We started this scrappy little tour company seven years ago with the intention of bringing Bellingham's lesser-known history to light-- especially the history of women, the LGBTQ community and people of color. We donned our corsets and peppered our tours with spicy language in the hopes of talking about important history in engaging and entertaining ways. 

Our edgy approach ruffled a few feathers, but never paid that much mind. Our particular brand of storytelling attracted sharp, witty, curious people to our tours-- people who would end up becoming friends, future tour guides and important partners & allies along the way. We've never been history experts, but our interest in the ways the past can help us better understand the present and plan for the future has always been central to our work. Our business grew and shifted in in exciting ways we never expected, and so did we. 

We've been honored to be your punk rock historians for these seven years, but the time has come for us to step aside and allow this wacky business to grow and change under new leadership. We are delighted to share that Good Time Girls is now officially in the hands of longtime guides, Kolby LaBree and Wren Urbigkit. We can't wait to go on their tours with all of you! 

Our list of thank-yous is so long that it would be silly to try to include them all here, but to everyone who helped make Good Time Girls Tours a success through your work and patronage: We are truly grateful for your support. This experience changed us in ways its hard to describe. 

Thank you. 

Marissa & Sara



Working with the Good Time Girls as tour guides has been amazing to say the least. We feel so lucky to have been part of the community that Sara and Marissa created, and extremely honored to have been “handed the corset strings.” A huge thanks to Sara and Marissa, as well as our sister-guides Hayley and Jane, for their enthusiasm and support as we embark on this new adventure. While we have some new ideas brewing, our trademark brand of feminism, sass and entertaining history will remain at the forefront of what we do. The best part of this job is connecting with the people in our community. Thank you all for laughing at our jokes, asking great questions and keeping it nerdy! Look out for the 2018 Tour schedule coming soon. We can’t wait to see you!

Wren and Kolby

What we don't know: Self-discovery through art by Bureau vendor Karen Hanrahan

What we don't know: Self-discovery through art by Bureau vendor Karen Hanrahan

"There is a trusting I’ve found that fuels my confidence as an artist.  When I look at a piece that I have just completed, particularly in my collage work, there is a wise reveal.  An inside look; a gift of shape, line and color that speaks to a moment of truth.  Often my work will share with me something I didn’t know."

For a Limited Time: Fraternal & Occupational Shaving Mugs at The Bureau


A uniquely American phenomenon, fraternal and occupational shaving mugs were used by members of secret societies, fraternities and lodges from the 1880s to the 1930s . Mugs could be purchased and personalized at barber supply stores or barber shops --where they were kept. Special shelves lined the walls of barber shops to display regulars’ mugs. Men of higher status (judges, politicians, successful business men) were often afforded the most opulently decorated mugs.  

What Do Shaving Mugs Have To Do With The Bureau?

Throughout the 1930s the address currently maintained by The Bureau of Historical Investigation was the Blick Barber & Beauty Supply store where shaving mugs were sold.

The mugs we carry are from a local man’s collection amassed over his lifetime. They have been valued based on a range of criteria which is described below.

Shaving Mugs are Highly Collectible, What Affects Their Value?

  • Which Fraternal Order or Occupation is depicted on the mug?

    • Different organizations (The Freemasons, The Oddfellows, The Elks) go in and out of fashion. Others have a few influential enthusiasts who drive up the value of certain mugs by buying all of one organization’s mugs that they can.

    • The same is true for different occupations.

  • Do we know anything about the person who owned the mug?

    • Were they of relative stature in their community?

    • Are there any anecdotes that we can tell about the owner that can be corroborated with historical evidence?

  • Structural Conditions

    • Is the handle still attached? A detached or missing handle can really reduce the value of a mug.

    • Are there chips, cracks or repairs? These things are less of an issue for price but are still considered when deciding upon the ultimate value of a mug.

  • Aesthetic Condition

    • Is the gilt (traditional gold detail on the brim and base) in good condition? Wear on the gilt actually shows that the mug was used quite a bit and some collectors prefer a more worn appearance to  very shiny and unused looking gilt.

    • Is the painted image in good condition?

  • Imagery

    • How unique is the subject matter? The more uncommon, the better. Unless it is a train. People love trains.

    • How many people are depicted? The more the better.

    • Was the painting done skillfully? Shoddy craftsmanship drives down the price.

These little cups of history are available for a limited time at The Bureau. Even if you aren't in the market for one, the small collection is a marvel to behold and certainly worth a trip to the shop!

Victorian bicycles and corsets: Two Village Books events co-sponsored by The Bureau!

Join us Saturday, June 7th from 2pm-6pm for the two events below, followed by a punch and pie reception hosted by yours truly! Read on for all the details:


Gabriel & Sarah A. Chrisman, “An Ordinary Bicycle: The Fascinating Way In Which The Wheelmen Changed Our World”

Event co-sponsored by The Bureau!

Start: 06/07/2014 2:00 pm

Location: Village Books Readings Room: 1200 11th St., Bellingham

Event listing.


When and why were roads first paved on a major scale?  What's the difference between an Ordinary and a safety?  What revolutionary change came to cycling in the 1890's, what significance did the bicycle have for women - and why did penny-farthings have such a big front wheel? Learn the answers to these questions, and many more. Join husband and wife Gabriel and Sarah Chrisman as they give a presentation about Victorian bicycles. They will travel to Bellingham from Port Townsend on their historic bikes, Gabriel on his 1887 Singer Challenge bicycle.

Sarah A. Chrisman (B.A., International Studies, B.A., French) is the author of Victorian Secrets: What A Corset Taught Me About the Past, the Present, and Myself. She approaches Victorian life as a cultural studies project: examining everyday intimacies of the late nineteenth-century, debunking myths, and exploring the ongoing relevance of the Victorians to our modern world. She has been interviewed by journalists in the US, U., New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Spain and Italy, and has appeared on The View with Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters. To read articles about her and see some of her interviews, please visit:

Gabriel Chrisman, (B.A. History, M.L.I.S.) is a trained archivist and research specialist. In 2008, he was the first student to win both the junior and senior categories of the UW Libraries Undergraduate Research Award at the same time. He has a lifetime of experience with bicycles, and is the full-time manager of a bicycle shop on Bainbridge Island. The late 19th-century is his particular focus and he has served as a consultant for maintenance of private collections as well as advising period-appropriate details for movies and books. To read more about his work and outreach projects, see:

photo credit: Estar Hyo-Gyung Choi  

This event is co-sponsored by The Bureau of Historical Investigation.

Sarah A. Chrisman, Victorian Secrets: What A Corset Taught Me About the Past, the Present, and Myself--Sponsored by The Bureau of Historical Investigation

Event co-sponsored by The Bureau!

Start: 06/07/2014 4:00 pm

Location: Village Books Readings Room, 1200 11th St., Bellingham

Event listing.


Join Village Books and The Bureau of Historical Investigation for an author presentation by Sarah A. Chrisman for her book, Victorian Secrets. The Bureau will provide punch and pie for a reception in the Readings Gallery following Sarah's event, so we hope you'll join us! 

On Sarah A. Chrisman’s twenty-ninth birthday, her husband, Gabriel, presented her with a corset. The material and the design were breathtakingly beautiful, but her mind immediately filled with unwelcome views. Although she had been in love with the Victorian era all her life, she had specifically asked her husband not to buy her a corset, ever. She’d heard how corsets affected the female body and what they represented, and she wanted none of it. However, Chrisman agreed to try on the garment . . . and found it surprisingly enjoyable. The corset, she realized, was a tool of empowerment, not oppression. After a year of wearing a corset on a daily basis, her waist had gone from thirty-two inches to twenty-two inches, she was experiencing fewer migraines, and her posture improved. She had successfully transformed her body, her dress, and her lifestyle into that of a Victorian woman, and everyone was asking about it.

In Victorian Secrets, Chrisman explains how a garment from the past led to a change in not only the way she viewed herself, but also the ways she understood the major differences between the cultures of twenty-first-century and nineteenth-century America. The desire to delve further into the Victorian lifestyle provided Chrisman with new insight into issues of body image and how women, past and present, have seen and continue to see themselves.

photo credit: Estar Hyo-Gyung Choi

June Art Walk Featuring NOMAD!

Friday, June 6th, 6pm-10pm at The Bureau of Historical Investigation

The Bureau is proud to present "Birthday Suits," a collection of new photography by William Canepa.

The show is a series of nude portraiture created through collaboration between model and photographer with a focus on pride in one's self. All photos shot on film and printed with enlarger and the print on display will be to only one in existence - to that end, no cameras will be permitted at the exhibition. 

The dynamic duo Jennifer Dranttel & William Canepa of NOMAD will park their 1959 Mercury trailer outside The Bureau during the "Birthday Suits" opening reception inside. 

Check out this Facebook Event for more information!

A Very Special Collection, or: An Extrovert in an Introvert's World

In college I kinda hated going to the library. As a transfer from community college, I never got an orientation to my school’s library and never really learned how to use it. I was horribly embarrassed by this fact and tried to hide it, even from the people who were most likely able to help me, the library staff. Disdainful undergraduate work-study desk assistants and burnt-out over-educated full time staff didn’t exactly shine to my kind. I felt like someone practicing how to ask for directions in a foreign country only to realize that you don’t understand the answer.

“Journals are kept in the 5th spiral.”

“Uhhhh…. quoi?”

Most of my memories of the library are of dejectedly wandering through the stacks for half an hour, going to catalogue, still not finding what I need, giving up, going home and emailing a friend from class to get a copy of their copy. Then I would avoid the library for a month.

My fear of being considered stupid was only part of the problem. I was also very uncomfortable just being in a library. Libraries, archives and other repositories of knowledge aren’t places that were built for people like me. I love learning new stuff and uncovering facts from primary sources, BUT I do not learn well in the traditional model of sit-quietly-and-read. I exclaimed in class a lot as a kid… and as an adult. I LOVED group projects, group discussions, asking questions, presentations, film projects, anything that involved a lot of talking and working with others. I HATED reading text books, writing papers, studying alone... Being alone. I felt sure that this was a defect. I tried very hard to do the things I hated, thinking I was doing learning wrong.

Libraries, with their intimidating atmosphere of quiet and their holier-than-thou inhabitants with their highlighters and those little sticky book flags and their general understanding of how to find stuff; libraries were hard. I bought the sticky flags, I wrote on notecards. I adopted a completely emotionless countenance, but my incapability to keep to myself always gave me away. Like a labrador puppy, I wouldn’t be able to focus surrounded by all the potential new friends. I wanted so badly to stop reading post-modern Anthropology and to connect with my fellow students instead. “Hey, aren’t you in my Feminist Philosophy class!?!” “What are you reading?” “Oooh, I like your highlighter with the sticky flag dispenser built in!” “Isn’t it so great us all being grown up and learning stuff!?!?” The restraint of these urges were more than I could bare.

Fortunately, as I get older, I seem to gain an appreciation for time spent alone. I have more friends in my life who are introverts. I have them studied and now know that all introverts don’t hate extroverts, they just can’t relate to them. Likewise.

I have also come to understand that there is no right or wrong way to learn, so I no longer feel bad for feeling like I need to interact in order to absorb information. I have friends who like to come with me on research trips now who I can quietly clutch while silently raising my eyebrows and grinning when I find some article from 1908 about the “Scourge of Vice,” or an ad for an electric belt to cure “seminal weakness” or “lost manhood.” 


For solo study trips, I have technology that enables me to burst out in delight in a more restrained way. I can email photos and post particularly excellent quotes on my facebook page. My phone in college didn’t include a texting plan. Wrap your brain around that, 20 year olds.

Recently, one of my librudies (library buddies…! ....!! ... no?), my friend Katie, came with me on a trip to two very special collections in Seattle. The Seattle Room at the Seattle Public Library and the University of Washington’s Special Collections Library. This was merely a recon mission. I wasn’t intending to do any real research, I just wanted to get the lay of the land for both of these collections. A huge part of researching any topic is just knowing where to go to get the answers to your questions. Who keeps which records? Where are hardcopies kept, and where are they indexed in micro-film? What is digitized and what do I have to see in person? I have been researching local history in Bellingham, Washington for 4 years now, and I still don’t have a complete grasp of what all is out there and how I can get access to it. For each new collection I visit, I try to first get a handle on exactly what they have at this bigger picture level before I start searching for records and documents specific to my research questions. It is harder than it sounds to avoid just pulling up a stack of the 1900s sensationalist Seattle newspaper The Patriarch to read scathing articles about the “immoral resorts” on Washington Street. But avoid I did, dear reader. Instead, I collected all the information I could about the two collections and am working on compiling this information to record here for the ages. My intention is to publish overviews of all the places I visit on my research trips in an effort to try to make these places more accessible.

For you see, while the idea of going to the very top floor or the very vertigo-inducing Seattle Public Library might sound daunting to many, I hope to assuage some of that all too familiar anxiety. If they are first assured by someone like me of what documents they can confidently ask for and expect to receive, if they know about Anne (the incredibly knowledgeable reference librarian), or the index of Seattle Times records you can EMAIL TO YOURSELF(!!!), then maybe they will be more likely to go and research their preferred topics, publish something valuable from their findings and add to the rich tapestry of historical thought that is getting more varied and fascinating by the day. (XOXO

So, let’s do this. In my next two posts I will talk about the Special Collections at the University of Washington and the Seattle Reading Room. I will continue to publish overviews as I research, and hopefully this blog can become a resource for making Washington State History more accessible.

Behind-the-scenes at The Bureau: Umbrella display tutorial

Our little downtown Bellingham shop space has the loveliest window displays, more like glass cubbies flanking the entryway than just an open window area. They're charming and bright... And a little bit intimidating! 

I've never made any window displays before owning this shop, so the idea of filling this much visible space was a little scary at first. I mean: What do you do in a space like that? 

But the more I started thinking of it like our own street side shadow boxes, the less scared I was to tackle the space. I'm admittedly bad at the product placement part of the window displays, however. I like pretty things to be able to just exist being pretty! Hopefully I'll improve on that as we go. 

This month, at the urging of Good Time Girl Hayley, I decided to go with a playful April Showers display to be (you guessed it!) followed-up with a May Flowers display next month. But let's not get too hasty! I figured I'd take a few moments to explain how I made this display so that it can be replicated elsewhere. 

 Our little shop at 217 W. Holly, in downtown Bellingham, Washington!

Our little shop at 217 W. Holly, in downtown Bellingham, Washington!

This display involves:

  • Lots of umbrellas
  • Lots of fishing line 
  • A little bit of tape
  • Some old book pages (or other paper you'd like to use for rain drops)
  • And a few tissue paper pom-poms. We had some leftover from Marissa's wedding, but the internet is lousy with tutorials if you want to make them yourself (here's one). 


Raindrops and clouds!

  1. Cut out desired number of raindrops from whatever paper you prefer. I used old book pages here, and cut probably 15-20 drops altogether. 
  2. Cut a piece of fishing line (3-5 feet long) for each strand of raindrops. Using clear or invisible tape, tape the fishing line to the back of the drops, spacing them about 6-9" apart on the fishing line. 
  3. Hang pom-poms in desired location. Ours are suspended from fishing line that's been strung from wall-to-wall. 
  4. Use a small piece of tape to tape the raindrop strands from the underside of pom-poms, simulating the look of rain coming from clouds. 

Umbrellas-ellas-ellas (eh eh.. eh?)

his process is going to be really dependent on your own situation. I was able to make use of existing nails to make loops of fishing line: one side looped around the inner metal or wood ribs (or the handle/handle strap), and the other looped around the nail. Each of our suspended umbrellas have hung soundly with this technique, but you may need to adjust depending on what you're working with. 

As you can see, I also left a few umbrellas on the floor of the display areas. I thought they looked cute being in different configurations, and wanted to be able to see the various designs from different angles. 

You'll also notice our pretty little strings of lights hanging here. Those are just up because, well, we love them and don't feel like taking them down. I think it adds a little something special, but they're certainly not required to get the full effect!


A place to call our own.

Our business anniversary is just around the corner. It's hard to believe that Marissa and I started this little operation this time nearly three years ago. We began with the idea that we'd share some stories about local history while dressed in costume. We worried that no one would show up, but we knew that at the very least we'd have fun.

Fast forward through three tour seasons, countless special events, and the filming of a documentary series, and you'll end up smack dab in the heart of downtown Bellingham, 217 West Holly Street: The new home for our business, The Bureau of Historical Investigation.

This past Saturday, February 1st, we celebrated our Grand Opening to dedicate our new home and DANG, it was a fun time. We raised just over $1,300 to help send our homegirl Sarah Goodin to a private audition in Miami to try out for The Voice,  unveiled our collaboration with the fabulous Village Books, showcased the work of the talented Rifka MacDonald and Kelsey Shepard, introduced visitors to lovely local producers such as Evolve Hand Made Chocolate Truffles & Hammerhead Coffee, and shared our vision for our new home. 

 "Snow Fleet" curated installation by Kelsey Shepard & Rifka MacDonald. This cell phone photo really can't do this 10-foot-long display justice, so I recommend you come take a look for yourself!

"Snow Fleet" curated installation by Kelsey Shepard & Rifka MacDonald. This cell phone photo really can't do this 10-foot-long display justice, so I recommend you come take a look for yourself!

It can be difficult to communicate what The Bureau of Historical Investigation is when we've been known as The Good Time Girls for so long, but local bloggers Ivy Haisell and Scot Casey really GOT us. If you haven't been in yet, I hope that their beautiful sentiments will help illuminate what this place is, and maybe inspire you to imagine where we're headed:

 Exterior, The Bureau of Historical Investigation. Photo by Scot Casey,

Exterior, The Bureau of Historical Investigation. Photo by Scot Casey,

Walking into the Bureau is like stepping into a Bellingham Wunderkammer, a Living Cabinet of Historical Curiosities, filled with an elegant selection of art, jewelry, soaps, fragrances, books, prints, furniture, objects d'art and local curiosa. There is a lovely curated quality to everything - you sense each and every item was chosen with care and consideration to showcase only the most fascinating and interesting aspects of Bellingham. And everything is reasonably priced. 

 " Bureau of Historical Investigation Postcards.   Note the Attention to Every Detail:   Handwritten and Stamped Receipts." Photo by Scot Casey,

"Bureau of Historical Investigation Postcards. Note the Attention to Every Detail: Handwritten and Stamped Receipts." Photo by Scot Casey,

Ivy Haisell

From Beauty and the Feast.

 Madame Scodioli products. Photo by Ivy Haisell,

Madame Scodioli products. Photo by Ivy Haisell,

The little boutique is the type of store you would expect in Williamsburg, New York but is resoundingly proud of it's Bellingham heritage.

Take for example these wood handled rubber stamps (shown in the gallery below) that are available for sale. They were salvaged from a closed butcher shop in the area.  It's evident that everything is curated for it's artistry and uniqueness.  

 Stamps, new and old. Photo by Ivy Haisell,

Stamps, new and old. Photo by Ivy Haisell,

 Postcard writing station (bunting by Emily Holodnick). Photo by Ivy Haisell,

Postcard writing station (bunting by Emily Holodnick). Photo by Ivy Haisell,




This is Frederick Dames.

This is Frederick Dames.

I discovered Herr Dames by complete accident in April of 2011 while researching the microfilmed archives of the old Bellingham Herald. What had started out as a quest to develop a walking tour about the turn of the century red light district that had operated legally in my weird little northwest town, evolved into a general fascination with all minutiae of odd and obscure figures and facts about the place I had come to call home.

Message In A Bottle

A message in a bottle was found on a beach in B.C., originally dropped in the ocean by a guy named Earl Willard en route from “Frisco” to Bellingham in 1906. The find made news partly because it may be the oldest surviving message in a bottle to date.  We also found it exciting that the message inside listed a visible Bellingham address! 


Repost: Early Mugshots of Women in Vancouver, BC

On a recent visit to Vancouver, BC I sat in a coffee shop. Watching people scoot along about their day in the grey, damp weather, it really didn’t feel that far away from Bellingham, Washington. Situated a mere 50 miles Northwest of Bellingham, Vancouver seems a lot like the future that early B’ham boosters had in mind for their small frontier logging town - only... you know... in a different country.

In fact in the 1850s and 60s Bellingham seems to have seen itself more in competition with Victoria and Vancouver than with Seattle. When it comes to who won the race to become the next metropolitan commercial hub of the Pacific Northwest though, Vancouver definitely won out.

This got me thinking: Bellingham, as a historical research subject, is a challenge. The Good Time Girls are constantly asked for photos of women who work as prostitutes. Sadly though, confirmed studio photographs and even mugshots of these women do not exist. Unlike their contemporaries in other western cities of the late 1800s, madames don’t seem to have advertised by having their girl’s pictures taken in front of their establishments.

Was Vancouver a big enough city to have taken and kept mugshots as part of the booking process at their jail? A trip to the Vancouver Archives seemed in order.

After my standard explanation of GTG and a half second of fear that the archivist was going to be offended by the very nature of my research-- this is uber polite Canada afterall-- she suggested I take a look at a book called “The Rogues Gallery.”

“Yes, please!” I said excitedly. 

I was told that the book is from the 1900s-1910s, and had been used as a way to identify criminals in an age before photo identification. Each entry included a photograph and basic information about the criminal, his or her crime, whether or not they were convicted, and what their sentence was.

 Trilby Thorne arrested 1904 for being "an inmate of a bawdy house." Rogues Gallery, Vancouver Archives.

Trilby Thorne arrested 1904 for being "an inmate of a bawdy house." Rogues Gallery, Vancouver Archives.

I was nervous even touching it. We had been studying local sex workers for almost two years without ever seeing one; we are like cryptozoologists in that way. We have seen grainy photos of women up on the balcony over a saloon in Fairhaven, but who is to say what they did for their wages? Sex workers were transient, and the border between the States and Canada was much more permeable at the turn of the century. A lot of newspaper and criminal records refer to women who had come to Bellingham from Victoria and Vancouver to be madames and prostitutes. Would it be possible that, in looking at women who worked in Vancouver, that  I would see women who had also worked in Bellingham? Would I recognize any names?

 Miss Trilby Thorne got busted more than once. Rogues Gallery, Vancouver Archives.

Miss Trilby Thorne got busted more than once. Rogues Gallery, Vancouver Archives.

What I found was exactly what I had expected to see after years of research: Photos of women, mostly between the ages of 21-35, mostly beautiful and well dressed, and a few who seemed very down on their luck. Many are listed as being from the US but none are recorded as being from Bellingham specifically. That is fine, I’m just so excited to have faces to conjure when someone asks me a question about “old hookers” or “those women” or-- the very worst-- whores. Next time that happens, I will think about Trilby Thorne or Lizzie Cooke and calmly explain that those women were women, and they probably weren’t what you would expect. Which is the best part about researching their lives.

A few notes of interest: These women were not very often arrested for crimes directly related to prostitution and when they were, they were almost always charged for being “a common streetwalker.” This was because, just like in Bellingham, women who worked as prostitutes were discouraged to drum up business on the streets. They were to be relegated to brothels with madames so they could be kept an eye on and-- in theory-- less likely to be the victims of violence. This means that we may be missing a major piece of the puzzle. Women who plied their trade in brothels would be unlikely to turn up in The Rogues Gallery.

Dupont Street was the Restricted District or Redlight District of Vancouver. Many of these women were arrested there or gave it as an address.


Suggested soundtrack for this post: Memphis Minnie's "Hustlin' Woman Blues."

Mary Pickford and the Changing Role of the Actress in America

Mary Pickford and the Changing Role of the Actress in America

Pickford's stage debut coincides with a cultural shift in post-Victorian America. The idea of female purity in the Victorian Era (1830s-1900s) was inextricably connected with domesticity and the home; women who lived a public or nomadic life were by their very nature suspect. But after Queen Victoria's death in 1901 a gradual relaxation of rules about where women should be seen and heard took place.