Friday, December 18, 2020

Christmas in 1920: Vick Bros. Building, Music, Appliances, Santa

The old Vick Bros. Building on High and Trade, interesting especially because of its relation to the history of cars here, observed its 100th anniversary this month. Western Oregon University purchased it last year, renovated it, and it looks to have a new life in education, taking it into its next century.

Vick Bros., 1920, by Fred Legg (2013)

They threw a big party on December 21st in 1920 to celebrate the opening. It was the first major building constructed in the period during the war and immediately after, and it took a couple more years for the regular pace and churn of building downtown to return. In absolute terms it might not be first-rank or especially notable, but in the context of 1920 it was very much worth noticing.

December 5th, 1920

December 18th, 1920

December 22nd, 1920

The morning paper summarized it as "100 per cent successful." The afternoon paper's language, "cooperate," "effected," and "closer proximity," look like it was lifted from a military order. There's something a little off, and maybe they were exaggerating its popularity as an advertising move. Maybe it was not quite 100 percent successful.

Some of Salem's leading musicians and dancers, a big representation of business men both of Salem and other Willamette valley cities, and the Cherrians joined the firm in putting across an event that was 100 per cent successful.

In addition to holiday decorations, there were sets promoting car camping and, in another military echo, boy scout camping. The speeches were set among the singing and dancing.

December 22nd, 1920

With Prohibition, it's hard not to think that there was more entertainment than usual for a building opening.

(Previously on the Vick Bros. and selling their Ford business, see "Vick Bros Sell to Watt Shipp et. al., who form Valley Motor Company.")

Silent Night

In a Salem ad for Christmas music on record, "Silent Night" was a clear winner representing a quarter of the choices. So many of our standards today are from the 20th century, often in film or other media.

December 21st, 1920

Electrical Appliances: Spending, Taste, and Virtue

With post-war industrial capacity, many of the holiday ads feature electrical appliances and gadgets, generating demand for them as consumer goods and generating demand for electrical power itself. Every store it seemed had an ad touting one appliance or another.

Portland Railway Light & Power is part of the PGE genealogy, and while most ads from other firms use more implication and suggestion, this one flat out says you will show taste, breeding, and virtue if you buy and give electrical appliances as gifts.

December 15th, 1920

(See this note on Frank and Clara Barton, their house, and their "Salem Electric" company for more on selling early electrical appliances here.)

And here's Santa arriving by airplane. More often in the ads of 1920 he's in his sleigh, but this was an interesting exception, employing new technology. The iconography seems less nostalgic for the 19th century and more modern this year. (See last year on the "speed" theme for Santa in 1919.)

Santa by Airplane, December 1st, 1920

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