Happy 2011!

from Coos Bay Times, 01-01-1914

Throughout Oregon’s history, its citizens have always been inclined to look hopefully toward the future. New Years Day has always been an important holiday in the state, as the historic newspaper record will reveal. A search of Historic Oregon Newspapers or Chronicling America will yield a number of headlines and illustrations commemorating the arrival of a New Year. Below is an example from the December 31, 1922 Astorian that you won’t find on either of the web sites (because it falls outside the scope of dates digitized for this title.)

Note the fuming factory smokestacks in the background of the picture–this is a recurring motif in newspaper illustrations of the day. While we in the 21st Century tend to look at the pall of black smoke and say “Yuck! Pollution!”, in the 19th and early 20th Centuries smokestacks are commonly used to symbolize wealth, industry, modernization, and desirable economic growth. Awareness of the negative impacts of environmental pollution would not begin to enter the broader American consciousness for a few more decades. So this truly would have been the perfect image of a “Happy and Prosperous New Year” for most residents of Astoria in 1922.

Here at the beginning of another New Year we find a convenient opportunity to remind ourselves that the times are always changing.  —Jason A. Stone

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