Author Archives: dvoraka

Early Disease Epidemics in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest

This post is the last in a series on the effects of the “Spanish Flu” pandemic in 1918 and 1919. In light of the recent situation with COVID-19, SCARC archivists Anna Dvorak and Larry Landis explore how past epidemics and pandemics have impacted the Oregon State and Corvallis communities.


The 1918-19 influenza pandemic was well documented, in part because of broad newspaper coverage, photography, and advances in medical science. Despite the pandemic’s detrimental effect in Oregon, where tens of thousands of people became ill and more than 3,600 succumbed, earlier disease outbreaks and pandemics proportionally had a greater impact, especially among Native communities. Most major diseases ravaged Oregon and the Pacific Northwest at one time or another in the late 18th and 19th centuries, including smallpox, malaria, measles, influenza, cholera and typhoid fever. Some of the diseases recurred periodically, sometimes on an annual basis.

Costume of a Callapuya Indian, 1841, by Alfred T. Agate

Although disease was common among the mostly white emigrants on the Oregon Trail, historian William Lang has concluded that most outbreaks occurred prior to their arrival at Ft. Laramie in Wyoming. Many of the disease outbreaks in the late 18th and early 19th centuries transformed into epidemics that decimated the region’s Native populations, due to their lack of immunity because of no prior exposure. It is estimated that between about 1780 and 1850, 97 percent of Oregon’s Native population perished due to introduced diseases. Anthropologist Robert T. Boyd estimated that the population of two western Oregon Native groups, the Chinookan and the Kalapuyan peoples, declined from a pre-contact population of 32,000 to approximately 2,100 by the late 1830s. By the 1850s, disease outbreaks and epidemics had reduced Native populations to a fraction of their pre-contact numbers. However, many chronic diseases, such as tuberculosis, continued to affect the survivors in those communities.

According to Boyd’s Oregon Encyclopedia essay on disease in Native communities, a smallpox epidemic around 1781 was the first documented in Oregon. The documentation included oral tradition from the Clatsop Tribe on Oregon’s north coast and entries in the journals of Lewis and Clark noting pockmarked people in various Native communities. It is likely that this smallpox epidemic spread among many indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest. 

Subsequent smallpox epidemics occurred almost each decade through 1870. A smallpox epidemic in 1853 struck the lower Columbia River region, wiping out as much as half the Native population in some communities. It was the last major epidemic among Native communities, as those populations had already suffered enormous population decline over the previous seventy years. Among non-Native communities, a smallpox epidemic in 1862 was particularly hard on the Aurora Colony. Jacksonville experienced a significant smallpox outbreak in 1868-69, and in 1870 western Oregon experienced a smallpox epidemic.

Jason Lee’s mission, established 1834 near Salem, Visual Instruction Department Lantern Slides, 1900-1940 (P 217)

Outbreaks and epidemics of malaria, called “fever and ague,” in the early 1830s may have been even more virulent and destructive to Native communities than smallpox. It also greatly affected the Anglo population in the area; at one point in 1830, seventy-five people at the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fort Vancouver were ill with the disease, though proportionately far fewer died than among the Native population in the region. In 1832 a malaria outbreak at the fort affected an estimated 137 out of 140 people, though few apparently died.  Malaria also affected the Willamette Mission near Salem, established in the mid-1830s. Boyd speculates that the malaria epidemics of the 1830s may have been accompanied by influenza, possibly accounting for the high mortality rate since pneumonia is a complication of both diseases. An influenza epidemic in 1836 on the central Oregon coast and an 1844 outbreak of dysentery on the Lower Columbia also took many lives in Native communities. 

A major measles epidemic in the Pacific Northwest in 1847-48 ravaged the Cayuse Tribe in the mid-Columbia River region, especially its children. This epidemic had a connection to the Whitman Massacre at Waiilatpu in the Walla Walla Valley in 1847, as it is thought that Marcus Whitman was killed by a band of Cayuse because of his inability to cure tribal members of the disease. The epidemic affected Native communities as far north as Sitka, in present-day Alaska, and south into the Willamette Valley.  This was the first recorded measles epidemic in the Pacific Northwest, though the disease may have been present in the region as early as 1812.

The last major pandemic of the 19th century was an influenza pandemic in 1889-90. It was commonly called “La grippe” and later known as the “Russian influenza.” An estimated 1 million people succumbed to it worldwide, 13,000 in the U.S. It appeared in Oregon in December 1889, with initial newspaper reports of outbreaks in Astoria, Portland, Pendleton and Albany.  Statistics for Oregon on the extent of the disease, the number of people affected, or the number of deaths are not known. The 1889-90 pandemic was a foreshadowing of what was to come less than twenty years later.


For additional reading on epidemics in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest among Native communities, see Boyd’s Oregon Encyclopedia essay, “Disease Epidemics among Indians, 1770s-1850s” and his Oregon Historical Quarterly article, “The Pacific Northwest Measles Epidemic of 1847-1848” (Vol. 95, no. 1, Spring 1994).


This post was contributed by Larry Landis, Director of Special Collections and Archives. Larry Landis is the director of OSU’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center, and has worked as an archivist at OSU since 1991. He is the author of A School for the People: A Photographic History of Oregon State University. Larry is retiring from OSU on July 1.

The “Spanish” Flu On Campus

This post is the fourth in a series on the effects of the “Spanish Flu” pandemic in 1918 and 1919. In light of the recent situation with COVID-19, SCARC archivists Anna Dvorak and Larry Landis explore how past epidemics and pandemics have impacted the Oregon State and Corvallis communities.


Corvallis citizens saying goodbye to OAC cadets, circa 1918, Oregon State University Military Photographs Collection, 1875-1975 (P 002)

As Oregon Agricultural College students began to arrive back on campus for the start of classes in October 1918, the “Spanish” Flu had not yet arrived in Corvallis, but measures were in place to take care of sick students and to help prevent the spread of the virus.  The presence of the Students’ Army Training Corps (SATC) on OAC’s campus greatly affected the efficiency of caring for sick students, which in turn encouraged Corvallis to follow suit.

SATC field maneuvers and mock battle west of Corvallis, Harriet’s Photograph Collection, 1868-1996 (P HC)

Tracking of cases on the college campus started Tuesday October 1, 1918, the day classes commenced.  The “Report of the College Health Service” in the College Biennial Report of the Board of Regents, 1916-1918, gives an excellent narrative of how the epidemic was controlled on campus, especially among the SATC cadets.  1918 was the first year that treatment was split based on gender.  Male students who fell ill were treated by a medical officer and dentist attached to the SATC, and 8 local physicians.  With the campus Medical Adviser, Dr. Wendell J. Phillips, away on medical leave, female students on the other hand, were treated by the resident nurse, Amy Cyrus, who saw patients in her offices on the ground floor of the Home Economics building and at students’ residences.  From October through December, she attended to 159 cases of “Spanish influenza” and there were no female deaths reported on campus.  The “Report” attributed her success to her efforts to prevent the disease in the first place by teaching students to diagnose the symptoms of the flu, and to protect themselves from it.  As a whole, OAC suffered a total of 785 cases, with only 4 deaths at the end of 1918.

The flu, naturally, impacted student life as well.  Student activities were cancelled or suspended and interactions were limited.  However, despite the restrictions, the football game on October 12, 1918 was allowed to proceed as scheduled.  But others later in the season were played without an audience.  And come spring, the impact of the flu on the basketball season was a major concern.  In the 1920 Beaver yearbook, which covers the 1918-1919 academic year, the Vigilance Committee commended the Freshman class for having shown “a fine spirit of willingness and helpfulness toward the institution and its customs” despite having lost three months of college life due to the cancelation of activities in the Fall 1918 term.

On October 11, the Gazette-Times announced that there were no cases of influenza in Corvallis and OAC students were being given medical attention at the first signs of colds or grippe in order to monitor for development of influenza.  However, the SATC reports paint a different story.  During the second week of classes, the cases numbered close to 200 and an appeal was made for expert medical assistance.  

The third floor of Waldo had been converted into a thirty bed infirmary for male students, similar measures had been taken to isolate sick female students as well.  Courses in hygiene and pharmacy adapted and added lectures in the management of colds and grippe, and also the nature of the Spanish flu.  Sororities and fraternities were closed to visitors, and house mothers received training and supplies to care for their female students.  Any student with a cold was instructed to stay home and not attend any classes.  

In early November, US Major Cross of the medical corps attributed the relative success of the Corvallis epidemic to “above average intelligence” and a successful newspaper education campaign.  At that time, there were only 2 deaths out of 400 cases in Corvallis and 4 deaths out of 600 on campus.  This success was emphasized by the satisfaction of a state official who visited campus after complaints that the school was still operating.  However, when he inspected campus and looked at the statistics, he allowed the college to stay in operation.  In his final report about his visit at OAC, Major Cross reported “that the epidemic had been more successfully controlled at the Oregon Agricultural College than at any center of military training in the country where an equal number of men were concerned.”

By early January 1919, Corvallis reported a decrease in the number of cases reported, despite rumors that there were new cases and the town would have to be quarantined.  On January 9, it was reported that no deaths had occurred since December 26.  But there seems to have been a spike in mid- to late-January 1919 that made it necessary to use Shepard Hall on OAC campus as a hospital, which opened on January 11, 1919.  This was due to a shortage of nurses and the difficulty of isolating students in dorms and other living communities such as sororities or fraternities.  Although beds were provided, students had to provide their own linens in the hospital.  By the 13th, 19 more cases were reported, bringing the total to 51, but officials maintained that there was no need to worry about the increase.

February continued to see impacts to life on campus.  Although the demobilization of troops was a bright spot, a second quarantine prevented a return to normal and an impact on the college basketball season.  Later in the month, there was also no indoor memorial service for college librarian Ida Kidder, who passed on February 28, 1919, because of the influenza epidemic.  Instead, a memorial service was held in the open space in front of the library and she laid in state in the main corridor of the library on March 2.

As the epidemic subsided, thoughts turned to the future.  Due to the need for nurses demonstrated by the pandemic, OAC began offering home nursing classes spring term 1919.


This post was contributed by Anna Dvorak. Anna is a Processing Archivist and Historian of Science, and serves as SCARC’s social media coordinator.

The “Spanish” Flu in Corvallis

This post is the third in a series on the effects of the “Spanish” Flu pandemic in 1918 and 1919. In light of the recent situation with COVID-19, SCARC archivists Anna Dvorak and Larry Landis explore how past epidemics and pandemics have impacted the Oregon State and Corvallis communities.


The course of illness in Corvallis and on the Oregon Agricultural Campus campus was more contained than in other regions of the state, especially the larger city of Portland.  Corvallis took measures to limit gatherings before Portland and OAC had wards set up to isolate sick students.  The presence of the Students’ Army Training Corps (SATC) on OAC’s campus greatly affected the efficiency of caring for sick students, which in turn encouraged Corvallis to follow suit.

In late September 1918, just as OAC students were arriving in Corvallis to start their classes in October, Benton county residents were requested to contact their local health officer, H. S. Pernot, on the authority of the Surgeon General of the United States if they exhibited symptoms of the flu.  This measure was enacted to create as little impact on war work as possible and help prevent the epidemic from spreading.  However, more extreme measures were not put in place.

Postcard reading “Train loads of students arrive at O. A. C. September 28, 1918,” G. Herbert Fredell Photographic Collection, 1918-1919 (P 204)

The Spanish Flu was first mentioned in the Gazette-Times in relation to practices troops overseas were implementing to combat the flu on August 20, 1918.  The first Corvallis death would come a month later when Mrs. Vena Rickard Clark, a former Corvallis resident who called Portland home, succumbed to the virus on September 28 while visiting New York City.  It was believed she had contracted the flu while sightseeing in Boston.

As of October 11, the Gazette-Times announced that there were no cases of influenza in Corvallis and OAC students were being given medical attention at the first signs of colds or grippe in order to monitor for development of influenza.  On the 14th, the Gazette-Times announced that with the situation under control, the number of cases of influenza were decreasing.  The SATC Commander Colonel A. C. Sharp found the situation very encouraging and elaborated that it did not even compare to “real epidemics” he had witnessed.  A census of nurses already planned to be completed by Christmas, was fast tracked in order to supply the War Department with the numbers of nurses available for future need.

A week later on Saturday October 19,  a Gazette-Times article announced that churches and schools would be closed starting the next day and although more information was not available yet, the situation looked promising.  They reported only several cases in Corvallis and the campus was “very much better.”  Most of the cases in Corvallis at that time seemed to be downtown.  The newspaper advised “To sit tight, keep cool, and spray.”  

Albany and the rest of Linn County followed suit on November 2, 1918, when they closed schools on orders from the State that all schools be closed.  At the time, they reported having no deaths due to the flu. 

On November 8, 1918, Major Cross of the United States’ Medical Corps, attributed the relative success of the Corvallis epidemic to “above average intelligence” and a successful newspaper education campaign.  At that time, there were only 2 deaths out of 400 cases in Corvallis and 4 deaths out of 600 on campus.  

After the middle of November, the intensity of the epidemic began to weaken. It was fortunate that was the case, since the official announcement of the armistice on November 11 caused jubilant rejoicing and plans for a large celebration in Portland on the 16th.  But this rejoicing and groups celebrating the end of the war brought on another wave of the flu.

Corvallis Gazette-Times, December 5, 1918

The city of Corvallis locked down in early December and instituted a ban on “unnecessary gatherings,” which was very loosely defined and understood to allow for school attendance and businesses to keep their doors open.  The city wanted to make sure the flu would not impact Christmas celebrations and “In the meantime, the public is advised to take care of itself, sit tight and to investigate all rumors before passing them on.” 

By early January 1919, Corvallis reported a decrease in the number of cases reported, despite rumors that there were new cases and the town would have to be quarantined.  On January 9, the Gazette-Times reported that no deaths had occurred since December 26.  But there seems to have been a spike soon after this report in mid- to late-January 1919 that made it necessary to shut the town down again.  At this time, City Health Officer Dr. R. L. Bosworth printed reports about homes under quarantine, with addresses, but did not list the numbers of residents infected.  The reports did note that many times whole homes were sick, so the number sick was much greater than the number of homes under quarantine.

Corvallis fared much better than other places and those in quarantine were less than 1% of the total population.  However, cases continued to be reported, and more and more homes were placed under quarantine than were released.  Residents were encouraged to do all that they could to “stamp out the disease.”  On January 17, the city council voted to close the town, which would include closing schools, churches, theaters, and pool and dance halls.  It was also reported that there were no recent deaths from the flu and there were plans to establish a hospital at the Evangelical Bible School in hopes of copying the college’s success in isolating flu cases.

Example of homes listed under quarantine. Corvallis Gazette-Times, January 15, 1919.

On February 7, 1919, there were no new cases on campus and only 5 homes in Corvallis under quarantine.  By February 13, the Gazette-Times reported that Corvallis was flu free, and had been for several days, and was the first of the larger towns to report being so.

The pandemic in Corvallis lasted through Spring 1919.  Frank McCready, who died April 11, 1919, was reported as the last casualty of the flu pandemic.  Two weeks later on April 25, 1919, fear of a new outbreak was raised when neighboring town and state capital Salem reported five new cases. However, that outbreak didn’t spread to Corvallis.

Fear of another outbreak during the 1919-1920 flu season was high, and preparedness was the key for any potential new outbreak.  From the previous year, Corvallis had already established effective measures to prevent the spread of disease and these would need to be put in place again if necessary.  Corvallis planned on quarantining those infected as the main measure.


This post was contributed by Anna Dvorak. Anna is a Processing Archivist and Historian of Science, and serves as SCARC’s social media coordinator.

The “Spanish” Flu Arrives in Oregon

This post is the second in a series on the effects of the “Spanish” Flu pandemic in 1918 and 1919. In light of the recent situation with COVID-19, SCARC archivists Anna Dvorak and Larry Landis explore how past epidemics and pandemics have impacted the Oregon State and Corvallis communities.


The name “Spanish Flu” was a misnomer, and for the most part, Oregon newspapers denied the connection and referred to it as the flu or influenza, especially as the pandemic progressed. The name originated from the fact that at the time Spain did not censor news, and the epidemic there was widely publicized, giving rise to the common but totally misleading belief that the virus spread from cases in Spain.

Early on, the flu was compared to the 1889-1890 flu epidemic, referred to at the time as La Grippe, with its similar symptoms and progression.  The theory was floated that this previous epidemic gave older people immunity to the “Spanish” Influenza, and explained why this new flu impacted younger people and those who were not previously exposed.

Portland, Oregon with Mt. Hood in the background, Visual Instruction Department Lantern Slides, 1900-1940 (P 217)

The number of cases and fatality of the strain remains uncertain even today.  It is largely believed that there were at least 50 million deaths worldwide, and at least 500,000 of those were in the United States.  In Oregon, about 50,000 were diagnosed with the flu and 3,675 died, which was above the national average. However, Corvallis, and Oregon Agricultural College in particular, fared quite well and had much lower fatality rates.  

The flu impacted the United States in three waves.  The earliest wave originating from a military base in Kansas, the Second Wave started when the virus returned to Boston with soldiers from fighting overseas in August 1918, and the Third Wave, a resurgence of cases in Winter 1919.  The flu subsided later that summer.  When the flu arrived in the United States, soldiers in Europe had already been taking measures against the flu.  As of August 20th, American soldiers “in camp” in the European theatre, were subjected to “gargle parades” first thing in the morning.  This antiseptic throat rinse was designed to ward off influenza.

The Polk County Post, October 11, 1918

Crowded conditions and the movement of troops during World War I likely contributed to the spread of the 1918 virus around the world.  From Europe and Boston it spread, and you can track the spread by tracking the movement of troops.  The efficient railway system and steamships made this virus spread even quicker.  Furthermore, the war effort exacerbated already existing issues with congregating and large groups of people as people gathered for parades, rallies, and bond drives, and limited medical professionals.  Within six weeks of its outbreak in Boston, all of North America was affected.

Scene at Fort Stevens, Gerald W. Williams Regional Albums (P 303)

The first case seems to have arrived in the Pacific Northwest in the middle of September 1918, having arrived from Philadelphia in Washington state as troops moved to Camp Lewis.  The first case in Oregon was reported, when it spread from Camp Lewis to Fort Stevens, near Astoria.  The mayor of Astoria was quick to quarantine his city, while the city of Portland, being further away, was slower.  At first, health officials in Portland relied on a city-wide mask ordinance while residents ignored anti-crowding measures and quarantine laws and continued on as usual.  In line with the continued movement of troops through the Northwest, the first case was reported in Portland on October 4 when a sick soldier traveling to Texas was too sick to reach his final destination.  Only as cases grew, did push back subside; the toll was too much to ignore.  

The Morning Oregonian, October 5, 1918

The next day, the first instance of Oregonians affected by the flu was printed on the front page of The Morning Oregonian on October 5, 1918.  In the article titled “Sneezers musn’t stay in theaters – health officer orders the ejection of coughers also,” City Health Officer Dr. George Parrish supported the removal of potentially sick individuals, while not closing the places of gathering themselves.  This is likely due to his understanding that “Several persons,” he stated, “have told me of possible cases and several doctors have been reported as having treated cases of Spanish influenza, but inquiry proves that none of the cases was the real thing . . . However, we are taking every possible means to prevent spread of the disease in case it should appear.”

With this emphasis on preventative measures, on October 7, 300 slides were distributed to theaters around the state to educate residents on preventative measures and The Oregonian carried the headline, “Cut Out Sneezing – Doctors War Cry.”  Two days later, on the 9th, The Oregonian was still reporting that the “Influenza in City is Under Control,” while the City Health Officer contradicted this statement when he canceled a business trip to Chicago underlying a larger fear.

It was at this time that the course of disease began to differentiate its impact in different communities.  For example, Corvallis was ahead of Portland, and they canceled all public gatherings and established a hospital to aid in isolation of new cases.  Portland followed suit two days later when the cases in the city were declared at 60 (although they were likely twice that) and the state reported 200 cases.  And by the 13th, all hospital beds that could be made available for flu patients in the city were full.  Portland saw an influx of people from surrounding rural areas who didn’t have access to the necessary care and from those working in shipyards and other war industries.

The evolution of the pandemic in Corvallis and on the Oregon Agricultural College campus will be discussed in coming weeks.

The Morning Oregonian, November 4, 1918

This post was contributed by Anna Dvorak. Anna is a Processing Archivist and Historian of Science, and serves as SCARC’s social media coordinator.

The 1918-19 Flu Pandemic: Dr. Wendell J. Phillips

This post is the first in a series on the effects of the “Spanish Flu” pandemic in 1918 and 1919. In light of the recent situation with COVID-19, SCARC archivists Anna Dvorak and Larry Landis explore how past epidemics and pandemics have impacted the Oregon State and Corvallis communities.


Over the past 250 years, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest have endured several epidemics and pandemics. These periodic bouts of malaria, yellow fever, smallpox and influenza have had profound effects, particularly on Native American communities.

Most akin to the current COVID-19 crisis was the 1918-1919 influenza. This worldwide pandemic took the lives of an estimated 50 million people globally; in Oregon more than 3,600 people perished from fall 1918 into spring 1919, and many suffered lasting health effects for years afterward. Oregon Agricultural College was not spared from the pandemic, though the college and the local community fared better than many communities.  

One of OAC’s earliest and highest profile casualties of the 1918-19 pandemic was Dr. Wendell James Phillips, who was OAC’s first college physician and head of the Student Health Service.  He died in late October 1918 while on leave from OAC serving as a military physician – one of two OAC faculty casualties of World War I. Dr. Phillips came to OAC in Fall 1916 to inaugurate the college’s health service. 

Phillips (seated right) at Louisiana State University, courtesy of the Louisiana State University Archives. 

Phillips was born on November 30, 1886 in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, north of Harrisburg. He earned his undergraduate degree at Louisiana State University in 1911, where he played football and basketball. Phillips received his medical degree from the Jefferson Medical College of the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia in June 1915. He then served as a resident physician at Philadelphia’s St. Agnes Hospital. Phillips married Ruth Haas in August 1916, just prior to moving to Corvallis. 

When Phillips arrived at OAC in early September 1916, he was charged with outfitting the new the Student Health Service, which consisted of a clinic in the men’s gymnasium. His work with establishing OAC’s health service was widely reported in Portland and other Oregon newspapers. The new health service quickly outgrew its original space and ultimately relocated to what is now the Hattie Redmond Women and Gender Center. Over the next eighteen month Phillips laid the groundwork for the robust health service that has served OSU for more than 100 years. 

Station Building (left), 1916, around the time that it became the Student Health Services Building — https://oregondigital.org/sets/osu-historical-images/oregondigital:df71xh31x

Phillips was highly regarded by faculty and students. He was a faculty member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Phillips also served as the medical advisor for the college’s athletics teams and was a charter member of the college’s chapter of Sigma Delta Psi, a national athletic honorary fraternity. He undertook specialized training in the summer of 1917 to become an ear, nose and throat specialist. Within the local community, Phillips led a league of church-affiliated basketball teams during the winter of 1918. As the college physician, he prepared a bulletin on hygiene that included treatments for colds, poison oak, and other common illnesses suffered by college students.  

Dr. Phillips doing dental work in the Student Health Services building — https://oregondigital.org/sets/osu-historical-images/oregondigital:df70c2876

In April 1918, Phillips took a leave of absence from OAC when he was ordered to report for military service in the U.S. Army as part of the war effort. On the eve of his departure from Corvallis, Phillips and another local physician who was also entering the Army were honored at a banquet at the Hotel Julian. Phillips entered the Army Medical Corps and was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant and trained at the Army’s Medical School at Camp Lee, Virginia. He was awaiting orders to be sent to France when he contracted influenza, and passed away from the resulting pneumonia on October 13, 1918 at the camp’s base hospital, just a few weeks short of his 32nd birthday. He was interred in the Union Cemetery in his hometown of Selinsgrove on October 16. 

Phillips was highly lauded after his death. His obituary in the Corvallis Gazette-Times described him as untiring, reporting that he had seen more than 4,000 patients between January and April 1918. The January 1919 OAC Alumnuscharacterized Phillips as “naturally full of energy,” one who “never seemed to tire,” and who was ”always ready to answer a call at any time of the night as well as the day.” The college’s 1918-20 biennial report section on the college in the world war noted Phillips’ passing:

As College Physician he touched the lives of all students, and by his sympathetic interest and untiring energy made his professional influence felt throughout the institution. Technically competent and personally accomplished, he inspired confidence and friendship among both faculty and students, all of whom were deeply grieved by his untimely death.

Phillips was honored as an Oregon State Gold Star member – those Oregon Staters who gave their life during WWI and to whom the Memorial Union is dedicated. When Oregon State’s new Student Health Service building (now Plageman Hall) opened in 1936, the State Board of Higher Education approved the placement of a bronze plaque in Phillips’ honor in the vestibule of the building. The plaque was provided by his widow, Ruth Phillips.


This post was contributed by Larry Landis, Director of Special Collections and Archives. Larry Landis is the director of OSU’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center, and has worked as an archivist at OSU since 1991. He is the author of A School for the People: A Photographic History of Oregon State University. Larry is retiring from OSU on July 1.

What does the archive mean to me?

How can I even begin to answer that question?  My experiences in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC) and with SCARC faculty over the past four and a half years have been, in one word, amazing.  But beyond that, there are not enough words to even begin to say what this experience has meant to me.  Every day there is something new to discover and new people to interact with.  But even more importantly, over the past four years I have discovered that my work in special collections and archives has fostered in me a love beyond merely conducting research, but being able to share in others’ work and excitement of discovery in the archives.  Through working at SCARC I get to use my background in history and research to share with researchers (and the world through social media!) what amazing collections we have the honor of working with. 

I have also had the opportunity to work outreach events, events that I believe are crucial to reaching people outside of the academic setting.  I have volunteered to work SCARC open houses and exhibit openings, while also traveling farther afield to work events in Portland.  This ability to share SCARC with people beyond those who walk into the reading room is one of my favorite parts of working here.  And I LOVE working the front desk.  My hours spent working the front desk have been some of the most fulfilling.

While completing my PhD and working at SCARC I also had the opportunity to serve as Deschutes Brewery Archiving Intern.  Aside from working full-time while going to school, this was an eye-opening experience that allowed me another opportunity to share the archive experience with those outside of the traditional academic setting.  It was also the largest collection I had processed on my own.  This was a great learning experience that truly brought the archives to life for me and gave me a project I could call my own.  I also valued the opportunity to share the importance of archives for preserving not only company records or artifacts, but the importance of the employees voices in that company history.

But most importantly, I have decided that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.  Despite having spent seven years working on a Masters and then PhD in History of Science, I want to spend my days working at an archive.  As I look towards the future and think about what I want it to hold, I know my future plans will ideally include working and teaching in an archive.  With the experiences I have gained in my seven years at OSU, four of which I had to honor of spending working in SCARC, I know I don’t want my work in the archives to end.  To me, the archives can serve as a place to bring all these experiences together and allow me to pursue a profession that brings together the best parts of being a historian while having the opportunity to share this knowledge through archives and aiding in each researcher’s own research and project development. 


Anna Elizabeth Dvorak is a historian of science focusing on science in early Cold War policy.  She recently completed her PhD dissertation on Leo Szilard’s fact and fiction here at OSU.

Agents of Ecological Imperialism: Nurserymen and the Creation of the Nineteenth-Century Plant Trade

This summer the Resident Scholar Program at the Special Collections and Archives Research Center welcomed Camden Burd, a PhD candidate in History at the University of Rochester. Burd’s research focuses on the ecological and economic impact of 19th century nurserymen, and how the plant trade in the United States transformed the rural landscape of the American West.

Burd presented a component of his research in mid-August in a talk titled, “Agents of Ecological Imperialism – Nurserymen and the Creation of Nineteenth-Century Plant Trade.” In his lecture, Burd depicted 19th century nurserymen as both businessmen and emissaries of agricultural transformation, noting that nurseries encouraged farmers and settlers alike to change their surroundings with orchards and gardens in an attempt to both beautify and create bounty. Not only was this mindset beneficial to the businesses within the plant trade, but it was also well within the contemporary mindset and ideology of Westward expansion and frontier settlement.

One of the largest commercial nurseries mentioned by Burd was Mount Hope, located in Rochester, New York. The East Coast, and Rochester in particular, were central to the plant trade in the United States, and Burd pointed out that the number of nurserymen living in the Rochester area jumped more than ten-fold from 1840 to 1855. As these nurseries grew, they began to expand and make connections westward, where there resided an untapped market for pioneers migrating to unsettled territories. One entrepreneur, Henderson Leulling, was a nurseryman based in the Oregon Territory who is well-known today for providing plant material such as fruit trees to early Oregon growers.

While investigating the economic and cultural impact made by these nurserymen, Burd also explored the consequences of nation-wide plant distribution, mainly though a discussion of the San Jose scale, a pest insect that was originally discovered in California, and that proved to be especially devastating to orchards. The outbreak of the San Jose scale was attributed to East Coast nurseries and nurserymen, and soon led to stricter regulations surrounding the sale and distribution of plant material across state lines. These new restrictions dissuaded local farmers from purchasing plants outside their geographic area. This shift would gradually lead to declines in these once booming businesses after the turn of the 20th century. The unintended consequences suffered by these nurserymen remind us, as Burd noted, of the “tangled relationship between nature and pioneering business.”

Camden Burd is the 30th scholar to participate in the Oregon State University Libraries and Press Resident Scholar Program, which is now in its 12th year.


This post is contributed by SCARC student archivist Hannah Lawson, a chemistry major with a passion for art, conservation, and preserving history.

July 2019 Guide Additions to SCARC Collections

SCARC completed 10 new or updated finding aids in July 2019.  The following is a list and a little information about what we accomplished.   Several large projects were wrapped up in July – representing more than 116 cubic feet of paper records, 17+ GB of born-digital materials, and more than 7700 photographs.

These finalized finding aids are available through the Archives West finding aids database, and the OSUL discovery system (a.k.a. “the catalog”).  

  • One of the guides is for a collection that was only minimally described and is now fully processed and described.
  • Three  of the guides are for new collection received in 2014-2018 that were previously unavailable to researchers.
  • Six of the guides are updates to incorporate addition or reflect current description standards and practices.

All of these materials are now available to researchers. 


Collections that were only minimally described and are now fully processed and described:

Gerald W. Williams Papers, 1854-2016 (MSS Williams)

The Gerald W. Williams Papers document Williams’ research and writing on the U.S. Forest Service, forestry and public lands, and the environment and culture of the Pacific Northwest. Gerald “Jerry” Williams, a sociologist and historian for the U.S. Forest Service from 1979 until his retirement in 2005, spent much of his Forest Service career in the Pacific Northwest prior to being appointed national historian in 1998.


New Collections:

Tracy Daugherty Papers, 1933-2018 (MSS Daugherty)

The Tracy Daugherty Papers offer a deep look into his personal, academic, and authorial life. Tracy Daugherty is a well-respected author and Emeritus Professor at Oregon State University.

Pink Boots Society Records, 2007-2019 (MSS PinkBoots)

The Pink Boots Society Records document the creation, growth, administration, and members of a professional organization that supports women in the brewing industries. Included are operational documents, marketing materials, legal and financial records, membership and volunteer management records, correspondence, meeting agendas and minutes, governance materials, scholarship programs information, presentations, events materials, photographs and videos, documents related to chapter management, the organization’s website, and records related to the Barley’s Angels. The Pink Boots Society Records is primarily an electronic collection and consists of born-digital materials (.mp3, video, documents, website); however, merchandise and ephemera from events are also included.  The Pink Boots Society was inspired by a 2007 cross-country trip taken by Teri Fahrendorf. When the trip was finished, Fahrendorf had collected contact information for nearly 60 women who wanted to create and participate in a supportive professional community. In 2012, the Pink Boots Society became a non-profit organization, which allowed them to raise funds and expand their educational scholarships, including support for women to attend brewing schools and travel abroad.

School of Forestry Senior Forestry Papers, 1910-1956 (RG 299)

The School of Forestry Senior Forestry Papers consist of about 700 undergraduate theses and term papers completed by forestry students at Oregon State College from 1910 to 1956.  The theses represent a wide range of forestry and forest products topics; many of the theses include original photographs, maps, and oversize charts and drawings.  The papers are available online in ScholarsArchive@OSU.


Finding aids that have been updated to incorporate additions or reflect current standards and practice:

Nursery and Seed Trade Catalogues Collection, 1832-1999 (MSS Seed)

The Nursery and Seed Trade Catalogues Collection consists of more than 2200 flower and seed catalogues produced by nurseries and seed companies in the United States, Great Britain, Europe and Asia from the mid-19th century through the 20th century. An on-line exhibit — A Short History of the Seed & Nursery Catalogue in Europe and The U.S. — includes images of selected catalogs from the collection.

Margaret Osler Papers, 1912-2010 (MSS Osler)

The Margaret Osler Papers document Osler’s life and career as a historian of science and philosophy. Margaret Osler (1942-2010) was a historian of science and philosophy who published widely on the scientific revolution and on the connection between religion and early science. In her two books and more than 125 articles, Osler focused in particular on the work of Pierre Gassendi, Robert Boyle, and Isaac Newton. Osler was a member of the faculty at Oregon State University from 1968 to 1972, and a faculty member at the University of Calgary for thirty-five years.

Gerald W. Williams Collection on the Army Spruce Production Division, 1916-2013 (MSS Spruce)

The Gerald W. Williams Collection on the Army Spruce Production Division is made up of photographs, publications, newspaper clippings, research notes, and transcripts of oral histories documenting the Army Spruce Production Division. These materials were acquired by U.S. Forest Service historian Gerald W. Williams in support of his research and writings on the Spruce Division. Materials from this collection are available online in the Gerald W. Williams Digital Collection.

Gerald W. Williams Collection on the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-2012 (MSS CCC)

The Gerald W. Williams Collection on the Civilian Conservation Corps is made up of publications, photographs, newspaper clippings, maps, architectural drawings, artifacts, DVDs, sound recordings, and VHS videotapes documenting various Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps and enrollees in Oregon and other states. These materials were acquired by U.S. Forest Service Historian Gerald W. Williams.

Gerald W. Williams Ephemera Collection, 1866-2008 (MSS WilliamsEphemera)

The Gerald W. Williams Ephemera Collection consists of printed ephemera, documents, and objects assembled and acquired by Williams in the course of his work as a Forest Service sociologist and historian and due to his avocational interest in the history of forestry as a science and profession and the regional history of the Pacific Northwest.  Many of the materials in the collection were created or produced by the U.S. Forest Service.  Gerald Williams worked for the U.S. Forest Service from 1979 to 2005 as a sociologist (1979-1998) and historian (1998-2005).

Gerald W. Williams Moving Image and Sound Recordings Collection, 1959-2007 (FV 320)

The Gerald W. Williams Moving Image and Sound Recordings Collection consists of audio-visual materials, either collected or created by Williams, that document a variety of topics in the natural history of the Pacific Northwest, with a particular emphasis on the practice and culture of forestry in the region. The collection consists of multiple audio-visual formats including VHS tapes, DVDs, audio cassettes, and motion picture films, among others.

Periodical Advertisements Show off the Lasting Power of the American Consumer

This post was contributed by Nicole Horowitz a graduate student in the OSU School of Writing, Literature, and Film, who recently completed an internship with curator Anne Bahde. Nicole examined women’s periodicals from the modernist period to look at the intersections between literature and material culture during the era.


A venture over to any special collections or archival research center housed in a university worth its salt will boast a wide array of periodicals, likely ranging from the mid-19th century to the modern-day. But, while most archival material is more likely spotted in the pages of a history book than on the shelves of the local supermarket, we’d like to bring your attention to a notable exception to that rule: the world of periodical advertisements.

And while OSU’s own Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC) boasts a wide an array of ad-type holdings, one doesn’t need a Mad Men level appreciation of the history of adverts to appreciate them. In fact, many of the brands featured in popular periodicals of the Modernist Era, for example (roughly the 1890s to the 1930s), are as familiar to the modern consumer as they were to their 20th century counterparts. A Women’s Home Companion, for example, contains ads for everything from Listerine to Sunkist Oranges to Valspar Paint, none of which would seem out of place in our modern marketplace. And a further look at these ads might reveal not only popular trends in art, fashion, and food of the era, but also the lasting power of these powerhouse brands, and how that might help us understand the American consumer as both ever-changing and ever-staying-the-same.

1918 Heinz Advertisement

Take for example, two advertisements for Heinz products, one from 1918, the other from 1925. The 1918 spread is set in scene around a dinner table on a summer afternoon, and shows off the very epitome of post-World War I elegance, including a maid rushing to the table with signature Heinz Ketchup. It is printed in bright water-color-esque tones, with ornate floral embellishments. The 1925 advertisement, by contrast, is simpler; a clean white background with a single bottle of Heinz Ketchup centered, loving held, cleanly labeled. While the font is consistent (and indeed, consistent today), this bolder color palette and copy betrays the 1920s sensibilities that put less of an emphasis on family, and more on the food itself, as the increasing migration to cities brought an enthusiasm for dining out, and by extension, the perennial Ketchup-topped hamburger, front and center.

This example is one of countless advertisements in this publication and many more which not only trace the evolution and durability of any number of American products, but also speak to the beauty, stylishness and era-reflecting elegance of the print work itself, through copy and image alike. In this way, the Modernist period can be seen not only as a period of great literary and cultural growth, but aesthetic growth as well, through the beauty of these ads and others, some of which feature logos that still show up in shopping carts and refrigerators the country over, today.

“Why does this matter?” you might ask. Well, if you’ve ever coaxed ketchup from a glass bottle at your own local greasy spoon, you are a part of the American legacy of Heinz. Products and the advertisements that sell them are an undeniable part of American identity, and to understand one’s place as part of this heritage is the best way to support it, or actively change it, as one sees fit. In other words, knowledge is power, even if that knowledge revolves around condiments.

The So-What Question in Archives

This post was contributed by Nicole Horowitz a graduate student in the OSU School of Writing, Literature, and Film, who recently completed an internship with curator Anne Bahde. Nicole examined women’s periodicals from the modernist period to look at the intersections between literature and material culture during the era.


            Upon entering the Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC) as an intern, I found myself excited about so many different aspects of special collections and archival research. However, I’ve long felt that this propensity to be interested in so-called “old things” was rather innate, as opposed to a learned quality. This brings up an interesting “so what?” type question. What does it mean to be interested in material culture and archival research? What does that mean for scholarship in English literature? Is there an intuitive way to marry these two fields? And moreover, can this framework of marriage between disciplines (or, more acutely, between a field of scholarship and the material print culture than underpins it) be applied to different fields of study?

            The answer to this question has been, on the whole, tricky. In explaining the work of my internship (and to some extent, my thesis project in general) to my colleagues, I feel that specter, that so-what, so abundantly. Their work is largely forward thinking, using materials created in the last few years to underpin arguments about the changing nature of our world through climate change, through digital media, through rhetoric and its many applications. My work privileges the past: spends a lot of time mining the small details of artifacts housed there for insights, for distinctions, for joy.

            And maybe therein lies the answer, on some level, to the “so what.” I find archival work joyful. Particularly the work I do, looking at periodicals from the 1920s, it is hard not to get caught up in the optimism of the Modernist moment. This optimism is not unknown to those who don’t have a vested interest in periodicals. It is the reason why The Great Gatsby has been made into two films; why Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has found success. There is a sense of optimism that swaddles the era and the material produced from it. This manifests everywhere; in the clothing depicted, in the “you can do it yourself!” nature of sewing patterns and recipes. In the wonder-laded tone of the letters to the editors, gushing over new technology (electric billboards! New cold medicines!). In the advertisement of new ingredients (pineapple! Canned tuna!) perhaps before unseen to middle America. In the construction of the cityscape as a place to been seen in new clothes, buy new things, partake in new experiences that enrich the notions of what it means to be alive. And while in 2019, we might not find the same sense of wonder in the bright redness of a silk-styled robe or an advertisement for an electric phonograph, there is a relevant underlying question: where does that sense of optimism live in us today?

            Furthermore, there is an old, perhaps all too much used adage about history: why it’s important, why those who don’t understand it are doomed to repeat it. I would say that archival work is less concerned with the cautionary aspect of that adage, and more invested the mileage of historical reflection. Those who do not know what has come before are unable to innovate. They cannot do something “new” if they do not understand what is “old.” In this way, old things are the greatest teachers in the world. They show us the place from where we’ve come. In the case of the work I do: a place where American society is innovating inclusivity, perhaps in a clunky way, but with a vigor that suggests the ability of humankind to move past its limitation. These materials demonstrate both the successes and failures of print media of the time, and in so doing, give us a map of a training ground that allows us to be better in the modern world. And through that, we understand that the legacy of activism, of anti-racism, of feminism, is longer, more tangled, and might include more types of expression that we are accustomed to.

            I have found my research process dangling between the poles of being enthralling and incredibly frustrating. It is hard to do work in which there is such an abundance of material in some directions, and almost no information in others. It can be frustrating when things are missing, torn away, or when materials are not as engaged with modern relevance as anticipated. But still, I would argue that archival work is not only important in its physical/material incarnations, but also on a philosophical and even emotional level. And that this latter aspect is the way into the rest: it is the gateway, the evangelical pathway through which all archival research is conducted and insights created.

            In this vein, I cannot help but think about the difference between the reaction of my colleagues when I tell them about my research and when I show them things I have found. On the one hand, hesitation. Lack of engagement. On the other, as I hold up a picture on my phone of a long-forgotten F. Scott Fitzgerald story entitled “The Pusher in the Face” (complete with an illustration of a man, clad in his 1920s best, pushing a woman in the face, exactly as the title would suggest), enthrallment. A look of “what is this, and why didn’t I know about it before?” It is in these things, these looks, that the true thingness, the magic, of archival work is revealed. It is in this thingness that we continue to thrive.