Pacific Northwest | March 28, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineMarch 28, 2004seattletimes.com home
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CONTENTS
COVER STORY
PLANT LIFE
NORTHWEST PEOPLE
TASTE
NORTHWEST LIVING
NOW & THEN
PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT Spring Books 2004

A Picture Puzzle
Photo
COURTESY Of KINGSTON MUSEUM, KINGSTON ON THE THAMES
The Madison Street Cable Railway began sending cars to Madison Park on the west shore of Lake Washington in 1890 from its turntable off Western Avenue. Although the Madison railway was always a money-making line, it was closed in 1940. Both views look east on Madison Street and across Western Avenue.

 
 Photo
PAUL DORPAT
WHILE REVEALING, this early-1890s look east up Madison Street from the trolley line's terminal turntable is also a puzzle. A friend found this image in the Kingston Museum at Kingston on the Thames, England. It is attributed to Kingston's most famous son, Eadweard Muybridge. The photographer-inventor returned to his hometown in 1895 after more than 40 years of mostly taking photographs in the American West and performing some of the earliest experiments in motion pictures.

The puzzle is this: As far as I have been able to determine, none of Muybridge's biographers has ever put him in Seattle. He was on Puget Sound in 1871 taking photos for the U.S. Lighthouse service, but that is at least 20 years before this lantern slide was recorded.

The best chance for having Muybridge here to take this photo would be in the spring of 1893, when he left the West Coast for the last time. He was heading to Chicago to show his "animal locomotion" pictures in his own "Zoopraxographical Hall" at the World Columbia Exposition. But the Expo opened in May, which presents another problem because this scene includes a street broadside advertising an event for July 18. Perhaps the Englishman was late getting to Chicago.

Another curiosity of this image is that it is the only identified Seattle scene included with the Muybridge bequest of his life's work to his hometown museum. The caption "Washington, Seattle, Madison Street Terraces" does fit Muybridge. San Francisco was the photographer's West Coast home base, so the Madison Street cable line would have interested him, especially this part of it climbing to First Hill. Locals claimed this was the second-steepest incline in the trolley industry; the steepest of all was in San Francisco.

Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.

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