Seattle's Potlatch Parade of 1912 drew participants from the Loyal Order of Moose to the Waitresses Union and the Odd Fellows.

Share story

Perhaps from sheer enthusiasm, J.J. Underwood, a Seattle Times reporter, proclaimed that the Thursday afternoon Potlatch Parade for July 18, 1912, was “the biggest and most spectacular affair of its kind ever staged west of the Mississippi River.” The parade included “every fraternal and secret organization known to modern man — it seemed so at least.”

The article included a list of the procession’s participants, part of the city’s second annual Golden Potlatch Days — a kind of Seafair with businessmen dressed as Native Americans rather than pirates. A review of the parade participants pressed tight to either end of this Moose float lists the Montana Elks Band, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Tacoma Band, Loyal Order of Moose, Centralia Band, Hoo-Hoos, Postmen’s Association, Waitresses Union, Juvenile Templars, Odd Fellows, the Kent Band and so on.

The Loyal Order of Moose was founded in the Midwest in the 1880s, but stumbled through the 1890s until revived nationwide in these Potlatch years by turning the lodge’s attention to the well-being of its members with benefits related to health, retirement and death. The “P, A, P” cutout letters on the Moose float stand for “Purity, Aid & Progress.” In 1912 a local lawyer, John Dillon, was the Seattle lodge’s leader. Officially he was called the dictator. Perhaps that is Dillon dictating to the two white horses pulling the one whole moose and six moose heads.

Horses, although then still commonplace on downtown streets, by 1912 were beginning to be pushed to pasture by motorcars. For instance, the Potlatch parade featured “a big touring car” driven alternately by three Oregon women.

“Washington Then and Now,” by Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard, can be purchased ($45) through Tartu Publications, P.O. Box 85208, Seattle, WA 98145.