World War II and the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council

“I just can’t find sufficient words to describe my gratitude for all that your office has done for me and other Niseis. In our darkest hour you brought forth your loving hands and gave us new hopes and inspiration. Surely Democracy can not and will not die as long as such groups like yours and Colleges that uphold the true ideals of Democracy exist…”

– anonymous words of a Japanese-American student upon receiving clearance to continue university study in 1942


ua9_box2_folder14_Page_02The entry of the United States into World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, had serious impacts on approximately 110,000 Nisei (American citizens of Japanese descent) living in Oregon and throughout the west coast. After the creation of the War Relocation Administration on March 18, 1942, families from California, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona were uprooted to internment camps for the duration of the war. The evacuations and internment disrupted the normal rhythms of life for all 70,000 Japanese-American citizens and the 40,000 resident aliens on American soil. In addition to removing Japanese-Americans from the workforce and shuttering businesses, the evacuation orders also impacted students of Japanese descent at colleges and universities throughout the Pacific region, who were left with uncertainties about the potential for continuing their education.

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Posted in Collections, Documenting UO History Project, University Archives, University History

Student Protests on the UO Campus: Demonstrations of the Late 1960s

A new exhibit, “Dissent and Defiance: Pacifists, Student Protesters, and Advocates for Economic Justice,” is now on display in the Paulson Reading Room in Special Collections and University Archives, on the second floor of Knight Library, through the winter term. In addition to conscientious objectors during World War II and the Occupy Eugene movement, the exhibit includes a look at student protests on the University of Oregon campus during the first year of Robert D. Clark’s tenure as president of the university. In conjunction with the exhibit, we dove into the archives to learn more about the tumultuous period of protest on the Eugene campus during the 1969-1970 academic year.

1969_ROTC_protest_President_ClarkProtestors primarily focused on what they perceived to be the university’s capitulation to American involvement in the Vietnam War. At a time when universities were dealing with the turbulence of student bodies that were becoming increasingly activist, students in Eugene increasingly focused their ire on one particular campus institution as the embodiment of Oregon’s acquiescence to the war effort – the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC, which had been established five decades earlier as a means of preparing an Oregon Battalion for World War I. As protestors homed in on the ROTC as the local representative of American policy in Southeast Asia, tensions heightened at the university. The charged atmosphere in Eugene set the scene for both non-violent protest events, as well as escalating violence. The University of Oregon witnessed sit-ins, arson, vandalism, and National Guard intervention during this period.

By drafting procedures that afforded students their Constitutional rights and narrowly defined the rules of engagement for police intervention in campus affairs, President Clark and the UO administration limited violent actions on campus. Though arson and instances of vandalism also occurred during this turbulent year, and the National Guard appeared that spring on the Eugene campus, no fatalities or serious injuries resulted from protests on the UO campus. Clark’s willingness to engage in discussion with and protect the rights of student protestors thus kept the situation in Eugene from escalating to the point of another Kent State.

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Posted in Documenting UO History Project, Exhibitions, University Archives, University History

The Oregon Mascot, Part 2: Becoming the Ducks


This two-part series utilizes archival sources in the UO Special Collections and University Archives to show the long and contentious history of athletic mascots on the Eugene campus. Read more about the Webfoot era in Part 1.


It wasn’t a far leap for the Webfooter to become a Duck, yet the adoption of the latter as the University of Oregon mascot was a contentious part of Eugene history. As former Emerald sports editor Harold Mangum noted about the Webfoot mascot in 1926, “The name has been changed to Ducks in most instances, and if similarity to a duck is anything to be proud of, the world’s wrong and water runs uphill…. there is nothing brave, glorious, or inspiring about [a duck’s] presence.” Read more ›

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Posted in Documenting UO History Project, University Archives, University History

The Oregon Mascot, Part 1: The Webfooter Years


This two-part series utilizes archival sources in the UO Special Collections and University Archives to show the long and contentious history of athletic mascots on the Eugene campus.



When the University of Oregon played its first football game in the spring of 1894, there was not a mascot patrolling the sideline and inciting crowd participation. The UO team that played Albany College was known only as the “lemon yellow,” referring to the accent color of their uniforms. When the team returned to the field for three games in the fall, there was still no defining mascot for the team. For three decades after that first season, the school would have no official representative for its sports teams, and it would take another half-century before Oregon became the Oregon Ducks. Instead UO would come to be known by an obscure east-coast reference turned pejorative turned source of pride — the Webfoot.

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Posted in Documenting UO History Project, University Archives, University History

Oregon’s Connection to the Holiday Movie Classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Publicity for It’s a Wonderful Life.

Publicity for It’s a Wonderful Life.


At the beginning of December, the UO Libraries and Cinema Studies presented a public screening of the holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), along with a small complementary exhibit. It’s a Wonderful Life has an important connection to UO: included in Special Collections and University Archives are the papers of the author who wrote the short story that became the basis for the movie’s screenplay. Read more ›

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Posted in Collection Highlight, Events, Manuscripts, This Week in History

When was Oregon football born?


We received an interesting research question recently that we wanted to highlight based upon the impending Rose Bowl game. A local astrologer in Eugene wanted to know the exact date and time when Oregon football was “born”. Hoping to utilize this information to predict the outcome of the upcoming Rose Bowl and the College Football Playoff fate of the Ducks, she was seeking the time of the opening kickoff in Oregon’s first football game. The intriguing question sent us into the stacks to find out more about this historic event that had great significance for the future of campus life in Eugene.

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Posted in Documenting UO History Project, Research Highlights, University History

Colonel John Leader, The Man Who Prepared Oregon for World War I

UARef3_b0073_f0010-page-001An interesting question about a seminal figure on the University of Oregon campus in the early 20th century came in last week. We received an email from a researcher in Patrickswell Town, County Limerick, Ireland that sought more information about Colonel John Leader, the man who formed the ROTC program on the University of Oregon campus and played an integral role in preparing Oregon for World War I. Below is a paraphrased summary of the request:


We have a building which we have been advised belongs to the family of  Lieutenant-Colonel John Leader 16th (Service – Pioneer) Battalion. We are trying to protect this building for future generations and have it claimed as a listed building before some friendly local developer decides to tear it down and build some modern apartment block or something worse!! We’re hoping to use this building as the local community hall that would serve the good of the local village, young and old alike, but I’m not very good at searching the net I’m afraid.

If you could provide some background or pictures on Lieutenant-Colonel John Leader, that would be just amazing and all I can offer is a heartfelt thank you and possibly an invite to the opening of the centre once we secure the building as a listed building and have it restored to its natural beauty. I cannot offer much more by way of begging… Our little village is tiny in size — 3 pubs, 3 food stores and petrol stations, 2 hair dressers, 1 chemist, 1 school, 1 local GAA hall, and a very much needed building that reminds us all where we came from.


This inquiry led us to investigate deeper in the stacks. What we learned was the story of a remarkable man who lived a remarkable life.

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Posted in Documenting UO History Project, Research Highlights, University History

Remembering Karl Onthank, Conservationist and Humanitarian

Onthank_Karl_1Karl Onthank played a prominent role as a humanitarian and conservationist at the University of Oregon during the first half of the 20th century. For four decades, Onthank served in a variety of administrative roles at the university and contributed significantly in his service to students. We are pleased to highlight some of his key contributions to UO and the state of Oregon throughout his career.

Onthank first arrived at the UO campus in 1909 as an undergraduate student. During his time as a student, Onthank helped found the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and served as the editor of the student newspaper and yearbook. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from UO in June 1913, Onthank returned to the campus during the next few summers, earning his Master of Arts in 1915. Read more ›

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Posted in Documenting UO History Project, This Week in History, University Archives, University History

Oregon’s Civil War Duel: An Overview of Historical Highlights

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Oregon and Oregon State square off in the 118th edition of the Civil War game at Reser Stadium in Corvallis. With few exceptions, the Ducks and Beavers have faced one another annually since 1894 in the oldest college football rivalry west of the Rocky Mountains. We are pleased to offer an overview of the century-long duel between the Ducks and Beavers, which has featured many notable highlights throughout the decades.


The first years of the rivalry were marked by lopsided scores and growing animosities. Oregon Agricultural College, as Oregon State was known until 1927, won the inaugural meeting 16-0 in Corvallis in 1894. Two years later, violence between rival fans after a 12-8 Oregon road victory nearly led to the permanent cancellation of the series. Cooler heads prevailed until 1899, when deputy sheriffs patrolled the sidelines in Eugene during what the Eugene Guard called the “Hayseed Waterloo” – a second straight 38-0 shutout victory for the Webfoots. Read more ›

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Posted in This Week in History, University Archives, University History

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

~Guest post by David Woken, History and Latin American Studies Librarian, for National Hispanic Heritage Month

latino roots imageSpanish-speaking peoples have shaped Oregon for centuries, and the University of Oregon Libraries are committed to making sure that role is understood.  The first Europeans to explore the Oregon coast were acting on behalf of the Spanish Empire in the 1700s and left a legacy of geographical names, including Heceta Head (named for Spanish naval officer Bruno de Hezeta y Dudagoitia), Tierra del Mar, Umatilla, and many more that are still used today.  In the 1800s, as the U.S. exerted control of the lands that are now Oregon and Anglo-American setters moved in, Latino mule traders from the formerly Mexican territories of California and Nevada provided guidance and logistical support to soldiers and settlers from the U.S., and Californian vaqueros (origin of the English word buckaroo) established the work practices and culture we associate with the cowboys and ranchers of the Oregon’s high plains.

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Posted in Collections, National Celebrations