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Local History: Our Town – Our Story: What a history detective can learn from a simple photo

| April 1, 2015 | 2 Comments

By Ann Koppy

23 Man and Dog in front of Thyngs Confectionary in 1916A Man and His Dog in Front of a Shop, 1916

At first glance, this image of an unidentified man petting a dog while sitting on wooden steps isn’t unusual. But by looking closely at the photo, we can find an abundance of captivating local and regional history.

The business is George Thyng’s Confectionary on the north side of Broadway Street, near West Street. It advertised cigars and tobacco in large letters on the façade as well as in the windows, but also stocked are a varied selection of goods: candies and nuts, stationery and greeting cards, soft drinks, magazines and periodicals. Not visible in this photo is a Bowser System gasoline pump that Thyng installed in front of the store in 1913. He sold 100 gallons in the first week at an average price of 25 cents per gallon ($5.95 in 2015).

The words Obak and Fatima are clearly visible in the window. Both were popular brands of cigarettes produced by the John Bollman Company (later American Tobacco Company and Liggett-Myers) in San Francisco during the 1910s. At that time, they were called mouthpiece cigarettes to differentiate from plug or chewing tobacco. Ten Obaks sold for 5 cents. Fatimas were a more expensive Turkish blend priced at 20 for 15 cents.

The company put a redeemable coupon in every pack or as a tag on plug tobacco. When customers had accumulated enough, they could turn them in for a wide variety of merchandise: 300 coupons purchased a 3 pint brown pottery casserole or an enamel 8-cup coffee pot. A men’s or women’s taffeta 7-rib umbrella was 200 coupons.

By 1913, the Bollman and Liggett Myers Companies’ premium store on Alder and West Park Streets in Portland encouraged customers to shop in town rather than order from a catalog. Pipes, college pennants, tapestries, jewelry, sporting goods, and many more selections were generally in stock.

In the background at the right side are the letters AL on the side of a building. Gus Rossi’s 1900 Saloon opened at the dawn of the 20th century and closed in 1916 after Oregon voters passed an amendment to the state constitution to enact Prohibition, four years before the ban on alcohol went national.

Dogs making news isn’t a recent trend. Old Dick was Gus Rossi’s bulldog and mascot for the municipal fire department. Every time Hose Cart Number 1 went out for a drill, Old Dick tried to catch the stream of water in his mouth. Sadly, he showed symptoms of hydrophobia in 1914 and had to be put down by businessman Pete Van De Hey.

The Owl, Beaverton’s weekly newspaper, noted that there had been many dogfights lately and warned owners to watch for indicators. Editor Earl Fisher opined that it would be a fine thing for Beaverton if the five dozen or so dogs around town “took a vacation for about a year.”

Every photo tells a story. From them we can learn, understand, and take on a role as history detective.

Interested in more local history? Visit the Beaverton History Center or go to:

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Category: Beaverton, Community

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