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'A phenomenal treasure of history': New photo collection shows Portland life circa 1905

The Oregon Historical Society digitized a collection of 88 glass negatives discovered in a Northeast Portland home, now available for all to see.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Ever wonder what life in Portland looked like in the 1900’s? Not just the same old images you see of buildings downtown, but photos showing how people lived, worked and played. A new collection of photos from the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) shows all of that.

“It's just a phenomenal treasure of history,” said OHS executive director, Kerry Tymchuk. “We had them in our collection but nobody could see them until now.”

Tymchuk said the photos were made from 88 glass negatives. They were discovered in a home in Northeast Portland in the 1930s but sat in boxes for years. Tymchuk said OHS raised special funding to purchase equipment and pay for manpower used to digitize the glass negatives. The photos are now available for anyone to view online.

Credit: Oregon Historical Society
Group photo on a baseball field, circa 1905

“We're able to say that they were probably taken in 1905," said Tymchuk, "because in one of the pictures you're able to see the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, which was essentially the World Fair that really put Portland on the map.”

The photos were taken in what is now North Portland’s Albina neighborhood. They include a toddler cuddling a puppy, two ladies with a cat, a man installing a shingle roof and a large gathering after a baseball game.

“In all these pictures you see road work being done and houses being built,” said Tymchuk. “You could see that Portland was growing.”

Credit: Oregon Historical Society
Portland residents and dog on front porch, 1904-1906