Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Teaching (M.S.T.) in Social Science


Social Science




William Simon U'Ren (1859-1949), Single tax, Oregon -- History -- 1859



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, iv, 148 leaves. 28 cm.)


In the study of Oregon politics, the importance of developments in the early twentieth century have been largely overlooked by popular historians. As a result, many have lost the perspective of the sweeping reforms that reformers presented to Oregon's electorate. Another complicating factor is that voters dealing with the issues during the period had such disparaging attitudes towards some of the reforms, that no thought was given to preserving their memory for future generations. In addition, the personal papers of W. S. U'Ren, Oregon's leading reformer, are not available. This makes perspective even more difficult. Therefore, the research problem is basically attempting to place all the proposed reforms in perspective with one another and arriving at an idea of exactly what the reformers had in mind. The data used for the thesis, W. S. U'Ren and the Fight For Gov­ernment Reform and the Single Tax: 1908-1912, was found in the personal papers of George Chamberlain, in newspapers, pamphlets, other theses, and official Oregon State publications. George Chamberlain's papers are found in the Oregon Historical Society, and provide valuable in-sight into the election year of 1908. The use of newspapers presented a problem, because many of them were antagonistic toward U'Ren's efforts. To balance the view, the Oregon City Courier was closely scrutinized because it was the most objective in dealing with reformer's proposals. Pamphlets were found in the Multnomah County Library, the Oregon Historical Society Library, and in the Oregon State Library. They provided insights into the thinking of both reformers and counter­-reformers. Both the pamphlets and the newspapers, especially the Courier, aided in sensing the mood of people. The Oregon Grange yielded information on the mood of farmers, an important part of the electorate, through records of state Grange sessions. The theses, found in the Oregon Historical Society, that contained interviews with people who worked with U'Ren were the most valuable. Records of the legislature and the tax commission, found in the Oregon State Library, were of importance in gaining a view of the opposition to reform. W. S. U'Ren presented reforms which, if carried out, would have greatly altered Oregon government and economy. In studying them, they appear to be workable, while placing more power in the hands of the people. Whether they actually would work is impossible to know. The study does point to a sweeping program that the reformers had in mind that would have given every individual the opportunity to develop to the highest possible point, while eliminating crime and poverty. The inference is given that if Oregon adopted all the tax and governmental reforms that the reformers presented, the entire nation would follow the example. At that time, there was a widespread belief that as Oregon went, so went the nation. Oregon's electorate only went part of the way with W. S. U'Ren and his supporters. The greatest factor in this is that money and corruption persuaded Oregon's farmers that the reforms would make them slaves to the government. This was simply not the objective of the reformers. In fact, the opposite was true. They wanted to free farmers from control by business and government.


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Portland State University. Center for Science Education

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