Library and Archives

Maritime Research Library

The Library contains 4,500 volumes on maritime subjects and over 100 different maritime periodicals. The Library has many volumes on the American, British and German Navies, whaling, northwest explorers, seamen’s narratives, log books, various steamship lines, ship building, sea shanties, knot tying, model making, Lloyds’ Directories on ships, Merchant Vessels of the U.S., and many sea adventure stories.

The core holdings of our archives relate to the development of maritime life and commerce in Puget Sound between 1850 and 1970 – an era that shaped the lives, cities and industries of the Pacific Northwest. Some of holdings include materials documenting the Seattle-Alaska shipping trade during and after the Gold Rush of 1897; steamboat operations on Alaskan rivers; the Alaskan fishing industry whose vessels were largely Puget Sound-built, owned and operated; twentieth century naval history in and beyond Puget Sound; and information on other significant port cities in Alaska, Oregon and California. Documents include thousands of press clippings in re maritime events and personalities; legal, financial and operating records of various commercial tug, ferry, and freight companies operating on Puget Sound and the Alaska and Far East trades; detailed records (including photographs and physical descriptions) of ships’ movements in and out of regional ports (Seattle, Port Townsend, Everett) during the first half of the twentieth century; the growth of major Puget Sound shipbuilding firms such as Moran Brothers, Todd Shipyards, and a large collection of ships’ plans created by Puget Sound marine architects.

The late Lloyd Stadum gave the Society his unique accumulation of advertising and operational materials obtained from international ferryboat companies plying sea lanes in the Pacific. This collection include pamphlets, broadsides and schedules together with a multitude of ship’s deck and hull plans.

In 1980 the Society acquired the extensive collection of longtime Seattle waterfront photographer Joe Williamson, which forms the basis of our photograph collection. It includes thousands of images of sailing, steam and motor vessels of all sorts, both government and privately owned that entered/departed or operated on Puget Sound during the early and middle decades of the twentieth century.

In addition, researchers should consult the MOHAI Library staff regarding important maritime holdings in the McCurdy and Seattle Waterfront collections.