Historic Hood River
I thought it would be interesting to share a little of the “detective” process that goes into interpreting our photo collection. May of the prints have been through several hands before they arrived in our archives, resulting in layers of accumulated context which needs to be interoreted. Here’s what I can tell from the front and back of this image of climbers on Mt. Hood:
The size of the party in the image immediately suggests this is an American Legion climb, and the dress places it as likely from the 1920s– though I am frequently wrong guessing the era from clothing. Fortunately the reverse has plenty to add. The “Slocum and Donnerberg” stamp tells us whose studio it came from. My general understanding is Fred Donnerberg was the photographer and Slocum the publisher, but I haven’t thoroughly researched that. The note in fountain pen says, “Gov Olcott 3 Sec of State Kozer 4 Capt Lyman 6 Rice 5 in line”. Presumably that identifies specific people in the photo.
The blue typing crossed out in pencil is common for notes related to captioning for newspaper publication. “These pcitures to illustrate story of Hood River Legion Climb. Story to be forwarded probably Monday.” The caption itself originally said, ” Climbers just starting out over Hood’s vast snowfi[eld]”. It was changed to, “Climbers starting over Hood’s vast snows.”
The note (LC 66) indicates Legion Climb 66, which I believe was added at some later date by an archivist trying to organize the large collection of Legion climb images. We have many such photos, though the numbers don’t seem to indicate a rigid chronology.
Finally there is the note “Recreation Sports Mt Climbing” which was added when this was in the museum collection. It indicates keywords for folders in a system I believe Sally Donovan organized for the museum photo collection, though that is not her handwriting.
The phrase “story of Hood River Legion climb” made me suspect this was from the first climb, so I went to the The Hood River Glacier archives online to try to find a matching story. Checking the July 1921 issues because the climb was often right around July 4, I discovered the first climb was planned for later in the summer. Sure enough, the August 4 issue has this article confirming that the first climb was completed July 31, that Governor Olcott and Secretary of State Kozer were part of the climb, and that is was so successful they were planning it as an annual event.
But doesn’t the photo appear in the article? I suspect the notes were from The Hood River News. Unfortunately the 1921 issues are not online so I can’t verify this, but in this era The Hood River News differentiated itself by using many more photographs.
So that’s the full story, at least as far as I know it. This is indeed a Fred Donnerberg image of the very first American Legion climb of Mt. Hood in 1921, and it shows the Governor and Secretary of State right up front during the ascent. This piece of paper has been around for 99 years accumulating notes, but fortunately they all lead to a single conclusion. Not every detective story ends with such a clear story!
Tags: 1920s, Donnerberg, Legion climb, mountaineering, Mt Hood, sports
Thanks Arthur for the great research!
Solving histories mysteries, might be a bit like mountain climbing. Slow and tedious, but exciting. Sometime a wrong direction is taken, and it is hard to make the decision you are wrong and need to turn around and go back. Sometimes you have to stop and take a breather, turn and look down the mountain, at what you have accomplished, ponder what is behind you and what is still ahead of you, because you have not yet reached your goal. Sometimes you reach a false summit. You have solved so much, put so many pieces to the puzzle together, but it isn't quite finished. There is more to research. Like the mountain guide, you don't want to mislead your followers. You need to be accurate.
Finally, you might reach the summit, like Arthur did with this photo. A rewarding feeling. But, on some climbs, you just can't do the last few steps and on some research, you just can't get all the puzzle pieces to fit together. You have hit a dead end. Fatigue and discouragement set in, and you decide you have wasted enough time on this project. Too many obstacles to overcome and it is time to retreat back down the mountain, saying I did as much as I could, or saying, I will return another day.
I wonder who Capt. Lyman is?
But no one has ever lost any toes doing history.
Or fallen into a crevasse.
Arlen L Sheldrake
another example of the importance of connections….hey Gov, let's do mountain hood……
LE, I went down to the museum today to take a look at the newly delivered Hood River News archives. It feels very much like I have fallen into a crevasse. Dozens of file cabinets and drawers full of all sorts of material, from clippings to photographs to negatives to floppies to CDs, all arranged by someone else in some system I don't understand. It will take me a while to climb back out!
Thank you to ArthurB and LE for your diligent searches to get our history straightened out before it is too far gone. Lovely word creation on what you researchers go through.
I have a number of Donnerberg photos, as he did a lot of climbing with my Dad and Uncle Ken and Aunt Dorothy back in the day.
I tried to check the museum's new Hood River News archives to see if this photo appeared in a 1921 article on the climb. As luck would have it, 1921 is one of a handful of years missing from the archive. I'll have to check the microfilm when the library can admit researchers.