“Everything in the world is there, sardined into Ye Olde Curiosity Shop... It’s the world boiled down.” --- Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper, June 1, 1927
Before the Space Needle. Before Woodland Park Zoo. Before the Seattle Aquarium. Even before the automobile replaced the horse and buggy, there was Ye Olde Curiosity Shop!
When Joseph Edward Standley set up his curio and souvenir shop on the waterfront in 1899, Seattle was a rough ‘n’ tumble town. The city was still reeling from the Great Fire only ten years before, and the newly replaced wooden docks rang with the footsteps of timber laborers, mine workers, and wannabe gold prospectors headed to the Alaska Yukon.
Those footsteps usually took people down to Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, and in greater and greater numbers throughout the years. The lumberjacks changed to office workers and world travellers, but they all wanted to know: where else could a body see a walrus skull with three tusks, buy a miniature totem pole, and touch the vertebra of the world’s largest whale? Local and international visitors alike found “1001 curious things” in Daddy Standley’s free museum.
As they will today. Over the course of five generations, the collection has done nothing but get more interesting. The ongoing stewardship of Standley’s family has brought shrunken heads, mummies, natural oddities, taxidermy treasures and manmade wonders from all over the world into the shop. Ye Olde Curiosity Shop plays host to more than a million visitors a year these days, and many are on a return trip, eager to share the experience with their great-grandchildren.