Saturday, April 27, 2013

Portland Merchants Try to Divert Gold Prospectors to Their Stores

On April 27, 1863, the Oregonian, in Portland, carried the following advertisement:
Ho! for Boise, John Day and the Powder River Gold Mines!
"Through without detention! The only sure way for miners to reach the new mines, without being detained, is to secure their supplies in Portland! … [We have] 20,000 pounds choice Oregon bacon, 30,000 pounds extra fine flour, 10,000 pounds of assorted beans, 300 pairs of Oregon Gray Blankets, together with a full supply of groceries, boots, shoes and all kinds of mining articles can now be obtained at Harker Bros., No. 123 Front Street, opposite the Upper Wharf, Portland.”

Asa Harker arrived in Portland in the early 1850s and engaged in the dry goods business. In 1857, he and a partner moved into a “new fire-proof brick store” on Front Street. About the same time, Asa opened another store next door, also in a brick structure, with his younger brother James. (Both born in New Jersey, James was then about 24 years old, Asa about 31.) The partner soon retired due to ill health, and the combined store did business as “Harker Brothers.”
Front Street, Portland, 1852. Library of Congress.

Of course, they were hardly the only merchants trying to attract business from the flow of prospectors. A typical issue of the Oregonian (just four pages long) had at least a dozen ads for provisions, tools, rapid transport to the mines, and other goods and services for the eager gold seekers.

References: “Advertisement,” Oregonian, Portland (April 27, 1863).
Joseph Gaston, Portland, Oregon: It’s History and Builders, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago (1911).

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