Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Oregon Pulp and Paper Produced First Paper 100 Years Ago

100 years ago Oregon Pulp and Paper, whose facility became the Boise Cascade plant in the 1960s, started up on Pringle Creek at Commercial and Trade. It marked a significant transition from the flour mill to heavier industry (with an assist from old man Bush). With pride, the morning paper bragged about using its newsprint first.

Near the beginning, early or mid-1920s
Looking southwest from Sculpture Garden corner
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

Both papers had tracked it as organizers first petitioned to vacate Trade Street west of Commercial, a process that was contested and took a while in the spring of 1919. Oregon Pulp and Paper was formally incorporated at the beginning of summer in 1919, and construction started shortly thereafter.

March 11th, 1919

April 8th, 1919

A year later in the spring of 1920, both papers were running advertisements for a stock offering. They also wrote editorials promoting the stock for Salemites. There was no fuss or fiction about a hard line between editorial and advertising at this time.

April 13th, 1920

Finally in September they started production, and on the 23rd, exactly 100 years ago today, the Statesman proclaimed they were using newsprint from the factory.

September 23rd, 1920

A week later they ran a full page spread on the grand opening and start of regular production. The type-setter was so excited, they got "ay" upside in "today"! The picture here is idealized, and when they opened they had not built it all (as you can see from the photo at very top).

Grand Opening Hoopla
September 30th, 1920

Even after a generation, it was still not quite built to this grandeur, but had expanded south of the creek, and grown in other ways.

Riverfront Park site and Paper Plant, circa 1949
(Salem Library Historic Photos, and dated here)

In this view from around 1949, you can see the intersections of State and Front at top left, Trade and Commercial and upper right, the amphitheater site at center, and the Minto bridge footing site at lower left. I could not find the acid ball in the image - perhaps that originated later than 1949 or is wrapped by a building here. Or maybe you will spot it.

It's a reminder that cities can and do change, and we should not be too quick to freeze our current arrangements under any sense that we have finished things or attained a kind of perfection.

In that same issue from September 23rd, in its weekly Thursday boosterism section, it featured timber and wood products, "Oregon Has a Third of the Water Power and a Fifth of the Timber of the United States, and Salem Has Tributary Supplies of Both, Promising Great Growth."

September 23rd, 1920
With our wildfire crises, it's painfully clear we have not yet found the right balance on harvest, ecosystem diversity, watershed and species protection, and fire management. One of the pieces, "Make the Forest Wealth of the State Perpetual: And Do Not Kill the Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs Protect Forests From Fire, and Encourage Reforestation of the Lands," points towards sustainability, even if it's also seemingly premised on clear cuts and monoculture.


Jim Scheppke said...

Any comment in the newspaper on the smell? I have heard that this plant really fouled the air in our fair city for decades. Is that true?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Between the hype for a new industry, just getting the factory started up, the fact that horses and teams still might have pooped occasionally on city streets, that we were still drinking water from the Willamette, and perhaps other factors, at this early stage there were no remarks on any odor. You'll note the smoke stacks in the full-page spread of Sept 30th, also. I'm not sure that there was even an expectation that it wouldn't stink. So these 1920 sources are silent, but that doesn't mean it didn't smell. Hard to say.