Homer’s Watch Stolen!

Homer's Watch

Homer's Watch

Between February 4 and March 17, 2012, someone stole from the Silverton Country Museum the gold Elgin pocket-watch that once belonged to Oregon Cartoonist Homer Davenport. It was removed from it’s locked case, along with a silver Hamilton watch that once belonged to William “Mack” McGinnis, former head of the Silverton Red Sox semi-pro baseball team.

The watch is a gold Elgin with a white face and Roman numerals, and “Elgin Natl. Watch Co.” on the face. The back of the watch is engraved with an Arabian horse’s head in the center of a floral and ribbon design. Patent date is Feb. 19, 1884.

The McGinnis watch has a white face with bold, black numbers. It’s engraved on the back with a deer head inside of a heart and floral border. The initials W.L.McG are engraved between the deer’s antlers. A brown shoelace with knotted ends is attached to the top.

Mack's Watch

Mack's Watch

Mack’s watch was given to McGinnis in 1923. Descendents of his family donated the item to the Silverton Country Historical Society in 2010.

The Davenport watch was donated that same year by relatives of the political cartoonist, who died in 1912. The watch had been locked away in a safety deposit box for upward of 60 years before the Silverton Country Museum became its caretaker, said Hutton, who was dreading the phone call she would have to make to Davenport’s niece.

If anyone has any details, please or information, please contact the Silverton Police Department at 503-873-5326.

Casey in the Dark


TDP Event - Seven Brides TaproomFor the next “Dining in the Dark” Forth Sunday Candle lit Dinner at the Seven Brides Taproom in Silverton, The Davenport Project’s chief lecturer will give a recitation of the classic American poem, “Casey at the Bat.” If time and the audience permits, we may offer up the Garrison Keillor “Road Game” version as well.

Davenport, a longtime baseball aficionado since his teen years in Silverton, was a close personal friend to Albert Spalding, the sporting goods magnate. He hired Davenport to illustrate his 1911 baseball history book, “America’s Favorite Game” with 17 cartoons, including an homage to “Casey” and the orator that first made it famous, De Wolf Hopper.

The poem was made famous by the late 19th century comedian De Wolf Hopper, who made “Casey” his signature piece. Like Davenport, Hopper is relatively unknown today. His son Bill Hopper on the other hand, is fondly remembered on re-runs of Perry Mason, as the private detective Paul Drake. Below is the back story of Casey, from the Baseball Almanac Website.

Casey at the Bat - illustration by Davenport

"Casey at the Bat" illustration by Homer Davenport for A.G. Spalding's book, "America's Favorite Game."

Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer

It all started in 1885 when George Hearst decided to run for state senator in California. To self-promote his brand of politics, Hearst purchased the San Francisco Examiner. At the completion of the election, Hearst gave the newspaper to his son, William Randolph Hearst.

William, who had experience editing the Harvard Lampoon while at Harvard College, took to California three Lampoon staff members. One of those three was Ernest L. Thayer who signed his humorous Lampoon articles with the pen name Phin.

De Wolf HopperIn the June 3, 1888 issue of The Examiner, Phin appeared as the author of the poem we all know as Casey at the Bat. The poem received very little attention and a few weeks later it was partially republished in the New York Sun, though the author was now known as Anon.

A New Yorker named Archibald Gunter clipped out the poem and saved it as a reference item for a future novel. Weeks later Gunter found another interesting article describing an upcoming performance at the Wallack Theatre by comedian De Wolf Hopper – who was also his personal friend, (illustration right, by Davenport). The August 1888 show, exact date is unknown, had members from the New York and Chicago ball clubs in the audience and the clipping now had a clear and obvious use.

Gunter shared Casey at the Bat with Hopper and the perfomance was nothing short of legendary. Baseball Almanac is pleased to present the single most famous baseball poem ever written.

“Love has its sonnets galore. War has its epics in heroic verse. Tragedy its sombre story in measured lines. Baseball has Casey at the Bat.”
– Albert Spalding

Click to hear De Wolf Hopper recite Casey at the Bat.

The Hoosier Connections

In the William H. Smith Archives Room

A successful research “fishing expedition” in Indianapolis at the W.H. Smith Memorial Library of the Indiana Historical Society. Mr. Paul Brockman, Director of Manuscripts and Visual Collections, got me pointed in the right direction. I spent last Friday in the research room pouring through letters, scrapbooks and photos from the collections of William Henry Smith, first cousin to T.W. Davenport, and Smith’s nephew, Charles Warren Fairbanks.

Besides being directly related to the Davenport clan, Mr. Smith and Mr. Fairbanks, were both were quite prominent in their own right. Smith was a founding partner of the Associated Press, and Fairbanks a prominent Indiana politician, and eventually Vice President under Theodore Roosevelt. Digging through the archives, I found three pictures of T.W. Davenport (one listed as “unidentified”), a picture of Homer’s Ma Flora and his sister Orla at the age of seven.

I also found a mention in a letter to W.H. Smith from his brother Charles Warren Smith (their nephew’s namesake), while he was in San Francisco in 1891. He mentions that Homer is “…in town attending art school in preparation to work on The Examiner.”

And several items from the Fairbanks scrapbooks about Homer’s attendance at a swanky dinner he and Mrs. Fairbanks were holding for President Theodore Roosevelt. The dinner was held on December 19, 1908. This was just seven days after Homer had sent a letter to Fairbanks informing him that he and Daisy had been separated for two years, and they would no longer be attending any social events together. Apparently Homer went by himself! Another news item, from the New York City Club Fellow dated December 23 on the next page references Homer’s attendance, with a rather “snarky” comment at the end:

“Mr. Homer Davenport, one of the esteemed guests of the dinner recently tendered the President and Mrs. Roosevelt by Vice-President and Mrs. Fairbanks, managed to get in a few words as to the desirability of the Arabian stallion for long-distance stunts in the Army. Homer has a quaint way of going about the thing. What will the rake-off be, Homer?”

I did manage to get a brief video statement from Mr. Brockman, as well as some great cut-aways from the top of the “Indianapolis Circle” Civil War monument, as well as Vice President and Mrs. Fairbanks’ memorial in the near-by Crown Hill Cemetery.

I also realized that Homer had included an image of his famous cousin the front of his 1898 book “Cartoons,” in the background of the picture entitled “An Interview with Senator Hanna,” (right). Fairbanks was a U.S. Senator at the time.

The next day, my host and Navy Buddy Mark drove us both to Richmond, Indiana to visit the location of the famous Starr Piano  and Gennett Record Company, “Birthplace of Recorded Jazz.” No Davenport connection, but relevant to the history of antique phonographics.

All in all a quick but delightful visit! Thanks again to my Hoosier hosts, Mark and Kirsten Fredericks, (plural – no relation).

First TDP Event a Success!

Seven Brides BrewingSilverton, OR: The Seven Brides Taproom in Silverton, Oregon hosted the first official event of The Davenport Project. On Sunday evening, January 29, The Taproom presented it’s first “Dining in the Dark” special evening.

“Several months back, Silverton experienced a power outage that lasted several hours;” explained Seven Brides owner Jeff DeSantis. “We had candles and a gas grill, so we made the best of the situation, and folks loved it! So we decided to make a monthly special out of it!” he added.

During the evening, the electric lights were turned off in favor of candles, oil lamps and lanterns, imparting a sense of “Homer days” from the 1800s onto this heritage dining experience.

Photo by Fred ParkinsonInto this mix, Gus Frederick from The Davenport Project presented a dynamic reading of “Homer Davenport – By his Father.” Written in 1899 for the magazine, “Oregon Native Son,” by Timothy W. Davenport, Homer’s father, it offered an interesting glimpse into the minds of both Davenports, the younger and the elder.

1899 was midway through Homer’s all too short career, which spanned just two decades. T.W. recounts Homer’s early years with recollections of growing up in Silverton, his mother’s influence as well as the cult of myth that had already started to grow up around Homer’s meteoric rise to fame. This was a year after the publication of Homer Davenport’s first book, “Cartoons by Davenport” and a year before his next, “The Dollar or the Man?”

Photo by Fred Parkinson

Frederick reads T.W. Davenport

Frederick paced his presentation with a musical interlude prior to and midway through the reading, provided by period music originally released on shellac analog audio disks, (78rpm records), played back on Frederick’s Orthophonic Victrola acoustic gramophone.

For the first quarter century of recorded music, gramophones and phonographs used spring-wound motors and a hollow “tonearm,” that reproduced the music mechanically without electricity.

Analog audio disks for the evening included “Moving Pictures at Pumpkin Center” by Cal Stewart (COL 78466/A1797); “Palestina” by the Original Dixieland Jass Band (VIC 18717-B); “Stars & Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa (VIC 35709-A) and more! Special thanks to the Wolverine Antique Music Society, (WAMS) for use of the Hardware and Software for the evening…

Stay tuned for additional events, coming up in the months to come. We will be taking The Davenport Project on the road to the Jack London Pub in Portland as part of they’re growing history lecture series. And coming early April, will be our “Davenport Dinner on the Farm” to be held at Homer’s Grandparent’s donation land claim and Marion County heritage center, GeerCrest Farm and Historical Society. Seating will be limited! Details to follow…