Gold Rush Era Exhibit Features Oregon Free Press!

Here at the ODNP, we’re always thrilled to hear about or see how Oregon’s historic newspapers are being used. The weekend of March 14, 2014 marked one of these instances right here in our hometown of Eugene, where a Lane County Historical Museum exhibit titled, “Women of the Gold Rush West” debuted to hundreds of community members in the lobby of the Hult Center, in conjunction with the Eugene Opera’s performance of Puccini’s “The Girl of the Golden West.”

Images features an advertisement for Eugene Opera's "Girl of the Golden West," a "Western" with love, redemption, an unforgettable heroine, and thrilling music! March 14 and 16 at the Hult Center.

Advertisement in the Eugene Weekly for “The Girl of the Golden West.”

The exhibit, which included women’s clothing from the 1850s, an antique saloon sign, a gold dust bag, and other items that would typically have been found in a Gold Rush Era saloon, was created and coordinated by Dorothy Bayern, a graduate student in the University of Oregon’s Folklore program, as part of her terminal project for her Master’s degree.

Photograph of the exhibit shows a woman's dress and shawl from the 1850s, a crystal decanter and glasses, antique ceramic jugs, a tobacco storage container, rolling papers, and other items from the Gold Rush time period.

“Women of the Gold Rush West” exhibit display case at the Hult Center in Eugene.

Dorothy’s research focuses on “clothing traditions, and in particular how clothing in museum settings helps people connect to other cultures and historical periods,” so fittingly, the exhibit included an interactive “dress up” station, where people could don bonnets, cowboy hats, and other period clothing items and props, and then have their picture taken in front of a country backdrop. Of course, our favorite part of the display was a replica of the November 4, 1848 issue of the Oregon Free Press, printed from our Historic Oregon Newspapers website! The Oregon Free Press was published in Oregon City from April to November of 1848, at which point the paper was forced to suspend due to the outflow of subscribers to the gold mines of California. (Read more about the history of the Free Press here.)

Photo shows a close up of the Oregon Free Press replica paper.

Replica issue of the Oregon Free Press, created by Dorothy Bayern:
“I’m so glad that I found out about the ODNP’s scans of Oregon Free Press in time to include them in this exhibit. This funky little newspaper is part of Oregon’s gold rush era history, and made a great addition to the saloon scene.”

Nestled next to a Wells Fargo driver’s cap from the 1850s, the newspaper was a great fit for the exhibit! Dorothy explains, “Oregon and California were both on the American frontier in the 1850s. Many Americans left Oregon for the famous California Gold Rush, but Oregon had gold rushes too, which is why Lane County Historical Museum has artifacts like the gold dust bag on display, and mining equipment currently on display at the museum. This newspaper was the perfect final touch to connect the opera’s depiction of gold rush life to local history in Oregon.”

Hanging sign next to the exhibit explains each of the artifacts on display. Photo shows a closeup of the description for the Wells Fargo driver's cap: "In 1852, Wells Fargo and Company's Express was founded to provide banking to Gold Rush pioneers in remote California," and descriotion of the Oregon Free Press newspaper (replica): "This paper only ran from April through November of 1848, folding when its subscribers left for California gold mines." Credits at the bootom read: "Historical images and artifacts from Lane County HIstorical Museum, Newspaper courtesy of Historic Oregon Newspapers online, University of Oregon Libraries' Oregon Digital Newspaper Program, Text and Design by Dorothy Bayern."

Exhibit signage explains items on display, with credits to Lane County Historical Museum, Historic Oregon Newspapers online, and exhibit designer Dorothy Bayern.

This excellent exhibit is now available for viewing at the Lane County Historical Museum through the end of March, so go check it out if you can! Many thanks to Dorothy Bayern and the Lane County Historical Museum for including this unique Oregon newspaper in the exhibit! Very well done!

1 Comment

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One response to “Gold Rush Era Exhibit Features Oregon Free Press!

  1. Not only does the Lane County Historical Museum have mining equipment and accessories from when early Oregonians traveled to California for the gold rush, gold mining also took place right here in Lane County! The Bohemia Mining District outside of Cottage Grove was on of the larger operations but there was also gold mining taking place along the McKenzie River.

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