Curt Colbert, Thomas P. Hopp, Bharti Kirchner, Sephan Magcosta, Robert Lopresti, Kathleen Alcalá,Simon Wood, Patricia Harrington,Paul S. Piper,R. Barri Flowers, Brian Thornton, Skye Moody, Lou Kemp, G. M. Ford

Seattle Noir

The Akashic Noir Series, 2009



Early Seattle was a hardscrabble seaport filled with merchant sailors, longshoremen, lumberjacks, rowdy saloons, and a rough-and-tumble police force not immune to corruption and graft.

Among the more notorious crimes in the city’s early history was the case of Seattle Mayor Corliss P. Stone. A businessman and former member of the city council, Mayor Stone’s term was cut short in 1873 when he got caught embezzling $15,000 from his firm, Stone & Burnett. He promptly fled to San Francisco with another man’s wife.

In 1909, members of the Chamber of Commerce decided that a totem pole would be the perfect finishing touch to the downtown business core known as Pioneer Square. They saw nothing wrong with taking a steamer up the coast to Fort Ton-gass, Alaska, and stealing one from a Tlingit Indian village. Apparently, neither did the citizenry of Seattle, who gathered in great numbers for the totem pole’s unveiling, cheering and celebrating not only the grand new symbol, but also the initiative taken in securing it for the city.

Prostitution flourished in early Seattle, the first brothel opening in 1861. By the time of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897, it was a thriving trade. The city leaders felt they should be getting a cut of the action. But how could this be done? Taxation and license fees came to mind, but what would they call this new source of revenue? They couldn’t very well call it a whore tax or prostitute levy. Then somebody came up with a brilliant plan: henceforth, the city would officially designate all prostitutes as “seamstresses” and license and tax them as such. (Outsiders would have been amazed to find that Seattle had more “seamstresses” per capita than any other city in the nation.)

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