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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
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William Lightfoot Visscher, Poet of Chicago,
Fairhaven and Tacoma, and his Pony
Express and Buffalo Bill books, Part One

By Noel V. Bourasaw, humble ink-stained wretch, Skagit River Journal, ©2006
(Visscher mug)
William Lightfoot Visscher
      The stories about frontier editors who loved the bottle abound, so much so that they have become cliché. Some soared and then flamed out before making the big time; Charley Gant comes to mind. William Lightfoot Visscher was different. He certainly acquainted himself with liquor and often, but unlike Gant, Seneca G. Ketchum and other regional editors who flamed out, Visscher was a celebrity before he appeared in the Northwest and his fame only increased while here for four years and rose even more after he returned to the Midwest.
      Visscher cut a wide swath in both Fairhaven and Tacoma during the 1880s before gaining national attention in Chicago for the next three decades. Sometime on his way west, Visscher adopted the honorific title of Colonel, even though his Civil War military experience was as a hospital steward and a non-commissioned officer (and maybe a lieutenant) on a general's staff. But then again, we sometimes conclude that any veteran from Kentucky was called Colonel. He enlisted in the 24th Kentucky Infantry Regiment from Lexington, Kentucky, where he probably gathered the material for his first books, Black Mammy, a Song of the South, In Three Cantos and My Village Home. He published them in 1885 and they were among the first books printed in Wyoming, certainly the first poetry books printed there.
      In 1889 he headed to the Northwest and apparently arrived on a boozy cloud, according to this HistoryNet review of one of his most famous books:

      The first chronicler of the Pony Express was Colonel William Lightfoot Visscher, a peripatetic newspaperman (but not a colonel) who drifted across the American West in the late 19th century. He is, on reflection, a perfect chronicler for such a tale. He never let the facts get in the way of anything he wrote. Visscher's book, A Thrilling and Truthful History of the Pony Express, was published in 1908, nearly half a century after the Pony Express went out of business. Anyone wondering how the story of the Pony Express became muddled need only consider that it took half a century to write a book about the subject, and its author was a dubious chronicler. Much of Visscher's research appears to have been conducted at the bar of the Chicago Press Club, his legal address for many years. A terrible liar, a drunkard, a bad poet and a rascal, Visscher bore an amazing resemblance to comedian W.C. Fields. The colonel was a delightful if completely unreliable historian. We have no idea where he got most of his information, although he appears to have cribbed a fair bit of it from the few early attempts to set down some facts about the Central Overland. Historians of the Pony, such as there have been, have always ignored this jolly old lush, who drank two quarts of gin a day for much of his life but lived to be 82.
      In fairness to Visscher, however, the above is just one opinion, that of Christopher Corbett, who researched the Pony Express extensively and wrote his book, Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express (Random House 2004), a century after Visscher wrote the first nationally recognized book on the same subject. Nowadays, Visscher is merely a footnote in Pony Express research, and often dismissed by serious historians. The Colonel's peers, especially his fellow humorists, were more tolerant and certainly more respectful, even if they sometimes wrote about him with tongue in cheek. Four of the humorists, including Visscher, entertained readers and theater-goers for 40 years. For instance, Opie Percival Read (1852-1939), Visscher's close friend since their days in Chicago in the mid-1880s and author of Arkansas Traveler and A Kentucky Colonel, described him as "truly a poet. . . . Read recalled an instance in a Chicago store when Visscher, concluding that some young women were giggling about his nose, rebuked them in this fashion: "I've owned better people than you are — owned them, sold them and spent the money for liquor, by God." Visscher looked like W.C. Fields, , and he often acted like him.
      Edgar W. "Bill" Nye, who launched the Boomerang newspaper in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1881 and later became nationally famous while writing for Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, said of his friend from earlier frontier days: "the genial, kindly hearted, whole-souled man, orator, poet, editor, the friend of humanity, Colonel Will Lightfoot Visscher, would not, intentionally, make any misstatement, which he thought would ever be ferreted out." In addition, his friend and fellow humorist Eugene Field — most famous for his children's classic poem, "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod,"(Chicago 1889), wrote that the multitalented Visscher could "wing a diatribe" as well as "pen a lyric."

The genealogy of Visscher's old and famous Dutch family
(Coat of arms)
"The Visscher Arms." Lewis O. Saum shares this description: "A coat of arms appears on the title page of Fetch over the Canoe and on Visscher's stationery of later years. On the branch of a shattered tree is a possum hanging by its tail. Directly below is the Latin: Pendeo Spei. Beneath this legend are the words, "Possum Pendant." What seems at first glance an effort at humorous contrivance incorporates such notions as waiting and hoping. It seems not susceptible to literal translation. Original courtesy of the Tom J. Nicholl collection, Washington State Historial Society.
      William was born to an old Dutch family that descended from three brothers who emigrated from Holland to New Amsterdam in the U.S. in the late 17th century. As he wrote in an 1890 Fairhaven Illustrated magazine profile (hereafter the 1890 autobiography), his most famous ancestor was the sculptor, Peter Visscher. He may have also descended from several prominent Dutch authors. Roemer Pieterszoon Visscher owned a shipping company and is considered one of the progenitors of the period called the Dutch Renaissance. His daughter Anna Roemers Visscher was an expert diamond-point glass engraver, and daughter Tesselschade Visscher was a poet. Other possible Dutch ancestors included Nicolaes J. Visscher, the Dutch cartographer who is most famous for his maps of New Netherland (New York), New England and the Atlantic Seaboard; Claes Jansz Visscher, the Elder, a noted 17th-century Dutch painter and his son, Claes Jansz Visscher Jr., another cartographer. We hope that a family member will have a family tree to share because we have compiled William's genealogy solely from census reports and a handful of public records. We say "may" because another Visscher family member told us that Visscher is as common a name as Fisher in Holland. "Vissch," as his friends called him, also said that his father descended from the House of Orange, the ruling family of Holland after the Dutch declared independence from Spain, and that his mother came from a family of Huguenots, the French Protestant refugees. About a third of U.S. presidents descended from the Huguenots who fled to America, as did a pesky colonist named Paul Revere.
      William's grandfather, Frederick Visscher Sr., was a patriot of the Revolutionary War and truly deserved the title of colonel. When General George Washington visited Schenectady, New York, in summer 1782 to raise troops, he personally called for Frederick, who was the colonel of the Tryon County Militia. Visscher survived a tomahawk-scalping two years earlier when Indians in league with the British broke into his home and killed his brother and beat his wife. Frederick was the descendant of Harmen Visscher, one of the original Dutch brothers. His son, Frederick Jr., was William's father, who moved to Bath County, Kentucky, sometime by 1840 and became a prominent architect in the city of Owingsville, building the courthouse there. He married Bettie Lightfoot and William may have been the eldest child, born sometime in 1842.
      William grew up in Danville, Kentucky, sometimes called the "Athens of the West," and was educated at the Bath seminary. We lost track of him from then until his enlistment in the Union Army in the summer of 1861, except for a brief note that he acted in the theater in New Orleans. He served until shortly after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865. After he mustered out, he returned to the University of Louisville, where he graduated with a law degree in the class of 1867. In Chicago in 1908, Visscher entertained a University of Wisconsin alumni meeting with anecdotes about his very brief career in law. He told them that he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws, but "in spite of the fact that I received a law degree, I have never been in court except to plead guilty."

Vissch's journalism career began in Louisville
      His first job after graduation was the amanuensis and private secretary of George D. Prentice, who was the editor of the Louisville Journal for 40 years and a biographer of Henry Clay. Prentice was the first acclaimed practitioner of "paragraphing," now a long-lost journalistic art for the last half century. Paragraphers were in the editorial department of every major daily newspaper back then, assigned to write a phrase of witty observation about philosophy, politics or the human condition that made a point on its own and was not dependent on any other explanation. After a short period, Visscher was promoted to reporter. Prentice was nearing the end of his career — he would die two years later, and the Journal merged with the Courier to become the original incarnation of today's Louisville Courier-Journal. In his own autobiography, entitled Tales of Many Cities in serial columns of the Tacoma Globe (et al began April 16, 1889, (hereafter the 1889 Autobiography) Visscher made clear that he admired and owed a lot to Prentice, but he also passed along a hilarious review of Prentice's main vice, something that other profilers have missed, his weakness for playing sugar daddy to young female poets, some of whom Visscher identified by name as having made a stab at the genre:
. . . then it would come out with a beautiful compliment to the ostensible author, and the Journal would have another pet poet and Mr. Prentice another pupil in versification. Frequently this would result in these bread and butter poetesses imagining they were great, and often they would acquire fame by bringing to the warm hearted and gentle old man their hideous skeletons of poetry which he would enlive and round up and beautify. When he died many a muse fell sick and the poetesses who had lived a lie brought no more music from their lyres.
(Lecture playbill)
Play bill for Visscher's lecture tour, from the Cameron, Missouri, Observer, Ca. 1875
Visscher remained as a paragrapher for the new editor, Henry Watterson, but he soon had "ants in his pants," as they said back then. His 20 years of peripatetic wandering all over the country began. He briefly went out on his own, publishing a daily newspaper on a steamer that traveled between Louisville and New Orleans. When that didn't stay afloat, he briefly became a paragrapher with the Indianapolis Journal. At age 28, William was enumerated in the 1870 Federal Census in the Third Ward of Kansas City. He was unmarried and listed as a lawyer, but he was then actually a writer and then city editor with the Kansas City Journal after a brief stay in St. Louis. In Chapter Six of his 1889 Autobiography, he painted this marvelous word-picture of Kansas City in its first years as an actual city under that name:
      It was about daylight one morning in June that I arrive in Kansas City. The great bridge over the Missouri had just been completed and dedicated, and the town was growing a rapidly as a new mining camp. Only a few months before, the place had been known as Westport Landing, and consisted of a few houses under the bluffs, alongside of the river, but by this time it had climbed to the top of the hills, and was rapidly spreading over them. It had about 10,000 inhabitants then, and during the seventeen or eighteen months following, I saw it grow to a live and throbbing city of 35,000 souls, and during this time it was red-hot. Fights and murders were frequent and in the slang of the times, we generally had "a man for breakfast."
Westport was where four of the major frontier trails crossed at their beginning: California, Lewis & Clark, Oregon and Santa Fe. We find in his column that he had not originally planned on stopping at Kansas City but that he decided to stroll through the town for just a short time until the train departed again, presumably westwards. On his walk he bumped into an old friend, the son of Chancellor Pirtle, his law professor at Louisville:
. . . where I once captured a sheep skin, which now hangs on the wall over my desk, and unblushingly declares that I am a bachelor of laws, though I have never been inside of a court house, as an attorney, since the president of the university gave it to me, tied with blue ribbon, except once. I tried one case. The last and the evidence were all on the side of my client, but I wanted to make a speech and did. The judge on the bench rendered a decision in favor of the other side.
Within minutes, Colonel R.T. Van Horn ambled along on the street and struck up a conversation with the two old friends. He was the editor of the Journal of Commerce in town and about to take his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, so he hired Visscher on the spot to increase the Journal editorial staff to three. In that same column, Visscher also recalled that his few years in Kansas City marked the beginning of "Humor and Pathos," his humorist/lecture tour that he reenacted countless times over the next four decades. In our companion Skagit River Journal transcription of features by Bill Nye, you will read the hilarious story about how the Journal fired Visscher for inflicting fisticuffs on a cantankerous printer and his subsequent move on to the Kansas City Herald.
      About three years after arriving in Kansas City, Visscher moved 55 miles north, to St. Joseph, Missouri, and the Gazette newspaper there. There he published his first book (out of more than two dozen titles), "Vissch," A book of sketches, rhymes and other matters (St. Joseph, Mo., Saint Joseph Steam Printing Co. 1873), and his nickname was born. Two years later, Eugene Field arrived in St. Jo and soon became city editor of the Gazette. That was the first of many times that their paths would cross over the next 20 years. Visscher's 1890 autobiography indicates that the Gazette sent him to the nation's capitol as the Washington correspondent, covering Congress and Van Horn, in his first up-close taste of politics.

California beckoned
      Sometime after his position in St. Joseph, probably circa 1876, he then moved on to the Rocky Mountain News of Denver, where he would live at least twice in his career. He may also have stopped off in Chicago and have been introduced to the Chicago Press Club, which would become his home away from home two decades later. That transition from Midwest to the Rockies and then to California is all a bit of dots unconnected, but we did discover some intriguing dots. First of all, we know that he married. We discovered that in 1877 he published a song: Birdie Lu: song and chorus, credited both to Visscher and Joseph E Green; along with Mrs. E.R. Visscher, (California Sheet Music Project, 105 Kearny St., San Francisco). We know from later census records and her obituary that her name was actually Emma Blanche, no maiden name given, and that she was 26 if they married in 1876, when he was 34. She was born in Cook County, Illinois, and we have no information about whether they married in Illinois or California (some sources have spelled her name as Ella). Although she was sometimes referred to as an artist, her obituary described her as a palm reader. Did she read Visscher's palm during his theatrical tour?
      One researcher found evidence that Visscher wrote for the San Francisco Daily Mail newspaper in the late 1870s and in his 1980 biography of Visscher (Pacific Northwest Quarterly, January 1980), Lewis O. Saum discovered that Visscher also worked briefly at an unnamed newspaper in Oakland. At a rare-books store, we also discovered a one-time publication, "Visscher's Advance Courier, Vol. 1, No. 1. Butz, G.A., Editor (Visalia, Tulare County, Cal.). 4 page newspaper, Published semi-occasionally, or when circumstances require it. Not dated, probably late 1870s. Published to entertain and to advertise Will L. Visscher's lectures and poems. Includes extracts from letters and articles praising Vissch's humorous lectures." Vissch was well on his way to becoming a performer, a path that he would tread for the rest of his life. When he first edited the Tacoma Morning Globe in 1889, he delighted his readers with tales of how he joined a theater troupe in the late 1870s and early '80s. Saum read those columns and noted Visscher's "feckless forays into the small towns between San Francisco and Los Angeles make delightful reading yet today. At the beginning of the 1880s he went on the road with a troupe organized in San Francisco by his friend Captain Jack Crawford, one of Buffalo Bill's emulators and competitors, and the high point of that venture came with boycotted efforts to do an anti-Mormon play in Salt Lake City." We suspect that meeting Crawford, billed as "Captain Jack, the Poet Scout," was also Visscher's introduction to William Cody's legend of Buffalo Bill, on the way to profiling Cody in a book 30 years later. Visscher and Crawford stayed friends and collaborated on a book in 1908, Souvenir of song and story (New York: Burr Printing House, ca. 1898).
      sometime between 1881 and1884, Visscher and his new bride and their baby, Viva Glen, moved to Denver, where his friend Eugene Field was managing editor of the Denver Tribune, a weekly newspaper at the time and then a daily. This period was probably the most playful time of Visscher's life and Field was a playmate and jester. A Denver history website profiled Field:

      He was a young, razor-sharp, muckraking newspaperman from St. Louis who, in the two tumultuous years he spent in Denver, turned the city upside down with his habit of skewering self-important gold and silver bullion kings and politicians, making his "Nonpareil" column a daily must-read. When he wasn't torturing the rich and powerful with barbed truth-telling, he was cracking up the Tribune's readership with his joke-filled columns, sometimes in verse, sometimes in prose.
In his biography of Field, Eugene Field, A Study In Heredity And Contradictions (New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1901), Slason Thompson reviewed the hijinks of the merry band:
      It was in Denver that Eugene Field entered upon and completed the final stage of what may be called the hobble-de-hoy [awkward, gawky young fellow] period in his life and literary career. He went to the capital of Colorado the most indefatigable merry-maker that ever turned night into day, a past-master in the art of mimicry, the most inveterate practical joker that ever violated the proprieties of friendship, time, and occasion to raise a laugh or puncture a fraud. As his friend of those days, E.D. Cowen, has written, "as a farceur and entertainer no professional could surpass him." Field was tempted to go to Denver by the offer of the managing editorship of the Tribune, which was owned and controlled by the railroad and political coalition then dominant in Colorado. It was run on a scale of extravagance out of all proportion to its legitimate revenue, its newspaper functions being altogether subordinate to services as a railroad ally and political organ.
(Downtown Tacoma)
Downtown Tacoma in the early 1890s. Original courtesy of the Waite Collection, Photography Collection, University of Washington.
      One of the more hilarious practical jokes played out in 1882 when Oscar Wilde toured the U.S., with a stopover in Denver, and Field decided to skewer Wilde for his dandy ways and dress by impersonating the English poet when his train was delayed. Many years later, Denver historians moved Field's house to Washington Park, and a statue of Wynken in his wooden shoe now stands there. Field also contracted columns from their future friend, postmaster and ex-judge, Bill Nye, who was gaining attention for his whimsical writing in the Laramie Boomerang. We have not found any of Visscher's newspaper columns from that time in Denver, but we do know that he published another book there, Ways and wonders of the West (Denver Colo., 1884), a year after Field went on to Chicago to write his "Sharps & Flats" column for Chicago Daily News, which introduced him to his nationwide audience. By 1885 the young Visscher family had moved on to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he published the two books we noted in our introduction.
      In 1886, after leaving the Boomerang and brief stints in Denver and Cheyenne, Nye left Wyoming and began his own column that gained national attention. Joseph Pulitzer recruited Nye for the New York World and Nye proceeded to write for Pulitzer's revolutionary newspaper for more than a decade, almost to the end of his short life. One of his neighbors on Staten Island was Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park. Pulitzer expanded the women's section and sports pages and those innovations and others contributed to the World's rapid growth to 700,000 in circulation, the most-read paper of that time, in competition with William Randolph Hearst. While Nye earned $30,000 per year in the mid-1890s from his base at the World, Pulitzer launched the first color comics in a newspaper and then hit the big time when he sent a reporter named Elizabeth Cochrane, who wrote under the name Nellie Bly, around the world in 1889, to see if she could make the trip in less than 80 days. A year after Nye died in 1896 of a stroke, at age 45, Pulitzer went blind and soon had to give up editing altogether. As his friends Field and Nye luxuriated in Chicago and New York, Visscher briefly lived back in St. Joseph and then in Chicago and then moved his family to the far Northwest in 1888.

Visscher moves west, lands in Tacoma
      So far, we have not determined why Visscher moved to Oregon in the summer of 1888 to become an editorial writer for the Portland Oregonian. The Northwest was still a backwater in those pre-Klondike days, but Portland vied for the distinction as portal to the region. Perhaps he wanted to star in his own "big fish in a small pond" way, as he had in California a decade earlier.
      The 1888 St. Joseph, Missouri, city directory listed Visscher as an editorial writer, or paragrapher, for the St. Joseph Daily Gazette. During his brief stopover in Chicago in 1888, presumably at the Press Club, he met Opie Read, who had just moved to the city from Arkansas and would remain one of his closest friends for the rest of his life. Read would go on to publish 54 books and outlived all three of his humorist friends.
      The late Murray Morgan wrote that Visscher came to Tacoma and the Globe via the Oregonian. He was lured north by Harry Morgan, the Tacoma gambling and entertainment magnate turned publisher:

(Theater Comique)
Harry Morgan's Theater Comique, 1893. Original courtesy of the Photography Collection, University of Washington
      Harry Morgan drifted into Tacoma in 1884 from Maryland, or so he said, and quickly established himself as Boss Sport, the fellow in charge of the community's illicit entertainment activities. . . . In 1888 the Boss Sport opened a new joint, Morgan's Theater (later called the Comique), at 817 Pacific Avenue, where the Olympus Hotel now stands. The [competing Tacoma] Ledger implied that Sodom and Gomorrah would have rated PG to Morgan's X. They blamed the Morgan Theater for every Tacoma shortfall from stumps in the street to the murder of a young man on a somewhat distant downtown street. . . . In time the Ledger's carping annoyed Morgan sufficiently to cause him to bankroll the transformation of his theater program bill into a dally paper. It was called the Daily Globe and employed as its editor J. N. Frederickson, a desk man whose memory lingers in the Valhalla of journalism as perpetrator of the headline, over the story of a hanging, "Jerked to Jesus."
      Editorship failed to inspire Frederickson further, and Morgan lured, from the Oregonian, William Lightfoot Visscher, a Civil War cavalry colonel of impetuosity and pungent prose. Visscher was disenchanted with a community which relied on gravity to pull riches past it. He did not want to become a freshwater barnacle. He responded to Morgan's [blandishments] to come to Tacoma and say something nice about vice. Direct endorsement of sin Visscher avoided, at least as far as one can tell from surviving issues of the Globe. But sinners he tolerated as he did Masons, Democrats, Englishmen, and Socialists not opposed to hard liquor . . . . Visscher avoided such excesses of expression. He contented himself with giving good coverage of community affairs and parodying the Ledger's former anti-Chinese theme by running edits headed, "The Ledger must go."

      Visscher arrived in Tacoma on New Year's Day, 1889. Within weeks, he began lashing out at the Ledger, and he profiled himself in the Globe before the competition could. In February he also serialized his first novel, Carlisle of Colorado: A Thrilling Story of Chicago and the Far West; he would often serialize books in such manner in the future. Just two months later, he serialized his own autobiography, Tales of Many Cities, as we explained above. One of Visscher's buddies wrote an introduction to that series; Judge Nye underscored Visscher's importance and fame, with his tongue way, way inside his cheek and gave us a glimpse of how the friends treated each other's fame or delusions of grandeur:
      The work does not contain any statistics, whatever. Those who purchase it hoping to find a wealth of mental arithmetic or mirth-inspiring crop reports will be bitterly disappointed. . . . [I] tried to show him that he ought to weave in some statistics, but he thought he would not do so. He claimed that what the public seemed to demand, recently, was facts; cold, hard, water-proof facts. He did not feel like trifling with his readers by inserting flippant columns of figures. He said, moreover, that figures would not lie, and for that reason, they would be lonely and unhappy in this work.
      In lending my name to this work and to Mr. Visscher, in this endorsement, I do not wish to be made responsible for any errors of orthography which may occur upon its chaste pages. The author has, of course, his little peculiarities of spelling, which I regard more as a manifestation of genius than anything else. If he has seen fit to depart from the beaten paths of Websterian orthography, I look upon it as an evidence of that free, unfettered, lawless wabble of mind which should always characterize and stigmatize the great man.

Within just seven months of arriving, Visscher, the editor known best for his well-knownness, was welcomed by his peers at the third annual meeting of the Washington Press Association in August 1889, when they chose him as poet of the organization.
      Another writer, vastly more renowned than the four friend-humorists, visited Tacoma that summer of 1889 and did provide statistics. Thirty miles north, Seattle's old downtown burned to the ground on June 6, 1889, and Rudyard Kipling arrived in Tacoma from Portland on June 22. In his book, From Sea to Sea: Letters of Travel, vol. 2 (Garden City, N.Y, 1899), Kipling declared:

      Tacoma was literally staggering under a boom of the boomiest. I do not quite remember what her natural resources were supposed to be, though every second man shrieked a selection in my ear. They included coal and iron, carrots, potatoes, lumber, shipping, and a crop of thin newspapers all telling Portland that her days were numbered. California and I struck the place at twilight. The rude boarded pavements of the main streets rumbled under the heels of hundreds of furious men all actively engaged in hunting drinks and eligible corner-lots. They sought the drinks first. The street itself alternated five-story business blocks of the later and more abominable forms of architecture with board shanties. Overhead the drunken telegraph, telephone, electric light wires tangled on the tottering posts whose butts were half-whittled through by the knife of the loafer. Down the muddy, grimy, unmetaled thoroughfare ran a horse-car line — the metals three inches above road level. Beyond this street rose many hills, and the town was thrown like a broken set of dominoes over all. A steam tramway — it left the track the only time I used it — was nosing about the hills, but the most prominent features of the landscape were the foundations in brick and stone of a gigantic opera house and the blackened stumps of the pines. California sized up the town with one comprehensive glance. "Big boom," said he; and a few instants later: "About time to step off, I think," meaning thereby that the boom had risen to its limit, and it would be expedient not to meddle with it. We passed down ungraded streets that ended abruptly in a fifteen-foot drop and a nest of brambles; along pavements that beginning in pine-plank ended in the living tree; by hotels with Turkish mosque trinketry on their shameless tops, and the pine stumps at their very doors; by a female seminary, tall, gaunt and red, which a native of the town bade us marvel at, and we marveled; by houses built in imitation of the ones on Nob Hill, San Francisco, — after the Dutch fashion; by other houses, plenteously befouled with jig-saw work, and others flaring with the castlemented, battlemented bosh of the wooden Gothic school.
      After touring British Columbia, Kipling returned to Tacoma on June 30. On the next morning, he headed east on the Northern Pacific Railroad via the Stampede Pass Tunnel and passed through Pasco Junction and Helena on the way to Livingston, Montana. That route was altogether fitting because one of Tacoma's city fathers was responsible for the Stampede Tunnel. Nelson Bennett and his brother Sidney blasted the tunnel underneath the North Cascades Mountains in 1888 and collected a handsome bonus for completing it on schedule so that NP passengers no longer had to suffer through the tedious switchbacks over the summit. Bennett resided in Tacoma at the time Visscher arrived, but he spent much of his time 120 miles north in the similar booming town of Fairhaven, which would be Visscher's next home. In the article, The Background of Mark Twain's Vocabulary, by Charles J. Lovell (American Speech, Vol. 22, No. 2, Apr., 1947), we learned that the Globe during Visscher's era "has coined two new words that fill a sad want in the English vocabulary-'typoscribe,' one who operates a typewriter, and 'typoscript.' " The former term is obsolete but the latter has been altered into computerese. The original definition was: a typewritten copy, as of a manuscript. The typewriter was one of those marvelous inventions that inventors cranked out by the 1890s to speed up the lives of scribes and others and it was as celebrated as the personal computer was in the 1980s. Within a year of Visscher's arrival, the Globe had risen quickly to the lead in Tacoma, but William Farrand Prosser (A History of The Puget Sound Country, vol. 2) noted that Morgan soon sold it to Frank C. Ross and Judge Fremont Campbell. Ross, one of the owners of the Tacoma and Lake City Railroad, would become famous for raiding land on the Puyallup Indian Reservation and two years earlier, Campbell had prosecuted one of Morgan's bunco-steerers who hung around the railroad station to fleece naïve arrivals. Visscher, meanwhile, had befriended Nelson Bennett, if only briefly and Bennett made the newspaperman an offer he could not refuse. By the time that Bill Nye arrived in Tacoma in April 1890 for a speaking tour, Visscher had already headed north to Fairhaven and their paths did not cross.

(bullet) Continue to Part Two: Visscher in Fairhaven, Tacoma again, and then Chicago, and his books about Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express and collaboration with L. Frank Baum and others
(bullet) See the Visscher Introduction portal for links to our other features and a list of background sources.

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Please let us show you residential and commercial property in Sedro-Woolley and Skagit County 2204 Riverside Drive, Mount Vernon, Washington . . . 360 708-8935 . . . 360 708-1729
(bullet) Schooner Tavern/Cocktails at 621 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, across from Hammer Square: web page . . . History of bar and building
(bullet) Oliver Hammer Clothes Shop at 817 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 82 years.
(bullet) Joy's Sedro-Woolley Bakery-Cafe at 823 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 82 years.
(bullet) Check out Sedro-Woolley First section for links to all stories and reasons to shop here first
or make this your destination on your visit or vacation.
(bullet) DelNagro Masonry Brick, block, stone — See our work at the new Hammer Heritage Square
(bullet) Are you looking to buy or sell a historic property, business or residence?
We may be able to assist. Email us for details.
(bullet) Peace and quiet at the Alpine RV Park, just north of Marblemount on Hwy 20
Park your RV or pitch a tent by the Skagit River, just a short drive from Winthrop or Sedro-Woolley

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