SOMEONE LIKE Jimmy Ginn, featured in my Pacific NW magazine cover story today, is the result of searches using various terms in this paper’s archives. Sixty-two years ago, he landed on the front page for arriving to create the beatnik scene.

Seattle’s hip history, from Jackson Street jazz clubs to Sir Mix-A-Lot … and even Lake Union houseboats

To find Jimmy, I used various search terms: “Beats.” “Hepsters.” “Hipsters.” “Bohemians.” “Beatniks.”

Most times, you strike out as you scroll through the results.


Page A-1 of the July 2, 1959, Seattle Times. There’s Jimmy, posing Parisian-style with a scarf around his neck, a cigarette in his right hand. “Beatnik wars on mediocrity” is the headline.

Today’s story also has several references to HistoryLink, an online state treasure. I use it extensively.


It’s free to use and now has more than 7,900 articles about the people, places and events in our Northwest. Its historian writers have done a lot of the culling of the material out there, and it’s all itemized in detailed footnotes.

Something very important about HistoryLink for any journalist or researcher is that you can trust it. The writers contracted and paid to write the articles at $650 each have expertise in the subject they’re covering.

The nonprofit believes content creators shouldn’t work for free, and, says Marie McCaffrey, executive director, “Paid content produces much better work.”

The articles are fact-checked and don’t skew toward promoting an agenda, which is harder to find these days.

I’ve used the site when on a deadline news story and needed to rapidly background myself. It has yet to fail me.

HistoryLink was launched in 1999. It’s the result of the late Walt Crowley talking to his wife, McCaffrey, about what to do next. He was approaching 50. Crowley died in 2007 after a stroke, at age 60.


By then, Crowley had had a career spanning the underground newspaper The Helix, where he was a cartoonist, writer and editor; to working as a city planner and local television commentator; and with a deserved reputation as a public historian.

What next?

“I want to write the encyclopedia of King County history,” McCaffrey remembers her husband saying.

Out of that evolved HistoryLink, the first regional history in the country created expressly for the internet. That was in the early days of slow download times and no analytics to figure what was going on in the site.

Now, some 5,000 people come to HistoryLink every day.

The Seattle WTO protests in November 1999 dramatically increased its web traffic.

Crowley, with his expertise in Seattle protest movements, was called on by media around the world. Plus, HistoryLink’s offices overlooking Westlake Park had the only live camera consistently pointed at the center of the protests. Those were the early days of webcams that took quick snapshots, not streaming live action.

HistoryLink’s budget is around $600,000 a year, and it’s always a scramble for money from agencies and private donors. A history encyclopedia, says McCaffrey, isn’t “sexy.”

If this helps with its next grant application, great.