exactly a century ago, January 26, 1912.

Since I am still New To Seattle, I only know about the city’s past from what I read. So I thought it would be interesting to take a long view and see what’s changed. With a Seattle Public Library card, one can call up on a home computer just about any old edition of The Times. I opted for precisely 100 years ago.

As it turns out, even the sizes are comparable. In today’s edition, I counted 30 pages (excluding a four-page ad supplement). That’s only six pages more than a century ago, when the 21-year-old paper was called The Seattle Daily Times and appeared in the afternoon.

Here are some other similarities:

INFRASTRUCTURE REPAIR  The lead story in today’s paper is the city’s ongoing efforts to fix the “Mercer Mess,” the warren of east-west streets south of Lake Union connecting Interstate 5 with Seattle Center. On this day in 1912 the top story was the city’s scramble to repair a broken sewer line that inundated homes around Washington Park with unimaginable muck.”It will be a long time” before things are fixed, the paper said. Today’s Times says the Mercer project has been under way for five decades.

PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS  President Obama is a Columbia and Harvard man. The top GOP candidate (for the moment, anyway), Mitt Romney, is a Harvard man. As the Daily Times reported this very day a century ago, President William H. Taft was a Yale man facing a challenge from Woodrow Wilson (Princeton). For good measure, ex-president Theodore Roosevelt (Harvard) was mounting a third-party push.

BELLTOWN BEAT  A headline now: “City University headquarters moving to Belltown.” A headline then: “Ask $50,000 damages for Belltown blaze”.

FOREIGN FATALITY  Today’s Times reports the latest outrage in Iraq, a bombing that killed 10 people in a house. The death du jour in 1912 was the lynching of a of a rebel military leader in Ecuador.

HOT-STOVE LEAGUE  From the sports pages today we learned details of Prince Fielder’s sweet $214 million deal with the Detroit Tigers.  Long-ago readers learned about the efforts of the Philadelphia Phillies to get a prized recruit to report to training camp.

INSTITUTIONAL BRAGGING  Winner of eight Pulitzer Prizes,” it says on the front-page masthead of today’s Times. Such a claim wasn’t even possible in 1912; journalism’s highest awards weren’t first handed out until 1917.  So the Blethen family, the paper’s controlling force then and now, stripped across the top of the front page the famous slogan of The New York Times: “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

In more way than one, Times don’t change in Seattle.

Follow William P. Barrett’s work on Twitter by clicking here.

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One Response to History’s repeating loop in Seattle

  1. Pingback: A ranking where Seattle just became No. 1 | New To Seattle

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