Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Benton County Turkeys

It's turkey time.  In the 1940s, Benton County had a large turkey industry with at least 26 farms with flocks totaling over one million, according to a newspaper article of 1944. 

These turkeys were part of the flock on the Wiese farm which was located in what is now the Timberhill area of town. 
View looking southwest from Wiese farm, 1929
Although the Wiese farm raised a variety of livestock and crops, Fred Wiese took an active part in promoting the turkey industry and the latest research on it as done by Oregon State College (OSU).

The photo shows a turkey bell from the Benton County Historical Museum's collection. The Wieses used the bell to locate the flock to drive them to a different location on the farm at a time when the turkeys were allowed to roam free.  In 1932, researchers at OSC found that free range turkeys did not do as well as confined turkeys, so the Wises began to pen their flock and the bell was no longer needed.

OSC continued its research on turkeys, building an experimental brooder house and incubator on property along Harrison, across from their dairy farm in 1947.  Unfortunately, this facility caught fire in 1955 and burned to the ground because the Corvallis fire department was unable to respond because the property lay just outside city limits. The university disbanded the turkey research program in the mid 1990s.

Enjoy your turkey and have a safe Thanksgiving!

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

Monday, November 16, 2020

Featured Artifacts: Inkwells

The post of October 29 featured one item which is becoming increasingly uncommon. Another object that would have been found in the homes of most educated people until the 1950s is the inkwell.

For centuries, people had to mix their own ink using a number of different recipes using either soot or a composite of ferrous sulfate and oak gall. A concave stone would allow for grinding and mixing. A quill or other slender tool would be dipped in the ink and then applied to papyrus, vellum, or paper. To save the ink, scribes began to use lidded containers-- the first inkwells.

As literacy spread and more people need pen and ink for writing, the inkwells became increasingly elaborate objects to decorate the desk in one's home.  Different materials and elaborate patterns created a wide variety which has attracted collectors today.

This inkwell from Venice circa 1910 is one of several in the Benton County Historical Museum's collection of inkwells made from glass.  Most are of clear glass but I like blue.

Brass was another common material, as in this art deco inkwell.

The most elaborate are of silver and glass.

Others were made of stone, ceramics, or porcelain.  Some shaped as animals; others incorporated a tray, a place for one or more pens, or a calendar.
Camel-shaped inkwell
The quills that writers originally used were replaced by fountain pens in the 1800s.  Filling them was difficult until the invention of the self-filling pen.  These featured a lever which the user raised to create a vacuum which sucked the ink up into the reservoir.

Inkwells began to disappear with the advent of fountain pens that used pre-filled ink cartridges and then, beginning in the 1960s, with the mass production of ball-point pens. Fountain pens are still around and used by artists and calligraphers or in ceremonial signings.

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


Friday, November 6, 2020

Personal Reflections on Voting (plus featured artifacts)

With all the recent discussions in the news about the process of tallying votes and the length of time involved, I've been reflecting on the different methods of voting that I've seen in my lifetime. I vaguely remember going with my mother to the polling place on election day.  I'm not sure what form the ballots took in those days, but for many years voters received a paper ballot on which the voter marked an X by the candidate of choice.  After the polls closed, the ballots were removed from the ballot box and hand tallied. 

Ballot box used in Benton County

The photograph below shows the hand tally of votes in Philomath in a 1926 election.

That process was time consuming and prone to error.  It also took a long time to get results, especially in large cities. I grew up in a Chicago suburb and the vote totals from Cook County were always the last to arrive at the elections office.  As the city voted differently from the rural parts of the state (as they do now), outcomes were sometimes not determined quickly. So, it doesn't seem strange to me that vote totals in this election can change as the urban areas are the last to finish counting absentee ballots.

Later, I lived in upstate New York and had to use a voting machine. To vote, you pulled a lever opposite the name of the candidate you wanted. Wheels turned within the machine to record the vote. At the end of the day, election officials would check the position of the wheels and record the votes. There was no paper record.  I was always nervous using one of these for fear that I'd do something wrong and be unable to correct it.

I moved to Oregon before we had vote by mail.  I remember well going to the Jefferson School gym and using a device like that in the picture below. 

Election set for 1944 (Wayne Morse for Senator)

Voters received a punch card, inserted it in the device, and used the stylus to punch a hole opposite the name of the favored candidate.  The elections office used a tabulating machine to read the card and tally the results. That was a lot quicker than a hand tally and did provide a paper record; however, sometimes the process did not completely removed the bit of paper and the machines could not read the card or read it incorrectly.  These “hanging chads” were the issue in Florida in the 2000 election that went to the Supreme Court.

Vote by mail in Oregon has the advantage of a paper ballot which is read by an optical scanner into a computer for a quick tally once the signatures are checked and envelopes opened, especially as local elections departments here can begin the process before election day. And when I call the elections division a month or two after my husband died, I was pleased to find that they had already removed his name from the list of eligible votes.  That gave me more confidence in the system.  Just one more reason I'm glad I live in Oregon!

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