It has been very hot here, and also smokey, because of the many wildfires in Oregon and Washington. On Tuesday, I took the #15 bus downtown to the Oregon Historical Society. It was a nice, cool bus ride to a nice, cool library.
I am writing a new story, a history of Portland as seen through the eyes of a character I am calling Caroline Estes. She visits Portland when she is 8, 13, 19, 29, and finally moves here at the age of 44 with her husband and two children. To write this story well, I need to know a lot more about what Portland was like from 1888 to 1924….what people were talking about, buying, and wearing, where they went for fun, what were the problems of the day. Stuff like that.
Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I became members of the OHS last Saturday, but you don’t have to be a member to use the Research Library. You just check your bag, sign in, and ask for help. I got to look at theater programs with advertisements from the years 1894 and 1907. It was like visiting the home of an elderly friend, and I handled everything very carefully.
Ads can tell you a lot about a place and a time. What I found was that even in 1905, Portland was pretty modern. All the ads included a telephone number, and many of the wagon and buggy shops had started selling cars. There were tailors, drug stores, candy shops, and fancy restaurants. Railroad agents were offering to arrange train trips to Yosemite or even the Hotel del Monte, down in Monterey. Labor saving devices were all the rage, as well. “Help for the Housewife”, they were called.
Some of the ads were just funny. One simply said, “If you can’t boost, don’t knock. J.C. Lee.” Boost what? Knock what? No idea. But I’m sure it meant something at the time.
Many of the ads used cartoons to catch your eye. The geese (at the top) sure made you look, but it was just an ad for a store. This king on a throne (below) was selling beer.
When my head was full and my hand sore from taking notes, I handed back all the delicate things to the librarian and walked back to the bus.
I plan on spending many more delightful days here, learning all I can to make my story interesting!