A Little History of Seafair

 Photo of Seafair royalty with Navy men, ca. 1950 Courtesy Paul DorpatWith Seafair just around the corner, ever wonder about the history?

The Seafair Beginnings article on HistoryLink,org writes, “The first Seafair took place from August 11 to 20, 1950. Hundreds of thousands of people enjoyed more than 100 events throughout King County. The events ranged from a 25-mile bicycle race around Lake Sammamish to a decorated-boat parade on Lake Washington with 350 participating boats. Spectators witnessed a Police Pistol Contest at 106th Ave S and East Marginal Way, a steamboat race on Elliott Bay, a Coast Guard lifeboat race, also on Elliott Bay, a “husband calling” contest at Seward Park, and an operetta called “The Desert Song” at Volunteer Park attended by 10,000. Continue reading “A Little History of Seafair”

Golden Potlatch: The First Seafair

1911 Potlatch Postcard, Seattle Historical Postcard CollectionYou’re probably familiar with the Seafair festival that Seattle holds every summer in July, but have you ever heard of its predecessor — the Golden Potlatch? Started in 1911, this annual celebration served as the inspiration for the Seafair festival that we know today. Continue reading “Golden Potlatch: The First Seafair”

There be Pirates!

Whether it be the sight of black sails of the Black Pearl upon the horizon or the roaring sound of the amphibious landing craft Moby Duck storming Alki Beach, pirates throughout history have been feared and romanticized by myth and legend. And once again, the most famous Pirates in Seattle return for the yearly storming of Alki Beach for the enjoyment of the thousands who come to be entertained.

The Seafair Pirates first banded together in 1949 to promote Seattle and everything Seafair while serving the community with appearances in hospitals and nursing homes. Despite the emphasis of Seafair during the summer months, the Pirates make appearances at charity events, parades, and fundraisers year round. Continue reading “There be Pirates!”

Historical Fiction: World War II at Sea

Click here to view Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk in SPL catalogSeattle’s Seafair Fleet Week (July 31–August 4) is a 64 year annual tradition that brings military ships to the Port of Seattle for public viewing, to honor the men and women who serve their country at sea. Historical novels about World War II at sea add a vivid and exciting dimension to our celebration. Older books, like Nevil Shute’s Most Secret, Tales of the South Pacific by James  Michener and Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny, reveal the danger and stress of sea battle, military life in close quarters and how people processed their wartime experiences. Continue reading “Historical Fiction: World War II at Sea”

Explore your Inner Captain: Great Reads about Nautical Pioneers

Ah, sailing: the full sail puffed up with pride, the wind whipping through my hair, the salty scent of brackish water. At least, for the next 89 minutes. Then I have to return the rental boat. 

The beautiful waterways in and around Seattle inspire us with dreams of great voyages, whether you’ve got  Old Salty moored in Lake Union or you don’t know a tiller from a topmast. If, like me, you just can’t get enough time on the water this summer, these stories of nautical pioneers are sure to slake your thirst for seafaring adventures. 

Pirate of Exquisite MindA Pirate of Exquisite Mind:  The Life of William Dampier, Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer by Diana and Michael Preston
This real-life Jack Sparrow resembles our favorite fictional pirates: even as he sets sail for daring and exotic adventures, he maintains a rich ethical and intellectual life.  Better still, he has left the lasting legacy of a real man.  If you’ve ever used a barbecue, seen a zebra, or read Gulliver’s Travels, you have touched the journey of this fantastic figure. 

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time by Dava Sobel
Eccentric geniuses, fierce competition, large sums of money and dysfunctional relationships.  This compelling history of the struggle to discover an accurate way of measuring longitude while at sea would have made the best reality TV of the 1700s. 

Sailing alone around the worldSailing Alone around the World by Joshua Slocum
The first man to circumnavigate the globe by himself shares the joys and terrors of his historic voyage.  His detailed nautical descriptions will appeal to the most seasoned sailor, but his knack for encapsulating a natural wonder or a tense situation in a few poignant words can’t miss with the landlubber. 

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
A fantastic introduction to seafaring for adults and children.  The life story of Nathaniel Bowditch, a mathematical prodigy who profoundly affected nautical almanacs, also conveys a wealth of information about ships and sailing.  Bowditch’s extraordinary ability to pursue his dreams despite overwhelming obstacles is a powerful example which transcends the maritime context. 

        ~ Audrey, Central Library