The History of Portland Oregon
The History of Portland, Oregon began in 1843 on the Willamette River in what was then called Oregon Country. In 1845, the name of Portland was chosen for this community and on February 8, 1851, the city was incorporated. Portland has continued to grow in size and population with the 2000 Census showing 529,121 residents in the city.
The site of the future city of Portland, Oregon was known to American, Canadian, and English traders, trappers and settlers of the 1830s and early 1840s as "The Clearing," a small stopping place along the west bank of the Willamette River used by travelers en route between Oregon City and Fort Vancouver. As early as 1840, Massachusetts sea captain John Couch logged an encouraging assessment of the river’s depth adjacent to The Clearing, noting its promise of accommodating large ocean-going vessels, which could not ordinarily travel up-river as far as Oregon City, the largest Oregon settlement at the time. In 1843, Tennessee pioneer William Overton and Asa Lovejoy, a lawyer from Boston, Massachusetts, filed a 640-acre (2.6 km2) land claim with Oregon's provisional government that encompassed The Clearing and nearby waterfront and timber land. Legend has it that Overton had prior rights to the land but lacked funds, so he agreed to split the claim with Lovejoy, who paid the 25 cent filing fee.
|Portland, Oregon (1853)
Bored with clearing trees and building roads, Overton sold his half of the claim to Francis W. Pettygrove of Portland, Maine in 1845. When it came time to name their new town, Pettygrove and Lovejoy both had the same idea; to name it after his home town. They flipped a coin to decide, and Pettygrove won.
Portland existed in the shadow of Oregon City, the territorial capital 12 miles (19 km) upstream at Willamette Falls. However, Portland's location at the Willamette's confluence with the Columbia River, accessible to deep-draft vessels, gave it a key advantage over its older peer. It also triumphed over early rivals such as Milwaukie and Linnton. In its first census in 1850, the city’s population was 821 and, like many frontier towns, was predominantly male, with 653 male whites, 164 female whites and four “free colored” individuals. It was already the largest settlement in the Pacific Northwest, and while it could boast about its trading houses, hotels and even a newspaper--the Weekly Oregonian--it was still very much a frontier village, derided by outsiders as “Stumptown” and “Mudtown.” It was a place where “stumps from fallen firs lay scattered dangerously about Front and First Streets … humans and animals, carts and wagons slogged through a sludge of mud and water … sidewalks often disappeared during spring floods.”
Late 19th Century
Portland was the major port in the Pacific Northwest for much of the 19th century, until the 1890s, when direct railroad access between the deepwater harbor in Seattle and points east, by way of Stampede Pass, was built. Goods could then be transported from the northwest coast to inland cities without the need to navigate the dangerous bar at the mouth of the Columbia River.
|Portland Map (1890)
The city merged with Albina and East Portland in 1891.
Early 20th Century
In 1905, Portland was the host city of the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, a world fair. This event increased recognition of the city, which contributed to a doubling of the population of Portland, from 90,426 in 1900 to 207,214 in 1910.
In 1915, the city merged with Linnton and St. Johns.
On June 9, 1934, approximately 1,400 members of the International Longshoremen's Association participated in the West Coast waterfront strike, which shut down shipping in every port along the West Coast. The demands of the ILA were: recognition of the union; wage increases from 85 cents to $1.00 per hour straight time and from $1.25 to $1.50 per hour overtime; a six-hour workday and 30-hour work week; and a closed shop with the union in control of hiring. They were also frustrated that shipping subsidies from the government, in place since industry distress in the 1920s, were leading to larger profits for the shipping companies that weren't passed down to the workers. There were numerous incidents of violence between strikers and police: including strikers storming the Admiral Evans, which was beings used as a hotel for strikebreakers; police shooting four strikers at Terminal 4 in St. Johns; and special police shooting at Senator Robert Wagner of New York as he inspected the site of the previous shooting. The longshoremen resumed work on July 31, 1934, after voting to arbitrate. The arbitration decision was handed down on October 12, 1934, awarding the strikers with recognition of the ILA; higher pay of 95 cents per hour straight time and $1.40 per hour overtime, retroactive to the return to work on July 31; six-hour workdays and 30-hour workweeks, and a union hiring hall managed jointly by the union and management – though the union selected the dispatcher – in every port along the entire West Coast.
Late 20th Century
During the dot-com boom of the mid to late 1990s, Portland saw an influx of young, creative people, drawn by the promise of a city with abundant nature, urban growth boundaries, and opportunities to work in the graphic design and internet industries, as well as for companies like Doc Martens, Nike, Adidas, and Wieden+Kennedy. When this economic bubble burst, the city was left with a large creative population. Also, when the bubble burst in Seattle and San Francisco, even more artists streamed into Portland, drawn in part by the relatively inexpensive cost of living for the West Coast. In 2000, the U.S. census indicated there were over 10,000 artists in Portland.