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Our Founder

Joseph Edward Standley (1854-1940) was just a young boy in Steubenville, Ohio, when he first developed a curiosity for natural oddities and artifacts. Those early years of discovering, collecting and learning turned into a lifetime hobby, career, and enduring family business.

Read on (and revisit this page often) for more in-depth information about the history of our iconic shop and the family that has been keeping it curious since 1899.


In 1899, J.E. "Daddy" Standley opened his Free Museum and Curio at Second Avenue and Pike Street. By 1901, he moved his establishment - now called, simply, "The Curio" - to a larger space on Madison Avenue. He quickly realized that in order to have first dibs on the goods being brought ashore by sailors, a shop on the waterfront would be best so he relocated to the Colman Ferry Dock in 1904, under the name "Curiosity Shop and Indian Curio," and by 1907 had adopted the name Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, with the tagline, "We beat the Dickens" (a cheeky jab at Charles Dickens' famed fictional London antique store).

Standley relied heavily on seafaring strangers for his shop's success in those early years. Sailors, fishermen, travelers and tourists would dock daily along Seattle's waterfront and find themselves at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop to browse, buy, sell or trade items of immense interest and intrigue.

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