This Land, Oregon

Resettlement and the New Economy

Oregon-Style Journalism

The 1850s and 1860s were tumultuous decades for Oregon politics, with rival newspapers indulging in unrestrained attacks on their competitors and opponents. The most notorious practitioners of what became known as Oregon-style journalism were Asahel Bush of the Salem Statesman, Thomas Jefferson Dryer of the Portland Oregonian, and William Lysander Adams of the Oregon Argus (Oregon City). Bush, the “Ass of Hell” to his enemies, served the interests of the Democratic Party; Dryer spoke for the Whig/Republican Party; and Adams spoke for the fading Whigs.

In the midst of their incessant and noisome editorial invective, the three newspapers battled over many issues, including the location of the territorial and state capitals, political appointments, statehood, and slavery. In an age without libel laws and few restraints on journalist haranguing, Oregon newspapers indulged in a series of “take no prisoners” colloquies, with Bush indicting Dryer for engaging in “the grossest personal abuse, the most foul mouthed slander, grovelling, scurrility, falsehood and ribald blackguardism.” Such exchanges moderated in the 1870s with the adoption of a libel law and the formation of a state press association with a professional code of ethics.

© William G. Robbins, 2002. Updated and revised by OE Staff, 2014.

Related Oregon Encyclopedia Articles

Related Historical Records

Asahel Bush
Asahel Bush (1824-1913)

During the 1850s, the editor of Salem’s the Oregon Statesman Asahel Bush’s vitriolic editorials earned him the derisive nickname “Bushy Bush” and the enmity of rival editor Thomas Jefferson Dryer of Portland’s the Oregonian. The two tossed insults back and forth in the columns of their papers during the …

Thomas Jefferson Dryer (1808-1879) // 9146; ba 021621
Thomas Jefferson Dryer (1808-1879)

When Thomas Jefferson Dryer arrived in Portland in November 1850, the Oregon Spectator described him as “sharp as a steel trap.” For the next ten years, Dryer edited and published the Weekly Oregonian and became one of Portland’s leading political figures.

Dryer was born in 1808 in northern New York. …


PREVIOUS SECTION
A Changing Landscape and the Beginnings of White Settlement

When John McLoughlin visited the Willamette Valley in 1832, he remarked that it deserved “all the praises Bestowed on it as it is the finest country I have ever seen.” Bounded by the Coastal Range, the Cascade Range, and the Calapooya Mountains, and extending from present-day Portland to Eugene, the valley measures one hundred miles long and twenty to thirty miles wide.

Read More...

NEXT SECTION
Natural Resources and the Railroad

The California gold rush served as the great catalyst for Oregon agricultural growth and commercial development during and after the territorial period. The hundreds of thousands of people who flocked to the gold fields created an instant market for food and building materials, and miners who were working in the northern Sierras spilled over into the Rogue and Illinois valleys, further expanding that market.

Read More...


This entry was last updated on March 17, 2018