- Albany Opera House (1885-1918)
- Dreamland Theatre (1908-1913)
- Electric Theatre (1910-1911)
- Empire Theatre (1908-1913?)
- Globe Theatre (1912-1915)
- Hub (1912-1916)
- Rameseum Theatre (1920-1932)
- Rolfe Theatre (1913-1920)
- Wonderland Theatre (1908)
Demographics, Politics & Society
Albany, Oregon is located in the Willamette Valley and is a part of Linn County. In 1900, the population of Albany, Oregon was approximately 3,149 which was more significant than some of the other cities that are included in our Oregon Theater Project. For example, Corvallis had 1,819 people and Roseburg only had 1,690. However, it was by no means a large town in the whole scope of things. For instance, Portland’s population was 90,426 and 8,381 people occupied Astoria. Therefore, Albany, Oregon was an average-sized town in the early 1900s. By 1910, the population had reached 4,275, and in 1920, ten years later, the population had increased only slightly to 4,480 people. By 1930, the population had reached 5,325. Of the cities included in our Oregon Theater Project, that makes Albany, Oregon the third smallest city at this time. The other towns experienced much more dramatic population increases during the years of 1900-1930. For example, Klamath Falls population was only 447 in 1900, and by 1930 it had reached 16,093. Therefore, compared to the other cities in Oregon, the population in Albany did not increase drastically throughout the years of 1900-1930. Moreover, in Linn County during the 1904 and 1908 elections, the vote for a Republican president prevailed. In the 1912 and 1916 elections, the vote for a Democratic president won. From 1920-1928, the vote for a Republican president succeeded until switching back to a Democratic majority from 1932-1936. Ultimately, they went back and forth between a Democratic and Republican majority throughout the years of 1904-1936.
In the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, the discussion of placing railroad lines throughout the city was highly political. It took a large lump of money as well as pressure from the citizens for the railroad official to finally lay a track through Albany. The placement of a railroad track in the late 1800s was revolutionary to Albany’s economic and industrial position; the railroad created many opportunities for the citizens regarding the resources they now had access to as well as chances for employment. The Oregon Electric Railway was established in Albany by 1912, and citizens were able to travel to surrounding cities in a short amount of time. The primary sources of employment during these times were in the agriculture and industrial sector; however, throughout the 1910s, the number of professionals such as lawyers was gradually increasing as more opportunities arose.
Moreover, Albany implemented its own form of prohibition in 1906; the bars and breweries all closed during this time. Fourteen years later, national prohibition was ratified, and it would not be repealed until 1933. In the 1910s, the number of fraternal organizations and churches were booming. Also, two new schools were built in the 1910s which instigated parents to have their children obtain a formal education. Albany college was also expanding during this time, and more people began to seek higher education. Therefore, the years of 1900-1920 Albany was experiencing gradual progress in multiple different areas such as transportation and agriculture and this would continue throughout the years leading up to World War II and beyond.
Liz Carter and Michelle Dennis. “Albany, Oregon 1845-1955: Historic Context Statement.” 2004, pp. 1-80, www.cityofalbany.net/images/stories/cd/pl anning/historic/dctmp_albany_historic_context.pdf.
Leip, David. “Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections.” Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/. Accessed 17 May 2018.
Population of Oregon Cities, Counties, and Metropolitan Area 1850-1957. Bureau of Municipal Research and Service, University of Oregon. Information Bulletin No. 106, April 1958.
Economics & Infrastructure
Today, Albany Oregon seems like another small city to stop at whilst driving up or down the interstate 5 freeway. However, in the Twentieth Century, Albany was a bustling center at the forefront of industrialization and commerce.
People began making their way west prior to the 1900’s and as Oregon began to grow in population, so did many urban areas in the Willamette Valley. By 1909, Albany was home to the first airport in the Pacific Northwest, and while it is possible- it is contested as America’s first Airport. That title resides in New York. Still, Oregon’s first airport was built and owned by John C. Burkhart as a private airspace- not running commercial flights. His name was prolific in town, and while he attempted several time, he was often unsuccessful in flight. Still, his actions and accolades were plastered across local newspapers- showing a collective pride over their Albany native. By 1929, the airport was converted into a city municipal airport and began commercial flights, becoming the second busiest terminal next to Portland.
Building in Albany also became something of a conglomerate of styles. Today, Albany hosts the most varied collection of historic buildings in Oregon. Styles include: Italianate, Queen Anne, American Renaissance, Commercial Brick, Art Moderne, and other 20th Century Period Revivals. While the downtown area showcases mostly that of Commercial Brick, more modern articulations of classical styles are apparent throughout many of the business districts. While many can argue this does not allow for a cohesive city feel, it portrays Albany as a much more dynamic and adaptable place.
According to the City’s own historical database, Albany was the manufacturing and Transportation hub in the Willamette Valley. From its founding, the city had always been host to the latest transportation possibilities. By 1910, 28 Passenger trains left Albany daily in five different directions. In 1923, a train ticket from Albay to Eugene was roughly $2.50 (a total of $36.63 today).
Commonly seen industry in town was the following:
Albany also was home to its own College with its city’s namesake. By 1905, Albany College purchased an additional 46 acres and was initially only for men. The last graduating class commenced in 1938 before the College was sold. Today the campus belongs to the Lewis and Clark College.
Carter, Liz, and Michelle Dennis. “Albany, Oregon: Historic Context Statement.” CityofAlbany.net, 2004, pp. 1–76., www.cityofalbany.net/images/stories/cd/planning/historic/dctmp_albany_historic_context.pdf.
“History of Albany.” City of Albany, Oregon, 27 May 2015, www.cityofalbany.net/visit/history.
Kuri, Pan, et al. “Seems Like Old Times .” Your Guide to Historic Albany, Oregon.
Arts & Culture
In researching the city of Albany, Oregon, it is apparent there was no shortage of entertainment during the early twentieth century. Though the number of theatres fluctuated, particularly between 1905 and 1929, venues continued to provide audiences with distinct shows, ranging from comedic acts to musical ones. A glimpse into the numerous genres utilized during this time period is demonstrated in an advertisement for the Empire Theatre, published by the Albany Daily Democrat (1909). Seven different moving pictures are mentioned, with the price of admission being only 10 cents. The advertisement itself is straightforward and rather bland, only offering information that is seen as necessary. The length of each moving picture is of interest as it allowed theatres to provide an audience with multiple ones per night, highlighting the variation between each. Moving pictures proved to be common at this time, shown as the advertisement states there will be an entire lineup change the following night. Providing further insight into the different types of arts and entertainment offered is an advertisement for a film titled The Eternal Sapho. Appearing in the Albany Daily Democrat (1916), the 8- reel show is described as “A romantic, true-to-life story of American life.” Such an advertisement is of interest as it uses the similar technique of displaying a theatre’s name in bold lettering, though it differs as it not only details the actress starring in the silent film but provides a large picture of the leading lady. The advertisement also acknowledges the name of the company that funds and produces the film, the Fox Film Corporation. Providing further background information is a testament to the growing popularity of films and the actors in them, attempting to meet the demands of the theatre’s audience. Another example of the city’s ongoing interest with cinema is shown in an advertisement published by Albany Daily Democrat (1924), detailing an entire week’s lineup between two separate theatres. The Globe Theatre and Rameseum Theatre played famous films such as Douglas Fairbanks’ Robin Hood and Lon Chaney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame , one of the many selections offered. Newspapers continued to provide updates regarding shows at various theatres as the demand only grew, constantly using different advertisement techniques in the process. It is important note that due to the various forms of entertainment, the relationship between newspapers and theatres continued to blossom. The way in which newspapers decided to advertise moving pictures or films was directly influenced by its demand, shifting from relatively bland and generic advertisements to ones that incorporated the stars that were eventually created.
Empire Theatre, advertisement, Albany Daily Democrat, July 23, 1909: 1.
Globe Theatre, advertisement, Albany Daily Democrat, December 5, 1924: 6.
Rolfe Theatre, advertisement, Albany Daily Democrat, July 14, 1916: 4.
Finding information for the city of Albany has been nothing short of a challenge. However, there has also been some interesting key events dispersed throughout of Albany’s’ history. The city of Albany first rose to prominence in the 1850s, after “devastating smallpox and malaria epidemics had decimated the Native population of the area by 1845 when Hiram Smead filed the first land claim at the site of Albany” (oregonencyclopedias.org). During this time frame the economic and agricultural potential of the Willamette Valley was becoming increasingly important (Carter/Dennis 5). As the demand for a more industrialized Albany arose technological advancements become more prevalent. However, it was not until 1871 that the first major sign of industrialization was presented in Albany, the first locomotive. By 1910, “28 passenger trains departed daily from Albany going in five different directions” (cityofalbany.net).
The locomotive was soon outgrown and the first electric train was brought to Albany in 1912. As the city thrived in the production of a more industrialized way of life, a new era was also beginning to present itself in Albany. This period is referred to as “the progressive era”. Between 1908-1909 the streetcar line was “electrified” and “updated with larger cars” (Carter/Dennis 16). In the first decade of Albany’s history, there were 2 significant transportation developments. In 1910, the first ever aircraft built in Oregon took flight for the first time. The most important technological development, however, was the introduction of the automobile in daily life for Albany citizens. While reading and researching the history of Albany it is important to note the importance the industrialization of the city had on the overall development of Albany. Without the production of the locomotive and the automobile, the progression of the Albany would have been halted and innovation would not have increased as quickly as it did in Albany in the early 1900s.
Below are pictures of early railroad stations and locomotives in Albany.
Spence, Mark. “Albany.” The Oregon Encyclopedia. Accessed May 17, 2018. https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/albany/#.Wv3TbBM-ccg.
“History of Albany.” City of Albany, Oregon. Accessed May 17, 2018. https://www.cityofalbany.net/visit/history.
Liz Carter and Michelle Dennis, “Albany, Oregon 1845-1955: Historic Context Statement, 2004.” https://www.cityofalbany.net/images/stories/cd/planning/historic/dctmp_albany_historic_context.pdf
Thompson, Richard. “Oregon Electric Railway.” The Oregon Encyclopedia. Accessed May 31, 2018. https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/oregon_electric_railway/#.WxAyDLrwaUk. (Images)