Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Predicting the Future & Tunnels

Not a cover idea, merely a visual juxtaposition. The poor guy being shanghaied is Charlie Chaplin.

The book I have been writing to fulfill my obligation with History Press is now in its final stages. The title that has been given the impremater is "Portland's Lost Waterfront, Tall Ships, Steam Mills, and Sailor's Boardinghouses."  My first draft was so heavily overwritten that in order to come close to my 40,000 word maximum I had to delete two entire chapters and reams of relatively unknown details that will have to land somewhere. So unless I write another, thicker book, this blog will start to get more interesting.

I am also delighted to announce that the upcoming book will contain about 65 images, many of which will be photographs from deep within the vault of Thomas Robinson's Historic Photo Archive. These will not be the photos one always sees in books on Portland's history, but long forgotten photographs, some  that have not seen the light of day for decades, and have never graced the pages of a book.

There will be several other things rescued from the mists of obscurity that will appear in this book. One example is the old question that was extremely important to Astorians until WWI, "When will Astoria become the San Francisco of the Pacific Northwest?" We all know now that the answer is, "Probably never." but my book examines the reasons why tiny village up an oftentimes shallow river, 113 miles from the ocean became the port city of Oregon when a large and commodious harbor at the mouth of the Columbia was pushed into the background.

The images are due August 8th, the manuscript is due the month following. At some point in the near future you will begin to see the overflow of images and ideas that did not fit the template but are in and of themselves fascinating. (Ensha'allah, of course.)


There still seem to be a lot of folks in Portland who watched the TV show, Leverage, and are fascinated with "shanghai tunnels." There is much that can be said against the notion, and virtually nothing for it, but here is a thought that just came to me: Ocean-going vessels of the "grain fleet" could not make it to Portland year round until about 1900, after extensive dredging. The harbor info in port manuals and even the Portland City Directory stated that the river was usually too low in August and September (and sometimes October), months when grain was "lightered" to Astoria. The other months, when the water was high, did they make the poor shanghaied fellows hold their breath and swim under water? Of course the only tunnels that made it to the river were drains for sewers and channels for underground streams. The other tunnels, the ones in the "north end" (AKA Whitechapel), were used by the Chinese of the area for reasons I will mention in my book.

Or you can listen to my rant on an upcoming Kick Ass Portland History podcast.

Artist's conception of a Portlander being shanghaied by a sailor's boarding-house rat.

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