Portland State University. Department of History
Date of Award
Master of Arts (M.A.) in History
1 online resource (iv, 144 pages)
Temperance -- Oregon -- Baker County -- 20th century, Martial law -- Oregon -- Baker County -- 20th century, Prohibition -- Oregon -- Baker County -- 20th century, Bars (Drinking establishments) -- Oregon -- Baker County -- 20th century, Oswald West (1873-1960)
In 1914, Copperfield, Oregon was militarily occupied by order of the governor, Oswald West. Its town government was deposed, the city officials were arrested, and the town's saloons were closed and all liquor and gambling devices were seized. The town, previous to Governor West's interdiction, had seen a breakdown into violence and arson between two competing saloon cliques. The resulting martial law of Copperfield and subsequent court battles between the governor and Copperfield's saloonkeepers would become known as the Copperfield Affair.
The purpose of this study is to explain how and why the Copperfield Affair happened. The event which precipitated the Copperfield Affair was the collapse of the town's economy. Copperfield was a frontier town, which placed it at greater risk of economic failure. The failure of the two construction projects necessary for its economic success led to a violent contest for customers among the town's three saloons, resulting in several arsons, eventually drawing Governor West's attention to the town.
The Temperance Movement in Oregon is a second factor influencing why the Copperfield Affair occurred. Governor West cared about the problems of a failed town in the middle of nowhere, because he was a proponent of prohibition and the violence in Copperfield presented an opportunity to make a statement for the Temperance Movement.
Finally, Governor West relied on the concurrent evolution of two important definitions relevant to the state executive. One was the increasingly general definition of martial law and how it could be used by the governor. This definition, by 1914, allowed Governor West to legally occupy Copperfield. Second, the development of the Progressive Movement at the beginning of the twentieth century also coincided with greater public desire for a powerful and energetic executive in order to achieve reform. Governor West personified the Progressive executive, as a person who got things done and supported the sort of social reforms the Movement favored, like temperance.
By combining the development of a powerful state executive, with great military powers, a governor and public in favor of prohibition, and a weak frontier town suffering violence from the liquor trade, we arrive at a situation which keenly encapsulates a moment in time in Oregon history, one in which a governor would use such extreme measures to crack down on what was a local squabble.
Shepard, Daniel Joseph, "A Town on Fire: The Copperfield Affair of 1914" (2015). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2507.