Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lincoln, Thanksgiving, and the Costs of Abundance

This morning's Statesman reprints Lincoln's 1863 proclamation that established the Thanksgiving Holiday.
I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.
National perverseness and disobedience. Hard to imagine a serious politician (as opposed to a "nattering nabob" or pretentious pundit) uttering words like this today. And not just because of the difference in mid 19th and early 21st century rhetorics.

Lincoln understood and talked about tragedy, ambiguity, ambivalence in a way that today's politicians and our collective political expectations do not permit. If he spoke sometimes in nuanced periods, whose components required time to unfold and finally join, today we generally have the sound-bite.

In the library's photo collection are a bunch of mid-century photos of a thriving turkey industry. The photo here is from 1957 near the Capitol.

According to the Salem online history,
At one time, Oregon produced 30% of the West Coast supply of turkey. But, several years ago, the Oregon turkey industry--which, at its height, produced nearly 3 million birds annually--ceased to exist. This was due to a bankruptcy of Oregon's primary turkey processor, brought about in part by a recall of about 70,000 birds just before Thanksgiving. While this signaled the end of commercial turkey production in Oregon, a few small producers continue to produce birds for local markets and many Oregon customers.

Jonathan Safran Foer's book, Eating Animals, has just come out, and while reviewers have pointed out that both Michael Pollan and Peter Singer have said it before and in many ways said it better, Safran Foer's points remain: The large-scale, industrialized factory farming of animals for food is awful for the animals and awful for the environment, and in both indirect and direct ways often awful for humans. The online history doesn't specify the reason for the turkey recall, but it was almost certainly a consequence of industrial factory farming and processing.

Going totally vegetarian is not for everyone. I crave animal protein from time to time. My experiments in going totally vegetarian have left me cranky; I find I need meat once a week or twice a month. But it's undeniably true that Americans eat too much animal protein. As Pollan says: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

The loss of industries like local turkey farming and processing is real. At the same time, the production of animals for human consumption will become sustainable for the future only when done in the context of smaller farms whose entire life cycle of plants and animals is sustainable. If not reformed our current food supply chain will have tragic consequences on a much larger scale than it already has. Things that appear to be goods, like our current abundance, often harbor hidden adverse consequences.

This Thanksgiving, CT gives thanks for our current abundance, and hopes for "the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Beer Drinkers: Mix it Up and Taste Wine Next Weekend!

Especially during the crazy long days of harvest, wine makers often say that the most important ingredient in good wine is...good beer!

Beer drinkers should return the favor, and take some time to check out our great wine region next weekend.

Readers of CT know that CT has a thing about beer imitating wine. We'll get to that in a minute...but sometimes wine by itself is a wonderful thing.

Along with Memorial Day weekend, Thanksgiving weekend is one of the biggest wine events around here. Many wineries are open only on these two weekends.

Perhaps because it is big and mainstream, Willamette Valley Vineyards offers the most interesting development. Already, in collaboration with Travel Salem they have a tasting bar at Travel Salem. Thanksgiving weekend they will open the Wine Center in McMinnville. Though they do plenty of self-promotion at both, the core concept is to educate about Willamette Valley Wine generally and to promote the entire region - the rising tide floats all boats! According to an Oregonian article
Perhaps most inclusive of all, the center will offer tastings of not only Willamette Valley Vineyards' wines, but those of a rotating list of competitors, as well.

"We won't sell any wines here but our own," Murray said. "But we are happy to feature other wines, along with information about them and how to get there from here.

One of the "other" wines being served is a Bethel Heights Vineyard 2007 pinot noir. Marilyn Webb, a co-founder of the Salem-based winery, welcomed the opportunity.

"As far as we are aware, there isn't another facility like this anywhere in the Willamette Valley," she said.
These are interesting experiments that offer a beguiling mixture of self-promotion and disinterested industry-promotion, and they will be interesting to follow.

(If you've got money to burn, for those of you looking for something new in white tablecloth dining, the Oregonian reviews very favorably the big new wine-country restaurant Jory at the Allison Inn & Spa (warning: terrible website see comment thread for update). Though the jory soils of the red hills of Dundee have won the name-recognition game, there's plenty of the red, clayey jory soil in the south Salem hills. And, in fact, the Jory family were important early settlers, having arrived at the Rosedale area in 1848, and we remember them in Joryville Park and the Jory Cemetery.)

Anyway, so mix it up and get out and taste some wine! The Willamette Valley Wineries Association has the details!

Back to beer...CT fears that beer and brewing is overreaching towards an era of decadence and decline. ( wine country spas? oh, nevermind)

For a terrific example of this decadence in wine see the Rodenstock scandal. It shows the dark side: exclusivity, snobbery, rarity, and status leads to fraud and the "billionaire's vinegar." Over at the NY Times, last month Eric Asimov reported that the UK libel suit based on the book has just been settled.

The matter seemed relevant here last month in conversation over the Ft. George Brewer's Dinner at Venti's. At the Weekly Brew, Jared had posted a note about it about a month ago, and CT weighed in with an opinion: too fancy, too much beer-is-like-wine.

The next day, "Beer-sentric" posted a comment about a crazy Belgian dinner. It started like this:
Charcuturie Platter

homemade pork pate infused with Rochefort 8 soaked figs and pistachios, Chimay Red duck rillettes, easter egg radishes, De Ranke Père Noël poached bosc pears, dried apricot and Hanssens Oude Gueuze mustard and with local breads

Petrus Oude Bruin
Affligem Noel
And continued in the same vein for another eleven courses. Each course was precisely branded by a fancy beer name, even though the cooking heat and other ingredients usually conceals the exact nature of the beer's influence.

Nuts! - fussy and pretentious, CT thinks. Beer should never go down this path.

But in some ways it already has. Jared offers a note about fussy tasting notes, and uses Thurber's cartoon about "a naive domestic Burgundy." Another about creeping price points - which often act for exclusivity, snobbery, rarity, and status. And a third about stunt beers. Beervana also weighs in on beer prices. Beer as collectible and status-symbol is disheartening.

So if wine sometimes has an image problem, why go wine tasting? The best reason to go wine tasting is for comparison. Over at Beervana, the beer guys obviously haven't had enough bretty wine, and all of them, except for the wise Samurai Artist, seem to think that brett makes for yummy sour beer.

At Venti's Russian River Damnation is on tap, and it's a bretty beer. It tastes like 'ffing brettanomyces, not like beer! And it's not sour!

This is by design. Russian River has a specialty in funky beers. About the yeast they say:
Brettanomyces (also known as Brett) is feared by most brewers and winemakers alike. In fact, there are some local winemakers who will not set foot in our brewpub in Downtown Santa Rosa due to our use of Brettanomyces....Brett is very invasive and if not handled properly can become out of control in a winery or brewery, but, if used properly with care, it can add rich aromas and flavors of earthiness, leather, smoke, barnyard, & our favorite descriptor-wet dog in a phone booth.
Does this sound positive? Sounds practically apocalyptic to me! Being able to court "wet dog" aromas and "out of control" yeasts certainly is decadent.

CT just can't get on board with the whole funky beer thing. Sure it tastes different - but does it taste good? And is the beer layered with a multitude of flavors and aromas or is it monolithic?

Beer geeks and wine geeks should cross-taste and learn more about conventions and balance in each other's gustatory domains. If you do like bretty beer, make sure to taste some bretty wine - understand what brett does to aroma and flavor in all fermented beverages, not merely in a single one.

So this is a long way of saying, if you like wine, make sure you drink some new beer next weekend, and if you like beer, go winetasting!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Brenda Hillman & More Beer Poetry

Hillman might be a great poet, but at least one of her speakers has bad taste in beer! honor of her Willamette University reading on Wednesday (as reprinted in Nerve - likely nsfw, please note!):

Male Nipples
by Brenda Hillman

— not utter, not
useless, the uselessness of desire, the slight
depression around the center

— When the motorcycle boy would light
His cigarette, I longed
For the flat nipples, the scars, the contralto 'when'

and after you saw that the flower
of hell is not hell,
but a flower —

How the beautiful boys' nipples in the pool
In Arizona looked
"underwatery" — pennies which have been thrown in

— and after you saw
that the flower of hell
was not one bit hell, but a flower —

convince him to take only
his shirt off. They were, well, one
was brown and one was like the inside of a story —

— the ones of divers,
how they point down under the wetsuits:

when I first put
my tongue on his (having decided
he is not my mother) —

Oh, the bodies I loved were very tired.
I liked their skin. And
I was not sad animal no graveyard —

And after you saw that desire
is hell, that the flower of hell
is not hell but a flower, well,

— So I told the little hairs
around his nipple: lie flat! and they did,
like a campfire, without the stories —

those of soldiers in the desert war and often
his left one tastes metallic as in
childhood, when I licked my brother's BB gun

Kept not finishing
people I loved.
I tried, — but.

The top lip of a Corona beer
is about the size
of one of his —

And after you saw that the flower
of hell is desire, the almost, well,
you still had desire —

— So the moon came up
pink tonight
like one of what had been missed

"Male Nipples" reprinted from Loose Sugar,
© 1999, Wesleyan University Press.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ignition at Northern Lights

Ignite is tonight!

Last time, one of the highlights was a bit on Salem's "dark side," a matter of interest to CT. Drawing on the stories of Ben Maxwell, Elizabeth Schulte gave a nice little talk about Salem's Chinatown, drugs, crime, and prostitution in the last quarter of the 19th century.

Who knows what this evening's version will bring!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Madam McGinnis Buries Pauline Phillips: "Suicide of a Courtesan"

Daniel Fry's description of Peppermint Flat captures the ambiguous image of the prostitute in Salem: He burnishes it up as a little glamorous, but the details reveal it as confined and constrained in awful ways.
The people who lived on Ferry Street were the gay ladies of that day. This was a legal profession at that time, and they often drove around in horse-drawn cabs, showing their fine clothes and seeing the city which was about the only way they had a chance of doing so.
Gleaned from newspaper pieces, which of course have their own silences and appeals to glamour or sensationalism, the tragic story of Pauline Phillips shows the confinement and constraint, and the apparent impossibility sometimes of getting out.

Phillips had come to Salem from Denver, Colorado. Newspaper reports give her age as about 24 (the 1900 census as 23), and as having an 8 year old daughter. She was born in May, 1877, in New York City, and grew up as Emma Reisner. If the ages are correct, she had been a teen-age mother, bearing her child at 15 or 16. She had been married to James McDogget and subsequently divorced. It's not certain whether James fathered the daughter. Between the divorce and young motherhood, she may have felt herself to be the source of some scandal - or others may have saddled her with disgrace.

At any rate, Phillips came to Salem around 1896, not yet 20 years old. She did not have her daughter. Even without any scandal or shame in Denver, it is not difficult to imagine a scenario where Reisner was fleeing abuse of one kind or another and sought to remake her life. She adopted the pseudonym, "Pauline Phillips," and must have sought work. Whether she first turned to prostitution or did so only after failing to find regular employment is unclear. But for whatever reasons, prostitution seemed best or the only escape. It likely paid more than regular work.

In time, despair and possibly addiction engulfed her. The paper reports
The woman had been very dissipated for some time. About two months ago she smashed a plate glass window on Commercial street while crazed by liquor. She was then committed to the asylum, but was released after six weeks treatment. She has been very despondent since, and has threatened to take her own life.
Another account added that she was in love with "a local sporting man, who did not reciprocate her affections." Perhaps this man toyed with her affections and seemed to offer a new escape. And she was separated from her daughter. Whether she was what we would today consider mentally ill, her life had all the ingredients for profound and desperate unhappiness.

Finally, on July 19th, 1900, she did take her life.
Pauline Phllips, an occupant of a house of ill-fame at 142 Ferry Street committed suicide Thursday afternoon by drinking carbolic acid.

The poison was taken while the other occupants of the house were at supper in another room, about 5:30 p.m.

Drs. Shaw and Robertson were called in, but nothing could be done to save the woman’s life.

Phillips body was taken to the undertakers, Rigdon & Clough (the successor business still extant, and an Oregon150 history here) and an inquest confirmed the suicide. Hattie McGinnis made burial arrangements.
Madame McGinnis, in whose establishment the unfortunate woman ended her life, acting for “the fraternity” made all arrangements to give the poor girl a decent burial.
Phillips is buried in the Salem Pioneer Cemetery. Her gravestone, once standing, but now knocked over, is a little overgrown with grass. McGinnis apparently did indeed raise enough money for a proper headstone. The grave is not one of a pauper's, though today it is unremarked upon and neglected.

A couple of days after the funeral, a note thanking the Woman's Christian Temperance Union appeared in the paper:
CARD OF THANKS We take this means of extending our heartfelt thanks to the ladies of the W.C.T.U. for the kindness and courtesies extended on the occasion of the funeral of the late Pauline Phillips; we also wish to thank Rev. Dr. John Parsons for conducting the funeral services. MABEL RHODES MRS. HATTIE McGINNIS

Though we might think of the WCTU as temperance zealots, this notice points to one way that women collectively stood together against sexism. It was women banding together to fund a decent burial for Phillips, not the men who purchased sex. By placing social and political critique under "morality," temperance forces were able to be more active. The absent father, whether he was drunk in a saloon or visiting a prostitute, was presumably harming the lives of his children and wife. The WCTU also knew that there were limited ways for women to make a living. And, of course, the WCTU was also involved in agitating for women's suffrage. So the WCTU was not merely saying "no" to real pleasures that might be abused, but was aiding more progressive causes.

Note also the presence of a priest at the funeral. McGinnis is hardly shunned. The prostitution at Peppermint Flat and Hattie McGinnis' activities appear to be a largely accepted part of Salem society at this time, just as Fry had said.

A few days after the burial, the weekly Capital Journal made some effort to publish information about Phillips' relations.
The correct and maiden name of the dead woman was Emma Reisner, but she was the divorced wife of James McDogget...The woman’s parents reside at No. 3934 Winter street, Denver, Colorado....She had told her companions that she had a daughter eight years of age, who is probably with her grandparents.

It is not clear why this was published. Was it intended to shame the parents? We'll see if we can find out more about the Reisners and McDoggets.

In 1900 the whole of Marion county had a population of 27,713. Salem was mostly bounded by Mission on the south, Union on the North, and 17th on the east. There were pockets of houses to the north and south - but Salem was a small town, a little smaller than Monmouth-Independence is today.

Still, there was lots going on that we've forgot. Hattie McGinnis worked a seam between the licit and the illegal, between the accepted and the immoral. She exploited her workers and took care of them. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to help Phillips enough before Phillips decided to end it all.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Madam McGinnis goes to the Oregon Supreme Court

After the October 1909 trial of Hattie McGinnis, the appeal was set for March the following year. The details of the appeal are mostly technical, regarding the way an amended law affects evidence gathered under a previous version of the law.

What is interesting, though, is the way the law, an Oregon statute, seems to have been written to enable vigilante purity groups to exercise quasi-law-enforcement and judicial functions. Everyone was quite open about the use of ordinary citizens to “spy” on others, not merely to tip authorities to the possibility of wrong-doing, but actively to gather evidence that would be used in court.

From the March, 1910 preview of the appeal:
Considerable interest attaches to these cases because of the fact that there has been considerable of a crusade waged against the women by a reform element in the city, and should the law point raised by the defense before the supreme court be upheld it will put a cessation to these crusades as it will practically be impossible to secure evidence which will convict….

When the legislature passed a law declaring it to be unlawful for any person to maintain and conduct a bawdy house, it also passed a rule of evidence that a conviction of the offense might be had by proving the common reputation of the house. Beyond the evidence of a few detectives employed by the reform element to spy on the women for the purpose of securing evidence against them, the greater portion of the evidence adduced, came under this rule of evidence.
At the trial itself, the paper once again underlined the “reform crusade which had swept over the city.” The article went into further detail and outlined the three main questions to decide in the appeal. First, the nature of hearsay and evidence regarding “common reputation.”
Beyond the testimony of a hired detective or two, there was no other direct testimony against the women, and their conviction was secured by the introduction, under a state law on evidence, as to the common reputation of the houses conducted by them.

Additionally, there were two parts of the jury instruction that were problematic, and the attorneys for the McGinnis wanted to use what looks like a form of jury nullification.
Attorney Kaiser, it appears, took occasion in making his appeal to the jury to revert to the Scriptures and in the course of it said: “let him who is without sin first cast a stone at her.” Judge Burnett, in instructing the jury said: “it is not a question for the jury who cast the first stone or any other stone, the jury has nothing to do with that;” and this it is contended made the argument of Attorney Kaiser ridiculous in the eyes of the jury and operated to the prejudice of the defendant.

Another point relied upon by the defense was the judges instruction on the subject of what constitutes reasonable doubt. After giving the ordinary definition of reasonable doubt, he made this addition: “The jury is not entitled to resolve itself into doubting Thomases, who refuse to be convinced by the testimony.” This, it was contended by the defense, had an effect upon the jury which was prejudicial to the defendants, and was reversible error.

Finally, on April 12, 1910, in STATE v. McGINNIS, 56 Or. 163, 108 Pacific 132, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled.

The court disposed of the contested jury instructions quickly.
It is fair to assume that by the argument advanced the Jury were in effect admonished by defendant's counsel that, unless they were guiltless of the particular offense of which she was then being tried, they should follow the declarations of the Saviour, made when a woman was brought before him charged with adultery…The duty of jurors is to determine an issue according to the rules announced by the court. It is not their province to base a verdict on their preconceived notion of justice, their passions, prejudices, or personal experience acquired in violations of the moral code. The instruction correctly started the law and no error was committed in giving it.
More interesting is the discussion of evidence. The court recognized that participants in prostitution are not likely to be caught In flagrante delicto.
It is not to be supposed that the crime of adultery or fornication will be committed in public, or that parties guilty thereof will be taken in the very act.
The court held that “reputation” was admissible. This had, it seems, two parts. The first part concerned the reputation of the house itself – that everyone knew prostitution occurred there. The other part concerned the ownership of the house, as “common fame,” rather than legal documents like a title or lease, established that McGinnis possessed or owned the house.
The court, over objection and exception, permitted witnesses to testify as to the reputation of the defendant's ownership of the house alleged to have been used for immoral purposes….

Our statute does not limit "common fame" to the evil behavior prevailing in a bawdyhouse, and such phrase may be as well employed to establish the other averment of the indictment respecting the ownership of the property or the right to its possession as the general reputation of the building, and, such being the case, no error was committed in admitting the evidence in question…..
And the court concluded that
"Common fame," which serves to establish a character either of a person or thing, was competent evidence.
I have not meaningfully researched the history of “common fame” or its current usages, but some cursory googling suggests it mostly appears in 19th century citations and in religious contexts, especially religious purity laws. Whatever we may think of prostitution, the means here to prosecute it appears to rely dangerously on rumor and reputation rather than on hard evidence. The reporter appears to understand this when he wrote that the appeal threatens a "cessation to these crusades."

After this McGinnis disappears from the city directories. Perhaps she moved away, perhaps she was shunned or otherwise became a non-person in society. Hopefully we’ll find more.*

At any rate, two years later Oswalt West completed the "cleansing" of Peppermint Flat, and drove remaining prostitution activities underground.

(*We do have more on the earlier activities of Hattie McGinnis, so look for more installments on Peppermint Flat.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Peppermint Flat & Potiphar's Wife: Madam Hattie McGinnis in 1909

For a little over a decade, Hattie McGinnis, whom we met in 1900, was likely Salem's most famous madam. Almost exactly a century ago, in October 1909, she and four others, were tried for "conducting a bawdy house."

Though little is said about it today, for a quarter-century, Salem possessed an infamous red-light district on the edges of downtown Salem. The district, hardly more than a block or two, was called Peppermint Flat, an area on Ferry Street between High and Liberty. McGinnis' boarding house, the purported bawdy house, was on the alley on the south side of Ferry. In the old addressing, it was located at 142 Ferry street. You can see a note on 122 Ferry that the house elevated on posts - "on posts, open under."

In Historic Marion, Winter 1998, “The Saga of Daniel J. Fry, Part 3…My Youth on Gaiety Hill," Daniel J. Fry, jr. (see notes on now-demolished Fry warehouse here) said:
Ferry Street was a no-no street. It was really all built up on stilts. Water stood in that part of town nearly all summer long. The people who lived on Ferry Street were the gay ladies of that day. This was a legal profession at that time, and they often drove around in horse-drawn cabs, showing their fine clothes and seeing the city which was about the only way they had a chance of doing so. There was a very narrow, high walk along Ferry Street over this sunken part of the city, and I was riding my bicycle along there one day and gawking into the windows to see what I could see, when I ran off and broke my arm. I was very much chagrined because I shouldn't have been there in the first place because we children were never supposed to go that way.
And in Lewis E. Judson's book, Reflections on the Jason Lee Mission and the Opening of Civilization in the Oregon Country, cited in the Pringle, Glenn-Gibson, Claggett and Mill Creeks Watershed Assessment (chapter 3 here), Judson says:
there were places in Salem where people who respected their reputation did not go. The principal one of these was the block of Ferry Street between Liberty and High Streets which was left to public women. This was known as ‘Peppermint Flat’ where the houses and walks were built on stilts over a lagoon-like former channel of the Willamette River. A trace of that old channel still exists in the depression centering at the intersection of Ferry and High Streets and the alley through the block southwest of that intersection. That ancient channel ran from a broad front on Pringle Creek between Commercial and High Streets, north on Liberty to Ferry, then east to the center of the block on State Street south of the courthouse. From there on north to Mill Creek was low ground. During the high water of 1861, a steamboat followed this channel and tied up in State Street opposite the courthouse.

McGinnis had earlier been "haled before the municipal courts of Salem, but due to defective local laws, they were discharged." It's not clear exactly when this occured, but McGinnis was charged with vagrancy in the winter of 1906. In February 1906, the paper notes
the pleadings did not set out with sufficient force that defendant was a vagrant. She showed tax receipts on property. [neither] The code nor the ordinances define vagrancy and it could not be confused with disorderly conduct, and breaching of the peace....The city had a right and had the power to define vagrancy, [the city argued]. The court could not agree with him. The city had no right to say that an idle person was necessarily a vagrant. The ordinance was held invalid, and the complaint was insufficient. The case against Mrs. McGinnis was dismissed.
It is not clear whether the 1909 case refers to this or to an attempt in 1908 or 1909 to charge her. The gap between attempts may indeed be three years. As Fry noted, at the end of his life, prostitution was essentially "a legal profession," and seemed to be more tolerated than not. vice flourished in many forms. Opium use was an open secret.

But not everyone tolerated the vice, and prohibition forces were growing in the early 1900s. By late 1909, law enforcement shifted tactics to county court. On October 6th the Capital Journal reported
True bills were handed down late yesterday afternoon by the grand jury against Emma Thomas, Julia Downie, Rose Leland, Hattie McGinnis and Dollie Richie. These women are charged with conducting a bawdy house in the city of Salem. This morning all five of the defendents were arraigned before Judge Burnett in the circuit court, and after District Attorney McNary read the indictment, Attorney Wm. Kaiser, representing the defendents, asked until 10 o’clock tomorrow morning in which to plead, which was granted by the court.

Just what the outcome of these cases will be is difficult to foretell, but it is the opinion of many that some interesting points of law will be introduced by the attorneys before the cases are decided.
10 days later, on October 16th, the paper reported that
Hattie McGinnis and Emma Thomas, were tried and found guilty yesterday in the circuit court of conducting a bawdy house…
The trials for the other women followed in short order. The first jury took 7 hours to deliberate, but the following ones were quick. About the third trial the reporter noted
The jury was out but a few minutes, which shows it is much harder to fire the first dornick.
Jury selection, too, took time, and one can only wonder about the reasons a juror might have been "unsuitable":
The examination of the jurors consumed two hours time yesterday morning before 12 suitable men could be passed upon.
The defense in the first trial, which I believe was McGinnis', offered no witnesses, but the state had many. The paper describes the state's evidence:
U. G. Kellogg was the principal witness for the state. He testified that he had called at the resorts of ill fame on Ferry street conducted by Hattie McGinnis and Emma Thomas, where he witness acts contrary to the public morals and dignity, and that he had “purchased a malt liquor known as beer in these two houses.” Mr. Kellogg testified that the proprietoress had behaved like Potiphar’s wife, while he took the part of Joseph…[He said that he was a member] of the Law Enforcement League and had called at these two houses for the purpose of securing evidence….
The vigilantism of the Law Enforcement League is both alarming and humorous. The puritanical self-importance suggested by the biblical citation even funnier!

On the 22nd or 23rd of October, four of the women were sentenced to 30 days in jail, and McGinnis fined an additional $300.

The verdict was appealed. In a second note, we'll see what happened during the appeal. [updated with link]

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hoponomics: Hop Harvest 1902

Just the other day, the Oregonian had a front-page article about the hops market, the shortage of 2007 and the current glut.

Over at the Oregon Economics Blog, in his beeronomics posts, professor Patrick has been analyzing beer markets of one kind or another. Jeff at Beervana occasionally does the same.

A century ago, hops were even bigger than they are today, and many column inches were spent on hop updates. Here's part of a January 1st special insert in the Statesman of 1903. It featured portraits of "some of the leading hops dealers of Salem, Oregon": John Carmichael, Squire Farrar, E. C. Herren, Louis Lachmund, Kola Neiss, H. J. Ottenheimer, and T. A. Livesley. Livesley is the only one we really know today, and we remember him for two buildings, Mahonia Hall and the Livesley building.

In the Oregonian article, John Foyston notes that in 2007/08 hops cost from "$2 and $3 a pound to more than $30 in some cases." In 2008, the total value of the hops crop was about $38 million, a little over 6,000 acres were planted, and 10 million pounds harvested.

By comparison, in 1902...
The Willamette valley has again demonstrated to the world the superior quality of its soil and climate for the successful raising of choice hops over all other hop growing countries, and the year 1902 has been a very prosperous one for the Oregon grower…

In the cost of production everything is in favor of Oregon, where it is estimated that it costs from 8 to 9 cents per pound to raise hops. In New York state it varies from 10 to 12 cents, and in England it is claimed that the average cost is from 12 to 15 cents per pound, and that in a year of short crops such as this season, the cost in a great many cases reaches as high as 20 cents per pound. It will therefore be readily seen that Oregon is destined to be the hop growing country of the world, and that ultimately New York State and England will have to abandon the field to her and her sister states, California and Washington….

Probably one-third of the crop was contracted by the growers in the spring at prices ranging from 12 to 15 cents per pound, and the bulk of the balance sold at 25 cents, leaving a good margin over the cost of production. In fact, some large fortunes were made in hop growing this year, and growers not only got out of debt, but put money in the bank. However, the money that was made this year will hardly offset the losses of previous years, when many of our substantial farmers almost lost their farms, due to the series of low priced years. It is believed that the era of low prices has passed and that the future will see a higher plane of values. In fact, such a condition is essential for the welfare and success of the industry, because wages and material have advanced considerably in recent years and, in addition to this, the price of all lands in Oregon and especially hop lands, has gone up….

There is at present about 17,000 acres devoted to the culture of hops in Oregon, from which a crop of 80,000 bales or 15,000,000 pounds was harvested. At the average price of 20 cents per pound, it will be seen that the income from this source amounted to three million dollars.
The unnamed writer says that in 1903 growers hope not contract harvests in advance any more, but to rely on the spot market demand at and after harvest to keep the prices up. Not sure if that worked...

As with many agricultural products, the yields are much higher today: 6,300 acres and 10 million pounds vs. 17,000 acres and 15 million pounds. Hops are susceptible to fungal diseases, and modern industrial chemistry has helped with fungicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. Hops are one of those crops that CT sometimes doesn't want to know too much about...there has been signficant debate over the fact that "organic beer" usually doesn't contain organic hops and is not required to.

In any case, hops are a commodity, and the prices have oscillated through many booms and busts, and even just from year-to-year. The cycle of shortage-glut in just a couple of years is hardly unusual. We'll likely see it again many times, over-n-over.