Thursday, August 30, 2018

Corvallis Chickens

Now that the forest fire smoke has cleared out, I’ve been writing while sitting outside on my deck.  One problem with this is that I get distracted watching the neighbor’s chickens running around freely in their backyard.  These chickens are attractive but not the same as those that made Benton County famous in the period circa 1920.  Those chickens were mostly white leghorns.

The growth of the local poultry business followed the establishment in 1907 of a poultry department at Oregon State University (then Oregon Agricultural College) under the leadership of James Dryden.  Dryden believed, as others did not, that selective breeding would result in more productive chickens.  Others had tried but failed. But by 1913, the OSU Poultry farm had improved both the White Leghorns and Barred Rocks and a hybrid call “Oregons.”

Oregon Agricultural College poultry farm 
One chicken, called Lady McDuff, won a lot of recognition for the program by laying a record-setting 303 eggs in 1913. The change was dramatic as the average hen then produced less than 100 eggs per year.   Newspapers around the country carried stories about this feat. She was not the only productive hen. Pens of OAC chickens also laid more eggs than other pens at the Panama Pacific Exhibition and at other egg-laying contests.

In 1911, Jess Hanson came to Oregon to work under Dryden at the agricultural experiment station.  In 1913, he established his own poultry farm on land along Western Blvd. in Corvallis.

He acquired stock from the OAC program and then commenced his own breeding program, developing the Hanson Strain of White Leghorns which produced over 200 eggs per year and won numerous egg-laying competitions

He incubated the eggs and sold over 105,000 baby chicks to buyers, making Hanson’s the largest business of its kind in the state.
The success of these two breeding programs attracted others to open their own poultry businesses in the area.

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

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Oregon Beaches Circa 1920

Benton County residents have long escaped valley heat by heading to the Oregon coast.

Circa 1920, driving to the coast was an adventure as only 0.4 miles of the Corvallis-Newport Highway were paved. Benton County resident Alvina Amort described one trip in this diary entry from August 10, 1917:

“Left Corvallis about 9.  19 miles from home, just before we reached Wren, we had our first blow out.  We ate our dinner way beyond Blodgett.  Had 2 more blowouts.  Couldn't fix the last 'till a guy came who had an extra patch.  At 4 o'clock we stopped a long time to cool the engine and rest.  Stopped at Toledo for gas.  Got to Newport about 5:30.”

Once in Newport, travelers could take a ferry across Yaquina Bay (there was no bridge until 1936) and drive on the beach.

Ferry T. M. Richardson, Yaquina Bay,
Newport, Lincoln County, Oregon
Watching the waves
at an Oregon Beach, #Circa1920
Once there, however, people then engaged in many of the same activities as they do today, though the dress is different. 

Walking on an Oregon Beach
Looking in tide pools
Looking for agates at Newport, Oregon 
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Swimsuits #Circa1920

This week is hot and the swimming pool is crowded. During the Victorian era, swimming was an activity that middle and upper class people generally frowned upon except for military and other young men.  Some swim races were even included in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.  Men were given more to expose legs and arms so they could don a suit that allowed some movement through the water. Up until the 1930s, men wore suits like that pictures in this photograph from the 1920s.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, social (and sometimes legal) restrictions prohibited women from appearing in public with exposed legs or shoulders.  Women's bathing costumes looked like short dresses and dark stockings.
It is hard to imagine how anyone could swim dressed like this, especially as the garments were usually made of wool and would have become sodden and weighty in water.

Attitudes began to change.  Swimming races for women were added to the Olympics in 1912.  For freedom of movement, these athletes adopted suits similar to the ones men wore.  By the mid-1920s, this style of suit was worn by most young women.

Seven women on an Oregon beach circa 1920

The Benton County Historical Museum has several of these 1920s swimsuits in its collection.

Gantner & Mattern Company one-piece
red wool knit bathing suit, circa 1925
This red wool knit swimsuit was worn by either Grace or Flossie Warman when swimming in the Marys River near their farm circa 1925.
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon