Oregon-born Homer Davenport was a media superstar

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - DavenportOn March 25, The Davenport Project heads to the McMenamins Old Church and Pub in Wilsonville for the next free History Pub presentation, co-sponsored by the Wilsonville Public Library, Wilsonville-Boones Ferry Historical Society, the Oregon Encyclopedia and McMenamins.

On tap will be a lively and visually entertaining presentation on the life and times of political cartoonist Homer C. Davenport, late of Silverton.

In the decade of the 1890s, just before the dawn of a new century, American society was going through a transition. From horses and trains to automobiles and airplanes, change was everywhere. Through it all, Oregon-born Davenport was there, wielding his pen to spray a steady stream of caustic caricatures onto the notables and notorious of the global political scene.

Davenport (1867-1912) was Oregon’s first media superstar. Born in Silverton into the pioneer Davenport and Geer families, he became a world traveler and developed a second career of breeding Arabian horses.

His life is a story of fame, political influence, family connections, artistic creativity and discovery. Yet, few outside his hometown are even aware of the impact this self-described “country boy” had on society.

His rural Oregon upbringing, along with a supportive and nurturing home life, equipped Davenport with the intellectual tools and the artistic skills needed to hit the ground running, in spite of — some would say because of — a lack of formal training. He arrived on the scene during a perfect storm of technology and public sentiment. One New York State senator even sponsored a bill to outlaw political cartoons because of the influence of Davenport’s SUBMITTED - This cartoon was captioned 'No honest man need fear cartoons' and references the 1897 proposed New York state law designed to prohibit political cartoons. It failed. It originally appeared in Hearsts New York Journal in 1897 and in Davenports 1898 collection of cartoons. Boss Tweed was a Tammany Hall Democratic doss taken down by Davenports mentor, Thomas Nast, 20 years earlier. Boss Platt is U.S. Sen. Thomas Platt, (R-New York) who encouraged the bill and was a constant target of Davenports pen.

For this presentation, Davenport historian and Oregon Cartoon Institute fellow Gus Frederick will present a visual overview of Davenport’s art, life and times. With emphasis on the enabling reprographics technology of the era, as well as a snap-shot of Davenport’s contemporaries, Frederick will show graphically how the turn of the 20th century was the golden age of the cartoonist and graphic illustrator and how a small-town Oregonian occupied a major role. Also included will be an update on the eight recently acquired original Davenport cartoons, the return of the Davenport Cartoon Contest and, of course, the city of Silverton’s annual homage to its favorite son, the Homer Davenport Community Festival.

Frederick is the creator of “The Annotated Cartoons by Davenport,” an annotated edition of Davenport’s 1898 collection of cartoons, as well as Silverton from Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series.

He is currently putting the final touches on “The Collected Works of T.W. Davenport,” comprising Homer’s Oregon pioneer politician father’s writings from the Oregon Historical Quarterly. Additionally, he is continuing work on a video documentary of Davenport’s life and times.

McMenamins Old Church and Pub is located at 30340 SW Boones Ferry Road in Wilsonville. Doors open at 5 p.m. with the presentation starting at 6:30 p.m. Free, all ages welcome.

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