Subtopic : The Federal Connection: Recovery, Energy, & War: Home Front Boom
Themes: Transportation, Politics and Government, Towns and Cities
As plants tooled up in 1940 to produce war materials for Britain, cheap hydropower received even heavier federal subsidies. Between 1941 and 1945, Congress poured over $2 billion into the BPA on a crash program that increased its generating capacity six-fold. In 1941, Henry Kaiser, who had helped construct Boulder, Grand Coulee, and Bonneville dams, had been awarded contracts to build liberty ships and aircraft carrier escorts. He selected Portland as one of his West Coast sites, and soon built a large yard at Vancouver and two more along the Willamette River in Portland. Kaiser then recruited 150,000 new workers, some on special trains from as far away as New York. During the war Portland gained 160,000 people, boosting its population to 359,000, with another 100,000 newcomers working in Troutdale, Oregon City, Vanport, and Vancouver.
War contracts further connected Portland with the federal bureaucracy and the federal budget. While slum clearance, and coordinated highway, bridge, and public housing construction had already appeared in New York and Chicago, the rapid construction of industrial plants and of public housing came to most western cities during World War II. War production forced Portland, like Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Las Vegas, to enter the new economic relationship with the federal government that would dominate urban politics at least through the Reagan Administration. While New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia political leadership — overwhelmingly Democrats — welcomed this relationship, mayors and councilmen in Portland — mostly with Republican leanings through the early 1970s — tried to resist it.
© William Toll, 2003
Themes: Transportation,Politics and Government,Towns and Cities
Regions: Southeastern Oregon,Portland Metropolitan Area
Author: William Toll
Though the U.S. did not enter World War II until December 1941, Portlanders had been aiding the war build-up since 1939, most notably through the efforts of the Kaiser shipyards whose presence altered the face of Portland’s waterfront for years to come.
<< last subtopic
next subtopic >>
return to main menu