He saw it all, so we can

Every cloud has a silver lining. When the anarchist dolts trashed the Oregon Historical Society entrance earlier this fall, I gave the society a few bucks. This got me on the email list for their newsletter, which has some highly interesting material in it.

One item that got my attention in the newest issue was this piece, about a vast collection of photo negatives that the society has been cataloging from an Oregon Journal photographer named Al Monner. If you click through the blog post to the collection itself, you can see a few thousand of Monner's photos, all black and white, in fine resolution.

The collection reflects a lot of the history of Portland and Oregon from the late 1930s into the mid-1950s. The Vanport Flood is here. The clearing of Front Avenue. World War II. Baseball at the stadium on Vaughn Street. People, places, and events that I've heard about and have always been interested in. It's well worth the time of anyone with a curiosity about our city and state during that era.

And there will be more. Apparently they're still cataloging many other Monner photos from 1954 through 1974. Sounds like quite a trove.

My only warning is that leafing through the online collection can be deeply addictive. If you're looking for a way to not get anything else done for hours, it's a great place to go. I have to put it down for now, but I can't wait to go back.

(At the top of this post, that's Ed Sullivan, left, with Mayor Fred Peterson, center, and a guy on the right whom even OHS can't identify. It's from Rose Festival time, 1954. I would guess that the mystery man is the chair of the Rose Festival. Below is Mr. Monner, who left us in 1998.)

UPDATE, a few hours later: Well, the mystery guy is not the president of the Rose Festival. The official program for the 1954 event, with a photo of the prez, is here.


  1. I set out to find out what camera equipment he used and it wasn't easy. Apparently he started with something called a Speed Graphic and then he switched to a 4 by 5 Graphic which had a big piece of film. They;re recognizable from old movies, etc...I think that's where you get the high quality look like in the picture above but I'm not sure. Finally he settled on a 35 Millimeter Nikon while at the Journal. His lighting techniques go back to the flash powder technique that he abandoned because it was too smoky.

    Frankly, I was a little surprised he didn't have a Haselblad - something very high end. I guess he just really knew how to work a Nikon to perfection. He took around 19,000 pictures in the bigger format and 20,000 in 35 millimeter. Quite a life. A lot of these pictures are way beyond news photographs - the composition, etc.. is more like a brilliant work of art.

  2. Great stuff so far and can’t wait for the later stuff. I am sure that he documented the freeways being built and the Coliseum and the Lloyd Center. Portland seemed almost like a utopia back then compared to what it is now.

  3. The guy on the right is Senator Joe McCarthy, the anti commie guy who self destructed in the 50's.


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