Victor C. West Maritime Collection


At least 50,000 negatives, prints, glass plates, and research files document ships and waterfronts that characterized the Pacific Northwest from the 1850s through 1970s. Maritime shipping was the region's economic lifeblood:ships built from huge timbers carried lumber to international and West Coast ports. Many images feature Coos Bay, Oregon, an archtypal timber town that by the mid-1900s became the largest lumber shipping port in the world. Evidence of that vibrant history has disappeared: almost all shipping stopped when timber harvest slowed in the 1980s: once-bustling waterfronts are empty, mills razed and wharves abandoned. This collection was started ca. 1900 by maritime historian Victor C. West's mother, who photographed the steam schooners replacing sailing vessels. The late Mr. West added images of West Coast ships and harbors dating back to the 1850s, including Southern Oregon's "mosquito fleets." By following the shipping reports West photographed every ship under any flag entering the international port of Coos Bay from 1930-1970 -- up to 300 ships annually. He acquired additional maritime images from other sources, with special attention to images of some European navies. The collection appears to include rare photographs of small timber camps and coal mines (1870s-1900s). The collection was acquired by our museum in March 2009 after 15 years in storage elsewhere. It has never been indexed.


Cataloging Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded

Year Added



Coos Historical & Maritime Museum


  • Vicki Wiese

Collection Size

60 boxes, 43 linear feet, 50000 objects

Date Range

1853 - 1970

Geographic Scope

Coos Bay, Portland and small port towns of south coastal Oregon; San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and European and Asian ports.