On May 2, 1912, the RMS Titanic’s last victim died from pneumonia. W.R. Hearst cartoonist Homer C. Davenport caught his death on the New York docks after illustrating the survivors’ tragic tale. An incredibly lucky, creative and productive life was cut short. Caricaturist, author, Arabian horse breeder and out-spoken freethinking spiritualist, he defied all expectations. Save the two that mattered most: from a dead mother barely remembered from the age of three, and a father’s life-long intellectual mentorship. The Davenport Project was created to stimulate interest in this unique Oregonian, one of the most successful artists this State has ever produced.
But who the heck was Homer Davenport? And why would people today be interested in him and his work? Anyone viewing his art can’t dispute his genius. And examining his life as well offers many more interesting surprises.
The Davenport Project was created to reintroduce Davenport to a new generation. The inspiration came from the Oregon Cartoon Institute’s extensive “Mel Blanc Project,” held in Portland during 2011. This series of events highlighted the early life of this other unique Oregonian, and seemed a perfect model to apply to Davenport.
In the decade of the 1890s, just before the dawn of a new American century, society was going through a transition. From the gilded age of robber barons and monopolistic trusts, into the progressive era, a time known for great social reforms. From horses and trains to automobiles and airplanes. Change was everywhere.
Through it all, Oregon cartoonist Homer Davenport was there, wielding his pen to spray a steady stream of caustic caricatures onto the notables and notorious of the global political scene. In 1898, he published his first of four books, consisting of over 80 of these cartoons. He went on to publish a second collection of cartoons, as well as two non-fiction works.
More than a century after Davenport’s passing, the Davenport Project will serve as a resource and reference to this self-described “Country Boy.” All in the name of Silverton, Oregon’s favorite son, and one of the most creative caricaturists who ever plied a pen to paper. Check back often as we progress into this, the Year of Davenport.
If you have questions, comments, or would like to host a Davenport Project lecture or exhibit, let us know!