Visit to Multnomah County Central Library

This week I had a short trip to Portland, Oregon for a conference associated with my current degree program.  I’ve posted on my main family blog about the trip in general, but I am posting here about a mission I went on at the public library.

On my way back from my meeting, I stopped at the Multnomah County Central Library.

The library was only a few blocks from my hotel and I am glad that I had a chance to visit.  The library system here is the largest to the west of the Mississippi and dates back to the 1850s.  This building was erected in 1913 and has undergone a recent renovation.    Upon entering the building, I was almost immediately struck by the gorgeous grand staircase! It was designed by artist Larry Kirkland and is called “Garden Stairs.”  The black and white etchings have a mix of designs and words.  I did not take any pictures, but I did buy this postcard of them.

When I arrived, I was not sure what I was going to do there, but quickly developed an action plan; I would look at old issues of an African-American newspaper (if they had any).   I have a great interest in newspapers, particularly African-American ones,  so was delighted to find out that there was indeed some published in Portland.   This guide on the History of African-Americans in Portland provides a handy list on page 8.   The paper I chose to look at was the Advocate and I focused on the 1924-1929 time frame.

Here is the front page of the October 11, 1924 edition.

Similar to my own Nashville Public Library, this library offers microfilm machines connected to computers so that microfilm images can be scanned. Unlike the NPL however, their library sells 256 MB USB drives for $5 since the computers are not hooked up with internet access. Not bad though! I was able to scan about 10 issues and save to the USB drive before I had to download them to my own computer.

I had fun perusing the issues. I was not looking for anything in particular, but I will transcribe articles of local interest from the issues I did scan and make them available online, most likely by posting them to the appropriate surname listserves at Ancestry or by contacing people who have Ancestry Trees that mention the individuals named in the paper.

I found it intersting to see ads that I’ve seen in other African-American newspapers, such as this one from the East India Growing Company for their product to promote hair growth.

I have some work to do to transcribe the issues I scanned, but it is my hope that this information helps someone out there one day!  Even if they don’t, I’ve gained glimpse into life in Portland in the 20s that has been quite insightful.

Also, since I contribute regularly to the blog of the Tri-State Genealogical Society of Evansville, Indiana, the TSGS Cruiser, I also wanted to see if I could find any Evansville-related news items in the Oregon papers.  Fortunately, the University of Oregon offers an extensive Oregon Newspapers Index of close to 1 million records spanning 1852-present.  A quick search revealed a few Evansville-related items and I chose to transcribe one for submission to the TSGS Blog.  That should be going up next week sometime.

So, those few hours were my  genealogy fix.  I just could not pass up the chance to work in some genealogy while in town :-)

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