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Portland in Three Centuries

The Place and the People

Carl Abbott

Publication Year: 2011

A compact and comprehensive history of Portland from first European contact to the twenty-first century, Portland in Three Centuries/ introduces the women and men who have shaped Oregon’s largest city.

The expected politicians and business leaders appear in Portland in Three Centuries—William Ladd and Edgar Kaiser, George Baker and Vera Katz. But Carl Abbott also highlights workers and immigrants, union members and dissenters, women at work and in the public realm, artists and activists, and other movers and shakers.

Incorporating social history and contemporary scholarship in his narrative, Abbott examines current metropolitan character and issues, giving close attention to historical background. He explores the context of opportunities and problems that have helped to shape the rich mosaic that is Portland.

A highly readable character study of a city, and enhanced by more than sixty historic and contemporary images, Portland in Three Centuries will appeal to readers interested in Portland, in Oregon, and in Pacific Northwest history.

Published by: Oregon State University Press


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pp. 5

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Author's Note

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pp. 7-8

In 1985, I authored Portland: Gateway to the Northwest, a brief history of the city with historical photographs and images assembled by Ted Van Arsdol. That book has long been out of print. In the meanwhile, a quarter century of research and writing has greatly expanded and enriched our knowledge of...

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Prologue: Gateway to the Northwest

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pp. 9-16

Our great-great-grandparents were quick to credit divine providence for the growth of their cities. The Creator, said one early Chicagoan, had marked the inevitable destiny of that city by rolling back the waves of Lake Michigan. The great bend of the Missouri River seemed a heaven-sent guarantee for the...

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Chapter 1: Stumptown

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pp. 17-31

The Pacific Northwest was an international trouble spot in 1845. Political control of the Oregon Country—what is now Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia—had been in dispute since the eighteenth century. England and the United States had pushed Russian claims north to Alaska and Spanish...

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pp. 32-33

When in doubt, you farmed. That was the United States in 1860, when agricultural employment was the default option. As the storm of civil war gathered, 60 percent of all American workers counted by the national census were farmers and farmhands, not to mention the family members who pitched in to tend livestock, chase...

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Chapter 2: On the Edge of the West

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pp. 35-47

Portlanders have always lived on the edge of the West. The “real West” of Zane Gray and Louis L’Amour begins closer to a hundred miles inland at The Dalles or Redmond, and stretches across another thousand miles of sagebrush, dry gulches, rocky mountains, and high plains. The Oregon pioneers of...

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Chapter 3: Growing Up and Settling Down

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pp. 49-70

Portland was still a small community at the time of its railroad revolution. With only 17,000 residents on the west side of the Willamette and a few hundred more scattered among the fir-covered ravines and knolls of the east side, Portland in 1880 was approximately the same size as The Dalles or...

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Chapter 4: The Fair and the City

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pp. 71-93

Portlanders loved a parade. Before movies and television, parades were a major form of entertainment, grand spectacles that brought citizens together to share the excitement of city life. In 1890, Harvey Scott noted that “scarcely a day passes but thick or thin files of men, accompanied by drum and brass...

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pp. 94-95

In December 1915, radical journalist John Reed returned to his hometown of Portland for a brief family visit and swept Louise Bryant off her feet. There are multiple versions of the story of their first meeting (the version in the movie Reds, starring Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton, is just one of many). What we...

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Chapter 5: Modern Times

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pp. 97-117

The problems and opportunities of modern times arrived in Portland with assistance from the Great War in Europe, which turned the city’s small shipbuilding business into a major industry. The success of Germany’s U-boat campaign in 1916 and 1917 spurred Allied orders from Portland shipbuilders to replace...

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Chapter 6: The War and After

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pp. 119-137

World War II brought more excitement to Portland than anything since the great Exposition. In the language of city officials who worried about problems of the home front, the Portland metropolis was a “congested war production area.” But in terms of the pace of daily life, it was a boom town—another...

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Chapter 7: The Portland Revolution

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pp. 139-154

Proper Portlanders got a scare when they opened the May 1, 1968, edition of the Oregon Journal. “Hippies Might ‘Make Scene’ in Portland This Summer” was the headline over a story that warned that 20,000 longhairs from San Francisco, already tripped out from 1967’s Summer of Love, were planning to...

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pp. 155-156

Portland in the generation after World War II was a long way from national centers of art and culture. Its art museum had scored a coup in 1913 as the only venue outside New York to display selections from the famous Armory Show that had introduced Americans to modern art, but its permanent collections were thin...

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Chapter 8: Portland Looks Forward

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pp. 157-175

Portlanders enthusiastically adopted two civic icons in the mid-1980s. In 1985, the city installed Portlandia in her niche over the entrance to the newly completed Portland Building. This huge copper statue of a kneeling woman clutching a trident in one hand and reaching out to pedestrians on the Fifth Avenue Transit Mall with the other was based on the figure of “Lady...

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Learning About Portland

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pp. 177-185

The best places to begin diving into Portland history are the Portland City Archives and the Oregon Historical Society, conveniently located a few blocks apart at the southern end of downtown. Other important organizations with collections and exhibits on aspects of Portland include the Oregon Jewish...


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pp. 187-192

E-ISBN-13: 9780870716447
E-ISBN-10: 0870716441
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870716133
Print-ISBN-10: 0870716131

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2011