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Dwight Watson Photographs of Washington State, 1933-1943

Skier on Coleman Glacier at Mt. Baker
Skier on Coleman Glacier at Mt. Baker

Photographs taken by mountaineer and amateur photographer Dwight Watson depicting scenic views and skiing expeditions to the Cascade Range and the Olympic Mountains. His enthusiasm for the sport of mountaineering and love for nature is exemplified by his description of an expedition to the Mt. Baker region:

The stream meandered through a large valley deep set at the west end of the Johannesburg. Hardly seen from any viewspot, we saw our objective high above the south shoulder. Climbed through deep woods, open hillside meadows lush with flowers, a wee lake, a steep snowfield and the flower drenched ridge. Here was an amazing view. East was the great mass of Mt. formidable and the Middle Fork Valley, then northwest was the hidden lake and the lookout over the ridge north was Eldorado amazing with its glorious inspiration glacier yet blanketed in snow in its upper areas. A perfect spot...We glissaded a number of snowfields followed the dashing stream almost a waterfall here in the lower valley. It was an amazing place lush and plush with many kinds of flowers. Helebore plants abounded in many places along the water great clumps of reddish monkey puzzle flower (mimulus). We had seen many colors of paintbrush; lupine abounded. We rested and gazed one last great look then plunged down the forest.

Born in Seattle at the turn of the century, Dwight Watson was an amateur nature photographer, skier, and mountain climber. His passion for the outdoors originated with outings with his family when he was young. During this early period he attended Broadway High School and studied electrical engineering at the University of Washington. In the 1920s while employed at Puget Sound Power and Light Co., he developed his interest in mountaineering while visiting the companies Kapowsin and Electron power plants in the Puyallup River Valley. It's proximity to Mount Rainier National Park inspired him to go on the first of many long hikes around the park. He made his first ascent of Mt. Rainier on July 29, 1924. He also avidly explored many well known scenic spots in the Cascade Range, Olympic Peninsula, British Columbia and Oregon. His accomplishments included the first ski ascent of Glacier Peak in 1938 with Sigurd Hall and another early ski ascent of Eldorado Peak in the Cascades with Fred Beckey and Lloyd Anderson in 1940.

Hiker on an ice crevasse in Lyman Lakes country
Hiker on an ice crevasse in Lyman Lakes country

His alpine enthusiasm is reflected in his account of skiing in the Garibaldi area in 1943: "Some ski enthusiasts HAVE climbed in the park in spring for several days of WONDERFUL skiing--for skiing Paradise it IS but probably [will] be never popular when so much labor getting there is involved. The steep sloped runs from the Tusk would be thrilling to say the least while the views would be beyond comprehension!! And the glaciers near Garibaldi peak as well as south of Helm Lake-Helm Glacier as an example had splendid spring snow in mid-August for those die-hards who must ski every month in the year to keep in condition! Perhaps the popular advent of the helicopter after the war will solve the whole problem--or will it?"

His interest in mountaineering led him to become involved in the Mountaineers Club and also to author articles on backcountry skiing including a 1937 Mountaineer Annual article. In addition, he pursued his interest in amateur photography. Working mostly with 35 millimeter still photography and 8 and 16 mm moving pictures, he documented many of his cross country mountaineering and skiing trips. In the winter of 1936, he was invited by the Rainier National Park Company to take publicity pictures of the park for them. Along with his images, he included many lively annotations of his experiences in the Cascade and Olympic Mountains. He associated with many well known mountaineers and photographers in the Pacific Northwest community including Hermann Ulrichs, Fred and Helmy Becker, Otto Trott, Asahel Curtis, Ray Atkeson, and Lawrence D. Lindsley.

A very religious man, Dwight Watson became involved with the Hope Bible Fellowship of Seattle during the 1940's. He was staunchly opposed to the theory of evolution, and he taught Sunday school and led young people, especially YMCA and UPS messengers groups, in nature outings. Dwight went on many such YMCA trips when he was a young man. He donated generously to several Christian missionaries and organizations.

He compiled many boxes of clippings on skiing, hiking, and scientific phenomenon. He also maintained correspondence with a wide variety of people in the scientific and religious fields.

He later worked at Rainier Oven until he retired in 1962. He then lived and worked as a custodian for Hope Bible Fellowship in the Wallingford Fremont neighborhood. He also spent nine years at Harmony Gardens Care Center. Watson died of heart failure on Thursday, February 29, 1996.

About the Database

The information about Dwight Watson Photographs was researched and prepared by the UW Libraries Special Collections Division and Cataloging staff in 2002. Not all of the photographs from the collection were included in this database. The images were scanned from original photographic prints in grayscale or color using a Microtek Scanmaker 9600L and saved in .jpg format. Some manipulation of the images was done to present the clearest possible digital image. The scanned images were then linked with descriptive data using the CONTENTdm software suite. The original collection resides in the UW Libraries Special Collections Division as the Dwight Watson Collection no. 165.

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