Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
Skid Road: An Informal...
Murray Morgan
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  231 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
Paperback, Revised Edition, 282 pages
Published 1962 by Viking Press (first published 1951)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Skid Road, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Skid Road

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 517)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Aug 03, 2014 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy by: Pam
2.5 stars. I found parts of Skid Road to be very entertaining. I really liked the treatment of Doc Maynard (a most excellent fellow), I appreciated learning about how Chinese immigrants were demonized in Seattle during the 1880s, and I enjoyed learning that women got the right to vote in Washington (and thus Seattle) in 1883 (lost it in 1888), and regained it again in 1910. Women were not give the right to vote nationally until 1920, so I was amazed that Washington women were enfranchised so ear ...more
Jan 25, 2009 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Histories are often dry reads, but this one avoids that by focusing on the often outlandish personalities and stranger-than-fiction politics of early Seattle. The result is a book that's absorbing and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. Unlike many history books, which tend to end before the reader's living memory, this one has an additional chapter at the end that recounts events up through the early 1980s, albeit in somewhat less detail than the rest of the book. Footnotes are used sparingly an ...more
Sep 16, 2008 Larisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After living in Seattle for 11 years, I figured it was time to learn more about its history then I'd gleaned from taking tours when my parents came to visit. The first few chapters are engaging and enlightening. Morgan's focus on the lives of the people who founded the town (particularly Doc Maynard) really fleshes out the events. I love knowing that the reason the streets still don't match up downtown is because Maynard and Henry Yesler were stubborn and refused to compromise. However, as the b ...more
J.M. Hushour
Jan 18, 2014 J.M. Hushour rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If ever adapted into another medium, this is one of those works of history that'd be narrated/personified by Sam Elliott or your drunken grandparent, always happy to kick their heels up, fold their arms across their chest and tell you stories of the good ol' days. That's precisely what this is: a story of Seattle's good ol' bad ol' whorin' and drinkin' days, before the city got all pseudo Super Bowl Space Needle respectable and all those kids with their jangled-fangled instruments screaming into ...more
Jason Kinn
Apr 22, 2016 Jason Kinn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It turns out Seattle was built, in part, on the backs of prostitutes. Seattle was a wild ass, corrupt, western town. It makes for a good story.
b bb bbbb bbbbbbbb
An ok telling of the more unseemly aspects of Seattle's history. The writing is very average, at times funny and easy, elsewhere dragging and boring. The first part which covers the early days of the city is more cohesive and focused, thereafter the pacing and storytelling decline.

It's done in a very casual, slangy style that's going to make it feel progressively more dated as time goes on. The tone and delivery make me skeptical about how historically accurate the material is. It would be unfo
Remington Purnell
Dry, as many historical texts are, but now I smile to myself every time I stroll down Denny Way or Yesler Street. What pricks. A must-read for any Seattle-ite.
Natalie Bayne
Jun 16, 2014 Natalie Bayne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book took me forever to read. Not because it wasn't good (it was really good) but because it's only available in print. And since I usually read on my phone, I didn't realize that the lights above my bed had been out for a while. And since there was no way I was getting out of bed to change bulbs, I started reading something else instead. By the time I'd finished the new book, this one was buried somewhere on my nightstand under crossword puzzles and glasses of water and I'd completely forg ...more
I would like to give this book more stars because of local pride, and the fact Morgan was writing about an almost-forgotten backwater in the 1950s. But this is one of those history books that should be read by someone who knows nothing of Seattle, sort of a timeline pegboard to hang things on when one decides to get serious. For example, Morgan makes no mention (or one-sentence descriptions) of the Curtis brothers, or Vernon Parrington, or Seattle's function as a stop on the Underground Railroad ...more
Mar 23, 2008 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Seattleites,urban historians
Recommended to Tom by: My mom
This is the definitive history of Seattle pre 1950, with some updating to the 1970s. It does miss Seattle's incredible growth since the late 1970s, and the whole Starbucks/Grunge/Microsoft thing that so enamored the New York Times in the 1990s. But it's good solid history of the founding of Seattle, the poor treatment of the Asian population (not just during WW II), and its various boom and bust cycles. The discussion of why Seattle didn't end up playing second fiddle to Tacoma is particularly s ...more
Arianne Bergman
A ton of fun. Didn't know what to expect aside from saucy stories and salty old dogs, but was actually well-written, well-researched, and one of the more enjoyable books I've read in a while. Even having grown up in Seattle and feeling like I knew it pretty well, this brings out layers I had no idea were even around. Definitely keeping my copy for re-perusal at random.
Erin Gayton
Jan 23, 2013 Erin Gayton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I agree with other readers who note the uneven nature of this book, but the first half of the book is so strong that I think it warrants 5 stars, even if you quit reading after the chapter on the great fire. I first read "Skid Road" years ago, and have never been able to get Morgan's characterization of Doc Maynard out of my head (particularly the image of him paddling his canoe up Puget Sound, the tall conifers crowding the water). Reading it a second time, there are moments when the book feels ...more
Aaron Carpenter
Apr 03, 2015 Aaron Carpenter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an enjoyable author! With remarkable insight, understated wit, and charmingly droll turn of phrase, Morgan presents a series of characters set against their historical backdrop and shows how they - and their contemporaries - contributed to shape this fascinating city in their own image and to be shaped by it, in turn.
Peter Christensen
This is a history book, and requires a lot of context in order for it to be enlightening and entertaining. I stopped halfway through when I realized that it was not a history of Seattle, it was an close examination of several illustrative events from different periods of Seattle history.
John Williams
Jan 13, 2015 John Williams rated it liked it
First published nearly 60 years ago this is still a good read for anyone interested in the history of Seattle. The book takes its name from the logging pathway where the underside of Seattle developed in the mid to late 19th century. Most of the chapters focus on a period or personality of an interesting character. It makes you realize that at one time Seattle was the most radical city in America.
Sarah Alawami
Jan 27, 2015 Sarah Alawami rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my favorite book to read. I'm normally a history buf and this was history, but for some reason I could not get past the dry read. I finished but I just don't care for the book.
Donna Davis
I really like this book, a portrait of old Seattle. The Skid Road is now a major east/west street, but it was originally named by the book's title, because the lumber was cut and then shoved down this steep street to the waterfront for export.

The fifth star is missing because if you are not from Seattle or the surrounding area, it may not be of as much interest to you as it is to me. However, the late Murray Morgan is good with prose, and can make nonfiction sound like a fascinating tale he just
Apr 14, 2009 Barrie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hmmmm, so I didn't like this as much as I wanted to. I've had to lie to a few people because they would just gush over how great this book is and for the sake of not getting into a conversation about it, I'd agree. But really I think I'm just not into historical books, unless they're memoir biography types. It's just that there's so much information crammed into 200+ pages that I quickly get lost. The book isn't quite a story, rather than lots of historical accounts. I enjoyed the information, b ...more
Jun 27, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Peter Stark
Enjoyable history
Wesley Andrews
Nov 04, 2012 Wesley Andrews rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Installment #4 on my quest to learn more about my home, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

I just started Native Seattle, by Coll Thrush. Previous installments: Once Upon a Time in Seattle, by Emmett Watson; Pugetopolis, by Knute Berger; The Street-smart Naturalist - Field Notes from Seattle, by David B. Williams.

This quest was prompted in large part by Kurt Hoelting's, The Circumference of Home: One Man's Yearlong Quest for a Radically Local Life.
Felisa Rosa
The definitive book on the history of Seattle, which is sort of surprising when you consider that the author modestly calls Skid road 'an informal portrait of Seattle'. Everyone who writes about Seattle's history quotes Murray Morgan, probably because he was an evocative writer with a great eye for the characters and tidbits that make history fascinating. A wonderful book. If you are going to read one book about the city, read this one.
Josephine Ensign
Interesting although also infuriating in the lack of citations/sources of the numerous direct quotes throughout the book. Also has a misleading title since it is really an informal history of the (mainly) white men in power positions throughout Seattle's formation as a city. Only passing references (again unsubstantiated except for one UW sociology student unpublished thesis) to the residents of Skid Road.
It was well written, but it ran the gamut: from the fun and ridiculous of Seattle and ending, pretty much with an exceptionally long chapter on the history of union the same time interesting and boring. an interesting read even if at times it was tedious, but gave me perspective on this Seattle city since it's origins as a city.
Apr 11, 2011 Maura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It was a great history of Seattle. After reading this book I went on the Seattle Underground Tour. The tour was very intresting, but the book had been so informative that I found myself silently editing the information provided by the tour guide. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of Seattle.
Justin Gailey
Apr 16, 2014 Justin Gailey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty much the Howard Zinn of Seattle history. Highlighting the people that made Seattle but never got a street named after them.
Dec 03, 2010 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, northwest
I lived in Seattle for about 16 months in 1967 & 1968. My time there only gave me a snapshot of the city. This book helped me learn about the personalities who created the Seattle I dallied with. Perhaps it was just me, but it took a few chapters to get really engaged with the book.
Robyn O'hara-prentice
Very good history of Seattle. Some nice Anecdotes, would have liked more pictures of "then and now" but got some good ideas of where to look none the less. Will look forward to exploring pioneer square now. Have good insight as to where and how the downtown streets got the names
Mar 24, 2008 Mickey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-studies
Daniel B. got me this book for Christmas, as part of my plan to get to know Seattle better the way I got to know Philly better by reading Prayer for a City. Didn't quite work out that way, since this book was a lot dryer.
Gerry Czerak
We loved our week in and around Puget Sound, so this history of the Seattle region became part of my collection of histories of places I have visited. Rough and tumble!
Dec 14, 2008 Frank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bravo! I knew Seattle had an interesting history, but Morgan does a bang-up job focusing on essential characters and events in a concise but compelling fashion.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 17 18 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Robber Barons
  • The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History (Revised and Enlarged Edition)
  • Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow: The Epic Story of the Transcontinental Railroads
  • The Course of Empire
  • Rats, Lice, and History: Being a Study in Biography, Which, After Twelve Preliminary Chapters Indispensable for the Preparation of the Lay Reader, Deals With the Life History of Typhus Fever
  • The American Presidents: Biographies of the Chief Executives from Washington Through Clinton (Guild America Books)
  • I Love Paul Revere, Whether He Rode or Not
  • The San Francisco Earthquake
  • Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family
  • Sons of the Profits; or, There's No Business like Grow Business: The Seattle Story, 1851-1901
  • The Bridge at Remagen: A Story of World War II
  • Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World
  • Nisei Daughter
  • Abraham Lincoln: The Man Behind the Myths
  • The People's Guide to Mexico
  • The Letters of Anton Chekhov (Dodo Press)
  • Braving Home: Dispatches from the Underwater Town, the Lava-Side Inn, and Other Extreme Locales
  • Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

Share This Book