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Notable Oregonians: Homer Davenport - Political Cartoonist

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Homer Davenport

Homer Davenport, 1867-1912

Homer Davenport was born in a little pioneer cabin on a farm in the Waldo Hills near Silverton, Oregon. He moved to Silverton in 1874 where he helped tend store, raised chickens, and "wasted his time with drawing." Davenport loved to draw and his talent was obvious.

 

Davenport attended a business college in Portland and an art school in California but left both. He gained temporary jobs as an artist and cartoonist with the Portland Mercury and the Oregonian newspapers in 1889 but soon returned to Silverton. His big break came in 1892 when he accepted a position as a cartoonist with the San Francisco Examiner. In 1895 he was taken to New York by William Randolph Hearst as cartoonist on the newly acquired New York Journal. Davenport enjoyed great freedom to make striking observations about behavior, justice, and life in general. In the New York Journal his cartoons vividly showed the evils of the trusts, the corporate behemoths of the day. He originated the "Dollar Mark" Hanna character, the gigantic "Brute," a generic symbol of the trusts as well as his own version of the Thomas Nast "Tammany Tiger."

 

Although his cartoons caused considerable agitation on the part of the trusts, he drove the truth home in such a forceful way that he won world fame and many friends. The trust element tried to pass an anti-cartoon bill through the 1897 New York state legislature, but failed because public opinion had grown so strong against them. For a time Davenport was the highest paid political cartoonist in the country.

 

His two books were The Country Boy, and My Quest of the Arabian Horse. He also published a large book of his cartoons simply titled Cartoons.

 

Davenport's death came in the prime of his life. He died in 1912 at the age 45 of pneumonia shortly after his last assignment, the sinking of the passenger liner Titanic. His former boss, William Randolph Hearst had his body shipped back to Silverton, where it rests in peace to this day next to his father in the Silverton cemetery.

 

(Sources: City of Silverton | Dictionary of Oregon History) Revised 1/2013

 

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