Great White Fleet Visits Seattle in 1908: A 12-year-old's Account

  • By Helen Muhl
  • Posted 6/14/2013
  • Essay 10413
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In this letter to her grandmother, 12-year-old Helen Muhl (later Reichert, 1895-1988) describes her view of the festivities surrounding the May 1908 visit of the Great White Fleet to Seattle. The fleet arrived in Seattle on Saturday, May 23, 1908, as part of a 14-month around-the-world cruise by the 16 battleships (painted white) and 14,000 sailors of the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Fleet, promoted by President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) as an exhibition of U.S. fighting abilities. Helen Marie Muhl was born in Seattle in the same house on 27th Avenue S. where she was living when she wrote this letter to her grandmother, Gesche Muhl, in Iowa, on Tuesday, May 27, 1908 -- the day that the fleet departed for Tacoma. The letter was submitted to by Helen Muhl Reichert's granddaughter, Kathryn Nass Ciskowski of Eastsound, Washington.

The Letter  

414 27 Ave. So. Seattle, Wn.,
May 27, 1908

Mrs. G. Muhl,
Davenport, Ia

Dear Grandma:

I first of all want to tell you of the fleet. It came in Saturday afternoon. Mamma and papa and Mrs. Stewart, Edna and myself went down to the court house to see them come in. We had a fine view. We walked down, the [street]cars were just packed. We couldn't get a seat or standing room on them. There were 13 boats that came in the harbor. In the evening they had fireworks. We went up to a ladies house and saw them from there. Just mama and Alma and myself, papa had to go to work again. Monday was the day the children could go on the boats. Aunt Lillie had a ticket for us, but it was too late when she called us up so we couldn't go.

Mama, Papa, Alma, and myself went downtown Monday evening. The streets were so crowded. They had fireworks. The city has so many pretty decorations. Tuesday morning was the day of the parade. We went downtown. They had ropes all along the street and all the cars stopped. We were in front of the Alaska building and could see fine. There [are] 800 sailors on one boat. Well, how are you? We are all well. I must stop now.

Yours truly,

Helen Muhl

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