DeWitt’s Hair Dressing

12 09 2011

This bottle of DeWitt’s Fragrant Hair Dressing was found in a box of old medicine bottles from the Eastern Oregon State Hospital.

E.C. DeWitt & Company was in operation as early as 1906.  Trademark records show that a logo similar to that of the one on this bottle was registered in 1908.  The registration claims that the first use of this image was in June of 1906.[1]  The publication of the National Association of Retail Druggists include advertisements for the E.C. Dewitt & Company the 1913 issue.[2]  They appear to be directly distributing patent medicines like:

  • Little Early Risers
  • Witch Hazel Salve
  • One Minute Cough Cure
  • Kennedy’s Laxative Honey and Tar
  • Kodel Dyspepsia Cure

to retailers across the country.[3]

And while we were somewhat tempted, we didn’t open it to see just how fragrant it was. Read the rest of this entry »


Property Cards

5 09 2011

Probably the most interesting and emotional thing I have found in inventorying historic materials at the Oregon State Hospital was a box of index cards.  The orange box didn’t look like much, but the cards inside were a time capsule highlighting a very personal side of institutional commitment.  These property cards list patient’s personal possessions that were confiscated upon commitment to the hospital for safe keeping.  Below is a sampling of some of the materials listed on the patient property cards:


2 05 2011

T2009.002.222 Straitjacket, Oregon State Hospital Museum

This straitjacket is thought to be from the Eastern Oregon State Hospital in Pendleton.  It has a tag in the back that reads “Melrose 4000.”   It is well-worn, and there are patches on both shoulders where the canvas fabric has been torn and repaired.

Another interesting note.  Although this straitjacket was commercially made, a 1918-1920 record book (T2011.002.016) from the OSH sewing department lists straitjackets as one of the many garments that were being produced at the hospital.  Other garments included:  overalls, jumpers, mittens, restraint sheets, white coats, and pants.  The sewing department also pressed and cleaned suits, made alterations and repaired pants.


7 02 2011

Portable watchclocks like that on the left in the above photograph and key stations like the one on the right were basic tools used by security personnel at the Oregon State Hospital and many other factories and businesses.  The metal boxes housed little metal keys and were strategically located throughout the site.  The watchclock, basically an oversized watch about the size of canteen, was easily carried around in its leather case.  It has a key hole on the top.  As the employee made their rounds, they would insert keys from the key stations into the clock which would print or punch out on a strip of paper inside the clock the time and the station identification mark.  The clocks would be checked after each shift as proof that the employee had actually made the rounds.

Read the rest of this entry »

Now that’s Entertainment

4 08 2010

In the cataloguing process last week we came across an interesting little leather-bound book with an ink scrawled title: “OSIA Invitations to Dances and Entertainments.” Inside the book are guest lists for dances held at the Oregon State Insane Asylum (OSIA) from 1900-1907.  While interesting to think about formal dances being held at the Asylum, some of the names listed caught my eye. Chauncey Bishop, future founding partner of the Pendleton Woolen Mills and the son of prominent Salem clothier C.P. Bishop and Fannie Kay (daughter of Thomas Lister Kay of Thomas Kay Woolen Mill renown) is listed as a guest for a “Special Dance” in April of 1900.   Read the rest of this entry »

Salem’s Brew

13 04 2010

If you’re like me, Salem isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind when you think of beer.  But even before the dawn of Oregon’s microbrew industry, beer and hops were big business in these parts.  Hop harvests in Marion County commanded a seasonal labor force of thousands (25,000 came to work in the hop fields in Independence alone in 19401).   Salem has also had a number of breweries since the 1860s (check out a map of early Salem breweries here).

The can in these photographs, one of many in the historic collections at the hospital, is proof of Salem’s brewing past.  The can was found at the Fairview Training Center in Salem, and transfered to the Oregon State Hospital with other historic material in the early 2000s.

Seattleite Emil Sick (of Rainier Brewing Company fame) bought out the Salem Brewery Association facilities in 1943 and established Sick’s Brewery at the corner of Trade and Commercial Streets (where the Salem Conference Center stands today) .  By 1949, Sick’s was on of only two breweries operating in the Oregon.2 Click here for a history of Sick’s Brewery in Salem.

For more information on the history of beer in Salem, check out:

Read the rest of this entry »

Motoring Through History

24 03 2010

Not all of the historic items housed at the Oregon State Hospital relate directly to psychiatry and medicine.  The objects preserved at the hospital also provide a wider view of our past, like the history of truck and automobile travel.   

T2009.004.200 Truck Flare Kit with Truck Flares made by the Toledo Pressed Steel Company

It’s the 1920s (or any decade leading up to the 1960s).  The vehicle you’re driving breaks down on a dark and deserted stretch of highway.  No cell phones.  No emergency flashers.  What are you going to do?  Pull out your truck torches of course.  This kit contains two flares for lighting at night (and the accompanying red flags for day use) to help prevent further incidents by alerting drivers around you to your predicament.  The Toledo Pressed Steel Company began producing torches like these in 1927.  Federal regulations still list flares and red flags as “parts and accessories necessary for safe operation” of “trucks, tractors, and buses” under 49CFR393.95.  

More information on Truck and Highway Torches.