Sketched Jan. 6, 2015
Seattle cops, circa 1900, looked pretty spiffy. They wore high-collared shirts, heavy frock coats and tall helmets that not only helped them stand out in a crowd but conveniently stored their sandwiches. More interestingly, they didn’t carry handguns openly. They had to unbutton their coats to reach their pistols.
I picked up these details from Officer Jim Ritter, the founder of the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum in Pioneer Square.
Ritter’s nonprofit, open Tuesday through Saturday, includes thousands of historical photos and artifacts dating back to the Seattle Police Department’s origins in 1876, when it had one police chief and two officers who wore plainclothes until the department could afford proper uniforms.
A new chapter in the history of local law-enforcement fashion will start this spring, when officers will start wearing all solid navy-blue uniforms.
The current light-blue shirts and dark-blue slacks were introduced in 1961 before the Seattle World’s Fair. After so long, Ritter said, it will take some time to get used to the new look.
Left sketch: The history of local police is closely tied to significant events in city history, so there’s a lot to learn by visiting the museum. A strike that paralyzed the Port of Seattle for months in 1934, for example, required police to use gas masks like the one shown. Right sketch: A double-breasted blouse and eight-pointed cap worn by sergeants circa 1955.