October 8, 2008

A Fast Velocipede to Oregon

In the 21st century, the state of Oregon is known for its bike-friendly ways. Heck, even Portland police officers pedal in style; check out Portland's finest on a Belgian tall bike.

The Library of Congress has what may well be the first illustration linking bicycles with Oregon. The detail below is from “The Patriots Getting Their Beans,” an 1845 cartoon mocking new President James K. Polk's campaign supporters. The idea is that these sycophants (the "patriots") now want "beans," i.e., patronage and other official favors.
Polk's campaign platform favored favored expanding the U.S. in any way possible, including the re-annexation of the Oregon Territory. Thus we have a militia troop carrying a banner "For Oregon!! Liberty! or Death!!!" Their leader proclaims, "Follow me brave soldiers, strike but one blow, and Oregon is ours!"

Riding the primitive bicycle (or “velocipede" if you prefer) is South Carolinian John C. Calhoun. He was a frustrated aspirant for the 1844 Democratic nomination that Polk got, and departs the scene here in disgust. (Though Calhoun says he’s going south, he’s clearly headed west.)

At the top right, a German or Dutchman leaves in disgust, shouting, "Dod rot this administration! I've lost my sittivation that [former President John] Tyler give me, that was worth $15 a year! Dod rot 'em, I say!" Anyway, here's the full cartoon.
The above photo courtesy of cleverchimp. My sources are here.

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