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Oregon Historical Photo: John Cook Saloon


John Cook Saloon, early 1900s

John Cook Saloon, early 1900s

Oregon Historical Society. 25176

Every week, Oregon Experience shares a photo highlighting the state’s diverse, exciting history. All photos are courtesy of The Oregon Historical Society.

The John Cook Saloon, once located on SW Pine, was one of hundreds of saloons in operation in Portland in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  

In 1861, philanthropist William S. Ladd came to Portland with a load of wholesale liquor. It was around this same time that the city developed its reputation as a “wide-open town” known for its alcohol-related criminal activity.

By 1870, a third of the city’s revenue came from liquor-licensing fees, and prominent city leaders owned and operated saloons.

Saloon-goers were almost exclusively male — miners, sailors, fishermen and farmers. Many considered saloons to be partly responsible for alcoholism and prostitution, and the crimes listed in police logs during the 1870s were largely alcohol related.

However, when Prohibition came to Oregon in 1916, people could no longer manufacture, sell or advertise intoxicating liquor. For the next 17 years, the only alcohol consumed or sold was done so illegally.

To learn more about the early days of Portland’s saloons, watch the Oregon Experience documentary “Beervana.”

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