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Connecting curious minds with uncommon, undeniably Northwest reads

Eccentric Seattle

Pillars and Pariahs Who Made the City Not Such a Boring Place After All

J. Kingston Pierce


This captivating, irreverent romp through the celebrated and scandalous past of the Emerald City and surrounding region recalls embezzlers, tycoons, exploding toilets, smiley faces, and more.


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In Eccentric Seattle, readers explore the Emerald City’s troubled, tragic, and bawdy past rather than the more familiar, rosy portrayals. A visitor in 1897, at the height of the raucous Klondike gold rush, called the Pacific Northwest’s most ambitious city “more wicked than Sodom.” Just over a decade later, President William Howard Taft–speaking with greater generosity, or perhaps less skepticism–declared the town to be “one of the most magnificent combinations of modern city and medieval forest … that has ever delighted the eye of men in this or any other country.”
The truth, as J. Kingston Pierce shows in this irreverent account of Seattle’s past, has always been somewhere in the middle. It was there, after all, where burghers once plotted to import “pure young ladies” from the East to marry local loggers…where big-dreaming bankers embezzled funds to raise a hotel in their own honor…where a bogus religious prophet was “shot down like a dog,” while the press cheered…where a canny woman’s political coup helped land her the mayor’s post…where irate shipyard workers brought about America’s first general strike…and where the Happy Face, that ubiquitous “symbol of abject naïvete,” was born. Whether about famous or ordinary citizens, Pierce’s selection of colorful anecdotes provides captivating reading.

Illustrations / photographs / bibliography / 320 pages (2003)


Author J. Kingston Pierce hosted an Emmy-nominated Seattle Channel program based on Eccentric Seattle. Episodes are still available here.

“[Eccentric Seattle] has solid research and academic credentials, but you won’t care. You’ll be glued to the page.”—Idaho Statesman Journal

“A longtime Seattle writer compiles an engaging compendium of characters and occurrences from Seattle history that demonstrates this place on Elliott Bay has a long tradition of crankiness and quirkiness, perhaps too little celebrated in the rush to seem ‘big city normal.’”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“With its highly accessible writing, attractive type treatments, and historical photographs sprinkled throughout, Eccentric Seattle is clearly aimed at a general readership—and many people could enjoy this book. Longtime Seattleites may know some of the stories, but likely not all.”—Northwest Science and Technology

Additional information

Weight 1.10 oz
Dimensions 9 x 6 in