The Terrible Nickname Tacoma Thankfully Avoided

It’s not very often that one looks at a map upside down. If you did though, you might notice that our lovely City of Destiny bears a remarkable resemblance to a foot. Downtown sits about where the heel would be, Ruston Way runs along its arch, and Point Defiance couldn’t be shaped more like a big toe if it had been intentionally carved that way. The landslides on its Southwestern edge even resemble a toenail. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself.

Still don’t see it? That’s fine. I never would’ve thought of it either until I came across a story about Tacoma from the March 1898 edition of The Overland Monthly. In it, the author extols the virtues of, “this lusty young northern city” talking at length about how it came to be the “City of Destiny”. He also mentions the city’s proximity to an endless amount of natural resources and how the city is known for the best bicycle paths in the country. “The city has an absolute assurance of commercial progress and stability.”, it goes on to say. And what’s more stable than a foot, right?

Taking a literal stance on Tacoma’s Footing: Commerce, Trade, and Manufacturing, the illustrator could easily have cemented an inglorious nickname in Tacoma’s history. Thankfully it was either not seen by too many people or otherwise disregarded in the following decades. Personally, I like Grit City better than “A Foot Shaped City.”

Special thanks to TPL and their amazing Northwest Room.

  1. Curious treasure trove of fascinating facts there in the library’s Northwest Room. Keep those stories coming!

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