Monthly Archives: April 2012

Those fabulous Giffords and their great pictures!

Oh the places you’ll go… Oh the places those Giffords went…

You’ve had a good long wait for a new Flickr Commons set — and this one will not disappoint. Those fabulous Giffords, with their fabulous picture taking skills, have left us with such an amazing legacy of stunning photography. Pulling together a set of pictures for this “Travels with the Giffords” set was a cinch. So many stunners to choose from!

Ice Garden, 1925

Ice Garden, 1925

My favorites include the “Ice Garden,” above, which shows a frozen fountain and pond at Gifford home in Salmon River, Washington. Another spectacular shot, “Hot springs near Lakeviewis seen below.


Hot springs near Lakeview, Oregon

Hot springs near Lakeview, Oregon

Want some more details from the finding aid?

The Gifford Family is considered Oregon’s first family of photography. Beginning in 1888, when Benjamin A. Gifford emigrated to Portland from Kansas, they began a photographic tradition that lasted into the 1950s and spanned three generations. Benjamin A. Gifford worked as hotographer in Portland and The Dalles, Oregon, from the late 1880s until about 1920, when his son Ralph took over his studio in Portland.

Ralph I. Gifford with dog and horse, circa 1945

Ralph I. Gifford with dog and horse, circa 1945

In 1936, Ralph became the first photographer of the newly established Travel and Information Department of the Oregon State Highway Department, a position he held until his death in 1947. After her husband’s death, Wanda Muir Gifford took over the family’s photography business and continued to take and sell photographs through the mid-1950s.

Ben L. Gifford, the son of Ralph I. and Wanda Gifford, joined his mother in the family’s business in early 1950s and also worked for a Salem photography studio from 1951 until 1955. Three generations of Gifford photography began to come to a close when Ben took an engineering job with the State Highway Commission in 1955.



Our very own Trysting Tree named State Heritage Tree!

Trysting Tree, circa 1938

Trysting Tree, circa 1938

Last week the Trysting Tree was named a State Heritage Tree and Special Collections & Archives Research Center director Larry Landis spoke at the dedication ceremony. For those of you who weren’t able to make it, here’s what you missed! Pretend like the wind is blowing and you can see the tree out of the corner of your eye…

During its 144 years as Oregon’s land grant institution, Oregon State University has had many strong traditions and iconic symbols.  One of her most well-known symbols and traditions has been the Trysting Tree.

This tree, a Gray Poplar — not considered to be a highly valuable tree by most arborists — was a popular gathering spot for couples from the late 19th century (soon after Oregon Agricultural College moved to its present location in 1889) through the first half of the 20th century.  The tree has been idolized in poetry and song.  OSU’s golf course is named for the tree.  A conference room in the CH2M Hill Alumni Center, a meeting room in Weatherford Hall, and a lounge in the Memorial Union all carry the Trysting Tree name.  And the tree is the source of many family stories, anecdotes, and yes, legends.

But what is the backstory of the tree?  Who planted it and when?

Trysting tree, circa 1910.

Trysting tree, circa 1910.

Some accounts state that George Coote, an early horticulture faculty member and superintendent of the college grounds, planted the tree in the early 1880s.  I have doubts about this story, as Coote was not appointed to the college faculty until 1888, although he had lived in the Corvallis area since 1877.  My guess is that it may have been planted by a previous landowner prior to the college’s acquisition of this parcel as the original college farm in 1871 – a February 1960 Oregon Stater article indicates that many “old-timers” believed the tree was one of several gray poplars planted on the original donation land claim.  It is also possible that someone else associated with the college planted it.   Another account states that originally two gray poplars that had been planted, but that one was cut down due to damaged limbs.

Regardless, by the late 1890s the tree had become a romantic gathering spot for students.  Despite admonitions from College President Thomas Gatch about this type of activity, as well as the installation of arc lights on Benton Hall’s cupola, the tree remained a popular destination.  President Gatch is credited with giving the tree its “Trysting Tree” moniker, and the Class of 1901 formally named it as such.

For the next 60 years or so many students experienced their first kiss, were pinned, or became engaged under the tree’s expansive branches.  It was also focal point for the many picnics, reunions and other events that were held in the area.

As the tree and its popularity grew, its presence in the culture of the college also grew.  The 1908 Orange, the predecessor to today’s Beaver yearbook (and actually published in 1907), included a poem in tribute to the tree.  Homer Maris, a graduate student at OAC in the late 1910s, continued this literary tradition with the writing, in 1917, of the poem that would become alma mater, Carry Me Back, in 1919.

By 1960, the Trysting Tree was suffering from disease, rotting from the inside out.  By 1980 this was becoming visibly apparent.  In a sad, but celebratory, ceremony on September 27, 1986 (not 1987 as the nomination states), the Trysting Tree was cut down after it had been eulogized and given a toast with sparkling apple cider.   Fortunately OSU had the foresight to anticipate the removal the Trysting Tree – cuttings had been taken from the tree and propagated under the guidance of horticulture professor Jack Stang, so that a genetically identical descendant would carry on the Trysting Tree tradition.  Propagating the tree in this manner had been proposed in 1960.  Trysting Tree II was planted on October 15, 1982 by the OSU Mothers’ Club.

In 1988, the tree was honored yet again, when OSU’s golf course, just across the Willamette River north of Highway 34, was named the Trysting Tree Golf Course.

Ribbon cutting ceremony, 1988

Ribbon cutting ceremony, 1988

It is appropriate – some would say long overdue – that today we recognize and honor the legacy of the original Trysting Tree and the current Trysting Tree II as an Oregon Heritage Tree.

I’d like to close with this last stanza of the poem that appeared in the 1908 Orange:

Long may’st thou live, thou worthy friend,

Thou dear old Trysting Tree;

Long may thy branches proudly wave

Majestic’ly and free,

To mind us of those happy days

Spent at old O.A.C.


School Traditions at OSU #4

Hello Walk, image courtesy of Google Maps

Hello Walk, image courtesy of Google Maps

“The Hello Walk”

As late as World War II, the “Hello Walk” encouraged a friendly greeting among students in the MU Quad. Originally along the diagonal between Kidder Hall and the Dairy Building (today called Fairbanks and Gilkey Halls), anyone walking along the path was expected to offer friendly greetings in any encounters, whether friend or stranger. The Barometer even reported that President Kerr particularly liked to start his mornings along the walk as a way to interact with students and faculty. In 1943, with a few veterans beginning to appear on campus, the tradition started to wane as co-eds worried that their greetings might be too forward and improper.

During the 20th century, spirit at Oregon State went through a lot of change as many traditions have come and gone. Some of the traditions have involved athletics, while others have simply embraced our alma mater. Enjoy your daily sampling of some of guest blogger Ben Forgard’s favorites!