Friday, July 3, 2020

As Commercial Hall, old Central School was briefly Hub for Socialism in Salem

Commercial Hall, formerly Central School,
September 2nd, 1912
Here's an unexpected turn in the history of the old Central School. R. R. Ryan, who had apparently purchased and moved the building, was a Civil War Veteran, a Granger, and a Socialist. He seems to have been at the center of a small Socialist scene that thrived here up to the conservative reaction and red-baiting associated with the first World War.

Oregon Daily Journal, October 6th, 1920
Ryan died in 1926, and his political activity seems to have been lost, erased by design or forgot by convenience. His life deserves more research and attention!

This is another scrapbook post, as there is not enough information yet to stitch a very detailed narrative.

Oregonian, March 26th, 1902
Ryan ran for governor in 1902. It's not entirely clear how serious of a candidate he was. In March, Salem Socialists felt he was too aggressive and asked him to withdraw, but he refused. It made the Portland paper.

May 23rd, 1902
Later, in June, the afternoon paper here did not report on his vote totals, and this omission suggests he was not a serious candidate. Statewide it appears he got 4% of the vote, and Governor Chamberlain elected with a plurality of 46%, beating his opponent by only 246 votes. Ryan did come in third, however, narrowly ahead of the Prohibition Party candidate.

July 25th, 1906
Four years later, in 1906 he, rather than the GAR itself, appears to have purchased Big Central School, moved it, and renovated it. Since he was active in the GAR, it was not surprising they would meet there. But clearly he had further designs, and he also operated his business from it. In the collection of local GAR materials at The Mill, they have a "Hand written letter on Letterhead for R. R. Ryan & Co. Real Estate, Fire, Life and Accident Insurance from R. R. Ryan to G.A. R. Post 10 March 5, 1907."

October 9th, 1906
Floyd Ramp, whom you might recall was sentenced to two years in prison for a violation of the Espionage Act in 1918, earlier came to Salem to speak in 1911. Socialism was acceptable, if still fringey, in polite society at this time.

June 15th, 1911

October 19th, 1911

November 14th, 1911
Membership for all of Oregon peaked in 1912, as it did nationally, and the efflorescence in Salem appears to correspond closely. A note in 1915 suggested that a junk dealer owned the Commercial Hall, and news in 1912 suggests Ryan had sold it to the railroad for a depot (which does not seem to have been built there).

World War I and anti-Wobbly sentiment intensified the turn against socialism. In 1920 a Salem chiropractor was arrested. He was released and the charges dropped, it still sent a message. Socialism in Salem was no longer acceptable.

February 7th, 1920
Ryan died in 1926 and is buried in the IOOF Pioneer Cemetery. Neither of the papers mentioned his candidacy for Governor or his Socialism in their obituaries. That seems like a deliberate instance of forgetting.

December 10th, 1926

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