Dorothy Peterson Frick scrapbooks, circa 1909-1950  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Frick, Dorothy Peterson, 1897-1978
Dorothy Peterson Frick scrapbooks
circa 1909-1950 (inclusive)
2 boxes, ( )
Collection Number
2011.3.7 (accession)
Scrapbooks created by Dorothy Peterson Frick during her career at the Western Union Telegraph Company and a scrapbook on politician C.C. Dill
Museum of History & Industry, Sophie Frye Bass Library
Sophie Frye Bass Library
Museum of History & Industry
P.O. Box 80816
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-324-1126
Fax: 206-780-1533
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public by appointment.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Dorothy Peterson was born on November 20, 1897. She was first employed in 1918 by the Western Union Telegraph Company in Seattle as a Service Clerk, and later worked as a Service Supervisor. She was named Seattle’s “most popular business girl” in 1930, winning 303,000 votes in a contest sponsored by the Post-Intelligencer, the Paramount Theater and the Northern Pacific Railroad. She married Harold C. Frick and they resided at 1513 41st Ave. North in the Ballard area. Dorothy Peterson Frick retired from Western Union on December 3, 1950 after 32 years of service. She died in Seattle on November 27, 1978.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Three leather-bound scrapbooks contain photographs, newspaper clippings, business records and ephemera documenting the history of the Western Union Telegraph Company in Seattle, circa 1909-1950. Many of the informal snapshots depict employees at work and recreation, including outdoor company activities. Business records include phone lists, internal bulletins, newsletters, memos, letters, and telegrams. Newspaper clippings document company activities and the personal lives of Western Union employees and their families, such as weddings, births, retirements and awards. The collection includes items of a social nature, such as inspirational sayings and poems, artwork, and a collection of miscellaneous greeting cards and notes collected by Dorothy Peterson Frick. A series of hand-drawn, pencil caricatures of Western Union Delivery Department employees by artist Victor G. Vieg is of unique interest. A fourth scrapbook, disassembled, contains newspaper clippings and miscellaneous correspondence documenting the career and personal life of Democratic politician C.C. (Clarence Cleveland) Dill.

Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

Samuel Morse, the inventor of the Morse code, sent the first telegram from Washington D.C. to Baltimore in 1844. The Western Union Telegraph Company was established ten years later to exploit the cutting-edge technology of the telegraph, with the astonishing potential to send cross-country messages in less than a day. The company expanded rapidly by buying out smaller competitors, and in 1861 Western Union opened the first transcontinental telegraph line. The company enjoyed phenomenal success, and in 1876 its capitalization was $41 million. By 1900, Western Union operated a million miles of telegraph lines and two international undersea cables. The company continued to grow by making strategic acquisitions, and its monopoly power was complete by the 1940s.

The Western Union line reached Seattle, Washington on the afternoon of October 26, 1864, when the first telegram arrived at small office on the east side of First Avenue near Cherry Street. The Civil War had temporarily halted the American western expansion, and Seattle had only 500 permanent residents at the time. Daniel F. Leahy was in charge of the Seattle wire office, and he clicked off a reply message from the “Citizens of Seattle” to President Abraham Lincoln. It arrived in Washington five days later.

The telegraph wires extended north to Seattle from Olympia, and lines were strung on trees through deep forests. When rain caused the branches to sag, Leahy had difficulty receiving messages in Seattle. J.M. Lyon, a master at “reading” faint ticking, succeeded Leahy in 1865, and he soon earned a reputation for working grounded wires. The telegraph toll from Seattle to San Francisco was $3.50 plus a “war tax” for ten words. At that time, there was no regular ship service between the cities and letters went overland, taking 21 days each way. The Western Union main administration office in downtown Seattle was eventually established at 113 Cherry Street in the Alaska Building. By 1930, there were over 20 Western Union Seattle branch locations, including the Smith Tower, King Street Station and most of the major hotels and office buildings.

Western Union technical innovations included the first charge card for customers (1914), teletypewriters (1923), the singing telegram (1933), intercity fax (1935), and telex service (1958.) Western Union telegrams were first transmitted manually, and later through a more sophisticated store and forward message switching system. Telegrams reached their peak popularity in the 1920s and 1930s when it was cheaper to send a telegram than make a long-distance call. For more than 150 years, messages were hand delivered in signature yellow envelopes by a uniformed courier. The last Western Union telegram was sent in 2006.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

View selections from the collection in digital format by clicking on the camera icons in the inventory below.

Restrictions on Use

The Museum of History & Industry is the owner of the materials in the Sophie Frye Bass Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from MOHAI before any reproduction use. The museum does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

Dorothy Peterson Frick Scrapbooks, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 2011.3.7.1:  Image of Dorothy Frick Peterson and friend waving from train, 1930
 Image of Women working in Western Union Telegraph Company offices, Seattle, ca. 1945
74 pages 11.5 x 14 inches
Photographs, newspaper clippings, greeting cards, personal notes, telegrams and correspondence.
circa 1929-1948
2 2011.3.7.2: "Western Union Souvenir and Scrapbook"
72 pages 10 x 12 inches
Newspaper clippings, caricature pencil drawings of Western Union employees, telegrams, business correspondence and internal documents such as phone lists, memos and newsletters.
circa 1920-1939
2 2011.3.7.3:  "Western Union Snap and Scrapbook"
92 pages 10 x 12 inches
Photographs of Western Union officials and employees in work and recreational settings, newspaper clippings, telegrams, business correspondence
circa 1917-1946
1 2011.3.7.3: Scrapbook on C.C. (Clarence Cleveland) Dill
Clarence Cleveland Dill (1884-1978) was a Washington State Democrat. He was elected to the U.S. House in 1914 and the U.S. Senate in 1922, serving two terms in each House. In 1934, Dill sought a well-publicized divorce from his wife, the feminist author Rosaline Gardiner Jones. Dill ran for governor in 1940 but was narrowly defeated by Republican Arthur B. Langlie. Dill later practiced law and served as a member of the Columbia Basin Commission from and as a special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General. He died in Spokane at the age of 93.
Scrapbook was disassembled and placed into 4 folders. Materials include correspondence, telegrams, notes and newspaper clippings, including clippings about C.C. Dill's divorce case; and campaign brochures and fliers from C.C. Dill's gubernatorial run in 1940.
circa 1926-1940

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Personal Names :
  • Dill, Clarence C. (Clarence Cleveland), 1884-1978
  • Corporate Names :
  • Western Union Telegraph Company

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Employees--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Politicians--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Geographical Names :
  • Seattle (Wash.)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks