1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tacoma

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TACOMA, a city and sub-port of entry, and the county-seat of Pierce county, Washington, U.S.A., on Commencement Bay of Puget Sound, at the mouth of Puyallup river, about 80 m. from the Pacific coast, and about 23 m. S.S.W. of Seattle. Pop. (1890) 36,006; (1900) 37,714, of whom 11,032 were foreign-born (including 1603 Swedes, 1534 English-Canadians, 1474 Norwegians, 1424 Germans, and 1323 English; (1910, U.S. census) 83,743. Tacoma is served by the Northern Pacific, the Chicago, Milwaukee & Puget Sound, and the Tacoma Eastern railways; the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railway operates through trains to and from Missouri river points and Tacoma, over the Northern Pacific tracks, which are also used by the Great Northern and Oregon & Washington railways. There is electric railway connexion with Seattle. Tacoma is the starting-point of steamship lines to Alaska, to San Francisco, and to Seattle, Port Townsend, Olympia, Victoria, and other ports on Puget Sound. There are trans-oceanic lines to Japan and China, to the Philippines and Hawaii, and to London, Liverpool and Glasgow, by way of the Suez Canal. The city is situated on an excellent harbour and has 25 m. of waterfront. From the tidelands the city site slopes gradually to a plateau about 300 ft. high, commanding fine views of Puget Sound and its wooded islands, and parts of the Cascade and Olympic ranges. Tacoma is the seat of Whitworth College (1890, Presbyterian), the University of Puget Sound (1903, Methodist Episcopal), the Annie Wright Seminary (1884), a boarding and day school for girls, and the Pacific Lutheran Academy and Business College. The Tacoma High School has an excellent stadium for athletic contests, seating 25,000. The city has a Carnegie library (1899), with about 51,000 volumes. Among other public buildings are the court house, the city hall, in which are the rooms of the State Historical Society (organized, 1891; incorporated, 1897); the Federal Building; an armoury; the Chamber of Commerce, and several fine churches. The Ferry Museum, founded by Clinton P. Ferry, has interesting historical and ethnological collections. In 1910 the city had seven public parks (1120 acres), including Point Defiance, a thickly wooded park (about 640 acres), and, in the centre of the city, Wright Park, in which is the Seymour Conservatory. Tacoma is a sub-port of entry in the Puget Sound Customs district (of which Port Townsend is the official port), which is second only to San Francisco on the Pacific coast in the volume of foreign trade. The city has a large jobbing trade, a coal supply from rich deposits in Pierce county, and abundant water-power from swift mountain streams, which is used for generating electricity for municipal and industrial use. In 1900 and in 1905 Tacoma ranked second among the cities of the state in the value of factory products. Lead smelting and refining (by one establishment) was the most important industry in 1905; lumber, timber and planing mill products, valued at $3,407,951, were produced in that year, and flour and grist mill products, valued at $2,293,587. Other important manufactures were furniture, ships and boats, railway cars (the Chicago, Milwaukee & Puget Sound and the Northern Pacific systems having shops here), engines, machinery, shoes, water pipes, preserves and beer. In 1905 the total value of the factory products was $12,501,816, an increase of 121.4% since 1900. The assessed property valuation of the city in 1909 was $54,226,261, being about 42% of the actual valuation.

The site of Tacoma was visited by Captain George Vancouver in 1792; Commencement Bay was surveyed for the United States government by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes in 1841, and the present city was founded by General Morton Matthew McCarver in 1868 and was at first called Commencement City. That name was soon changed to Tacoma, said to be a corruption of Ta-ho-ma or Ta-ho-bet, Indian terms meaning “greatest white peak,” the name of the peak (14,526 ft.), also called Mt. Rainier, about 50 m. S.E. of the city. General McCarver's original plat included what is now the first ward of the city, and is called the Old Town. In 1873 the Northern Pacific railway (completed in 1887) established its terminal on Commencement Bay, and named it New Tacoma. A town government was formed in 1874, the place became the county-seat in 1880, and in 1883 the two “towns” were consolidated and incorporated as a city under the name Tacoma. In 1909 a new city charter was adopted under which the city government is vested in five commissioners (one of whom acts as mayor), each in charge of a city department.