Monday, April 1, 2013

The Background Story

During a trip to Portland, Oregon last year, my son, daughter-in-law and I ventured east to old historical Hwy. 30 and the Columbia Gorge. It was a cold, windy, stormy day and we were deluged with buckets of rain until we hit the beginning of the highway when the rain stopped and we could see the storm veering off to the south.  This very first scenic drive in the United States was built in 1922-23 and for 30 miles it encounters over 77 waterfalls. Most of these water gushing falls cascade right down to the parking areas offering trails and view points nearby.  We drove from one awe inspiring waterfall and view to the next becoming overwhelmed as they got bigger and bigger along the way.

We lunched at the famous Multonmah Falls Lodge (great food by the way) and traveled on, taking photographs, catching memories and ending up at Hood River.  I won't go into detail of each waterfall or our special day trip, this snippet is about my discovery at a little antique store in Hood River.

It was there, as I was pawing through the boxes and baskets of old sepia photos (always looking for the next photo to tell it's tale on Attic Whispers)  that I found a series of 22 photographs. They are small, black and white photos only 3" x 1.75" and of the Columbia Gorge Hwy. 30 taken around 1923. Each little photo had a note written on the front in white writing of the location and name of the scene. For $12.00 I shouted, "Sold!".

It wasn't until I got home, unpacked and took a good look at the photos that I felt they had a special quality to them. They were obviously taken by a professional photographer, so I started doing some research. I found the photographer. Benjamin A. Gifford 1859-1936. He was a landscape photographer who was an apprentice to Wm. LaTour in Missouri before relocating to Portland, Oregon in 1888. He and his family moved to the Dalles in 1895 and set up shop.  Their photography studio and store was very famous and well known, as was Benjamin's work. After his first wife died in 1919, he married his shop worker, Rachel and settled on the Salmon River just north of the Columbia in Washington state. They called their homestead Wa-Ke-Nah. Benjamin's son continued the family business and became a landscape photographer himself.

Now it gets interesting.....while researching I stumbled onto a web site that displayed Columbia Gorge postcards. What to my surprise -- there was Benjamin's photographs, colorized (probably by hand) and printed as postcards. My Hood River purchased photographs were done for a Portland postcard company and I had copies of the originals for the series. WooHoo!

Here are 9 of the photos I have and their counterpart as post cards. Amazing - huh? I'm sure I'll find the remaining 13 post cards as I continue finding photos, post cards and stories that make up Attic Whispers.

The story I wrote for these photos are being posted on Monday's Attic Whispers' Post Card Series. Go check it out and read the story of Harold and Sylvia's 1923 auto trip.

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