The Foss Waterway Seaport has announced the opening of a new exhibit, “Voyage of Tacoma’s Western Flyer: John Steinbeck in the Sea of Cortez,” at the Tacoma Public Library Main Branch. The free exhibit will be on display at the Library’s Handforth Gallery from July 10 through August 25, 2012. The public is invited to “Come see the Boat, the Book, and the Story” at a special reception at the Tacoma Public Library on Thursday, July 19 from 5-7 PM. 

The exhibit highlights novelist John Steinbeck’s local ties to the Western Flyer, the 76-foot purse seiner built by the Western Boatbuilding Company in Tacoma, Washington in 1937, on which Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts journeyed to Mexico’s Gulf of California in 1940. The two men’s six week, 4,000 mile "voyage of discovery" resulted in Steinbeck and Ricketts' publishing the Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research (Viking Press,1941), a landmark book for which the two men collected and documented marine specimens from the then relatively isolated Sea of Cortez.

 The exhibit provides unique insights into the two men’s personal experiences during their expedition on board the Western Flyer, an introduction to their crew, and a brief history of Tacoma’s boatbuilding industry founded by Dalmatian coast immigrants who brought their old world craftsmanship to Tacoma’s waterfront and whose descendants still have local maritime ties today. 

“This is the first of many tremendous stories to be presented by the Seaport to show how early Croatian and Dalmation immigrants from Europe influenced the region’s fishing and boatbuilding culture,” stated Joseph Govednik, Curator of Collections for Foss Waterway Seaport. 

“This is a must see exhibit for anyone interested in literary history, local working waterfront heritage, early marine science specimen collection, or maritime adventure,” said Govednik. The exhibit is produced by the Foss Waterway Seaport and is open to the public. For Tacoma Public Library’s Handforth Gallery hours of operation, visit 

About the Foss Waterway Seaport: The Foss Waterway Seaport, located on Tacoma’s Thea Foss Waterway, showcases the region’s colorful maritime heritage in a unique, authentic museum and waterfront setting. Based in the last intact historic building linked to Tacoma’s early global shipping wharves, the Seaport is housed on the very spot where tall ships loaded the region’s products bound for global ports long before the Port of Tacoma existed. Today the Seaport provides Puget Sound’s premier maritime heritage, education, and community event center. To learn more, visit

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