Oregon City Press
Oregon City, Clackamas County, Oregon
Oregon City is home to many of Oregon’s milestones. It was the capital of the Oregon Territory, the first town to be incorporated west of the Rocky Mountains, and birthplace of the first newspaper on the West Coast, the Oregon Spectator [LCCN: sn84022662]. Oregon City was, in truth, the end of the Oregon Trail and marked the beginning of new lives for many people. By the turn of the 20th century, the town continued to attract settlers with its growing lumber and paper industries. One such newcomer, Maurice E. Bain, moved to Oregon City to establish the Oregon City Press [LCCN: 2012260084], one of several newspapers that sprang up during this time of growth for the city.
Maurice E. Bain, a native of Canada, immigrated to the United States in 1865 when he was only two years old. He received very little schooling growing up, only finishing the second grade. Lack of a formal education, however, did little to stop Bain, a “bright and enterprising young man,” from cultivating a successful newspaper and mining career in Oregon.
Bain had worked on several newspapers in Oregon before launching the Press. Along with Felix G. Kertson, Bain ran the Medford Mail [LCCN: sn97071085] in the southern portion of the state. In 1892, Bain sold his interest in the publication to Kertson at which point he “probably took the plant of the late Central Point Enterprise [LCCN: unknown] and started a new paper somewhere farther north in Oregon.” That “new paper farther north” was the Three Sisters [LCCN: sn96088299], which Bain published and edited out of Barlow, a town just south of Portland, from 1892 to 1896.
On March 6, 1896, the Oregon Courier [LCCN: sn00063695] announced that “arrangements are underway for the publishing of another newspaper in Oregon City and it is to issue the first number the latter part their [sic] month, and that it will be an independent republican semi-weekly sheet. [James] M. Lawrence and Maurice E. Bain are credited with the fraternity of the new enterprise.” In 1896, Bain suspended the Three Sisters, moved shop about ten miles northeast to Oregon City, and began publishing the Oregon City Press. The four-page, twice-weekly paper cost readers $1.50 a year, and by March 22, 1899, the Press was running as an eight-page weekly.
In 1898 and 1899, the Press provided heavy coverage of the Spanish-American War and Cuba’s War of Independence. Page space was mostly devoted to international and national news items and a regular column, “Doings of the Week – What Has Happened in the Civilized World,” was featured on the front page. Local items of interest, like societal news, crop bulletins and legal notices, appeared on the latter pages.
Some of the news stories printed by Bain appear to be quite enlightened for the time. One article from February 9, 1898 promoted women’s rights with the atypical proposition that intelligence is a more important quality than beauty. The article encouraged women to “cultivate the mind, for a grace of soul and education of spirit count for more than limpid eyes, a rosebud mouth and a dimpled chin.” A news item from the November 16, 1898 issue, urged for the protection of game birds and suggested having bag limits during hunting seasons in order to keep the population healthy. Another story from the same issue shares an African-American folk story about Thanksgiving, and compared to other depictions of African-Americans during this time, the images and story told in the Oregon City Press are humanizing and well-intentioned.
Despite Bain’s experience and earnestness in journalism, the Oregon City Press was a short-lived publication with limited success. The paper was suspended around the turn of the century, and Bain relocated to Sumpter, a boom town in eastern Oregon, to try his hand at mining. He continued his newspaper career out east, running the Argus [LCCN: sn00063520] in Ontario, Oregon. Bain, who never married, was quite successful in his gold and mineral mining endeavors and lived in the eastern portion of the state for the next several decades.
Prepared with reference to:
Ayer, N.W., Ed., N.W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: N. W. Ayer & Son, 1896-1900.
“Brevities,” Ashland Tidings, January 29, 1892.
“Local and General,” Southern Oregon Mail, June 17, 1892.
Rowell, Geo. P. American Newspaper Directory. 16th ed., New York: Geo. P. Rowell and Co, 1897-1900.
Turnbull, George S. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1939.
United States Census Material, 1880-1940.
--Written by Emily Vance