William D. Trueblood, City Photographer

William Trueblood's photographs captured everything from significant local events to the mundane. He took such historically important images as Tacoma’s first Black Mayor, Harold Moss, taking the oath of office and Tacoma music great, Joe Jordan, receiving honors from the mayor in 1969. His photos also documented the then fairly unremarkable but now fascinating images of streets, fires, and city functions that allow a unique glimpse into Tacoma’s past. Recently, the Northwest Room has published the photography collection of William Trueblood in ORCA.

Born in Ottumwa, Iowa on December 31, 1914, Trueblood moved to Tacoma in the late 1930s (1). In the mid-1950s he began working as a City Photographer for Tacoma (2). In this position, he photographed a variety of events and scenes throughout the city. One day he might be dispatched to capture events such as celebrity publicity tours, promotional images for city departments, photos used in lawsuits against the city, to the daffodil parade and science fairs. According to a 1976 article in the Tacoma News Tribune Trueblood received an award from the city for his inventiveness. He designed a hot-weather cooling system to develop film out of scrap parts (3).  He passed away in Tacoma on June 14, 1983, at the age of 68.

We reached out to Brian Cox, Tacoma's current City Photographer, for his impressions of Trueblood's images. We were curious about the similarities and differences, then and now, in the photographs and the profession itself. Brian stated,

In reflecting on William Trueblood's captivating photography collection starting in the 1950’s, I find a profound resonance with my own journey as a modern photographer capturing the essence of our city. I find it fascinating how similar the events we captured are such as the Sister Cities delegations and new construction projects building the footwork for future city improvements. 

As a contemporary photographer, I navigate the same role as the city chronicler, documenting the unfolding narratives of Tacoma's rich tapestry. One of the intriguing aspects to consider in this parallel journey is the shift from film to digital photography. Trueblood's era was entrenched in the magic of film, each frame a carefully calculated endeavor. In contrast, the digital realm has afforded me the immediacy to capture and share moments in real-time, revolutionizing the way we perceive and engage with our surroundings. Together, our lenses serve as bridges between the past and present, allowing viewers to witness the enduring spirit of Tacoma across the decades.  

We hope you enjoy this newly available photographic collection! If you have any questions, please reach out to us at nwr@tacomalibrary.org or by phone (253)280-2814.

We encourage you to explore this new collection!

Click Here!

Special thanks to Brian Cox for contributing to this post.

(1) 1938 Polk Tacoma City Directory

(2) 1955 Polk Tacoma City Directory

(3) "City Photographer on the Receiving End." Tacoma News Tribune, September 21st, 1967, p.37