Thursday, October 29, 2020

Featured Artifact: Darning Eggs

The objects from the Benton County Historical Museum's collection which are pictured below were once common to most households. I wonder how many would have one today. 

The objects are darning eggs. 

In the past, clothing was time-consuming to make and relatively expensive to buy so instead of discarding clothes, people mended them. Darning was a way to repair holes in the fabric. The mender used a needle to attached threads across the hole and then weave the thread through them to fill the space. If the thread matched the original fabric, the patch was not very noticeable. This method is often associated with repairs to knitted objects, especially socks. 

Making this repair required the fabric to remain taut. To do this, darners began inserting smooth objects such as gourds, shells, oranges, or round pieces of wood under the work area. By the mid 1800s, machine -made wooden darning eggs such as the black one were readily available. Some were egg-shaped and some, like these, had handles. Some were polished wood; others were painted in various colors or designs. The ecru darning egg is made of a composite material. Today, many are plastic. Although round or oval shapes are most common, mushroom shaped objects were common in some places. 

These darning eggs would be too large to use in repairing holes in gloves or other small items so manufacturers produced specialized glove darners. 

Darning, a once common task for women, began to disappear as manufacturing developments made clothing cheaper and more women entered the paid labor force. My mother, a child of the Depression, taught me how to darn. I might still have a darning egg but I can't remember the last time I used it. I find other ways of reusing holey socks. 

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

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Political Campaign Button History

 By the fall of election years, we see people showing their support for one candidate or another through lawn signs, bumper stickers, t-shirts, hats, and campaign buttons.  

Lapel buttons showing the candidate or his slogan first saw widespread use in the presidential campaign of 1896. The invention of celluloid in the mid 1800s and patent acquisitions by Whitehead and Hoag allowed the company to construct inexpensive campaign buttons by putting a printed picture of the candidate atop a metal button, covering it with celluloid, attaching a metal ring with a pin on the underside and crimping the edge to hold everything in place. 

This William McKinley campaign button from the Benton County Historical Museum's collection was one of their first.

President William McKinley campaign button, 1896

William McKinley of Ohio (with running mate Garret Hobart of New Jersey) was the Republican candidate for President. The Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska after he gave his famous “Cross of Gold” speech.  Bryan traveled the country giving speeches advocating for adding silver money to that based on gold. This would have the effect of increasing the country's money supply and stimulating the economy which was currently in a slump.  He was popular with farmers and other rural people who disliked wealthy and urban easterners.

McKinley, who was a Civil War veteran, wanted to stay on the gold standard.  His nationalism led him to advocate for tariffs on imported goods in order to protect American factories and factory workers. His slogan was “a full dinner pail.”  Most of the time, McKinley remained at his home in Canton, Ohio, greeting visitors and handing out campaign buttons for them to distribute.  Theodore Roosevelt said that “He [campaign manager Mark Hanna] has advertised McKinley as if he were a patent medicine.”

McKinley won.  The popular vote was 7,108,480 (51%) for McKinley and 6,511,495 for Bryan.  McKinley won Oregon, California, North Dakota, the Midwest, east, and border states and received 271 electoral votes. Bryan won in the plains and the South for 176 electoral votes.  Note that the total Electoral College then numbered 447 as there were fewer states and only 90 senators and 357 representatives.

By the time of the next election in 1900, Vice President Hobart had died.  He was replaced on the ticket by Theodore Roosevelt. 

William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt campaign button, 1900

Again McKinley faced Bryan in the election.  Bryan repeated his earlier critique of McKinley as too aligned with trusts and other monied interests. He also faulted the McKinley administration for its involvement in the Spanish-American war and its increasing imperialism.  The war, however, was popular with much of the public. In addition, the influx of gold from Alaska and South Africa plus crop failures in other countries coupled with bumper crops at home had brought a return of prosperity.  McKinley was re-elected by a votes of 7,218,039 to 6,358,345 and a margin of 292 to 155 in the Electoral College. He was assassinated in September, 1901; Roosevelt became President.

Campaign buttons lived on. The Benton County Historical Museum does not have a campaign button for Theodore Roosevelt or several other pre-war Presidents but does have buttons for many of the campaigns since 1950. 

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Sulphur Springs of Benton County, Oregon

The school gardens, subject of my last post, were only one of several interesting items in the old Gazette Times column of March 15, 1935 entitled “Do You Remember?”  One that intrigued me was: “When Corvallis families camped out at Sulphur Springs for the summer”

Sulphur Springs is a mineral spring located north of Corvallis in OSU's McDonald Forest. The sulfurous water bubbles up and then flows into Soap Creek.

Researcher May Dasch at Sulpher Springs in 1986

Sulpher Springs marker in 1986. Photo by Mary K. Gallagher

John and Martha Ann Wiles settled near there in 1847 and began raising cattle. The area around the springs was described in a 1901 newspaper column as  having “...both timbered and bald mountains overlooking the valley, deep ravines through which flow clear trout streams bordered by luxurious moss and fern growths...countless waterfalls....” The surrounding area was more open than it is today, with many sections of grass savanna studded with Oregon white oak.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a visit to the springs required an all-day trip from the center of Corvallis.  The site provided a cool spot in the summer heat and people believed their health benefited from drinking water from the spring. Wiles let people camp there for free and allowed groups to hold picnics and other events.  For example, in September 1891, 160 people attended a celebration with E. F. Wiles, John's son, acting as master of ceremonies for a program featuring music and short addresses by three local men.  A July 4th celebration in 1894 featured a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and an oration.  Races followed after a picnic basket dinner.

By 1895, T. C. Baker had purchased the springs, which were then sometimes called “Baker Springs.”

Baker added a concrete fountain to the springs. He also built wooden benches surrounding it, swings, cabins, and eventually a two-story hotel. Visiting children could play with his farm animals and in the haymow. Adults played croquet and horseshoes.

By the teens, the site had become even more popular as people could now drive to the site. Periodically, there was talk of building a larger hotel and turning the site into a major resort, but that never happened.   During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps did create a 20-acre recreation site at the springs, building tables and benches for picnicking and trails for hiking. But then it fell it fell into disrepair. The old hotel burned down and, by 1939, “some miscreant placed a charge of explosives in the concrete and 'blowed it to pieces.'”  The fountain and many of the amenities have gone but the springs remain to this day.

Oregon State University acquired the land sometime between 1926 and 1942 as part of its McDonald Research Forest. Today, there is a short trail to the site from Soap Creek Road but camping is no longer allowed.

To get to the springs, drive north on Highland Drive and turn left at the juncture with Lewisburg Avenue, then veer right onto Sulphur Springs Road and left onto Soap Creek Road.  The springs are just past the intersection. 

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

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Corvallis' School Gardens

While researching KOAC offerings in old newspapers, I came across a column in the Gazette Times of  March 15, 1935 entitled “Do You Remember?” Some of the items I have already written about (moving the depot, the opera house, and the ferries).  Another item on the newspaper list was the “war time school garden at Ninth and Monroe...”

The school garden at Ninth and Monroe was one of four school gardens in Corvallis in 1915.  Each of the three grammar schools had a garden. Two of the gardens were located across the street from their respective schools (the North and South schools). The land at these two sites had good soil which was plowed and fertilized using funds from the school board. After fencing was erected at the South site, the land was divided into beds of seven feet by eleven feet for each student in fourth or higher grade. Younger students shared a larger bed. The North school garden, the largest, was divided in a similar fashion.  Both schools grew mostly radishes, lettuce, turnips, carrots, peas, and onions.

The garden for the Central School (located in what is now Central Park) was the one located at Ninth and Monroe that was mentioned in the reminiscences.  A house and tennis court had previously stood on this site and the soil was heavy yellow clay.  It had to be deeply plowed twice before students could plant. The plots were laid out on a diagonal and planted with peas, beans, corn, and cabbage as root crops would not do well in the soil there.  The four small triangular beds at the corners were planted with flowers:  pansies, asters, nasturtiums, and sweet alyssum.

The high school's agricultural department also had a garden at Sixth and Monroe. The 46 students in the agricultural class each had an individual plot which they worked outside of school hours under the supervision of Professor Scott.

The high school students used dwarf nasturtiums to spell out “C.H. S. Agricultural Dept.” in two-foot-  high letters.

Local residents donated the use of the land:  Mrs. P.  Avery (South), O. J. Blackledge (Central), Mr. Stutt (North), and C. E. Hout (high school).  The school district allocated $75 to the program; the local Parent-Teacher organizations also helped. Many students participated:  200 at North, 230 at Central, and 150 at South and 45 or 46 students at the high school level. Some students volunteered to continue maintaining the gardens over the summer. Much of the success of the program was due to M. O. Evans, assistant state leader of co-operative farm demonstration work with the extension division of Oregon Agricultural College (OSU). Before assuming that position, he had been in charge of a very successful school garden program in Portland and had given numerous talks around the state about their educational advantages and how the school garden work could incorporate lessons in writing, mathematics, and art.

The following year only the South school had an on-site garden as the district could not find available land for the other schools.  The emphasis instead was on home gardens, with teachers visiting the gardens of participating students.  This emphasis on home gardens became a national policy in 1917 under the United States School Garden Army program. Students could sign up to become “Soldiers of the Soil” and ensure adequate food supplies by raising food crops in home gardens. 

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