Oregon Historical Society, Part 2

Dear Liza,

It has been so hot and smokey up here in Portland that even going outside is uncomfortable. But yesterday I took the #15 bus downtown to visit the Oregon Historical Society again.

I have decided to write a story about Portland history, sort of like I did for Salinas with the Miss Harvey story. It will have some make- believe characters, but mostly real facts and people in it, and I want to get the facts right. And for that, I need to study history.

Since Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I became members of the OHS this past weekend, I get to visit  whenever it is open. But to use the Research Library, you don’t even have to be a member! You just sign in, check your backpack, and ask for help.

It took me a while to recover from the heat outside, but some water and the lovely air conditioning really helped. I was handed an enormous catalogue of what sorts of things I could look at: theater programs, birthday cards, advertisements, and childrens’ game books, from the 1890s through the 1920s and beyond. When my folder was delivered, it was like visiting a very elderly friend’s house, and I handled each item very carefully.

An ad for a “modern” mixer in 1894
The cover of a program for “The Society Circus”, a variety show, for 1907

I was surprised at how “modern” Portland was, even more than 100 years ago. By 1907, every business posted a telephone number in their ads. Railroad agents were advertising vacation trips to California, even to the Hotel del Monte, in Monterey, near you! There were also boat trips up the Columbia River, that took from 7 in the morning until almost 10 at night. Shops were selling buggies and wagons, but also cars.

1907 car ad

Then there were ads that I didn’t understand. This one looks like a positive message, but “boost’ what? ‘knock’ what? I guess you had to be there.

I don’t know what it means, but it seems positive!

There was also an atlas, a big book of maps. I found Auntie Katie’s neighborhood, which is called Ladd’s Addition. Some of the street names were changed! Her street, Tamarack, used to be called Walnut. The main street through the area, 16th, used to be called Elm. This, and lots of other changes, happened in what has been called The Great Renaming of 1891, when Portland made East Portland and Albina part of the city. It turned out there were many streets with the same names, so to avoid confusion, some names were changed. Not everybody liked it, but it needed to happen.

I will be staying home today, organizing what I know and figuring out what to look for next. I can hardly wait to go back to my cool (in every sense of the word) new place.


Grandma Judy