Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Louis C. Raymond: Around The World From 80 Countries

The bird whistle (last post) and many objects in the current “Around The World From 80 Countries” exhibition were donated by Oregon State University alumnus, Louis C. Raymond. Fortunately, Mr. Raymond also provided a lot of information about them and about his fascinating and accomplished life.

Although Raymond was born in Vancouver, Washington in 1906, he spent most of his boyhood in Astoria, Oregon.  Even at an early age, he demonstrated wide-ranging interests.  During World War I, he earned money selling the furs of the muskrats and other animals he trapped on his grandmother's property along the Trask River. Later he played semi-professional baseball, traveling to various towns along the Columbia River by boat, entertaining the passengers by singing while teammates played the piano, violin, and saxophone. He also had jobs in the salmon and logging industries.

During his youth, a frequent guest at family dinners told tales of  packing supplies into the Yukon in return for gold nuggets.  In an interview with Horner Museum staff, Raymond said, “ I think that telling me about the gold rush days probably got me interested in geology and mining. So when I went out to college I went to the School of Mines.”  He went on to earn a degree in mining engineering from Oregon State College (now University) in 1930 and then a master's degree in geology from MIT. 

Raymond worked for Mountain Copper Company until World War II when he joined the Federal Trade Commission to help locate and obtain strategic minerals. After the War, his work for Ford, Bacon, and Davis involved exploring, evaluating, and developing various mineral properties. To do this he traveled to Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, British Guinea (now Guyana), Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guinea (now the Republic of Guinea), Honduras, Iraq, Israel, Jamaica, Mexico, Turkey and Venezuela, as well as many sites in the United States and Canada. Getting to the remote sites was sometimes quite challenging, as he described in the following :
“Our exploration camp was situated on top of a high mountain ridge at the edge of the rain forest of Colombia.  Supplies had to be hauled 125 miles by truck and then loaded onto mules for the 20 miles of mule track leading to our camp....Most of the mules had been accustomed to a great deal of freedom and resented being required to earn their living, particularly by being saddled and carrying man around.

Unfortunately, the six best riding mules were also the most adept at trying to dissuade a potential rider.  Each had a personality of her own.  One would suddenly swirl as you were mounting.  One would wait until you barely got seated before the first violent bucking.  One would try to back up as you were trying to mount.  One would swell her belly while the belly strap was being cinched and then deflate promptly as you mounted, causing the saddle to slip to the side after a few galloping paces.”

Sometimes, however, they were able to use jeeps as in this photo.

"Eastern Andes, Bolivia, L. C. Raymond near door of Landrover"
During the trip to Colombia, Raymond acquired this capel or capelling cup found in an old gold mine. Capellation, a process which has been around for centuries, is used assay the contents of ore.   The cup, made of bone ash, holds the ore which is then heated.  Lead and other minerals are oxidized and absorbed into the cup, leaving gold and silver in the center cavity. 

Raymond estimated that this capel dated around 1900.  Working near the sites of ancient civilizations, Raymond became intrigued with old crafts and gradually began acquiring some of them.  As he noted in a letter to the museum, “...word  would get out that I was interested in collecting certain types of craftsmanship, such as old mining artifacts, wherein people and friends would give me such items as miner's lamps, candlestick holders, ...old utility utensils made of copper....I didn't want such artifacts to be destroyed so I bought them.”  His interest in archaeology grew.  When he retired from mining business at age 67, he took courses in archaeology at Pace University in New York and then spent the next ten years working on digs in the Hudson River area.  He wrote “I got hooked on the interpretation of symbols of ancient people of the New World as found on early artifacts.”  This second career led to a book on spindle whorls (the small disks attached to the shaft which makes the spindle turn faster).  

This second career is only one part of his story.  The next blog will tell about Raymond's hobbies.

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

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