Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Senate Highways Committee Introduces our Gas Tax in 1919

As the City considers a local gas tax, it is interesting to recall that the nation's first gas tax was created by Oregon in 1919.

From January 16th, 1919, here's the first mention of it as legislative concept, not exactly buried in the paper, but on an interior page.

On the interior, page 5, January 16th, 1919
The focus of the story is really on the bond and its projects, and less about the funding mechanism. In fact, for as novel as the gas tax apparently was, it is just mentioned in passing like was already no big deal. That matter-of-factness is striking.

As the bill progresses we'll post occasional updates, as it really is a milestone in road funding and interesting to know more about.

There were different topics on the front page that day, and the mood in 1919 remains fascinating.

January 16th, 1919
Much bigger and the lead item on the front page was ratification of the 18th Amendment, "UNITED STATES WILL BE BONE DRY EXACTLY ONE YEAR FROM TODAY."

January 16th, 1919
There's also a proposal for a quarter of a million to support returning soldiers and sailors from World War I.

December 18th, 1918
For a while in the fall, there was concern (more like concern-trolling, really) for the effects of demobilization on women.  Will those "who have been holding down jobs that ordinarily were thought to belong to men...cheerfully lay down, get out and seek domestic service or other service...?"

A note in the Society column written by Carol Dibble is more poignant and straight-forward. Transcribing a speech by Mrs. Helen Ladd Corbett of Portland, in November of 1918 Dibble writes:
"The great perplexities of readjustment into which the womanhood of the nation will be thrown when Johnnie comes marching home to find that his sister, his mother and his sweetheart have been carrying on his former responsibility with unanticipated success is one of the greatest problems facing the women of America today, especially in view of the ending of the war. When women have had a sense of power and achievement, will it not be difficult for them to step back into a quiet, uneventful domestic existence!"
January 16th, 1919
On the front page was also news of a bill to "curb the activities of the I.W.W. and of bolshevists," and inside more news about "continued street fighting in Berlin." Radicalism remained worrisome.

January 17th, 1919
The next day brought front page news on Rosa Luxemburg, who was killed on the 15th by right-wing paramilitary forces in Berlin. At least here, in the popular imagination we remember her more than Karl Liebknecht.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The NY Times has a piece on the 18th Amendment also, "How the Klan Fueled Prohibition: The 1920s weren’t just gin joints and jazz. Anti-immigrant racism was all the rage."

"Today, as we find ourselves in the midst of another fight over immigration, it is worth revisiting the role that nativism played in driving, and later enforcing, Prohibition. The consequences of that battle reverberated for decades to come. It sparked a vast expansion of the repressive capacities of the federal government and a rise of right-wing extremism, led by a revived Ku Klux Klan. It also forged a new political coalition that would bring ethnic working-class voters into the Democratic Party, where they would remain for much of the century....

Other forms of postwar social conflict aided the growth of the Klan, but nothing did more than the 18th Amendment to turn it into a dynamic social movement. The Klan and its female affiliate, the Women of the Ku Klux Klan, recruited heavily from the nation’s white Protestant Prohibition organizations....