This Land, Oregon

Education, Arts, and Letters

Oregon’s Cultural Foundations

Nineteenth-century Oregonians had access to a wealth of newspapers and journals, many of which served as regional forums for political invective and to plead special causes. Beginning its brief tenure as a biweekly in 1846, the Oregon Spectator led the parade as the region’s first newspaper. The state’s two most enduring publications, the Portland Oregonian and the Salem Statesman, appeared in 1850. Generally, news articles were reprinted from the eastern press, and local news was unapologetic and crudely presented. With the professionalism of journalism toward the late nineteenth century, the Oregonian and the Statesman developed into solid regional newspapers, establishing a conservative ethos that reflected the state’s powerful vested interests.

Abigail Scott Duniway published the first issue of the New Northwest in 1871, was one of the best known of journals in Oregon at the end of the nineteenth century. After the New Northwest ceased publication in 1887, Duniway assumed editorship of its spiritual successor, The Pacific Empire. That effort morphed into the more literary Pacific Monthly in 1898, for several decades the Northwest’s most prominent literary magazine.

The Portland-based monthly West Shore, published from 1875 to 1891, was the most assertive and widely circulated booster journal in the region. The first illustrated magazine published in the Northwest, it focused on commercial and industrial development, especially building railroads into the interior of the Columbia Basin. Before long, the West Shore was being distributed in thirty-two states and in England.

Many Oregonians devoted energy and time to lyceums, debating societies, literary clubs, and discussion groups. Among the more popular public gatherings were those featuring “extemporaneous discussion,” with topics ranging from American foreign policy to temperance. History clubs, French and German clubs, and literary organizations held regular, well-attended meetings. The most memorable of the educational enterprises were the Chautauquas, organized educational events held around the state during the 1890s and featuring teachers, musicians, entertainers, and orations by national figures such as William Jennings Bryan.

From the beginning of white settlement in the region, there were hotel and social club reading rooms, where magazines and newspapers were made available to the public. The Oregon Territorial Act of 1848 included a provision for a territorial library with an appropriation to purchase books and legislative documents from the Eastern. The Multnomah County Library traces its origins to the private and exclusive Portland Library Association, which became free and open to the public in 1902.

In 1901, the Oregon legislature passed a measure to coordinate school and district libraries, and lawmakers established the State Library Commission in 1905 to facilitate the creation of new libraries and to set up traveling book collections. Before long, the commission reported that several small libraries had opened in communities around the state.

© William G. Robbins, 2002. Updated and revised by OE Staff, 2014.

Related Oregon Encyclopedia Articles

Related Historical Records

Abigail Scott Duniway (1836-1915)

 

A writer, newspaper publisher, and promoter for women's rights, Abigail Scott Duniway was Oregon's strongest voice for the cause of woman's suffrage. Born Abigail Jane Scott in 1839, she left Illinois for Oregon with her family in 1852, where she met her husband Ben Duniway. The couple settled in …

Abigail Scott Duniway votes

Abigail Scott Duniway, sister of Daily Oregonian editor Harvey Scott, was a novelist, newspaper publisher, teacher, pioneer, milliner, and suffragist. An overland pioneer of 1852, Duniway wrote a novel, one of Oregon’s first, based on the overland experience. Later she endured the loss of her and her husband, …

Advertising in Pacific Monthly, 1907

Shown here is a page of advertising from the September 1907 issue of Pacific Monthly, promoting investment in copper mining, “fortunes in fruit,” and plans for building suburban bungalows. Pacific Monthly was published in Portland from 1898 until 1911, when it was absorbed by Sunset Magazine of San Francisco. …

Asahel Bush (1824-1913)

During the 1850s, the editor of Salem’s the Oregon Statesman Asahel Bush’s vitriolic editorials earned him the derisive nickname “Bushy Bush” and the enmity of rival editor Thomas Jefferson Dryer of Portland’s the Oregonian. The two tossed insults back and forth in the columns of their papers during the …

Ashland Chautauqua, 1895

This 1895 leaflet from Ashland’s third annual Chautauqua meeting shows the town’s Chautauqua building on one side and lists the featured speakers on the other. Chautauqua was a popular educational and self-improvement movement during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Chautauqua had its roots in camp meetings, annual summer …

Brick Making, Near Portland, Oregon

This lithograph served as the cover for the October 4, 1890, issue of West Shore magazine. The magazine, headquartered in Portland, was published from 1875 to 1891 by Leopold Samuel. This image depicts Chinese laborers working in East Portland or Albina — then towns outside Portland — making bricks from clay and sand. …

Chief Joseph

1840-1904

Chief Joseph was the leader of one band of the Nez Perce people (Nimi'ipuu). The Nez Perce resided in the plateaus, mountains and gorges of northeastern Oregon, southeastern Washington, and western Idaho. The legend of Chief Joseph and his famous retreat has long symbolized the loss of native peoples' …

Joaquin Miller, Poet Laureate of Oregon

Joaquin Miller was an Oregon writer and poet who first found fame in Britain by portraying himself as a flamboyant western frontiersman, telling colorfully exaggerated stories, wearing buckskin clothing and a Mexican sombrero, and, later in life, sporting a flowing white beard. Amateur Pendleton photographer Thomas Leander “Lee” Moorhouse took …

John Reed (1887-1920)

For John Silas “Jack” Reed, the conservative, early twentieth-century city of Portland could never be “prepared to understand his dreams” of social revolution and change. Born in 1887, Reed grew up in a stately Portland mansion, attended the Portland Youth Academy and later, boarding school. Fascinated with the travels of …

Ken Kesey (1935-2001)

Ken Kesey was one of Oregon’s most famous, critically acclaimed, and controversial authors. His rise to literary and cultural prominence was the product of his distinctive skills and experiences.

Kesey was born on September 17, 1935, in La Junta, Colorado, and in 1946 he and his family moved to Springfield, …

Louise Bryant (1885-1936)

Louise Bryant was a celebrated journalist, radical, and feminist. Born in Nevada in 1885, Bryant graduated from the University of Oregon and married Paul Trullinger, a Portland dentist, in 1909. The couple lived on a houseboat in the Willamette River, but the independent-minded Louise maintained a separate apartment in Portland …

Negotiating the Surrender

This sketch by Guy Howard depicts a scene from the surrender of Nez Perce Indians (Nimi’ipuu) to the U.S. Army in early October 1877. Guy Howard was the son and aide-de-camp of General Oliver Otis Howard, commander of one of the military units that pursued the Nez Perce during the …

Stark Street Library

In 1891, after 27 years of dedicated fund raising, the Library Association of Portland opened this two-story, solid stone building on Stark  (now Harvey Milk), between SW 7th (now Broadway) and Park. It was built to house 20,000 volumes.

The group that would become the Library Association of Portland began …


PREVIOUS SECTION
The Literature of Oregon

The earliest published writing in the Pacific Northwest was the work of the fur men and explorers, including the journals and travel accounts of Alexander Ross, Ross Cox, Peter Skene Ogden, Osborn Russell, David Thompson, David Douglas, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

Read More...

NEXT SECTION
Oregon’s Public Lands

Like other western states, Oregon has a sizable public land base, with approximately 53 percent of its 61 million acres in federal lands, most of it managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service. Other important federal holdings include Crater Lake National Park, several national monuments, and the recently created Steens Mountain Cooperative Management area. State and local governments control another 3 percent of Oregon land.

Read More...


This entry was last updated on March 17, 2018