How did Portland get its name? (And who doesn't know the right answer?)

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

It's a story that every third-grader in Oregon knows. As recounted by PDXHistory.com:

Portland got its name when Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove flipped a coin in 1845. Lovejoy was from Massachusetts and he wanted to name the new settlement Boston. Pettygrove was from Maine and wanted to name the new town Portland. Pettygrove won the coin toss two out of three times and the rest as they say is history.

As Travel Portland (formerly POVA) notes, it actually happened - and the historical penny is on display at the Oregon Historical Society. And just a month ago, the Oregonian's history columnist said Asa Lovejoy "famously flipped the coin that gave Portland its name."

Just about everyone in Oregon knows this story.

But do you know who does NOT know how Portland got its name?

From yesterday's OPB News:

You heard that right. Gordon Smith believes that "Portland is called Portland because it's a Port."

No, Senator Smith, it's not.

Portland is called Portland because the city's founder, Francis Pettygrove, won a coin toss. Otherwise, we'd be Boston.

This is just embarrassing.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    I suppose it's not Gordon Smith's fault. After all, he may never have learned what every third-grader learns in Oregon. He went to grade school in Bethesda, Maryland - where he still lives today.

    [Full disclosure: My firm built Jeff Merkley's website, but I speak only for myself.]

  • (Show?)

    Would knowing this make him a better Senator? It doesn't speak well of Smith, that's for sure--but really, who cares? Why would this possibly matter in our election?

  • (Show?)

    Not every post here is designed to win the election, TJ. This is a water cooler, and sometimes, we gather around the water cooler to talk about things that are funny.

    And Gordon Smith being unbelievably clueless is very funny.

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    p.s. And if you don't like reading BlueOregon, then go away. We'll all cry, I'm sure, but we'll get over it eventually!

  • Slappy Mcdickleton (unverified)
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    Yet another splendid example of things we dont need to waste time talking about, the record of the republicans should be enough! Nice work BO!

  • Elizabeth (unverified)
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    Why would this possibly matter in our election?

    It matters because this blog has morphed from a platform for intelligent debate with a liberal twist to a Gordon Smith hate fest that lacks any other real substance. Why focus on anything other than how much Gordon Smith really sucks?

    I'm sorry Kari, but given the intelligent and rather objective conversations that took place here before Jeff Merkely entered the race for the Senate, I have a strong feeling that the nauseating Merkley lovefest/ Smith hatefest wouldn't dominate so many Kilobytes on this site if you weren't personally invested in the campaign.

    It's gotten so bad that I no longer check BlueOregon as often as I used to. Blog posts featuring Merkley's heroism and Smith's deplorable acts (like how horrible it is that a guy from Maryland who doesn't make his home in Portland doesn't know how Portland was named) get thrown up here with the same lack of thought and revision that Coyote affords his NW Republican posts. The only difference is BlueOregon seems to have a better spelling and grammar checker.

    Let's be objective for a second: Merkley isn't the hero that his campaign staff wish he was - he pulled some pretty questionable pranks in the closing days of the February '08 special session. For example, he threw a hissy fit when the Senate President wouldn't break the session's rules to hear a bill on mortgage rescues for sub-prime homeowners. Merkely held Senate bills hostage in the House, and by some accounts delayed the close of the session by a day (at the expense of taxpayers). His mortgage reform bill didn't pass (it was a good bill, but he didn't follow the rules for introducing it). He still wrote a Senate campaign newsletter to his constituents claiming he had helped pass mortgage reform.

    Merkley's actions were childish and immature. If this blog wasn't so disgustingly lovesick over Merkley, ya'll would have called him out on it.

    And another thing: the progressive platform supports comprehensive immigration reform, even when it applies to Republican employers like Gordon Smith. Let's not villify the issue when it's politically convenient to do so.

    I am currently clinging to my respect for BlueOregon as a platform for political conversation based on the tenets of progressivism, regardless partisan politics.

    FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a lifelong progressive liberal with a penchant for objective, matter-of-fact politics and a thorough distaste for drama partisanship for the sake of being partisan.

  • (Show?)

    one of the things elected officials -- the good ones -- do is learn about the place they represent: the history, the geography, the people, the quirks. the more they know about their area, the more they can understand who and what they represent. after all these years in Oregon govt, for Smith not to know a simple & widely known story like this is kind of odd. given his overall level of "service," it speaks further to his detachment from Oregon. i'm guessing Ron Wyden has a pretty good understanding of the various regions of the state and its people. Smith, whose main job is making sure he keeps his seat in the Senate, seems to have made little effort to understand this state or learn more about it other than how he can sucker enough people when he runs for office.

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    The Gordon Smith comment is quite relevant, since he is supposed to represent all of Oregon, and most of the people live in the Portland area and he hasn't a clue how the city was named. It's part of the history of this state and the fact he isn't familiar with it makes this comment similar to "I am prepared to be VP because you can see Russia from Alaska".

    Jeff Merkley is much more in tune with Oregonians because he has actually lived here most of his life. And now that the subprime crisis has exploded into a national financial disaster, I'll bet a lot of homeowners wish the state legislature had passed that bill Jeff proposed in February.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Actually, Gordon Smith is correct, although at a remove. Our Fair City is, after all, named for Portland, Maine, which is assuredly a PORT, at least for fishing vessels.

    As to why anyone is getting their knickers in a knot about this goofy, throw-away posting is a puzzle to me, but then, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, I always assume the rest of the world appreciates my brand of humor and irony....

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Actually, Gordon Smith is correct, although at a remove. Our Fair City is, after all, named for Portland, Maine, which is assuredly a PORT, at least for fishing vessels.

    As to why anyone is getting their knickers in a knot about this goofy, throw-away posting is a puzzle to me, but then, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, I always assume the rest of the world appreciates my brand of humor and irony....

  • (Show?)

    Elizabeth... why don't you submit a guest column?

    Like all blogs, our contributors write about what interests us. We're not the New York Times. We're not a paper of record.

    As for Slappy who writes... Yet another splendid example of things we dont need to waste time talking about, the record of the republicans should be enough!

    I think you misunderstand the point of this blog. Our audience includes a number of undecided voters that is somewhere between roughly-zero and actually-zero.

    BlueOregon is a water cooler for progressives to hang around and chit-chat with each other. That means funny and amusing stuff to go along with the high-fiber and high-brow policy discussion.

  • ColumbiaDuck (unverified)
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    Actualy, Joel, Smith is incorrect. Portland is not named Portland because it's a port. That's just flat wrong.

    I neither know nor care how Portland, Maine got its name. As a child (and not a child growing up in Portland, I might add), I knew this amusing story. Apparently Smith has never bothered to learn it. Which says something about his connection to the city of Portland and the state of Oregon.

  • Slappy McDickleton (unverified)
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    At my work there is acutally a water cooler that people gather around. The chatter here is far more serious right now. Bailouts, credit issues, the war in Iraq, the qualifications of individuals running for office, that is the sort of stuff being talked about here.

    Ha ha its funny that Gordon Smith gaffed, big deal. This feels a great deal like an attempt at a "gotcha" moment, similar to the Smith ad were Merkley is shoving a hot dog in his mouth and appearing confused about "Georgia" it's tacky.

    It would be impossible for ANY US Senator to remember how all the cities accross his or her state got their names, I guess that is what we need to have true representation, or maybe once again Portland is just more important than the rest of the state.

    I am sick an tired of politics being like Maury, Springer or Montel by playing to the lowest level of intelect. We can do better than this, or at least we do around the water cooler at my workplace.

    Full Disclosure: I read BO because I want it to be as informative as a "paper of record".

  • (Show?)

    Elizabeth wrote: "...this blog has morphed from a platform for intelligent debate with a liberal twist to a Gordon Smith hate fest ..." That's not true! We also hate Bush, Cheney, SCJ Roberts, Sarah Palin, Bill Sizemore, Bill O'Reilly, why the list goes on and on. Don't sell us short next time, our capacity to hate assholes knows no bounds. Respectfully yours, Glen

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    Maybe if Slick Gordy actually spent some time in Portland talking to the citizens, he's know more about it's long and interesting history. Instead he travels the rural parts of the state trying to make Portland a scapegoat for all of Oregon's woes. Another Great Uniter.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    An opportunity to defeat an incumbent US Senator is a rare thing. No amount of attention given to replacing Smith with Merkley is too much attention. Kari's post illustrates Smith's disconnect from Oregon. If you think that is not a legitimate political issue, you don't know much about politics.

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    This feels a great deal like an attempt at a "gotcha" moment, similar to the Smith ad were Merkley is shoving a hot dog in his mouth and appearing confused about "Georgia" it's tacky.

    And can there be any doubt that if it were Merkley being this stupid about our state, that the NRSC would have an ad up already about it?

    Don't like it; don't read it. Or, submit a guest column.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    I am sick an tired of politics being like Maury, Springer or Montel by playing to the lowest level of intelect.

    Read some political history. It has always been as it is today - or even worse.

  • Patrick (unverified)
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    and Kari thinks the way Merkley eats a hotdog is irrelevant...

  • Samuel John Klein (unverified)
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    Is it important that Gordon Smith know why Portland got its name?

    Well, not really, I suppose.

    Does it say something about him?

    Yes. Says he's shallow. Now, I'd be the first person to insist that your fitness to serve as a US Senator be predicated on what amounts to an Oregon history trivia question. However, this is one of the most well-known of Oregon history trivia questions. I've met people who can't find their way out of Milwaukie who know at least that Portland got its name over a coin toss ... never mind who was there when it happened.

    And its absurdly easy to find out how, too. If you can't crack a book, go down to Lovejoy and Pettygrove Parks (cleverly hidden in documents we cognosentci call "maps"). Reading the plaques there, you'll find that not only was it Francis Pettygrove and Asa Lovejoy, but Lovejoy sold out his interests in the townsite a short time after the coin toss to Pettygrove ... but Pettygrove split town a few years later, whereas Lovejoy lived the rest of his life in Oregon, becoming one of Oregon's most beloved early pioneer citizens.

    I got this off two plaques in public areas in downtown Portland. Didn't have to go anywhere near a book to find it how.

    If I can do it, then Senator Smith can certainly be bothered.

    But it shouldn't be a criteria for fitness in the Senate, not when we have much better criteria to go on. The amount of time he voted the Bush line is more than enough.

    Gordon Smith. Not a Democrat, but plays one on TV, when necessary to do so.

  • Samuel John Klein (unverified)
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    Correction. I my last I wrote:

    ow, I'd be the first person to insist that your fitness to serve as a US Senator be predicated on what amounts to an Oregon history trivia question.

    Of course, I meant I'd be the first person to insiste that your fitness to serve as a US Senator NOT be predicated on what amounts to an Oregon history trivia question.

    I sincerely regret the error.

    I also think Gordon Smith should lose the election, naturally.

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    But it shouldn't be a criteria for fitness in the Senate, not when we have much better criteria to go on. The amount of time he voted the Bush line is more than enough.

    I find it fascinating that so many of our readers seem to think that every post here should be a message document - limited exclusively to the campaign talking points and nothing else.

    Sure, we could produce a blog that would repeat - every single day - "Smith voted with Bush 90% of the time".

    Wouldn't be a very interesting blog.

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    and Kari thinks the way Merkley eats a hotdog is irrelevant...

    It IS irrelevant. And from a campaign perspective, so is this post!

    I can assure you, I am NOT suggesting that the Merkley campaign roll out a million-dollar ad buy all about Gordon Smith's stupidity on Oregon history!

  • Justin Cox (unverified)
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    I have lived in Eugene my entire life and I have never heard this story. I don't think many people I know would know it either.

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    "Like all blogs, our contributors write about what interests us. We're not the New York Times. We're not a paper of record."

    What "contributors" are you talking about? YOU wrote this piece, not a "contributor." You are not some contributor; YOU OWN THE BLOG.

    Lawnsign webcams and gotchas on Oregon trivia are fodder for slow months in the cycle...like August. Given the multitude of actual, meaningful stories one could touch on right now, to persist with this minutiae--which you cannot rightly blame on "contributors," especially when contributors like Chris Lowe are discussing items of actual import--to me shows something akin to disrespect for your readership.

    Everybody likes diversions. Wait for Friday catblogging day, or some other time when we NEED to be diverted. I'd say right about now it's the last thing we need.

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    Lawnsign webcams and gotchas on Oregon trivia are fodder for slow months in the cycle...like August. Given the multitude of actual, meaningful stories one could touch on right now, to persist with this minutiae--which you cannot rightly blame on "contributors," especially when contributors like Chris Lowe are discussing items of actual import--to me shows something akin to disrespect for your readership.

    Everybody likes diversions. Wait for Friday catblogging day, or some other time when we NEED to be diverted. I'd say right about now it's the last thing we need.

    I completely disagree.

    As someone who works hard to (most of the time) write about substantive, weighty issues--I think its important to have a peppering of things that aren't earth shattering. Not everything should be about the most serious and sober. Its tedious and causes a drag, in my opinion.

    If you don't like the diversions, don't read them. Its not like someone is holding a gun to your head. And if you have your own blog, write about what you think is important. If you don't, you can start one for free.

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    You know what's really fantastic about blogs? You can usually tell from the headline (or at least the first sentence or two) whether it's something you want to read.

    If it doesn't appear to be of interest, scroll on to the next post. Or maybe go play Tetris. Or go take a crap and write on your own blog.

    But there's no point in yammering endlessly (and creating your own stress) about how stupid someone else's blog is.

    Don't like it, don't read it. Or submit a guest column.

    And now, even I'm bored.

  • iwmpb (unverified)
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    I have lived in Eugene my entire life and I have never heard this story. I don't think many people I know would know it either.

    As a native Oregonian who has lived in Portland several times throughout my lifetime, I had no idea how Portland got its name. To be honest, I don't really care. I might remember the coin story, but probably not...

  • Samuel John Klein (unverified)
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    Kari:

    I find it fascinating that so many of our readers seem to think that every post here should be a message document - limited exclusively to the campaign talking points and nothing else. Sure, we could produce a blog that would repeat - every single day - "Smith voted with Bush 90% of the time".

    Ah. Apologies there. Was just throwin' my two cents in. Didn't mean anything else by it.

    I didn't have any demand that every post here should be a message document.

    Just my opinion, was all.

  • 2cents (unverified)
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    Silly argument.

    No one outside Portland knows this factoid.

    I was born and raised here. Have worked all over the state. Educated here. Never heard it.

    It's interesting though. Irrelevant to an election, but interesting.

    Get over yourselves Portland.

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    No one outside Portland knows this factoid.

    I knew it before I ever moved to Portland from Eastern Oregon.

    Maybe its not so much "Portland" that should get over themselves...but those who wish to divide our state, hoping that we'll forget that we're all OREGON.

  • LT (unverified)
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    When I first moved to Salem from out of state and took the capitol tour, I heard all sorts of tidbits like that. Also, I know Tom McCall was in good company coming from a New England family.

  • Jonathan Radmacher (unverified)
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    One reason why this is more than a water-cooler factoid is that Gordon Smith just ran an ad that disses Merkley for being pro-Portland. Lest we need more proof that Gordon knows squat about Portland, he doesn't have his history right.

  • Nance Cedar (unverified)
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    I only moved to Oregon a year ago. I'm originally from Michigan and I know how Portland got its name! If Gordon Smith doesn't know, it's because, like Sarah Palin, he's mentally lazy, not because he comes from the other side of the country.

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    "As someone who works hard to (most of the time) write about substantive, weighty issues"

    Be serious. Gotcha crap is your forte'.

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    "But there's no point in yammering endlessly (and creating your own stress) about how stupid someone else's blog is. "

    Whose blog is it? I thought it was a "progressive water cooler," not "Kari's blog." But beyond that, BlueO seeks and accepts the mantle of being the primary left-political blog for Oregon. You're (BlueO) a prominent media entity, and deserve commentary and criticism just like any other entity. I'd like this very visible progressive outlet to cover Oregon political news, rather than a bunch of cheerleading for Democratic clients, and gotcha trashing of their opponents.

    You can ask not to be held accountable for your content, but I don't think you'll have much success.

  • Mary (unverified)
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    I liked the whole thing about how Portland got it's name. I already knew the answer but was very interested in who did not.

    A lot of people learned something new. That is never a bad thing.

    It may help Gordo when he returns to his peas.

    GO JEFF!

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