Thursday, April 19, 2018

Logging Circa 1920

By the outbreak of World War I, steam power extended the areas that could be profitably logged.  Steam donkeys moved the downed timber as in these photographs from the 1914-1925 era.

Marys River Logging Company train
Logging companies built railroads to the area being logged and used steam engines, not teams of oxen, to transport the timber to the mill.
The opening of the Panama Canal in 1915 lowered the time and cost of transporting lumber to the east coast to replace dwindling supplies of southern pine.

During World War I, Britain and France relied on American supplies of products. By the war's end, Britain alone had purchased more than $3 billion worth of goods from the United States. Ships were needed to transport these goods and to replace those destroyed by the Germans. This created a demand for wood as wooden schooners (2-masted sailing boats) were still used for carrying cargo such as lumber. As west coast shipyards expanded Oregon loggers responded with increased harvests.  For example, Oregon’s production of Sitka spruce increased from 63 million board feet to 215 million board feet during the war years.   

The photo shows a spruce “ships’ knee” being transported from Blodgett to a shipyard in Portland, Oregon.  Ship knees are naturally curved pieces of wood used as braces inside boats.
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Oregon's First Paved Roads

As I noted in the last post, the 1914-1925 period saw a dramatic increase in the number of cars on the road. If you've visited the Circa 1920 Exhibition at the Benton County Historical Museum, then you've seen photos and read a story about what an adventure it was to travel, given the condition of Oregon's roads.  Getting flat tires or becoming stuck in the mud were commonplace, for as David Peterson Del Mar notes in his Oregon's Promise, “In 1914, 86 percent of the state's thirty-seven thousand miles of rods consisted of dirt and mud.  Just twenty-five miles were paved, 232 planked.”

Interestingly, it was bicyclists, not automobile drivers, who were the first to organize to improve roads. They formed the League of American Wheelmen in 1880 and began publishing Good Roads Magazine.  They formed state Good Roads or Highway Associations in many states such as the Oregon Good Roads Association, established in 1902. The increasing number of automobile drivers joined with bicyclists to show that better roads benefited  everyone, not just “rich playboy bicyclists” and drivers.  They also supported research on road construction methods, and advocated for political candidates sympathetic to the cause. Their work began to pay off.

In 1905, the state began requiring vehicles to be licensed at a one-time cost of $3.  The revenues were dedicated to roads construction. Beginning in 1911, the state began issuing license plates yearly, increasing revenues for roads. The Oregon Highway Commission, established in 1913, distributed these state funds to the counties under a plan developed by new state highway engineer Major H. L. Bowley.  This plan called for construction of 8 state highways. As this map shows, by 1925, Oregon's basic highway system was in place but most roads were still gravel or dirt.

1925 Oregon highway map
Passage of the 1916 Federal Road Act matched state funds with federal money for paving of roads.  Work was limited once the U.S. entered World War I but was revived after passage of the Federal Highway Act of 1921 which provided aid for paving roads that linked with others in adjoining states to form a federal network. The Good Roads Associations in Washington, Oregon, and California had for many years worked together on common problems and toward the similar goal of a continuous highway running all the way from Canada to Mexico. The photo shows a button from the joint group's meeting in 1914 which was attended by Benton County judge, Victor Moses.
1914 Tri-State Good Roads Association membership pin
This road, known as the Pacific Highway (Highway 99) was started in 1913 and completed in 1923.  It was the first state border-to-border paved highway west of the Mississippi. Adding in the miles in the neighboring states, the total length of 1,687 miles made it the longest continuous stretch of paved road in the world at the time. 

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

Thursday, April 5, 2018

1914 Buick at Benton County Museum

One of the themes of the Circa 1920 exhibition at Benton County Museum is the rise in automobile ownership.  From 1915 to 1925, the number of motor vehicles (cars and trucks) registered in the United States rose from 2.5 million to over 20 million, an over 700% increase.  Several factors account for this increase.  The replacement of the old crank starters with electric starters made cars easier to drive.  Improvements in gasoline engines increased speed and range. Closed body designs with metal bodies improved comfort.
Ford's use of  the moving assembly line allowed it to produce Model T quickly and sell them at a relatively low price.  In 1914, Ford produced 202,667 Model T cars which sold for $440. 

Ford, however, was only one of the many car manufacturers that existed at that time. The Buick Motor Company began selling cars in 1904.  By 1914, it was producing over 21,000 cars per year. The Benton County Historical Museum has in its collection this 1914 Buick B25 Touring Car.

1914 Buick B25 Touring Car
The patented overhead value engine gave the car more power so it could climb hills and get through mud better than many of its competitors. Its reliability was demonstrated by winning a number of endurance tests. The 1914 model was the first to offer electric headlights. These features appealed to the more affluent buyers who could afford the $1,050 price tag (approximately $25, 882 in today's dollars).

One thing that struck me when I looked more closely at the car was the lack of instruments on the dash.  Speedometers, odometers, temperature and gas gauges are all absent. These did not become standard equipment until around 1925, although owners could buy them separately and install them once they owned the car.  The clear bell-shaped object allowed the driver to monitor the flow of oil. The black box is inscribed “Delco” which made the electric ignition system which allowed the car to be started with a key (which you can see in the photo).  Just in case of failure, the front of the car has a place to inset a hand crank.

1914 Buick dash and floor board
This Buick was purchased in 1958 by Martin and Zola Northcraft. According to the Northcrafts, the car had only two other owners, both also from Benton County. Over a seven-year period, they restoring the car, choosing to paint it “Buick Gray” instead  the black it had been.
Martin and Zola Northcraft in 1976 Corvallis Parade with 1914 Buick
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon