Learning Center: Oregon Studies: Oregon History II
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Oregon: Twentieth Century
Abbott, Carl. The Great Extravaganza: Portland and the Lewis and Clark Exposition. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1981. The Great Extravaganza retells the story of the Lewis and Clark Exposition in 1905. This wonderfully illustrated, short work narrates the hopeful visions of many Oregonians as they expressed their hopes for Portland’s future, symbolized in a carefully and ornately constructed carnival setting. As a declaration of modernity, the “great extravaganza” was, according to Abbott, “a community enterprise in an age of confidence.”
Abbott, Carl. Greater Portland: Urban Life and Landscape in the Pacific Northwest. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. Greater Portland is focused more on informing readers about why contemporary Portland is the way that it is, than on telling an origin story. Abbott concerns himself with three basic themes: 1) the city’s relationships to its regional environments and rural hinterlands, 2) how and where different groups of Portlanders live, and 3) politics and policies that have affected the city’s urban area.
Allen, Barbara. Homesteading the High Desert. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987. One of Oregon’s most iconic images has been that of the homesteader. In Homesteading the High Desert, Allen explores the paradoxical celebration of the failed efforts to turn deserts into gardens in Oregon. The study is focused on Lake County’s Fort Rock, Christmas Lake, and Silver Lake valleys during the first half of the twentieth century.
Bourke, Paul and Donald DeBats. Washington County: Politics and Community in Antebellum America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. This tightly focused monograph is a local history with a narrative that primarily stays within a five year period from 1855 to 1860. Written by two social scientists, it is a statistician’s dream, full of facts, figures, charts, graphs, and maps drawn from election polls, tax records, census reports, and land claims.
Culham, William B. Experiences in Environmental Sanitation. New York: Vantage Press, 1994. Culham’s work goes a long way in describing the development of the modern public health movement and the ensuing state oversight which has touched all of our lives. Experiences in Environmental Sanitation is particularly valuable for its exploration of Portland’s experience with landfills in St. Johns and Arlington, and the examination of sanitary conditions in rural Oregon.
Del Mar, David Peterson. What Trouble I Have Seen: A History of Violence against Wives. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996. Del Mar’s study uses Oregon circuit court records from 3,500 divorce proceedings to help explain the history of violence against wives in Oregon, but many corollaries can be drawn from this work to apply to America at large as well.
Dodd, Gordon B. and Craig E. Wollner. The Silicon Forest: High Tech in the Portland Area, 1945-1986. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1990. As the title suggests, this volume stands as a counterweight to studies on the rise and fall of Oregon’s resource-based economy. During the years that the state’s logging and fishing industries declined, the technology sector became established in the Portland area. Dodd and Wollner illustrate how the high tech industry influenced social and economic developments statewide, including such varied areas as law, public relations, land development, venture capital, and education.
Drukman, Mason. Wayne Morse: A Political Biography. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1997. This biography focuses on Wayne Morse’s personal and public life, but with special emphasis on his political career. Drukman’s work will help readers develop a broad understanding not only of Morse’s ambition and talents, but also of the political environment within which he operated.
Harmon, Rick. Crater Lake National Park: A History. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2002. Harmon’s narrative of Crater Lake covers an enormous span of time, ranging over the past forty million years, but the bulk of text is dedicated to changing human relationships with the lake. This history will provide readers with an introduction to the Klamath people’s historical ties to the lake, the power of aesthetics in nature preservation, and the politics of the lake’s National Park designation.
Kesselman, Amy. Fleeting Opportunities: Women Shipyard Workers in Portland and Vancouver during World War II and Reconversion. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990. Fleeting Opportunities uses oral histories, government documents, labor union records and a sampling of secondary sources to describe the experiences of the women who took on the “dual roles” of homemaker and industrial laborer during World War II. Kesselman examines the entrance of women into the “yards,” the challenges and obstacles that they faced at the workplace and in their communities at large, and the ways in which those women reacted to the end of the wartime job opportunities—particularly, their communities’ ensuing expectations that they return to their pre-war domestic lives.
Langston, Nancy. Where Land and Water Meet: A Western Landscape Transformed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003. This environmental history is focused on the evolution of human attitudes and interactions with wetlands, lakes and riparian areas over time in the Malheur Basin of southeastern Oregon. Langston particularly explores the effects of single-mindedness in human relations toward nature, whether in regards to ranching, farming, duck production or carp eradication. She ends the book with a discussion about the role of conflict in finding workable solutions for environmental problems and the need for “adaptive management” for effective administration within agencies responsible for environmental oversight.
Long, William R. A Tortured History: The Story of Capital Punishment in Oregon. Eugene: Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, 2001. Long’s history details the vacillation of support and opposition to state-sanctioned execution in Oregon, with a focus on the twentieth century. He also provides readers with a good background of United States Supreme Court decisions affecting state policies during the 1970s and 1980s.
MacColl, E. Kimbark. The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon, 1915-1950. Portland: Georgian Press, 1979. MacColl concludes his three-volume series on Portland with this study of the city through the early post-war period (the other volumes being Merchants, Money and Power and The Shaping of a City). By focusing on the city’s political and economic history, the author demonstrates how the Portland establishment, the middle and upper class leaders who ran the city, adapted to the dramatic social, economic, and technological changes that marked the early decades of the twentieth century. MacColl pays close attention to the growing role of the federal government during this period, especially during the Great Depression and the Second World War.
McLagan, Elizabeth. A Peculiar Paradise: A History of Blacks in Oregon, 1788-1940. Portland: Georgian Press, 1980. There are few books on African American history in Oregon. McLagan’s illustrated work will provide readers with an introduction to “Blacks’” experiences such as: slavery, maritime and overland travels and trade, Willamette Valley farming, and urban life.
Moynihan, Ruth Barnes. Rebel for Rights: Abigail Scott Duniway. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985. This biography of one of the nation’s leading voices for women’s suffrage will help readers understand more clearly both the life of Abigail Scott Duniway and the evolution of the social and political environments that she navigated throughout her life in Oregon.
Myers, Gloria E. A Municipal Mother: Portland’s Lola Greene Baldwin, America’s First Policewoman. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1995. A Municipal Mother is primarily focused on the struggle of Lola Greene Baldwin as a policewoman from 1908 through 1922. Readers will find much value in Myers’ description and analysis of how Oregon’s morally influenced, punitive legal system affected destitute women in Portland.
Robbins, William G. Hard Times in Paradise: Coos Bay, Oregon, 1850-1986. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988. Hard Times in Paradise offers readers a concise local history that has relevance for a much wider geographical region. Robbins narrative is largely about a community that develops around the extraction of a single resource—trees. Unfortunately, Coos Bay’s fate was largely in the hands of investors from San Francisco and the Eastern United States, who maximized timber extraction until the resource was exhausted, then largely moved on to the forests along the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, Robbins examines the effects of technological modernization within the lumber mills upon the work force, the debate over international trade policy, and the diversification of Coos Bay’s economy over time.
Stein, Arlene. The Stranger Next Door: The Story of a Small Community’s Battle over Sex, Faith, and Civil Rights. Boston: Beacon Press, 2001. Stein’s book is the first scholarly study of the controversy over local and statewide voter initiatives sponsored by the Oregon Citizens’ Alliance (OCA) in the 1990s. The author undertook a sociological case study of one community where the OCA introduced a local measure to amend the town’s bylaws to prevent anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians and prohibit government spending to promote homosexuality. Stein’s work traces the historical development of tensions within the community that resulted in a divisive campaign over a hotly debated issue.
Stowell, Cynthia D. Faces of a Reservation: A Portrait of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1987. This volume takes a novel approach in presenting the Warms Springs community to a general audience. In the first section, Stowell offers readers over fifty short biographies of Warms Springs residents. These personal portraits, illustrated with photographs by the author, show community members from a wide variety of age groups, educational backgrounds, professions, and interests. The second section provides a series of essays on the history, culture, and contemporary concerns of the Warms Springs community.
Tamura, Linda. The Hood River Issei: An Oral History of Japanese Settlers in Oregon’s Hood River Valley. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993. In the early decades of the twentieth century, Japanese emigrants began settling in Hood River Valley. This volume is based on Linda Tamura’s interviews with surviving members of this first generation of Japanese Americans, known as Issei. Tamura endeavors to tell individual stories and trace the collective experience of the emigrants. She narrates their early years in Japan and the U.S. and their struggles with racial discrimination, internment, and adaptation during the following decades.
Walth, Brent. At Eden’s Gate: Tom McCall and the Oregon Story. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1994. Tom McCall was one of Oregon’s most prominent political figures of the twentieth century. Walth’s biography follows McCall’s journey from his days as college student during the Great Depression, through his career as a journalist, and his later years as a politician, which culminated in the governorship from 1967 to 1975. Known for his outspoken demeanor, McCall was an ardent champion of the struggle to protect and preserve Oregon’s natural environment for future generations.
Wells, Gail. The Tillamook: A Created Forest Comes of Age. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1999. The Tillamook is a good introduction to the history of human relationships with Tillamook Forest. Its strength lies in the descriptions of the Tillamook Burns, occurring from 1833 to 1951, at six-year intervals, and of the massive reforestation efforts undertaken by the State of Oregon.
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