Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Meet Dirty Dan

"Dirty Dan" Harris sculpture
I promised I'd let you know a little bit about this character and his life when I wrote about the other two sculptures in the vicinity. I didn't know much about him before I looked up his biography today, other than that he was the founder of the town of Fairhaven.

The link I found has some interesting facts about this guy. He arrived here from the East Coast between 1826 and 1833, after having sailed the seas as a whaler. He finished a log cabin begun by an earlier settler who died, and obtained legal title to 146 acres, which became the main part of Fairhaven's downtown. Fairhaven, Sehome, Whatcom, and Bellingham combined to become one town in 1903. But Fairhaven was the place where Dirty Dan began to make his fortune. He was, according to the article, "a shabby looking guy, hence the nickname Dirty Dan." From HistoryLink.org:
He typically wore a well-worn hat, greasy coat, unbuttoned red flannel undershirt, and pants that were ripped and occasionally held up with rope. Shoes and socks were something of a novelty for him in his younger years, though he did wear them when he was on the road. He loved his liquor and could hold it as well as any man.
But as he gained his first wealth, mostly from the sale of bootleg liquor, he cleaned up and then began to sell property in the new town of Fairhaven.  By 1883, he had amassed close to a half million dollars (in 2014 dollars). And he began to clean up his appearance:
He bought a new wardrobe — a silk hat, fine black cutaway coat, and matching pants, real pants, sans ropes, and a white vest. Yet he didn't pull it off entirely. He still wore his red flannel undershirt, no tie, cowhide shoes (still an improvement from no shoes at all), and his coat and pants were often dotted with spots and stains. 
There is much more information about this interesting man on that link. He died in 1890, I guess somewhere in his seventies. I enjoyed learning about him and now will walk down Harris Avenue in Fairhaven with renewed respect.


  1. He was a character. It’s a great sculpture!

  2. I think most districts had a dirty Dan. I know we did but I don't think they were very rich.

  3. Quite a sculpture and quite a man.
    Thank you.

  4. If he were aware, Dirty Dan should be enjoying his seat on his bench, celebrated by all who pass by.

  5. Interesting guy. That statue looks so skinny and frail.

  6. Really like the statue and how he got such a colorful name. He almost made it to Dapper Dan but not quite.

  7. That statue reminds me of a poem by Edgar Guest.
    It was called "The Homely Man". First stanza was
    "Looks as though a cyclone hit him -
    Can't buy clothes that seem to fit him;
    An' his cheeks are rough like leather,
    Made for standin' any weather.
    Outwards he was fashioned plainly,
    Loose o' joint an' blamed ungainly,
    But I'd give a lot if I'd
    Been built half as fine inside."

  8. ....and, I'm happy to be introduced to Dirty Dan!

  9. I found this post utterly fascinating. It's also so fun to get a glimpse into the past of the area you live in.

  10. According to what was written about his appearance the statue artist spiffed him up a bit--LOL! ;)

  11. Oh my! He sounds like an interesting character. I shall look him up later. What fun!


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