Friday, December 31, 2010

Stare into the Abyss: Toast 2011 with Intensity and Authority

If you don't have NYE plans, almost certainly the best beer on tap in Salem right now is Deschutes Abyss at Venti's.

It's mythic. The New School has a panel review of the current version, and they say stuff like
easily in the Top 5 Imperial Stouts of all time...
Writers and drinkers everywhere praise its complexity and completeness - and yes, the fathomless depths. Just hit the google!

So if you wanted a recommendation on the best beer to toast the New Year, there it is.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Toast to Ben Maxwell (repost)

The obituary writers called him "the sage of Polk County" and "the bard of Eola Hills." Ben Maxwell died 43 years ago today. He was born on the 25th of February, 1898 and died on the 25th of December, 1967.

Maxwell was a raconteur and journalist. He loved stories. His articles and notes are the essential starting point for any research in Salem area history, though as a story-teller Maxwell's taste for flavor and color sometimes caused him to overseason the facts. He is unfailingly reliable for the big picture, but in the fine detail he cannot always be confirmed.

While this more than occasionally vexes Capital Taps, we also acknowledge our debt. And with our holiday tipple, we raise our glass. Prost!

Maxwell wrote for the Capitol Journal, the periodicals of the Marion County Historical Society, as well as for national magazines.

He was also a great collector of photos and clippings, and he donated over 5000 photos to the Salem Public Library. They constitute the Ben Maxwell Collection, images from which regular readers will often see here.

His obituary said:
Ben Maxwell - "the sage of Polk County"; "the bard of Eola Hills" - is gone. Living on, in the wake in life he created, is his memorial to the past he loved so well. Maxwell died of a liver ailment on Christmas in a Salem hospital, 68 years and 10 months from the day he was born into a pioneer family.

He was generally recognized as the Mid-Willamette Valley’s chief historian, particularly for Salem and Polk County. He said once, "The historical inclination grew on me like any other disease." Later, explaining why he continued his research and gathering of printed and photographic memories of history, Maxwell said: "It’s more comfortable to live in the past than in the present, because you can eliminate what you don’t like about the past. You have to live with what you have in the present."

Yet Maxwell lived in the present, too, and became well-known not only because he was a walking history book but for his colorful turn of speech. He described one politician as "nothing whittled down to a fine point." And he said of another that he "could hang a gate and daub mud on the inside of a chimney, but he never will write poetry."

Another of Oregon’s noted historians, state archivist David Duniway, called Maxwell "A great figure in the historical world. His work has been tremendous. He knew more of the history of Salem and Polk County than any other member of the community, and he expressed himself tersely and effectively in describing. it."
About his writing, Al Jones said
Ben's vocabulary added flavor to facts without loss of accuracy. He might refer to a certain politician as being “whittled down to a fine point” or to another early character as one who “could hang a gate or daub mud on the inside of a chimney, but could never write poetry." In describing early Salem hotels, he said: “In pioneer times, most so-called hotels were little more than flop-houses without facilities. The flea bag who scratched when he applied for a room was just as welcome as a dignified citizen who wore a plug hat and squirted tobacco juice through his whiskers."
The slight variations on the favorite phrases are amusing - and characteristic.

According to Jones, he also said:
I’ve always regarded Salem as a good place to be born, a nice place to die in, but a dull place to live.
(originally posted December 25th, 2009)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's the Slavery: South Carolina's Secession

You might have thought the Sesquicentennial was over. Oregon celebrated its 150th last year, and this year Salem celebrated its 150 years since being officially chartered.

But in 1859 Oregon was only a free-ish state, and with the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, the whole country now looks at the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

On December 20th 150 years ago, the State of South Carolina was the first to secede from the Union. A few days later, on Christmas Eve, they composed their apologia, the "Declaration of the Immediate Causes." While we often hear about Secession and the Confederacy as a defense of State's Rights, South Carolina's "Declaration" makes clear that the only State's Right at issue was the right to hold slaves.

This historical amnesia is depressing; the antithesis of freedom for the state and slavery for the man is astonishing. We drink a pint to memory.

(bold added, but CAPS in original)
Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.

The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D. 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue. And now the State of South Carolina having resumed her separate and equal place among nations, deems it due to herself, to the remaining United States of America, and to the nations of the world, that she should declare the immediate causes which have led to this act.

In the year 1765, that portion of the British Empire embracing Great Britain, undertook to make laws for the government of that portion composed of the thirteen American Colonies. A struggle for the right of self-government ensued, which resulted, on the 4th of July, 1776, in a Declaration, by the Colonies, "that they are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; and that, as free and independent States, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do." They further solemnly declared that whenever any "form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government." Deeming the Government of Great Britain to have become destructive of these ends, they declared that the Colonies "are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."
We omit lots of ironic BLAH, BLAH, BLAH about the Declaration of Independence, the War for Independence, the Constitution, and other earnest blather about "FREE, SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATES."

More to the point is the relentless riffing on slavery and the brazen wish for freedom to hold the unfree. (Apologies for the longueur, but the stress on the freedom to hold slaves is remarkable.)
On the 23d May, 1788, South Carolina, by a Convention of her People, passed an Ordinance assenting to this Constitution, and afterwards altered her own Constitution, to conform herself to the obligations she had undertaken. Thus was established, by compact between the States, a Government with definite objects and powers, limited to the express words of the grant. This limitation left the whole remaining mass of power subject to the clause reserving it to the States or to the people, and rendered unnecessary any specification of reserved rights....We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the proof.

The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: "No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due." This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River. The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States. The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States.

For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia.

Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation. The ends for which the Constitution was framed are declared by itself to be "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions. The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor. We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection. For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government.

Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States. The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy. Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious belief. We, therefore, the People of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between this State and the other States of North America, is dissolved, and that the State of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world, as a separate and independent State; with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do.

Adopted December 24, 1860
And maybe things weren't so different here. Oregon was only free-ish. In Oregon's 1857 Constitution, section 35 in Article I, the "Bill of Rights," reads:
Free Negroes and Mulattoes-No free negro or mulatto, not residing in this state at the time of the adoption of this constitution shall come, reside, or be within this state, or hold any real estate, or make any contracts, or maintain any suit therein; and the legislative assembly shall provide by penal laws for the removal by public officers of all such negroes and mulattoes, and for their effectual exclusion from the state, and for the punishment of persons who shall bring them into the state, or employ or harbor them.
It wasn't until 1926 that citizens voted for repeal and to remove this from the Constitution.

(For more on the Civil War Sesquicentennial, see the New York Times "Disunion" blog, and The American Interest "The Long Recall" blog. Both are running daily real-time updates from 150 years ago. Many other newspapers and journals are also observing the Sesquicentennial. The Civil War's a big deal, and we'll check in on it occasionally.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lunar Eclipse offers Second Reason to Toast Longer Days Tonight

Unfortunately, the weather doesn't look like it's going to cooperate for our own backyard science pub tonight.

But you should crack open a beer anyway, and step out back tonight if you're up. Maybe you can catch a glimpse in a cloud break.

The Statesman says that the eclipse
will begin at 10:33 p.m., with the total eclipse hitting at 11:41 p.m. and lasting about an hour. The eclipse will end at 2:01 a.m. Tuesday....

This particular eclipse is rare in that it occurs during the winter solstice, which happens at 11:38 p.m. The last time a lunar eclipse happened on Dec. 21 was 1991; the next one will be 2094. The last total eclipse of the moon visible from the United States took place on Feb. 21, 2008; the next will be April 15, 2014.

Weather's always a problem, not surprisingly. In 1895 and 1906 residents could try to watch the lunar eclipse. Like tonight, on September 3rd, 1895, it was cloudy; but on February 8th, 1906, skies were clear.

Here's a couple of reports from the Oregonian. The overheated description of the 1906 one is especially funny.

The "Failure" of 1895.
The Eclipse an Opaque Failure - The lunar eclipse came off last night according to the almanacs, but the only evidence of the occurrence of the phenomenon obtained by observers in this vicinity was the inky blackness overhead between 9:30 and 10:30 P.M. The sky was somber with clouds nearly all day, and they appeared to become more dense as evening fell. Not a star could be discovered anywhere within the usual radius of an observer on the Oregonian tower. The moon's rise was dimly discernible from the greater light in that quarter of the sky, usually traversed by the satellite. The commencement of the total eclipse itself was evidenced by the sudden opaqueness of the whole sky, which continued during the period of time which the astronomers had calculated the eclipse to last. There were very few observers on the streets. An occasional glance at the clouded sky was sufficient to convince the most curious that the spectacle was hopelessly invisible here.

The success of 1906.
So far as the residents of Portland and the surrounding country are concerned, Madame Luna could not have chosen a more auspicious time than last night to shroud her face in the shadows of the earth. A cloudless sky gave to all an opportunity to watch the total eclipse throughout in all its splendor. Its unsurpassed beauty was sufficient to rivet to the sky the attention of each person and it made not the slightest difference whether he possessed the slightest knowledge of the fundamentals of astronomy.

Even before the first uncertain shadow suffused the lower portion of the moon's disc, the street and yards of the city were full of people gazing skywards.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Old Courthouse Christmas Tree, First Illuminated in 1913

For about 40 years, Salem lit up a living Christmas Tree in front of the old Courthouse.

(Click for larger image)

Here's the Courthouse in 1903 or 1904 (there's a couple of different dates floating around) taken from the Grand Theater. You can see the tree in the lower right. According to the caption on the next image from 1913, "The tree is a Norway spruce tree planted by Judge J.J. Shaw in 1882." Using W.W. Piper's design, Wilbur Boothby had built the Courthouse a decade earlier, in 1873.

The Post Office, now Gatke Hall, is behind it, as are the old Capitol and First Methodist Church.

This is from 1913, the first year it was lit up. According to the caption it was the first outdoor tree so lit up in the US.

Here's a view from 1938, the 25th anniversary of its first illumination.

(Click for larger image)

Here's a view from the following year.

The Courthouse was demolished in 1952. A tip of the pint.

(All images from Salem Library Historic Photos Collection)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Science Pub Moves from a Murder to Hormonal Decisions

Science Pub is back! Tomorrow night, tip a pint and learn about the ways we are slaves to chemicals!
Stress Meets Love: The Hormones Behind Appropriate Decision Making

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Brown's Towne Lounge

With Emma Coddington, PhD, assistant professor in the Biology Department at Willamette University. Find out more about her work in behavioral neuroendocrinology and neuroethology.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Holiday Whimsy - Dickinson's Christmas Carols

Like a tart and tasty bite of cranberry and sweet potato comes this holiday whimsy. It's a collage of carols and poetry, a mashup of twee indie pop and canonical verse. It won't make your teeth hurt, promise!

Portland indie pop chanteuse Grey Anne says:
"Dickinson's Christmas Carol" is not a typo. It's a combination of two great things: traditional Christmas songs, and Emily Dickinson poems.

You may notice these recordings are imperfect. They're no-dubs two-channel home recordings, because this is a lark and maybe no one cares. But if people really like it, enhanced versions may be made available later.

A big tip of the pint to Grey Anne!

(And what should that pint be, you ask? Well, not exactly a pint. Nor a barleywine, winter warmer, or other holiday beer. Entirely too massive and rich. This needs something lighter in texture, but structured and with deceptive power...a Belgian tripel!)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Yesterday a Toast to 77 Years of Legal Beer

Toast the 77th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition! Yesterday was Repeal Day, December 5th, the date in 1933 the states and nation formally ratified the 21st Amendment.

If you forgot, as we did, toast it tonight!

(For more about Repeal in Oregon.)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Salem Beer Graffito Proposed to Grace Pyramids in 1909

Here's some ballyhoo from January, 1909.


Jake Duttenhoefer, of Tumwater, Wash., chief engineer of the Olympia Brewing Company, and best known brewery man on the coast, is in the city inspecting the local plant. Duttenhoefer has charge of the engineering work for the big Olympia brewery, the Salem brewery, the Bellingham plant and a brewery in San Francisco. This will probably be his last trip to Salem for some time, as he is planning on a long trip in the east and Europe. He says he intends to paint a Salem Beer sign on the Pyramids and will pull off some other stunts to surprise the natives.

Jake is one of these genial fellows that always makes a hit wherever he goes, and he is ready to bet he will buy the sultan of Turkey a drink before he returns and hopes to introduce Salem foam into King Edward's private family. Duttenhoefer started on the European trip last year, got as far as Philadelphia, fell into the arms of a confidence man and woke up in New York with nothing but a gold brick and the price of a telegram to Olympia. The price of that telegram shows how he happened to get back west on the cushions instead of on the rods. He will remain in Salem several days this time before bidding farewell for a year or two.

For more on Duttenhoefer, see this history of the Port Townsend Brewery.