Aggressive Regionalism: Texts

6. Edmond S. Meany, "What It All Means"

Edmond S. Meany, “What It All Means,” Collier’s 43 (September 18, 1909): 14-15.

The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition is a combination of dynamite and the cactus dahlia, for it assuredly proclaims beauty’s conquest of the “wild and woolly West.” The grounds stretch between the shores of Lakes Union and Washington, with the tides of Puget Sound pulsing near. To the east rise the snow-crowned monarchs of the Cascade Range, and to the west may be seen the smaller but more jagged Olympic Mountains, like a great celestial saw cleaving the clouds. Everywhere on the distant shores and foot-hills are the primeval forests. Portions of these famed forests have been retained along the edges of the Exposition grounds. Here, then, are the dynamic forces of the West—mountains and forests, glaciers, lakes and tides—and in their midst nestles this Exposition, a dainty gem by day, a brilliant diadem by night.

It was by no means accidental, this combination of beauty, grandeur, and elemental force. The site was chosen after careful and prolonged deliberation. To the ground selected, which was covered with the original forest, were brought the ablest talents of the architects and the landscape artists. The Seattle men, constituting the Board of Trustees, aware that their own people would bear the cost, haggled not a moment, but engaged the highest talent for all tasks, declaring that while their Exposition would be relatively small, it must be perfect in beauty, with the keynote of “life, color, and motion.”

Beauty’s conquest of the West is epitomized in the Forestry Building. Thirteen hundred logs were brought from the forests to rear this structure. The columned temple speaks of the forest in every one of its beautiful and dignified lines, while at the base of the columns cluster vines, mosses, and flowers. Like the American bison, these forest giants are disappearing all to rapidly. It may be that the next generation of men will find it impossible to reproduce such a building. All around the shores of Puget Sound the forests are falling and cities are rising in their places. It is natural that such new and vigorous cities should be self-conscious. A score of years ago it was written of Seattle:

“For not in vain the furnace smokes and smolders

With throws of Titans under Ætna hurled,

And Atlas here must square again his shoulders

To bear anew the burden of a world.”

Yet with all the self-consciousness there has evolved in a single generation this ardent love of the beautiful, this profound appreciation of the sublime. With this aesthetic change in the far West has come another of more palpable and direct economic value. A dozen years ago, President Cleveland, just before the close of his second administration, created by proclamation a large number of forest reserves locating most of them on the Pacific Slope. In the State of Washington, out of a total of 45,000,000 acres of area, the new forest reserves comprised more than 8,000,000 acres. There arose a clamor of protest from such forceful types of men as prospectors, miners, timber cruisers, and loggers. Like all other changes in the broad and free West, the revolution in the case was swift and complete. Thoughtful men studied forest problems, approved the reserves, and petitioned for more. Cities saw protection for their sources of water, farmers looked into the future and beheld the supplies of water for ages of fruitful irrigation safely protected in those Government—controlled forests. The clamor of the logger and miner was silenced in the cheering approval from all sides.

From Exposition to University

These citizens of the West who had been expanding boundless energies in exploiting natural resources seized instantly the new theme of conservation of resources. Holders of large timber areas have begun to manage them on scientific lines, the storage of water and the use of water-power are receiving attention, and the last four years have witnessed a wonderful activity toward the construction of good roads. The Exposition has a Good Roads Building. In it was held the first American Congress of Road Builders, participated in by experts from all parts of the world.

One of the finest examples of this wholesome idea of conservation of energies and resources is found in the plan of the Exposition itself. For the first time in the history of such enterprises the trustees began deliberately to so build that every possible portion of the expended labor and money could be saved for permanent use. The site selected is a part of the large campus of the State University of Washington. The regents of that institution wisely joined in the employment of both landscape and structural architects. The result is that all the asphaltum roads of the Exposition, the flowers, shrubs, fountains, statuary, and a majority of the buildings will remain at the end of the Exposition as a splendid addition to the permanent equipment of the State’s chief institution of higher education.

But there is a much broader significance to this Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. While it will compel the nation to make a new appraisal of the character and worth of the far Northwest, it has an international significance, the proportions and potentiality of which will be realized over a decade hence much more pointedly than at present.

Over the spacious doorway of the log-cabin home of the Arctic Brotherhood at the Exposition is a coat-of-arms, in which are mingled the flags of Great Britain and the United States, and around them is the legend: “No boundary line here.” That same feeling of brotherhood has come down from the Arctic Circle to spread the spell of its genial and wholesome cheer over the friend and the stranger at the Exposition. The Canadian and the American are not only congenial to one another, but they are working in perfect harmony for the general advancement of Western America. They are creating a continental patriotism, there is nothing unnatural about this. The tide that throbs at the gate of Seattle, when it begins to ebb, must pass along the shore of British Columbia before reaching the Pacific. These next-door neighbors have for years visited and played with one another. Now the first opportunity to work together finds their brawny shoulders tugging valiantly at the same great wheels. Kipling may have had Vancouver Island in mind when he wrote “The Foreloper,” the last lines of which are:

“For he must blaze a nation’s ways with hatchet and with brand,

Till on his last won wilderness an empire’s bulwarks stand.”

Here is where the frontiers of two nations meet. The hatchet and the brand have blazed the ways through the wilderness of each, and hard on the heels of the pioneers have come the wheels and the whir of the twentieth century civilization. Neither nation has built a fortress to frown at the other. The best bulwarks anywhere and the only bulwarks here are the churches and schools, the newspapers and books, the railroads and the steamboats, the baseball teams and the rowing shells. On the shore of Puget Sound at Seattle, the State of Washington has reared its chief institution of learning—the University of Washington. At the present moment plans are well advanced for the creation of the University of British Columbia. As these two institutions grow and thrive side by side it is inevitable that a thousand ways will open for the manifestation and cultivation of international fraternalism. This is the spirit which the Exposition has emphasized. It is so robust in its essence that it is surely destined to endure.

Pacific Festivals of Peace

Rear—Admiral Ijichi, with the Japanese training squadron, was in the harbor of Seattle when President Taft touched the golden key to open the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition on June 1. At the same time there was present a fleet of American cruisers in command of Rear-Admiral Sebree. For two weeks these two admirals, with their officers and men, mingled freely in a series of joyful festivities. The dominant note throughout was the friendship between the two nations. Of course it might be said that those speeches on both sides were only small contributions to a glad occasion. Still there was a ring of sincerity in the words that fell from the lips of those weather-beaten seamen. Besides that, an interpretation of this phase of the Exposition calls for more than a consideration of felicities by these representatives of the two navies. The Pacific Northwest has manifested a continuous friendliness toward Japan. The Nippon Yusen Kaisha has its American port at Seattle. Japanese enterprises are numerous and prosperous there. When the plans of the Exposition were expanded by the addition of the word “Pacific” to its title, the Japanese at once appointed committees to help raise the necessary funds, a Japanese banker was placed on the Board of Trustees, a site was chosen on the grounds, and a fine exhibit from Japan was assured. With consummate politeness and deference, these people from the Land of the Rising Sun respond to every call made along the lines of appreciation of art, intellectual improvement or increase of international amity. More than

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before the people of the Northeast are learning the truth of the lines:

“The orient saw its Caesar

When Nippon faced the sea;

Columbia found a neighbor,

The East had found its key.”

It is worth while to reflect in this connection on the fact that in the very year, 1853, when Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry appeared in the Bay of Yeddo with his brusk but successful diplomacy, the northern part of old Oregon was set off and organized as Washington Territory. The region was a wilderness occupied by hordes of savages clad in the skins of wild beasts and using stone axes and knives. During the same years that Japan has made her wonderful progress, the wild Northwestern Territory has evolved into the prosperous State of Washington—the host of the visiting millions at the Exposition.

Our Front Terraces

There can be no doubt that this synchronous development has helped each of these two communities to understand and appreciate each other. In Japan the development has been an awakening, a rapid evolution.

From the standpoint of the aborigine in Washington, the development has been more than a revolution—it has been for them a conquest of devastation. In both cases, however, it has been a leaping forward. Japan, as key of the East, is unlocking the cells of the Orient’s hermit nations. The Pacific slopes are becoming the front terraces of America. In giving point to these transformations, the Exposition at Seattle is clarifying a recently cloudy atmosphere and is blazing the way to smoother paths for the mighty changes now at their dawn.

Seward’s Best Work

Alaska was the real inspiration of the Exposition. Alaska will reap its richest rewards. No matter how beclouded may have been the nation’s view of that Territory in the past, from this hour there will be no excuse for the continued use of the terms of ridicule employed to satiety when Seward made the purchase. Seward was asked on his deathbed what he considered the greatest achievement of his life, and he instantly replied: “The purchase of Alaska, though it will take another generation to appreciate that fact.” That other generation is now streaming through the beautiful grounds of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, and thousands of them are joining the chorus of praise for Seward’s wisdom and courage in facing a storm of abuse to acquire for the nation this wonderland of the North. Polar bears are there, icebergs are there, it is true: but who can measure the countless millions of wealth also in that once despised region? During the last dozen years the most hardened skeptics have been convinced that Alaska was a treasure house of virgin gold. These same skeptics who visit the Alaska Building are now making many more concessions. It seams quite clear that the Territory possesses great wealth in copper, iron, coal, marble, tin, and petroleum.

The Exposition is proving these and many other things for Alaska. It is now known that the Territory possesses vast forests. Most of the trees are spruce. Water-power is abundant. There is no good reason why this source of wealth should not be needed for the lumber markets, for even if the timber should prove inferior, as is sometimes claimed by lumbermen, the spruce and the adjacent water-powers mean an enormous supply of materials for the making of paper and pulp products. Any one at all familiar with that industry will appreciate what such supplies will mean to the United States within the next few years. Agriculture in Alaska has been the last to win its converts, and here again the Exposition is dispelling doubts. Tropical fruits do not grow in Alaska, but the Territory will yet come to our markets with a surplus of agricultural products. It is as demonstrable as algebra and geometry. The Alaska pioneers have proven the commercial value of their plow and harrow.

A New Norway

The products are here. The real surprise is that this should astonish so many well-informed people. Northwestern Europe and Northwestern America are strikingly similar. The Gulf Stream modifies one as the Japan Current does the other.

St. Petersburg, Stockholm, and Christiania are all near the sixtieth degree of north latitude, and so is Valdez, while Sitka, Juneau, and Skagway all lie south of it. This Exposition at Seattle will be worth all it has cost if it convinces the world that Alaska is a fit place to sustain as good and as progressive a people as the Scandinavians, who have supported themselves happily in that similarly endowed region of Europe for centuries. In speaking of “The Destiny of the Northwest,” Major Charles E. Woodruff, in a recent number of the Seattle “Post—Intelligencer,” said: “The coast of Alaska, indeed, is almost identical with northern Scotland and that part of Scandinavia which we now think was the birthplace of the big, brawny, brainy and blond race we call the Aryan—the type which by its very superiority, due to the long process of natural selection, has been able to conquer its way all over the world.”

A Resuscitated Race

Here is a suggestion that this Exposition of 1909 may be pointing its finger to the place where the finest of the Aryan stock may find its rejuvenation only to evolve a still more robust, vigorous, and brainy type.

The present is here with its definite charm and beauty, with its alertness and energy. The future beckons to those who are willing to dare and to achieve in fields relatively new but full of promise for the man or woman imbued with the spirit of the true pioneer.

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