Monday, January 30, 2017

Car Trip to the Beach

What a better use for that new invention called the automobile than to pack up the kids and head for a day at the beach? Because this photo is a bit blurry, I'm not certain of the car's make/model, but the windshield shape is remniscent of a pre-1920 Studebaker, and the radiator badge appears to be an iron cross. Any suggestions? Please comment below!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Sunday at Venice Beach

Ok, truth be told, I don't know what day of the week this photo was taken, but it shows a very, very crowded Venice Beach. Now, who the heck would go to Venice just to sit under a black umbrella?

To the south of our scene is the Abbot Kinney Pier, below. This view is helpful in dating the photo. The pier went through several drastic changes over its history, the most dramatic after it suffered a catastrophic fire in December, 1920. Based on the Ferris Wheel, the auditorium, the three masts of the Ship Cafe just shoreward of the Ferris Wheel and the location of the roller coaster (on the north side of the pier), this scene appears to have been taken some time before the fire, which would put the date sometime between July 1905 and December 1920. When it was rebuilt afterwards, the roller coaster was located on the south, rather than the north side.

I've tried to find out information on Morley's, presumably a restaurant, but have come up empty...please comment at the bottom of the post if you have any info on this establishment.

Lots of straw hats
Some comparative images (mostly old post cards) can be found at VirtualVenice. Another history website. And details on the pier's construction.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Deluxe Barn

This is one massive barn and silo. And a cool ditcher parked off to the side.

Monday, January 23, 2017

MotorMonday: Golden Eagle Gasoline

Golden Eagle appears to have been a California brand of gasoline from the 1930s, which explains the lack of a canopy for this gas station that sits in the median of a street (the automotive blog The Old Motor also has a photo of a Golden Eagle sign in SoCal). And check those prices! 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Portland's Last Great Steamboat Race

Once upon a time, during the heydays of steam riverboats in the 1800s, racing was a big deal. Most riverboats were operated as individual businesses, rather than by a line, and the Captain was usuallly the owner. Most operated regularly between city pairs, and there was usually fierce competition with the faster boat generally attracting the most paying passengers and freight. Rivalries were intense, and Captains would often schedule their runs to coincide with a competitor's boat, just to demonstrate that their's was the faster. Informal races were frequent, and the rivalries built to support more formal races as well. It was such a big deal that riverboat racing became a substantial part of riverboat lore, so quite naturally races were a thing to be remembered, and reenacted nostalgically, including one race on the Columbia River held 65 years ago this week between two notable sternwheelers.
Note the seaplane in the upper right corner

The Race

Thus in 1952, when the Jimmy Stewart/Rock Hudson motion picture Bend of the River was about to be released (release date was February 13th), a steamboat race on the Columbia River was staged as a publicity stunt. The film is primarily about settlers in the Oregon frontier, but a riverboat is featured as the means to bring much needed (and much fought-over) winter supplies to the settlement, so a riverboat race seemed to be an appropriate media-attracting event.
The Henderson (foreground) cuts cleanly through the water while the Portland plows through it.
The race, held on January 24, 1952, featured two sternwheel tug boats (rather than packet boats), the 51-year-old Henderson which had played the part of River Queen in the movie, against the Port of Portland's five year old sternwheel tug Portland. Several of the movie's stars, including Jimmy Stewart, were onboard the Henderson during the race, and Stewart's race narration was broadcast live by radio station KEX.  Because both boats were built as towboat/tugs, they were designed for heavy lifting, not speed, so that race didn't feature the kinds of speeds seen once-upon-a-time between packet boats, but nonetheless, it made for great publicity.

The 3.6-mile course was from St. Johns Bridge to Sauvies Island, and though the Henderson was favored due to the shape of her hull, she fell behind early in the race when she started loosing steam from a blown gasket in her high-pressure cylinder. The Engineer was able to shunt live steam directly to her low pressure cylinder, and with her wheel turning at 30 rpm, the Henderson came from behind to win the race by a full length-and-a-half.

The Henderson

The 159-foot Henderson was launched in 1901 as the M.F. Henderson, owned by Shaver Transportation, and was a combination towboat and freighter. The opening of the Cascade Locks in 1896 had opened up the Columbia from Portland to the Dalles for freighting, which created demand for new boats.

In 1911, the M.F. Henderson was towing a Standard Oil barge when she was rammed by the tug Daniel Kern, which was hauling rock barges. The M.F. Henderson capsized to her side in shallow water. Shaver had the steamboat dismantled, and rebuilt the following year by the Portland Shipbuilding Company, and renamed simply HendersonShe got a new locomotive boiler built by James Monk, providing twice the capacity as the old boiler, but kept her original single-cylinder engines, until in 1929 when the Henderson was re-engined with tandem-compound engines, adding low-pressure cylinders to increase her power and efficiency.

When President and Mrs. Warren Harding sailed from Tacoma to Alaska in the early 1920s, it was on the Henderson.  She later made a name for herself during World War II by handling over 5,000 ships on the Columbia and Willamette.

She sunk and was raised again in 1950. It was in December, as Henderson and the Diesel tug Chinook were moving the decommissioned steamship Pierre Victory from Portland to Tongue Point. While lashed to the starboard side of the Pierre, Henderson ran over some submerged pilings of an old Cottonwood Island dike, tearing a 20-foot gash in her wooden hull. Captain Sydney Harris had the tow line cast off, and Pilot Don Weik directed the rapidly sinking tug towards calmer water near the shore. The hole was later patched and the hull pumped out, refloating the Henderson.

By the time of the race, Henderson was one of only two wooden-hulled steamboats left on the Columbia. In December 1956, she was towing a grain ship near the mouth of the Columbia when Henderson encountered some large swells, which beat her hard against the hull of the bigger grain ship. Her old wooden hull failing, the Captain had no choice but to beach the tug. The derelict hulk sat on the river bank until it was burned in 1964 to salvage the scrap metal. The Henderson's wheel was saved by local boat builder John Hounsell who also restored it to its current condition on display at the Hood River Museum (a photo can be seen here).

The Portland

The Portland is a steel-hull tug launched in 1947 (replacing a predecessor of the same name), and holds the distinction of being the last sternwheel, steam-powered tug built in the US. Designed by Guy H. Thayer for the Port of Portland Commission, Portland was built in the Gunderson Brothers yard by Northwest Marine Iron Works. She had originally been intended to be a Diesel-powered, screw-driven tug, but the Columbia River Pilots Association insisted on the more traditional drive, believing that a sternwheeler would be better suited for maneuvering large ships within the narrow confines of the Willamette. At 219 feet long, the tug was powered by two single-cylinder horizontal non-condensing steam engines. Owned by the Port of Portland, she was operated for twenty years by Shaver Transportation, and then after 1966 by Willamette Tug & Barge. The insistance of the sternwheel propulsion turned out to be a wise choice.

Not long after losing the race to the Henderson, the Portland was called upon to help full a heavily-laden Standard Oil freighter off a sandbar on Sauvies Island. Other screw-powered tugs had tried and failed (the Henderson had also taken part in the effort). The Portland was secured to the S. G. Follis, and her wheel was put into reverse. It created so much wash that the sand holdng the Follis firm was flushed away and the freighter freed. Five years later, the Portland again did what other tugs couldn't. Two derelict ships had broken free from their moorings and had hit the Hawthorne bridge. Lodged there, the strain threatened to damage or even destroy the bridge. Again, other Diesel-powered tugs had tried and failed to budge the derelicts, but the Portland was able to tow them away and secure them.

In the 1960s, efforts were attempted by the Port Commission to replace the Portland with a newer, more efficient Diesel tug, but the regional pilots and ship owners were insistent that the sternwheeler had an important role to still play. However, twenty years later, the ships using the port had grown larger, and were now equipped with bow thrusters, so the usefulness of the unique Portland declined as her age increased. When the Portland was finally retired in 1981, she was the last steam sternwheeler tug in commercial service. The Port Commission didn't want to scrap her, and initially sought to convert her into a tourist excursion steamer. A lot of politics played into this, including some fairly strong objections from the Port of Cascade Locks, who owned and operated the modern-day purpose-built Diesel-powered tourist sternwheeler Columbia Gorge, ironically setting off a rivalry of sorts between the two boats that would manifest itself later.

After languishing for a decade, she was finally sold to the Oregon Maritime Museum for $1, intended to be a static display. However, there was so much interest in her - which translated into donated dollars - that a full operational restoration was possible. Today, she houses part of the museum and is open for tours at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and is operated occasionally at special events. Because of her distinctions, she is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2008, the 1952 race was supposed to be recreated as part of a Portland-sponsored civic event, "Sternwheeler Days and The Great Steamboat Race". Portland was to race her rival Columbia Gorge, but just before the race, the Portland suffered a mechanical fault to her steering system, and hit a bank, damaging her paddlewheel. Drifting without power or steering, she was headed for the Bonneville Dam before being secured by another tug. Since then, though, the two riverboats have raced three times, with the Portland taking the prize twice.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Our House 4: Big House on the Prairie

Here is an interesting home layout, with both front and back porches. Given the unpainted wood, I'm guessing a prairie or other western location. Printed on AZO four-triangles-up paper, which was manufactured from 1904 to 1918.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Cadillac Just Like Al Capone's

Despite the poor-quality camera work in this photo, the car shown was, for its day, top of the line, the Cadillac 341, which explains why the owner likely wanted his photo taken in his shiny new status symbol (the fact that it's crooked and cuts off the front suggests that he set the camera up on something nearby and shot using the self-timer).

Cadillac built it's superior reputation early on by emphasizing precision machining and manufacturing, which resulted in cars that were more reliable than their competitors, and more expensive. It was a pricey car for the era: list price before extras for the 1928 model was $3,395, in a year when the average American's salary was $1,490, and the median cost of a new house was $4,250. There was little external difference between the 1928 and 1929, but from what I can tell, the one shown in our photo is a '28. (More on the 341 Series can be found here.)

The Chicago police department used the 341 as squad cars, so when famed gangster Al Capone picked a car to be modified and armored, the 341 was a natural choice - he even had it painted in the same two-tone green that the cops used. (It can be seen here.) Having been shot at several times by members of the rival North Side Gang, Capone spared no expense in equipping his 341 with steel armor and inch-thick bullet-proof glass. It was sold at Sotheby's in 2012 for $341,000 (it should be noted that persistent rumors that this same 341A was used by FDR in 1941 are false; Capone's car was in England at that time). In 1933, the British Pathe newsreel service filmed a walk-around tour of Capone's highly-modified 341 Town Sedan, and it has been digitized on YouTube:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Six Mountain Men and their Dog

There is something very "old west" about this photo - six men and two mules posing, probably at the start of a journey for at least a couple of them, the guy on the far left and the man at the right holding the mules lead would be my guess.

At first glance when I found this, I thought it might be some outlaw gang...but what self-respecting outlaw would ride around on a mule? Maybe they are trappers, or prospectors, but the lack of tools makes me scratch my head. I'm open to suggestions, though. The pine tree in the background and seeming hillside drop-off at the far right make this appear to be a cabin of some sort, one that seems well-stocked with wood for a long winter.

Below, I've cropped and enhanced each of the men, on the off-chance that someone might recognize one of them, or note some detail that I've missed. The guy on the left is one who it seems to me is leaving, because of both his jacket and the rifle at his feet (anyone recognize that rifle?), one of only two weapons or tools visible. The guy on the right reminds me a little of Mr. Edwards from the old Little House on the Prairie TV series.

The guy on the left is the one that intrigues me the most. Maybe it has something to do with his hat and pipe...he looks almost "outlawish". I'm not sure of the significance of the rope he's holdng. Behind him, a blanket covers most of the mule's load, but a small hand-axe can be seen.

The man on the right has an almost scholarly look about him, making him appear maybe a bit out-of-place.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

History Mystery Saturday: What Are They Building?

I find this photograph to be very intriguing. Construction techniques and civil engineering have come so far in the modern era that it's fun to look at how things used to be. But beyond the fascinating indivudual elements in this photo is the question of what is actually being built? If you have a thought, please comment below!

First off, the final shape of the construction seems to be cylindrical, as can be seen behind the lower portion of the structure. This would suggest a silo. However, the grates at the lower left suggest that these might be waterways, and that combined with the earthmoving going on in the left background suggests to me that this might be one of the core parts of a dam being built before the actual dam is built around it.

Below, since all the heavy equipment in the day was steam powered, cartfuls of coal were needed to stoke the fires. In the background of this crop appears to be a steam-powered concrete mixer.

From the output of the mixer, three cement carts can be seen sitting on a make-shift bridge leading to the project.

A large steam shovel - looking more like a building than a piece of movable equipment - works at digging.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Sisters? Sister-Wives?

This cabinet card portrait caught my eye because a typical family portrait would feature the mother, father and baby. But this one is different. Which lady is the mother? A close look at their faces suggests that the two women are sisters, but it seems odd for a sister to be included in such a family photograph. Then again, it was during this era that elements of the Mormon Church were still actively practicing polygamy, so were both of these women this man's wives? It seems far-fetched in our modern era, but such things really were different in places in the 19th Century; recalling such differences is one of the adventures in researching old photographs.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Yawning in the School Photo

As a professional photographer, I can attest to the fact that almost invariably, there is one kid in every crowd that will do his utmost to ensure that he leaves a unique mark on the group photo he's a part of. This school crowd is no different: look in the front row, far right, and you'll find a kid who just had to pick the moment when the shutter tripped to yawn. Shows what he thought of this whole exercise.

The name of the school is written in stone above the main entrance, but despite a high-resolution of the scan, the original image is note quite clear enough for me to discern the name. First four letters appear to be S-T-E-N..... The second word is possibly "TRADES" or "GRADES" (although plural doesn't make much sense.


Monday, January 9, 2017

Dump Trucks

As soon as trucks that could haul stuff were invented, someone decided it would be good to be able to dump that stuff out the back, and the dump truck was born (I over-simplify, of course...there were dump-horse-drawn-wagons even in the late 1800s). Since everyone loves dump trucks (ok, I did as a little boy, so I'm projecting), here are a couple of very early ones.

Possibly a Ford AA?

A guy with a job that was the envy of many a little boy
Want more? Here's another site with great photos of old trucks.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Bridge to Build a Dam

A couple of months ago, I shared a couple of photos of the unique multiple-arch engineered dam design, and mentioned that the prevailing type of dam has always been the massive gravity dam, where the shear weight of the structure is what holds the water back. Typically, such dams are made of many, many tons of rock and earth piled up.

Today's photo shows just how this used to be done, although the location is unknown. A railroad bridge is built across the middle of where the dam is to stand, and train after train of cars hauling the fill dump off to the side, where the rock and earth are spread out by teams of horses pulling rakes. As thousands of trainloads are dumped, the mound is built higher, burying the trestle.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Family Reunion

A lot of cousins and such seem to have gathered here, but this photo sadly has no information written on the back. With this many people present, at least a few of them are being researched by folks interested in genealogy and family history, but when photos aren't identified, all connections are lost.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Buggy

Because everyone needs to take a photograph of their new buggy, right?

Since there was a question about the bit on one of the Facebook groups this post was shared on, here's a higher res scan:

Monday, January 2, 2017

Four Ford Model Ts

For #MotorMonday, we offer four unrelated photos of people proudly displaying their Ford Model Ts.

First up, below, is a Runabout roadster with 1922 California license plates. The 1922 year model was a continuation of the previous year, which had introduced all-new body features. In 1922, one of these little numbers would have set you back a whopping $269...and for an extra $70, they'd add the optional starter! Ford built 160,000 roadsters in 1922.

This gentleman on the right is enjoying life behind the wheel of his 1925 four-door sedan. The product line hadn't seen any major changes since 1923, but subtle details suggests the 1925 year model. Equipped with an electric starter as standard, this five-passenger model cost $680...but keep in mind that median income was about $1,400 (by comparison, the median US income in 2015 was 55,000, so percentage-wise, this equates to a 26,000 car).

Model Ts were tough cars and stayed around. Though the photo below was taken in 1932, the car is either a 1922 or 1923 four-door touring car. Note that the top has been removed completely. Chas. Martin looks fairly young, so it's a fair bet that this used car is his first one, hence the occasion for a snapshot.

Lastly, this guy is assuming quite the pose with his Model T. License plates are from 1944 (and Model Ts were last produced in 1927).