Donald Schmechel Oral History Collection
Watch oral histories with prominent figures in the Pacific Northwest including artists Jacob Lawrence and Kenneth Callahan; Governors Albert Rosellini and Dixy Lee Ray and Reverends David Colwell and Samuel McKinney.
Jeanette Williams Interview, May 1988
Jeanette Williams (1914-2008) was a Seattle native who spent 20 years serving on the Seattle City Council. Williams attended Mercer Grade School and Queen Anne High School. She was a skilled violinist and attended Cornish School of Music, the University of Washington and the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. Before embarking on her political career, Williams played for the Chicago Philharmonic and formed a quartet that went by the name Swinging Strings. In 1962, Williams became the first woman to chair the King County Democrats. In 1969, she won a seat on the Seattle City Council, championing the creation of Magnuson Park and programming for senior citizens. During her tenure on the council, Williams introduced legislation to protect gay, lesbian and transgender citizens from discrimination in employment and housing. She was also instrumental in obtaining funding for construction of the West Seattle bridge helped the city to acquire Kubota Garden as a park. She remained on the council until 1989.
Date: 1988-05View this item
Eulalie Merrill Wagner Interview, July 14, 1986
Eulalie Merrill Wagner (1904-1991) was a philanthropist well known for the gardens of her 10 acre Tacoma estate, Lakewold. She was born in Seattle and attended St. Nicholas School and the Masters School, a preparatory school in Dobbs Ferry, NY. She married George Corydon Wagner (1895-1979) in the 1920s. They moved to Lakewold in 1938. Both Wagner and her husband had family ties to the local lumber industries; through her husband’s side with the St. Paul & Tacoma Lumber Company and through her side with the Merrill & Ring Lumber Company. She was an avid golfer and served as president of many organizations such as the Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma Garden Club and Tacoma Junior League. She also supported the University of Washington Arboretum, helped to develop the native plant garden at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma and created the Wagner Endowment for Nursing Education at Tacoma General Hospital.
Date: 1986-07-14View this item
Bernice Stern Interview, August 18, 1987
Bernice Stern (1916-2007) was a Seattle native, the first woman to be elected to the King County Council and a community leader involved in many fields. Stern attended Broadway High School and the University of Washington. Following her marriage to Edward Stern in 1935, she became involved with the Council of Jewish Women at local and national levels. She participated in the Seattle Open Housing Campaign in 1959 and advocated heavily for women’s rights issues throughout her career. She was elected to the King County Council in 1970 and served until 1979. In the interview she discusses her life and involvement with the Council of Jewish Women, League of Women Voters, and Planned Parenthood, as well as work with blind children, aid to European Jews after World War II, and the civil rights movement of the 1960's.
Date: 1987-08-18View this item
Jesse Epstein Interview, January 22, 1988
Jesse Epstein (1910-1989) was a lawyer and the first director of the Seattle Housing Authority. Epstein was born in Russia and his family moved to Great Falls, Montana in 1913. Epstein attended the University of Washington where he graduated with a degree in political science in 1932 and a law degree in 1935. He became the director of the Seattle Housing Authority in 1939 and held that role throughout World War II until 1945. During his tenure as director he supervised the development of Yesler Terrace which was the first housing project in Seattle. Yesler Terrace also notable for the fact that it was not segregated according to race (in contrast to many other housing options in the country). In 1945 Epstein became the Regional Director for the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and became the West Coast Director the following year. In 1948 he left his position at FHA and refocused on his legal career. Epstein was heavily involved in multiple community organizations including Neighborhood House, the Mountaineers and the Washington Wilderness Association.
Date: 1988-01-22View this item
Karl William Edmark Interview, January 7, 1986
Dr. Karl William Edmark (1924-1994) was a cardiovascular surgeon responsible for the invention of the heart defibrillator.
Date: 1986-01-07View this item
Eleanor Reed Interview, August 24, 1987
Eleanor Henry Reed (1911-1996) was an active member of Seattle’s charitable community. Reed was on the board of the Children’s Hospital for 20 years and also a member of the Sunset Club and the Junior League. She married William G. Reed in 1935 and the couple had 3 children together. Reed served as president of the Simpson Logging Company from 1943 to 1971. Her father, Paul Henry, was the founder of Henry Gallery at the University of Washington.
Date: 1987-08-24View this item
John Ellis Interview, March 3, 1987
John Ellis (1928-) is a native Seattleite who was the head of Puget Sound Power and Light. Ellis attended John Muir Elementary School, Franklin High School and the University of Washington. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1950 and his law degree in 1953. Ellis became the vice president of Puget Power in 1970 and was promoted to the position of president in 1976. He retired from the company in 1992. Following his retirement he was heavily involved in Seattle’s baseball scene, serving as chairman and CEO of the Seattle Mariners and leading a campaign to fund a new baseball stadium.
Date: 1987-03-03View this item
Fred Bassetti Interview, January 24, 1987
Fred Bassetti (1917-2013) was a Seattle native and part of the “Northwest School” of architects. He attended Garfield High School and received his bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Washington in 1942. During the war, he worked for the Federal Public Housing Authority. In 1946, he graduated from Harvard with his masters degree in architecture. Upon his return to Seattle, he worked for Naramore Bain Brady Johanson from 1946 to 1947 before creating his own architectural firm. Bassetti was responsible for the design of projects such as the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building, the Seattle Municipal Tower and Lakeside School among others.
Date: 1987-01-24; 1987?View this item
Henry Kotkins Interview, July 16, 1987
Henry Kotkins was a native Seattlite, a Port of Seattle Commissioner and the founder of Skyway Luggage. Kotkins attended Garfield High School and the University of Washington. Kotkin’s father started the Seattle Suitcase, Trunk and Bag Manufacturing Company in 1910. Kotkins took over the business after his father’s death in 1936, when the Great Depression was threatening to shut it down. He turned the business around and changed the name to the Skyway Luggage Company, introducing innovations like wheeled suitcases in a variety of colors beyond black and brown. Kotkins served on the 1962 World’s Fair Committee and was a Port of Seattle Commissioner during the 1970s and 1980s. Kotkins was also a member of the Rotary Club of Seattle, the Corinthian and the Seattle Yacht Club.
Date: 1987-07-16View this item
Letter from Edward S. Curtis to Harriet Leitch, May 11, 1950
Letter from Edward Curtis to Harriet Leitch in which he further discusses the Pan-American Scientific Research Association expedition to the Amazon. Curtis describes the route the expedition would take up the Amazon River to the town of Manaus where they would establish their headquarters for the duration of the trip. Curtis notes that the expedition is now unlikely to move forward due to friction in the group directed towards the leader, Fred J. Matzler. He writes "No words can express my disappointment in the collapse of the Pan American Expedition. During all my active life time I have wanted to see the Amazon and the Andes Mountains."
Date: 1950-05-11View this item