Edmond S. Meany

A brief biography of Professor Meany

Excepts From The Mountaineers, A History

By Jim Kjeldsen, 1998, Mountaineers books.

Edmond Meany was born in East Saginaw, Michigan, in 1862 and came to Washington Territory with his family while he was still a teenager. During the summer of 1880, his father, who was working on a steamer on the Skagit River during a minor gold rush, fell overboard and drowned. This left Meany, not yet eighteen, as the principal support of his mother, sister, and baby brother. To get by, Meany operated a tiny dairy, pasturing cows on grass that grew alongside Seattle’s unpaved streets. He also got a job delivering newspapers, kept books for a grocer, and hired himself out as janitor at his church and at the only bank in town. The sheriff was so impressed by the young man’s efforts that he stopped Meany on the street one day and told him that if he ever needed anything he had only to ask.

Because of such support, Meany was able to enter the University of Washington, from which he graduated in 1885 at the top of his class. He became a reporter for the Seattle Press, then was promoted to city editor. During his tenure, the newspaper sponsored the Press Exploratory Expedition of 1889 – 90 into Washington’s Olympic Range, and the explorers thought enough of Meany to name a mountain after him. He would get a chance to climb his namesake peak on the first Mountaineers outing.

In 1891 Meany was elected to state legislature and served for two sessions, during which he helped secure the University of Washington’s current campus. The decision to move the school drew criticism because the original campus was conveniently located downtown, while the new one was way out at the end of a streetcar line. Meany may have argued for the new campus in part because of its spectacular views of the Cascades to the east, the Olympics to the west, and Mount Rainier to the south.

After his stint in politics, Meany became registrar at the university, then settled in as a history lecturer. He became head of the history department in 1897, a position he held for the rest of his life.

By 1907 Meany was ready for new challenges, and The Mountaineers fit in with his love of Indian lore, Northwest history, and the outdoors. In the club, he seems to have found the combination of pioneer individualism, romance, and academic application that suited him. “It was Meany who came to exemplify the ideals of The Mountaineers,” the Washington Historical Quarterly reported in 1935 upon Meany’s death.


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