A Nice Notice

Insider's History of CartooningEditor’s Note: The National Cartoonists Society (NCS) recently held their annual convention in Portland, Oregon just North of Silverton. The weekend long affair for the most part was private, with strict security measures designed to keep the over zealous fan base at bay. The one exception was an open Sunday morning “Signing Event” where the cartoonists and authors offered their autographed wares for sale. As fellow Silvertonian Bob Foster was autographing my copies of his Moose series, I noticed a gentleman peddling a book entitled Insider Histories of Cartooning at the same table. This got my attention.

Turned out another Bob! Specifically R.C. Harvey, noted cartoon historian and “girlie” cartoonist. I quickly pulled out the bucks and set Mr. Harvey to work autographing his book, when he asked me how to spell my name. In reply, I showed him a copy of Annotated Cartoons By Davenport, and pointed. He quickly handed me back my money and offered to trade! Best deal I’ve made in years. I went to his Website and signed up for his Rants & Raves monthly column on Cartoon happenings. In his recap of the NCS event, he wrote the following nice and book review! Reprinted with permission.


Cartoonists Land in Portlandia – The National Cartoonists Society’s Reubens Weekend

Excerpt: “…this year’s signing event will doubtless change all that. It was a remarkably successful event with lots of civilians thronging the room and buying books and sketches … But the big event for me was when a bearded Gus Frederick wandered by and was about to buy a book when I noticed he had a book about Homer Davenport under his arm. Davenport is one of the giants of editorial cartooning in the first decade of the 20th century, but virtually nothing has been written about him. Frederick’s book reprints a 1897 book of Davenport cartoons with annotations that explain their significances; I’ve reviewed the book at greater length down the Scroll. Seizing upon this find, I quickly traded Frederick a copy of my Insider Histories of Cartooning for a copy of his Davenport. And a good time was had by all…”

R.C.H.


Book Reviews
R.C. Harvey – Critiques & Crotchets
The Annotated Cartoons By Homer C. Davenport
Researched and compiled by Gus Frederick
200 8×10.5-inch pages, b/w; 2013 Liberal University Press paperback, $20

DAVENPORT is one of the great names in American editorial cartooning, but almost nothing has been written about him—nothing, at least, approaching the scholarship that Frederick displays in this volume. Born in 1867, Davenport grew up drawing all the time near Silverton, Oregon, and eventually, after numerous false starts, he wound up cartooning in San Francisco for the Chronicle, until William Randolph Hearst finally hired Davenport for his Examiner by tripling his Chronicle salary.

Davenport was part of Hearst’s team that took over the New York Journal in 1895 and helped launch “yellow journalism” in competition with Pulitzer’s New York World. Davenport became famous during the presidential contest of 1896, depicting candidate William McKinley’s manager, wealthy industrialist Marcus Hanna, wearing “plutocratic plaid” with a tiny dollar sign in each square, accurately pinpointing the real issues and interests of the campaign. The cartoonist’s work was fierce enough on politicians that it inspired a failed anti-cartoon bill in the New York State Assembly. In 1904, one of his cartoons of Uncle Sam with his hand on the shoulder of Teddy Roosevelt is said by many to have enabled TR’s election. Davenport also bred American-born Arabian horses and wrote a book about it.

On April 13, 1912, Davenport was sent to illustrate the sinking of the Titanic. He contracted pneumonia waiting to interview the survivors and died on May 2.

Two volumes of his cartoons were published during his lifetime—Cartoons by Davenport in 1897 and The Dollar or the Man in 1900. He wrote an autobiography, focusing on his youth in beloved Silverton, The Country Boy (1910). The only biography I know of is Homer Davenport of Silverton: Life of a Great Cartoonist by Leland Huot and Alfred Powers (West Shore Press, 1973), which is a fairly relaxed and casual anecdotal account of his life, mostly chronological but not entirely. Almost half of its 400-plus pages are pictures—photos of Silverton and elsewhere and Davenport’s cartoons. The quality of reproduction is, however, poor. In Frederick’s book, the pictures are superbly reproduced, the finest lines meticulously captured.

In reprinting the 1897 volume of cartoons with extensive annotation, Frederick has performed a monumental service for all students of editorial cartooning in America. The original book printed only cartoons with no explanation. Herein, each cartoon, all from 1895-1898, gets a full page, and facing it is a page of text, explaining who the victims of Davenport’s pen are and what their significance is at the time. Frederick told me he is at work annotating the 1900 [The Dollar or the Man] collection.

Only a few of the cartoons consist of metaphorical messages in the modern manner; most are caricatures that exaggerate and distort their victim’s features, making them all seem highly questionable persons. I’m posting only a few hereabouts, including Davenport’s 1896 portrait of his boss, W.R. [Hearst] himself—a friendly, even complimentary, picture that may well be the most familiar of Davenport’s works: it shows up often in histories of journalism.

(Click Thumbnail for More Detail—Close the Window to Return)
R.C. Davenport Illustrations Panel 1 R.C. Davenport Illustrations Panel 1 R.C. Davenport Illustrations Panel 1 R.C. Davenport Illustrations Panel 1

—Review by R.C. Harvey in Rants & Raves, his monthly online magazine of comics news and reviews, cartooning history and lore, at RCHarvey.com


Cartoon Contest Reboot

Once again, the Homer Davenport International Cartoon Contest returns to Silverton. After all, a festival that honors a famous Political Cartoonist seems almost naked without some kind of competition focused on that endeavor. To that end, the International Cartoon Contest has returned! As in past years, the competition is for “political” or “editorial” cartoons on any topic as long as they are not libelous, slanderous, racist, sexist or salacious.

As with any activity that as lasted over thirty years, adjustments are often required. In light of that fact, we have substantially increased the prize money award amounts. The new prizes will now be $750, $500, $300 and $200 respectively, with an entry fee of $25. We hope that this change will attract a wider range of entries, and more actively reflect similar international cartoon contests. And frankly, keep our modest competition relevant and competitive. The work will be judged in three categories: Artistic skill, clearly implied message, and the Cartoon’s over all appeal.

All prizes will be determined by a blue ribbon panel of judges, with five non-cash “Peoples Choice” awards determined by popular vote, cast during the Festival. Winners will be announced Sunday afternoon at the festival, and announced online on the Web at the “Homer Page.” Entries will be prominently displayed in Silverton during the Homer Davenport Community Festival, (August 4 through 6, 2017). Deadline for submission is Friday, July 28, 2017.

Our 2017 Blue-Ribbon Panel of Judges:

Sen. Lew FrederickOregon State Senator Lew Frederick (D-Portland) first took office as an Oregon State Representative on October 30, 2009 during a swearing-in ceremony in the House Chambers of the Oregon Capitol Building. Professionally he is a Strategic Communications Consultant, focusing on Strategic Planning, Community Relations, Science/Technical issues and Media Crisis Communications. With an academic background in biology, theater, and political science, his professional life has included seventeen years as a television reporter at KGW-Channel 8 in Portland, thirteen years as the Director of Public Information for the Portland Public Schools, teacher, actor and ranch-hand.

Dr. David LewisDr. David Lewis, is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and descendant of the Santiam Kalapuya, Chinook, Molalla, Takelma, and Yoncalla Kalapuya peoples of western Oregon.  He is past manager of the Grand Ronde Cultural Resources Department, Chachalu Tribal Museum Curator, and Tribal Historian.  David has a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Oregon, and was Director of the Southwest Oregon Research Project.  David is a professional presenter on the ethnohistories of the tribes of western Oregon, and has published numerous articles about the Tribes of Oregon, many on his blog. David currently lives in Salem with wife Donna, and sons Saghaley and Inatye.

Rep. Rick LewisOregon State Representative Rick Lewis, (R-Silverton) was appointed to the Oregon House after the resignation of Vic Gilliam. Prior to joining the legislature, Lewis served as the Mayor and as the Chief of Police for Silverton. He is a life member of the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and served as the organization’s President in 1991. In 2005, he took a six month leave of absence from the Silverton Police Department to teach the Executive Leadership Program for the Iraqi Police leadership during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Rick lives in Silverton with his wife of 38 years, Pat.

We look forward to their collective judgement! Rules, Official entry forms and more details can be found on the Web by Clicking Here:


Presentation: Homer Who?

sfpl01On August 5, 2017 during Silverton’s annual Homer Davenport Community Festival, The Davenport Project heads over to the Silver Falls Public Library for our next free presentation, staring at 1:30 (and repeating at 3:00), sponsored by the Silver Falls Public Library. On tap will be a lively and visually entertaining presentation, on the life and times of political cartoonist Homer C. Davenport, late of Silverton.

Homer C. Davenport

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 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.

Homer Davenport (1867-1912) was Oregon’s first media super-star. Born in Silverton, Oregon, 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 unique 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 ofsome would say because ofa 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 work.

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 Twentieth 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, an exhibit featuring the City of Silverton’s collection of cartoons, and of course 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 also compiled the extensive social commentary of 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.

The Silver Falls Public Library is located at 410 South Water Street, in Silverton. Doors open at 1:00 p.m. with the presentation starting at 1:30 p.m. and repeating at 3:00 p.m. Free and all ages are welcome!

 


The City’s Cartoons

Mary Delle & Alice Davenport

In the early 1960s, Homer Davenport’s sisters, Alice Davenport Bernard and Mary Delle Davenport Havens (right), gifted to the citizens of Silverton a number of original political cartoons, photographs and other artifacts from their famous brother. The cartoons have been on display in City Hall for decades, since they were donated to the Silverton Library, then part of the City of Silverton.

Main Street Coffee and Bistro in partnership with the City of Silverton will host a special exhibition of these eight original Davenport cartoons. The cartoons, dating from 1894 through 1904, will be displayed the upstairs gallery in the newly remodeled Wolf Building, located at 201 East Main Street, in Silverton Historic downtown core. All of the City Cartoons along with annotated descriptions will allow visitors to examine up close and personal, the artwork of Oregon’s First Media Super Star. The eight cartoons set to be displayed cover a period of time from 1894 through 1908.

The oldest piece, is a portrait of Davenport’s father, Timothy, (left). It includes the note, “Portrait of My Father, October 6, 1894.” At this period of time, Davenport was firmly established with Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner, and was no doubt home visiting.

The next earliest, is an image of lame-duck president Grover Cleveland, sitting secure at work, with a Tammany Tiger-skin rug under his chair, being confronted by an old begger. A partial penciled-in title starts “To Busy…” Owing to Homer’s notoriously bad spelling, it most likely meant “TOO busy…” Probably done in late 1895 or early 1896.

Another Tammany-tied cartoon from around 1896 features Tammany Hall Boss Richard Croker, with his bags packed and ready to head off to his Irish estate, while stuffing the Tammany Tiger up his sleeve…

“Now for Prosperity” features House Speaker Thomas Reed (R-ME) and Congressman Nelson Dingly (R-ME) “shake down” Uncle Sam for the benefit of the corporate trusts. This cartoon was included in Davenport 1897 collection “Cartoons by Davenport.”

“God’s in it. We’re in it. There’s money in it.” Here we see Dollar Mark Hanna and the Trust Brute mugging a Cuban. From Davenport’s second published collection, “The Dollar or the Man?” published in 1899.

Wolf Building Display

The final two cartoons date from around 1904, during Davenport’s post-Hearst period. Both feature person hand-written notes dated August 30, 1908. These he apparently gifted to Dr. Charles H. Brewer, an Oregon doctor and his wife Nettie Mae Brewer, during a visit with Homer, most likely in New Jersey. Mrs Brewer, (formerly Nettie Mae Munkers) was a school mate of Homer’s (albeit in an earlier grade level).

One features a ghostly Lincoln with his hand on old man’s shoulder, holding a newspaper reading “Parker’s Letter – I Will Revoke.” This is in reference to 1904 Democratic Presidential candidate Judge Parker, who vowed to revoke a pension extension passed as an executive order by President Roosevelt for Civil War veterans. The hand-written inscription says: “To Mrs. Dr. Brewer, who as a girl was my school mate. Me at one end of the classroom, and she at the other. (Those that know me will know which end I was). It’s with the greatest happiness that I give her this cartoon which bears a likeness of my father, he of whom all Silvertonians—yea Oregonians loved. [signed] HCD. Aug 30, 1908” Homer often used people he knew as models.

President Roosevelt on a stage with audience, handing his Message to Congress, over to House Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon (R-IL). The hand-written inscription says: “To my dear friends Dr. and Mrs. Brewer who have made me so happy with just a visit, but after all, what is greater than a visit between old friends? Yours with Love, [signed] HCD. Aug 30, 1908”

The final image is a self-portrait of the artist, possibly done during the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition, owing to the appearance.

Eventually all of these pieces need to be re-framed in an archival manner to ensure their preservation for
the decades to come. Here is your chance to help the Homer Festival at the same time as helping to preserve history. By donating to the Davenport Cartoon Re-framing Fund, you will get the same tax-deduction as well as the knowledge that you have personally helped keep Davenport’s art safe and secure for future generations to enjoy. Plus you will be the first in line to view these restored pieces, when they are eventually displayed to the public.

Ask your Homer Day Contact about the Cartoon Re-framing Fund!


The Brooklyn Citizen

Arthur E. Jameson

Arthur E. Jameson

On Sunday, October 25, 1896, just a bit over a week before Election day, The Brooklyn Citizen, one of many daily newspapers in New York City, ran a short biographic sketch on Political cartoonist Homer Davenport. This piece ran just one year after Davenport arrived in the Big Apple after his boss William Randolph Hearst’s acquired the New York Journal.

This also appears to be the earliest biographical piece about Davenport to be published. There were many more over the next decade. It was written by Arthur E. Jameson (1872-1957), a fellow Hearst comic artist. At the time of the article, he had himself embarked in what would be a long career with Hearst and Company, eventually specializing in what would be now termed graphic novels. His work in fact predates a style that would become popular by later artist’s like Hal Foster and his Prince Valiant strip.

Why he would write a piece in a non-Hearst paper, seems like a contradiction, but no doubt was part of Hearst’s well-known approach to self-promotion. The inclusion of an image of John M. Palmer the “Gold Democratic Candidate” for President was interesting as well, since Hearst openly supported William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic candidate, who espoused a “bimetal” approach using both gold and silver as an economic base.

The page from which this article was reproduced, had these Davenport caricatures sprinkled throughout the page, even though the article on Davenport was only a dozen or so column inches on the upper left corner of the page. The paper was donated to the Silverton Country Historical Society by the Digerness family, whose ancestors include another talented Silverton cartoonist, the late Knute Digerness.


Work of a Cartoonist
Influence of the Pencil in Line with the Pen
The Varied Career of One
By Arthur E. Jameson

Dollar Mark Hanna and McKinleyPublic interest has been so universally centered in the political outlook, and in the principals who are to engage in the coming battle, that the men who are really to shape their destiny have been overlooked. The writers and artists representing some of the largest newspapers in the country form no small part of the large army of men which is to comprise the opposing forces. Among them are men who have achieved reputation and fame in their respective capacities, and are the chosen ones of their profession. They are as prominent in the newspaper field as are the political figureheads to the laity, and what they will accomplish during the campaign will be watched as carefully by the interested public as by the politicians themselves.

One of the men who will do much to shape and disfigure the hopes of the political aspirants is Homer C. Davenport, of the New York Journal. Since the time of Nast there is no man who has jumped so suddenly into prominence in the field of caricature. Within four years he has acquired a reputation which extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and his original drawings adorn the sanctums of most of the prominent politicians in the country. They watch his work as closely as Tweed and Blaine did that of Nast.

Of all the checkered careers to which a man can fall heir, his is the most versatile. He is probably one of the quaintest and most original characters to be found in the profession. His academy has been the practical school of observation, and there has been nothing for him to acquire but facility; the last was a natural inheritance.

It is hard to realize that a man who can now make political monarchs bend in fear and submission, has been a jockey, a waiter, an engine wiper, a clown, a fireman, and a steamboat stoker. But such is Mr. Davenport’s repertoire of accomplishments. They were not forced upon him through necessity, of course, for his father has always been in a position to help him. They were merely the result and deserts of his boyish waywardness and recklessness. He was always a source of constant worry and annoyance to his parents. When he ran away with a circus during harvest time his father’s hair, he says, first began to turn gray and Has been turning ever since until about five years ago. Then it began to return to its original color. It was the arrival of this circus which cut short his career at school, but his knowledge was afterwards acquired in the manner most self-made men boast of. He cares more for game roosters and bull pups than he does for books, and though he may not be able to quote Shakespeare or Byron, he can sign his name to as large a check as most learned pedagogues.

It is always interesting to know what event marks the inception of a successful career, and it seems odd that in Mr. Davenport’s case his first effort should have been at the expense of his long-suffering father. His younger sisters, possessing the same humorous instincts had plaited the fore-locks of their paternal ancestor’s hair while he was taking a nap, and had tied a red ribbon on it so that it resembled the topknot of a pickaninny. When he removed his hat later in the evening to introduce Governor Pennoyer to a large audience the red ribbon jumped out and stood straight up, to the intense amusement of the audience and the consternation of the principals. It was Homer’s first motif and the result was conspicuous for a day on the post office bulletin board.

Through a friend of his Mr. Davenport later got an offer from the Portland Oregonian to make advertising cuts. The first drawing was a stove, but the legs had such wiggle and the door such a mark that the advertiser refused to run his “ad” if the cut had to go with it. He was compelled to seek “green fields and pastures new” after this failure, and finally wound up in. San Francisco. An admiring friend introduced him to the art manager of the Examiner as “the greatest artist in the country.” The faces of those around him fell away into a peaceful smirk at this announcement and Homer thrust his precious samples through the linen of his coat. He was willing at that moment to go back to ploughing without complaint. But they gave him a trial at $10 per week with instructions not to be too original. When he eventually grew tired of copying A. B. Frost and drawing bridges and buildings it was the signal for his dismissal.

After a short stay on the Chronicle he went to Chicago, where he did some serious comic stuff for the Herald during the World’s Fair. Mr. Hearst of the Examiner returned from Europe about this time end noticing Davenport’s work, sent for him, He was given free scope at once, and his successful career dates from that period—-two and one-half years ago. When his fine page cartoon of Sam Rainey, the Tom Platt of the Pacific Coast, appeared, it set everybody wild. It was as big a hit to the West as was Gilmans’ celebrated drawing of Blaine, the tattooed man, and it was the political death of the great “boss.”

When Mr. Hearst bought the “Morning Journal he brought Mr. Davenport with him. The people realized his genius at once, and he soon created a stir in national politics. His “Eeny Meeny Miny Mo” cartoon was copied from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and when his drawing of Reed punching the bag, the famous Republican leader wrote and asked him for the original. His success was instantaneous.

Dollar Mark HannaBut since that time he has devoted most of his energies and wit and genius to the much-abused Mark Hanna. Indeed, Mr. Davenport has been as merciless in his attacks upon the stage manager and press agent of the Republican candidate that overtures have been made to have the cartoons stopped. The check suit with the dollar marks has wrought great havoc with “Mark” and has caused him many sleepless nights. But they still continue appear, and when the campaign is this check suit will pass into history and continue to haunt Mr. Hanna, as did the famous money bag face of old “Boss” Tweed.

It is scarcely credible to believe that this young genius had never earned a dollar from his pen five years ago. Although he is the same unassuming fellow who entered the Examiner office with his high-water pants and a seedy overcoat to cover up the patches, he is, of course, more metropolitan. But he possesses none of the vices which usually accrue from success. He never touches liquor or tobacco and has only hobby, as was said before, is keeping game chickens and bull pups. There is no more entertaining or original talker. His conversation is like his drawings—full of humor and lasting impressions. Everything he does is tinged with humor; he cannot it. If his drawings were only funny, Davenport could scarcely be less great; but they are full of serious thought and need no letter press to tell the story. No cartoonist can excel him in drawing, and when he introduces animals into his work he is superior to all. Before the national campaign is over he will have shattered many political aspirations beyond hope. Though he has already achieved much, he is only at the inception of his career.

How little the farmers thought when they used to laugh until their sides ached at his early sketches at Silverton, Oregon, that with as much ease he could make the whole world laugh or frown.

Arthur E. Jameson

In Sack-Cloth & Ashes

SFChronMasthead

When he moved to San Francisco in 1892, Homer Davenport worked first—after a brief stint at the Mark Hopkins Art School—for Hearst’s Examiner. He was let go, apparently due to his “lack of artistic skill.” He then found work, at a higher salary, on Michael de Young’s San Francisco Chronicle, before eventually being re-hired by the Examiner, (at Hearst’s personal request) for an even higher salary in 1894.

This period has been lacking, not only in content, but in relevant facts relating to this period, which included a brief stint in Chicago drawing horses for the Herald during the 1893 World’s Fair, before returning to the Bay Area and de Young’s Chronicle.

I discovered “Fold3,” an outstanding online historical archive, that had relatively high resolution scans of each and every page of that San Francisco publication. I discovered a number of examples of Davenport’s work, hereto unseen for over a century. Many include dramatic outdoor scenes of horses and hunting.

One series stood out, and represents some of his earliest published work. It contains five illustrations by Davenport that were published in the February 19, 1893 edition. A seasonal column, it was titled “In Sack-cloth and Ashes,” and featured a tongue-in-cheek overview of how various noted citizens observed (or not) the Christian fast of Lent.

These pieces employed a “silhouette” technique. He also used this effect in the only surviving comic strip he didfeaturing himself as the foil, with pigeons in Venice’s St. Marks Square. The quality of course is what would be expected from online reproductions by way of archival microfilm, but still shows the gist of his illustrated jests. With one exception, his Chronicle work was signed with his initials, “H.D.” like some of his previous work on the Portland Oregonian. It could be assumed that newspaper artists had to earn the right to even have their initials included, so there may well be more images he drew that remained un-signed. Most of the “cuts” are anonymous, and were similar in form and function to our current concept of “clip-art.”

The author of the column is unknown, perhaps by design, as the tone and tenor of the article could conceivably be interpreted as border-line blasphemous by some. This would not have deterred Davenport however, having been raised by “intellectual infidels” in Silverton, Oregon. Below are the original captions, with relevant passages from the original column.

lent_hdA: Louis Lissak runs to eating because it disagrees with him. “That’s just it; I am careful of my stomach for ten months and a half during the year, and when Lent comes I let loose and eat everything my depraved and gluttonous appetite calls for. I get sick then. That is my penance.”

B: Bob Grayson makes penance by eating a tough steak. “Bob Woodward is a better man than I at almost any stage of life,” he acknowledged in his own modest way, “and he quit the table right after the fish was eaten. But I think I did more penance than he will in the balance of this season by trying to chew through the steak they served me. The weight of that leather boot top, with a fine French sauce, I swallowed is resting now with a deadly weight right under my chamois chest protector.”

C: Eddie Dunn comes 3000 miles from New York to eat rubber doughnuts. Dunn has been a little wild in his day, and decided he would leave the tempting haunts of New York, travel 3000 miles and repent during lent by feeding upon one of the lunch counters of a first-class saloon in this city. The tank was more than he could stand when he discovered that the cold pig’s feet and brown rounded doughnuts were some of the most perfect products of the rubber company.

D: Johnny Byrnes ends his mortification in wine. “I refrain from intoxicants the whole year round,” he says, “because they do not agree with me. When I cover myself with sackcloth and ashes I start in the day before and drink beer, topping it off at night with wine, and the next morning I feel that I am buried in the debris.”

E: J. B. Casserly neither borrows nor lends during lent. “I am mortifying my friends,” he said, “more than I mortify myself. During the penitential season I neither borrow nor lend—especially the latter.”


Mary Delle’s Missed Trip

Nancy H. Rose

Historic research is full of surprises. In the course of tracking down facts, often more facts are discovered, which sometimes greatly exceed the original facts that set off the initial search. In this case, I was intrigued by comments Homer’s niece and Silverton Country Historical Society (SCHS) benefactor Mrs. Nancy Havens Rose (right), made in a 2009 “Living History” video produced by Carolyn Hutton for the SCHS. This was the tale of how her mother, Mary Delle Davenport (1885-1965), was invited by her brother Homer to go to Europe on one of his lecture tours. However, she apparently contracted scarlet fever and had to stay behind in New York City, in the brownstone home of Homer’s mysterious girlfriend, Zadah Howard Reakirt, and her young son Robert Hastings Reakirt, who was similarly afflicted.

In 1907 after years in an unhappy marriage, Homer and his wife Daisy agreed to a separation. Eventually this led to Homer filing for divorce, and a budding romance with Mrs. Reakirt—a divorcee “of means” that shared Homer’s interest in art and Arabian horses—ensued. It was after this period that the story Nancy recounted of the missed European trip had to occur. I myself had not found anything in the material I have examined, so I was left to examine the facts, as slim as they were. Mary Delle’s trip East and her stay with Zadah were strong clues, as they indicated a period between 1908 to 1911.

She also mentioned a “Western Trip with Colonel Roosevelt,” in which Homer and his father, T.W. Davenport were on. That is a different, yet exciting story in its own right, and occurred in August and September of 1910. One of Homer’s other sisters, Adelaide Davenport Armstrong, alludes to this trip in her outline of Homer’s biography, that she started, but never finished. In it she notes cryptically: “Traveling West with the Roosevelt party – The Cheyenne ‘Round Up’ – On to Oregon.”

In researching this trip, I found other clues within the Roosevelt archives. Of importance to this subject, is from the book “Impressions of Theodore Roosevelt,” a biography of the Colonel by Lawrence F. Abbott, and written in 1922. In the third chapter, he recounts Roosevelt’s return to the United States after more than a year abroad. T.R. went first to Africa on safari, then on an extended lecture tour of Europe, before returning to his home at Oyster Bay. In it, Abbott recounts how he and T.R. attended a shipboard “Chalk Talk” by Davenport, (see below).

But when did Homer leave? This bit of information’s arrival like much in the Davenport saga, was of the serendipitous nature. I had talked to Ms. Sieglinde Smith at one of my lectures, and gave her my card. In the course of her own research, she forwarded me an obscure reference to Davenport she had found, that filled in that gap somewhat. It was from The Pacific Coast Architect, a professional journal targeting Northwest architects, dated April, 1911. Under the heading “Address of E. M. Lazarus Before Portland Architectural Club,” Mr. Lazarus recounts meeting up with Davenport at sea the previous year.

What follows are these two published accounts, that while not specific on where Davenport went on his lecture tour, both nevertheless offer an interesting glimpse of Davenport’s character as reported from several different sources: A prominent Portland, Oregon architect, a journalist-turned presidential biographer and the Ex-president himself! And, even more additional information has turned up to add yet another angle to this twisted tale, of an Arabian horse nature.

_____________

The Pacific Coast Architect
Volume 1 / Number 1 / April, 1911
Address of E. M. Lazarus Before Portland Architectural Club

E.M. Lazarus

Edgar M. Lazarus

Mr. President and Gentlemen or, rather, Chere Colleagues: I thank you for the honor of calling on me for a traveler’s tale, and were I skilled in the art of oratory or could command Dickens’ gift of telling a tale, I should feel more at case in the limelight of this platform. As it is, you will have to make amends accordingly … Sailing from New York late in May last, I crossed over with a fellow Oregonian. Homer Davenport, whose love of Oregon, and Silverton in particular, has been instrumental in heralding its fame from the land of where rolls the Oregon to the Bedouin tribes in far Arabia. For where his cartoons are known and admired, so is his love for his home town.

Davenport’s versatility is remarkable. In mid-ocean he invariably spent two or more hours every day making cartoons in the salon, and on a certain eventful day lost his purse containing all his available cash. A few hours later, on hunting him up, I found him finishing a pen and ink sketch in which he was the central figure with beads of perspiration dropping from his brow, the captain standing at his side gesticulating his inability to account for his loss, and with the salon steward standing by with an expression vacant as atmosphere, eyeing the flight of the purse, to which Davenport had affixed a pair of wings, as it vanished in the distance; a cartoon that was afterwards auctioned off at the end of the voyage for the Seaman’s Mission for a good round sum.

Davenport and I were determined to go to Epsom Downs to see the Derby run, where a vast concourse of approximately 260,000 persons had assembled to see the race. We reached London at 3 o’clock on the morning of the race, and were up at 8 o’clock hunting for seats on a coach bound for Epsom Downs. The journey to the track and the track itself was a sight never to be forgotten. The endless string of vehicles on the high road to the course, the costers and their diminutive donkeys and carts, with their wives and sweethearts mingling with the more pretentious equipages, enlivening the time with passages of their Cockney wit with their fellow travelers was a great sight, as was the gamins of the gutter, turning handsprings from mile end to mile end to the old refrain:

The Epsom races have begun.
Now is the time to have some fun;
Throw out your moldy coppers —

And throw them out we did. With a vengeance.

_____________

vistahouseEdgar Marks Lazarus (1868-1939) was a Portland, Oregon architect, who designed numerous public and private structures throughout the state. One of his more famous buildings is the Vista House (right), at Crown Point, overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. Edward Teague of the University of Oregon has studied his life extensively, and has quite a bit of background on him. And like Homer Davenport, Mr. Lazarus was an avid fan of horse racing.

Besides the trip to the Epsom Downs Derby, the only other media reference to Davenport in Europe was a brief notice in the London Times of June 8, 1910, about a dinner of the London Poets Club, where Sir Owen Seaman gave a talk on the power of parody. At this time, Sir Owen was editor of the British satirical journal “Punch.” Two days later Davenport boarded the S.S. Kaiserin Auguste Victoria in Southampton, and sailed back to New York. Also on that same ship, was Ex-President Theodore Roosevelt, returning to the United States after over a year aboard. This included an extended African safari and lecture tour of Europe. That portion of the trip was documented in part by Lawrence F. Abbott in his previously mentioned Roosevelt biography.

_____________

Impressions of Theodore Roosevelt by Lawrence F. Abbott, 1922
Chapter III – The Progressive Party

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

When Roosevelt emerged from the African wilderness in March, 1910, I met him at Khartum in the desert on the edge of the jungle, fifteen hundred miles up the river Nile from Cairo … In this vein Roosevelt said to me: “My political career is ended. No man in American public life has ever reached the crest of the wave as I appear to have done without the wave’s breaking and engulfing him. Remember Dewey.”

In reply I told him I did not think the two cases were at all parallel; that the American people knew him, Roosevelt, after thirty years of trial in the whitest kind of light; that his acts, achievements, and character were tested and understood; and that the people had taken him into their confidence and affection permanently, for better or for worse. On the other hand, I argued that Dewey had suddenly been seized upon as a kind of idol by the American people, not because they knew him very well, but because of one great dramatic episode; and that when he did something which they disliked they discarded him, although unjustly, without any wrench or sense of personal loss. “No,” insisted Roosevelt, “I am going down like Dewey.” More than once during our journey through Europe he referred to this assumed parallel in his career and that of the hero of the Naval Battle at Manila.

“Remember Dewey” became almost a slogan or shibboleth in our political conversations, although Roosevelt used it not loosely but very seriously.

Coming back on the steamer from Southampton to New York in June of that year, the usual entertainment given in the saloon, for the benefit of some seamen’s fund or other, took the form of a “chalk talk” by the late Homer Davenport, then one of the foremost of American newspaper cartoonists. The passenger list of the ship was a very large one, many people choosing this particular steamer because Roosevelt was on it, and the saloon on the evening when Davenport spoke was crowded to its extreme capacity. Davenport’s “chalk talks” consisted of a series of stories, usually humorous, each one being illustrated by a picture or a portrait which he rapidly drew with black crayon on a very large-sized pad of brown paper placed on an easel in sight of the audience. On this particular evening the last story which he told was one about Admiral Dewey. The story, somewhat condensed, ran about as follows:

Lest We Forget

“Lest We Forget” – Nov. 25, 1899

“At the time when Admiral Dewey was being bitterly attacked in the newspapers, and criticized throughout the country because of the disposition which he made of the house presented to him in honor of his victory at Manila, I published in one of the newspapers a cartoon in his defense, (‘Lest We Forget’ left – click for detail). I thought the Admiral was most outrageously treated, and I rather laid myself out to make the cartoon a striking and effective one. A few days after it was published a friend of mine who knew Dewey met me on the street in New York and said: “Dewey has seen your cartoon and wants to see you. Will you go over to Washington?” “Sure,” I replied. We went over, and my friend took me to the Admiral’s house.

“We entered the drawing room; I was presented to Mrs. Dewey; and just as the Admiral came forward to give me his hand, he burst into tears and threw himself upon a sofa in a paroxysm of weeping. Mrs. Dewey apologized and said: “You must excuse the Admiral, Mr. Davenport. He has been wrought almost to a pitch of nervous prostration by the unjust attacks made upon him. We had decided to go to Europe, never to set foot on American soil again, and had actually packed our trunks when we saw your cartoon. It was the first ray of light, and made us change our minds, and we have decided to remain in America, although some of our trunks are still upstairs just as we packed them for our departure.”

Davenport thereupon rapidly sketched a portrait of Admiral Dewey and his talk or lecture was finished. There were calls for Mr. Roosevelt. He rose:

“Mr. Davenport,” said he, “may I ask if the story you have just related of Admiral Dewey is accurate in all its details, or have you taken the pardonable liberty of an artist and put in a little color?”

“No,” answered Davenport, “the incident is just as I related it, in every detail.”

Whereupon Mr. Roosevelt paid an eloquent tribute to Dewey, defending him from the attacks that had been made upon him, and, after thanking Davenport, sat down. I happened to be next to him, and immediately on taking his seat he turned to me, and—recalling the numerous times in the month or two preceding in which he had remarked that he was ”going down like Dewey”—said, sotto voce, “Lawrence, they may treat me like Dewey, but I’ll tell you one thing, I shall neither weep nor shall I go to Europe!”

Unhappily first the country and then the Government did treat him like Dewey, but he neither wept nor did he abandon his country. He did not even show resentment or disappointment, but kept up his fight to the very end, in the greatest good spirits. His buoyancy, his capacity to rise superior to all external disappointments, was, I think, one of his greatest qualities.

_____________

What is interesting about this exchange, that occurred at sea on or about June 15, 1910, was that it foreshadows T.R.’s 1912 Progressive Party candidacy. This campaign actually started two months later, with an extended trip through numerous Western states in late August and early September. This trip was seen by many as The Colonel “testing the waters” for what became known as the Bull Moose campaign. It included an embedded journalist under contract to the Publisher’s Press—a news service not unlike, and apparently in competition with—the Associated Press. This journalist was Homer Davenport, late of Silverton. And according to Nancy Rose, the journalist’s father was along as well! But that is another story…


The Colonel Visits Oregon

He's Good Enough for MeOf all the famous personages that Homer Davenport knew and called friend during his brief years in the limelight, perhaps none was more influential than the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Davenport’s respect and enthusiasm for “The Colonel,” as he preferred to be called, supposedly was the reason Davenport left Hearst in 1904. This year he also created one of his more famous cartoons, the influential He’s Good Enough for Me (left), with Uncle Sam’s arm resting on T.R.’s shoulder.

Many have said that this single cartoon elected a President. Whether or not that’s true, the facts are that two years later at Davenport’s request, President Roosevelt directed the State Department to initiate contact with the Ottoman Empire, for the purpose of importing Arabian horse breeding stock. This acquisition expedition was a success, and today the Davenport Arabian Horse is the offspring of that one cartoon.

Colonel Roosevelt has remained a household word over the years, and even boasts a head on Mt. Rushmore. So much so, that in mid-May of 2013, the Oregon Historical Society with sponsorship by Wells Fargo Bank hosted a week-long “Roosevelt Roadshow” featuring Theodore Roosevelt re-enactor Joe Wiegand. They visited numerous Oregon communities, culminating with his last performance at the OHS Annual Membership Meeting in Portland.

I figured it might be a good gesture for The Davenport Project to present the Colonel with a framed reproduction of the He’s Good Enough for Me cartoon. I assumed that I could walk up after his talk and present the cartoon and maybe get a picture. That was the plan anyway. As it turned out, I arrived too early for the festivities, so I killed some time exploring the Museum.

The Colonel plugs Davenport

The Colonel plugs Davenport

While in the USS Oregon/Spanish American War room door stairs, I encountered a familiar character who immediately struck up a conversation with me, introducing himself as Theodore Roosevelt. I shook hands and said “A pleasure to meet you, Colonel.” to which he exclaimed that “My friends call me Colonel! I detest Mr. President.” He asked where I was from and if anyone of note was from there. I answered that I was from Silverton, Hometown of one of his old friends. I then gave the “Homer Davenport” elevator speech and mentioned the famous cartoon.

I then presented him with the framed copy I was carrying. The Colonel was obviously impressed. He was quite well acquainted with this particular cartoon, but was apparently unaware of Davenport’s Oregon roots. He said it was the best gift he had yet received during this trip. I included a letter with a brief bio of Davenport and his T.R. connection. He then asked me if he could incorporate the picture into his talk, and the rest was a delightful presentation of history, complete with a rather robust tribute to Davenport and Silverton! And as Homer could attest, even this “T.R.” put on a great show!

“Theodore Roosevelt is a humorist. In the multitude of his strenuousness this, the most human of his accomplishments, has apparently been overlooked. There is a similarity between his humor and Mark Twain’s. If Colonel Roosevelt were on the vaudeville stage he would be a competitor of Harry Lauder. At Denver, at the stock-growers’ banquet during his recent Western trip, Colonel Roosevelt was at his best. He made three speeches that day and was eating his sixth meal, yet he was in the best of fettle. You couldn’t pick a hallful that could sit with faces straight through his story of the blue roan cow. He can make a joke as fascinating as he can the story of a sunset on the plains of Egypt.”

—Homer Davenport. Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 23, 1910


In Clover at Last

Orison Swett Marden

Orison Swett Marden

In 1904, the New York-based “Success Company” published a book entitled “Little Visits with Great Americans or Success Ideals and How to Obtain Them.” It was edited and written by Orison Swett Marden (right), who is described by Wikipedia as “…a spiritual author in the New Thought Movement.” This volume contains numerous sketches of successful folks of the era, comprising a wide range of backgrounds. “Successful” authors, politicians, actors and even cartoonists, had short interviews or biographical sketches of them.

What follows is Marden’s interview with a now very successful Homer Davenport, at his home in East Orange, New Jersey in the Roseville neighborhood. Of interest is the reference to Homer’s sister, who could have been either Alice or Adelaide. Davenport’s own self-depreciation enters in also, as he relates getting fired from various newspapers, but lands other jobs on other papers for more money. Of particular note is his comment that he worked for the Oregonian for “…just a day.” Davenport researcher Barry Bernard uncovered a steady-stream of Davenport illustrations from March through September, 1890 in the Oregonian archives. The interview and images are from Google Books, the great new research resource.

Rebuffs and Disappointments Fail to Repress a Great Cartoonist’s Genius.

Homer C. DavenportTo-day Homer C. Davenport is the “first cartoonist” of America, and yet he is but thirty-five years old. Mr. Davenport has a small place in Roseville, on the outskirts of Newark, New Jersey.

He is a tall, handsome man, with large, humorous eyes, beneath heavy eyelids, that give him an expression of perpetual thought.

“I suppose you want to see my studio?” Mr. Davenport said. We went upstairs.

“This is it,” he said, with a chuckle. It was merely a small, square room, with a few framed pictures on the papered walls, and a desk in the corner. There was no easel in the room, but I saw a drawing-board under the desk.

Davenport’s Unique Studio.

“You work on that board, when on the desk?”

“Yes.”

“You are disappointed,” said his sister, with a smile. “It is not what you expected.”

It wasn’t. I had expected to see a typical studio, with unfinished cartoons, and the usual artistic surroundings.

Mr. Davenport laid an unfinished cartoon on the desk, representing a chariot race, and laughed when he explained what it would be and mean; and this told me that he enters heartily in whatever he draws, which is requisite to success in art as well as in other things. Then we adjourned to another room and sat about a wood fire.

“Tell me of your beginning,” I said.

“Well, I was born in Oregon, thirty-five years ago, on my father’s farm. As a child, I was perpetually drawing, and to my father I owe much, for it was he who encouraged me, my mother dying when I was very young. I would lie flat on my stomach, and draw on the floor, if I had no paper. As I spent hours this way, the habit became injurious to my digestive organs, so a flat cushion was made for me. I was a hopelessly poor student, doing more drawing on my slate and on the margins of my books than studying. To sit in school for any length of time made me sick and nervous, so my father called on the schoolmaster and gave instructions that, whenever I got tired, I should be allowed to draw, or to go home.”

He Drew Cartoons in School.

“This was rather demoralizing to the school, for even then I drew cartoons. Finally, I was taken away, and my father painted a blackboard, four feet high by fifteen feet long, on the side of a room in the farm­house, where, with plenty of chalk, I drew to my heart’s content. I would draw all day.”

“And you received no instructions in drawing?”

“I never had a lesson in my life. It was my father’s ambition for me to become a cartoonist. When, in later years, I did anything that he considered particularly good, he would carry me off to Portland, and I would submit it to the Portland ‘Oregonian,’ where my attempts were always laughed at. Then, much crest­fallen, I would return to the farm.

“‘Now, my boy,’ my father would say, ‘that is good enough to be printed,’ and off I would go again.

“At length, the news spread that I had a job on the Portland ‘Oregonian.’ The whole town became interested, and when the day arrived for my departure, the band of which I was a member, and many of the towns­people, escorted me with due honor to the railroad station.”

His First Disappointment.

“‘Well, I heard some say, ‘I guess we will never see him again. He’s too big for this place.’

“I was on the Portland ‘Oregonian’ just one day.

“’What’s the sense of this?’ I was asked. ‘You can’t draw,’ and back I went.  ‘I had before me the mortification of meeting the righteous disgust of my friends. On my way back to Silverton, I heard that they were short of a brakeman at the Portland end, so I beat my way back to Portland, and, walking into the office, offered myself.

“’What!” said the man. ‘What do you know about braking? I would like to know who sent you on such a fool’s errand?’ and he raved and stamped, and swore he would discharge everyone on the train. But on the next train, I went out as head brakeman. All the elements got together, it rained and snowed and froze, and when I got to Silverton, almost frozen, I slipped from the train and tramped home, a much disheartened young man.

“But just to show my father I had something in me, and wanted to make my way in life, I asked to be sent to an institution of learning, where I stayed just one week. Then I got a place attending to the ink roller in the local printing office, where the town paper was published, which, to this day, I do not think can be beaten,” and Mr. Davenport laughed in his hearty way.

At Ten Dollars a Week.

“Finally, my star rose on the horizon. I went to San Francisco, and was taken on trial on the ‘Examiner.’ I remember the day well,—February 2, 1892. For one mortal week, I simply hung around the office. Then I was put to work at ten dollars a week. But I proved unsatisfactory. I drew the man over me aside.

“’Look here,’ I said, ‘I can’t draw. I want you to write to my father and tell him what a failure I am, and that his belief that I am an artist is the delusive mistake of a fond parent. He sat down to write, and, as he was doing so, my fingers, always itching to draw, were at work with a pencil in sketching horses, on a piece of paper on the table.

“’When did you do that?’ he asked, picking up the paper.

“I did it just now,” I replied, sheepishly.

“’What? Do it again.’

“I did so. He looked at me curiously.

“’Wait a bit,’ he said. He took the paper into the office. ‘Come in here,’ he said, ‘the boys won’t believe it. Do some more.’

“’Davenport,’ said the manager, ‘you are too old to strike a path for yourself. You must put yourself in my hands. Do nothing original, not one line.’ If the manager caught me doing so, he tore it up.

“I remember one time, Ned Hamilton, a star writer on the ‘Examiner,’ some others, and myself, were sent to a Sacramento convention. I drew what I considered very good likenesses, and that night, when I retired, with a fire burning brightly in the room where we all bunked, I fairly kicked my heels in delight, in anticipation of the compliments of the ‘Examiner.’ I was awakened by the tearing of a paper that sent the cold shivers up and down my back. Ned Hamilton was grumbling, and throwing my labor into the fire.

“‘If you can’t do better than that,’ he said, ‘you ought to give up.’

“I almost wept, but it took any conceit I might have had out of me, and the next day I did some work that was up to the mark.”

He was Discharged in Chicago.

“But my walking papers came in due time, and I went to the ‘Chronicle.’ It almost took my breath away when they offered me twenty dollars a week. Before I was discharged from there, I had risen to a higher salary. I went to Chicago, and got on the Chicago ‘Herald,’ at thirty-five dollars a week. I was there during the World’s Fair. It seemed to me the principal thing I did was to draw horses. But the greatest blow of all was when the Chicago ‘Herald’ discharged me. It seemed as if everything were slipping from beneath my feet. I went back to San Francisco and got on the ‘Chronicle’ again. It was then, and not till then, —1894, —that I was allowed any freedom. All that I had been asking an outlet for found vent, and my cartoons began to attract attention.

“William R. Hearst, of the ‘Examiner,’ asked, in one of his editorial rooms: ‘Who is that Davenport, on the ‘Chronicle,’ who is doing us up all the time?’

“‘Oh, we bounced him; he’s no good,’ was the reply.

“’Send for him!’ said Mr. Hearst.

“No attention was paid to the order. Mr. Hearst finally sent for me himself. I was engaged at forty­five dollars a week. Then a thing happened that I will never forget, for no raise before or since ever affected me to such a degree.

“I drew a cartoon of Senator ‘Steve’ White and his whiskers. The whiskers so pleased Mr. Hearst, that he called me in and said that my pay would be raised five dollars a week. I went home that night, and woke up my wife to tell her the glad news. She fairly wept for joy, and tears trickled down my own cheeks, for that increase meant appreciation that I had been starving for, and I felt almost secure, —and all on account of Senator ‘Steve’ White’s whiskers.”

Here Mrs. Davenport, who had brought us two large books, in which she had fondly pasted all of her hus­band’s work, said:­

“Yes, no subsequent increase, no matter how large, has ever equaled that five-dollar advance.”

In Clover at Last.

Mr. Hearst, as soon as he bought the New York “Journal,” telegraphed to the “Examiner:” “Send Davenport.” He is now receiving a very large salary, and his work is known throughout the world.

Two years ago, Mr. Davenport went abroad and drew sketches of the members of the houses of parliament, and Mr. Phil May, the English artist, became his fast friend.

In Washington, Senator Hanna insisted upon meeting Mr. Davenport, and shaking him by the hand. He was the first to immortalize Mr. Hanna, with that checkered suit of dollar marks.

Such is the man and artist, Homer C. Davenport, who, in 1894, had not drawn a public cartoon, and who, today, has a world-wide reputation, and the esteem of even those whom he has caricatured, and who cannot help enjoying their own exaggerated portraits. Davenport’s success has come rapidly, but not until he had sustained reverses that would have discouraged any man of a less resolute character.


Chief Joseph’s Interview

Chief Joseph, 1903

Chief Joseph, 1903. Photograph by F.T. Cummins, from the First People Website.

In 1903 Nez Perce Chief Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, also known as Chief Joseph, visited President Theodore Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. Apparently he first visited New York City, where he was interviewed by the media of the day. One such interview was performed by fellow Oregonian, cartoonist Homer Davenport, then working for William Randolph Hearst’s New York American. Davenport was a “value-added” artist, who often wrote his own features that he likewise illustrated. And once again, another unique glimpse is offered into the background of this “simple country boy.” Like the fact that he was apparently semi-fluent in “Chinuk Wawa,” the Chinook jargon. His reference to his Uncle John Davenport is also interesting. The town of Davenport, Washington is named for “Uncle John.”

Chief Joseph, a voice of conscience for the West and his people, died less than a year after Homer’s interview, still in exile from his homeland, according to his doctor “of a broken heart.” This piece of Davenport trivia comes to the Project courtesy of Davenport researcher Barry Bernard of Portland. It was reprinted in the Morning Oregonian, on Saturday, October 10, 1903. The photo of Chief Joseph was taken around the same time as the interview in 1903, by F.T. Cummins, (from the First People Website). Davenport’s portrait comes from a second generation Xerox copy printed from microfilm. And since this was manually transcribed, (by me!) from the a fore mentioned Xerox copy, I may have gotten some characters scrambled, especially in the Chinook passages.

Chief Joseph and the Artist
Homer Davenport Interviews the Famous Chief of the Nez Perce in New York

In 1879, I was in Colfax, Washington, at that time one of the thrifty towns of the Northwest, a town threatening to be a city, a center in those days for all the Indian trade of the Palouse District. This day I have in mind was a perfect day. The sky was apparently a million miles high and the blue was that of the Mediterranean. A breeze was blowing, but I don’t recall which way.

Anyway, the day was perfect, and about noon my uncle, then the leading merchant of that place, called my attention to a great cloud that was visible up the valley some three miles or more away. He said, “What is it?” and after some moments gaze I pronounced it a storm cloud. “No,” he said, “It’s some Indians bring two or three hundred wild horses in for me to see, and that’s the dust they are raising.”

The old Indian sat on his pony facing a spotted stallion. On him he kept his eyes for a few moments, as this horse was a leader, and when he became quiet, all were quiet, or where he went all others would follow. Uncle John was very mad. They had torn through Mr. Cooper’s garden in mistake for a street, and as a result Cooper’s garden was now a street and nothing more. Uncle went up to the old Indian, who was all smiles, and said, “Platote, confound you! I thought I told you not to bring these horses in. Keep them away. I never want to see them again, or you either.”

The old Indian, still smiling, shifted in his saddle and said, “Now witka now witka, hias skookum tennas cultan,” meaning “I understand, I understand, but I wanted to show you the fine little colts.”

“I know,” said uncle, “but don’t bring then in any more. They tear down fences, break the sidewalks and some day they’ll run over some child, and then they’ll hang you. If you love me take them back to Snake River and keep them there.” At this point I saw uncle drop a $5 gold piece quietly into the old Indian’s prepared hand as quick as you would tip a policeman. Then uncle left in disgust and went to the store, while I remained with the old Indian.

I always remembered the name of old Platote, though I never saw him but that once. Yesterday I had an appointment with the management of Madison Square Garden to see and have an interview with Chief Joseph, the greatest chief the Nez Perce (Pierced Nose) ever had, and more than likely the greatest Indian chief now living, the greatest war general, greater than Geronimo, because Joseph never considered cold-blooded murder warfare.

The gentleman who arranged my interview with the chief said the old man couldn’t talk, and he disliked interviews. I came at the appointed hour and brought a child along to see if children meant anything to this Indian. [No doubt one of Davenport’s own children.]

As we entered his room in the Garden, the old chief arose from a blanket on the floor alongside of a bed; he had been resting, as the bed evidently tired him. As he arose he grew more and more in a dignified way, like an old Indian Hamlin Garland once told me of that grew in his estimation till he looked 17 feet high, and so as Chief Joseph straightened and reached out his long right arm to be shaken, he looked like a great Roman senator in bronze. He frowned with his brows, but his lips smiled, that he might make me feel more at home.

If you were going to interview a President that would be easy. You could say that you were leading a strenuous life and were in favor of good citizenship, and that would lead up to something, but to this man that meant nothing. He had done that all his life. If you were to interview an actor you could say that you saw him in his last play, then he would do the rest.

Chief Joseph, drawn from life by Davenport

Chief Joseph, drawn from life by Homer C. Davenport, 1903

But to draw and talk to a solemn old chief, 85 years old, made doubly melancholy by the presence of tall buildings instead of tall mountains, who had closed up tight as a clam, was something not at all easy. I thought of a chance. I remembered my uncle had bought his [Chief Joseph’s] horses, and that in his general merchandise store he had trusted all of the Indians over which this man had once ruled. Perhaps he might remember, so I asked him in jargon, “Do you know John Davenport, at Colfax?”

The old chief quickly lifted his head, his eyes lit up with a bright twinkle. “Now witka, hias skookum John Davenport. Skookum, skookum, skookum, hi youtl potlatch quitan, hi youtl potlatch quitan, hi youtl potlatch chickamen, sluh Colfax.”

In my joy I happened to think of old Platote, and I asked if he knew Platote.

Instantly the old chief, who had again become a boy, stood up. “Platote,” he exclaimed over and over, in loud, deep tones. Then he asked if I knew Platote, and I told him yes. He shook with laughter. The other Indians in the room all laughed and said Platote. Finally from a roll of red blankets that lay on the floor in the corner of the room came a grunt and the muffled words, “Charley Platote, hi youtl quitan.”

Gayety reigned for many minutes. Indians laughed that hadn’t smiled since they left their tepees in the far Northwest. The old Indian peeked out of the blankets that he might see the old friend of Platote. I asked if Platote was still alive. “Yes” the chief said, “and he is still herding horses.”

I was in the midst of a drawing by this time of the old chief’s face, when he burst into a noiseless laugh. Turning to Chief Red Shirt, he talked in a different language about a minute, and the only word I caught that I understood was “Platote.” I asked the interpreter what he said. He said to Red Shirt, “What kind of world is this? We come away from Indian country and come through mountains, then pass more Indian country and come through days of great wheat fields, then come where everything is corn, and pass through some big cities, and then come way here among these high buildings and find a man who knows Charley Platote, the Nez Perce horseman.”

The expression on the chief’s face changed noticeably into that of deep melancholy. He was more dejected than he was a few minutes before he had been so happy. He stood up over six feet and trod back and forth with bowed head. He was a grand sight, although a dejected person.

Chief Joseph, a pure Indian of the Nez Perce tribe, is past 85 years old, but looks 50. His skin is a s soft as satin, though his flesh is hard and firm. He is the type of man and art where the work of A.B. Frost stops and where that of Frederic Remington begins. On the other hand, you get melancholy when you see a great, broad-minded man like Chief Joseph. You see a man representing a race that were not dealt with as they should have been. This prisoner of war was never charged with cruelty. The only charge against him was that as he was ordered from his home and the hunting ground of his ancestors before, he said, “I don’t want anything the white man has. I only want to be let alone and let live in the beautiful Wallowa Valley, where my ancestors lived and died, and where my boyhood days were so happily spent.”

Notwithstanding this simple plea from a just and honest Indian, the troops came to take him to a reservation and he naturally fought, and when he fought, he fought in a manly, dignified way, and had he had as many warriors as we had he would have caused our Generals to blush. As it was, he proved almost a Napoleon. He rightly figured that the whites and the progress of civilization might have spared to him the beautiful little valley at the junction of the Wallowa and Snake Rivers, in Eastern Oregon. There he could live as he had always lived at the head of his tribe, a well-behaved band of Indians.

The buckskin smell and the odor of a wilder country had made me homesick and blue, and as I started to leave the room, as I passed the dignified old Chief to say goodbye he said that I had made him feel very bad, but he was here where the houses are “slah, slah,” pointing to the sky, and at the railroads were “slah,” and that the mention of old Platote had made him homesick. “Hi youtl homesick.”