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Advanced Peek at the History of Innovation

November 3, 2009

History of Innovation in the Willamette Valley Timeline

This is a peek of the History of Innovation timeline we will be unveiling at WIN 2009 on Thursday.

IOP timeline

History of Innovation Timeline

IOPubs Timeline

“The fertile richness of the valley provided a home for more than 10,000 years to the region’s native tribes. The name Willamette is believed to derive from a Kalapuya Indian phrase meaning “west bank.”(3) The Willamette Valley took its name from its major river.  Lewis and Clark in 1804 blazed the way to the Oregon Territory and their reports of the region’s beauty and wealth of resources began a migration of Euro-Americans.

“The first trading post in the Willamette Valley was located on the Prairie Knoll just east of this point. The post was established in 1811 by the Astor Company to trade for furs and to take game which was cured and sent by canoe to Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia.”(4)

In 1834 missionary Jason Lee came to the Oregon Territory to establish a Methodist mission for Native Americans living in the Willamette Valley. One of the mission’s primary operations was a school designed to “educate and civilize” the Native children. It later became the Oregon Institute. It housed the first session of the legislature to meet in Salem and sheltered the first court in the territory under the auspices of the United States. It is this institute that finally became Willamette University in 1842.5

In 1847, Richard Finley established a mill on the Calapooia in what became Crawfordsville. In building it he became indebted to almost everyone in the region. About the time the mill was completed in 1848 news of the California gold strike reached the Calapooia. Finley saw hopes of finding a quick way out of his debts and, on the day the mill was finished, ground wheat in it in the forenoon, and in the afternoon mounted a horse and rode away to the mines. He was quite successful and often sent gold dust to his family to pay off the mill debts. (6)

Built in 1858 by Richard C. Finley, Philemon V. Crawford, and Alexander Brandon, Boston Mills is an agricultural and architectural landmark of the Willamette Valley.

The first woolen mill in Salem was the Willamette Woolen Mill, built near the confluence of the Willamette River and North Mill Creek in 1847 by Joseph Watt. That mill was destroyed by fire on May 3, 1875. The mill had been Salem’s leading industry for almost twenty years and employed 100 people. Salem did not have another woolen mill until Thomas Lister Kay, Squire Farrar, and C. P. Bishop founded the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill in 1889. The Bishop family later went on to form Pendleton Woolen Mills.” (7)

“The California Gold Rush provided an instant and burgeoning market. The Willamette Valley of Oregon with its rich alluvial soils was the closest populated farming and wheat-growing area. Waterpower from the streams and creeks flowing out of the Cascades added to the ideal situation for the development of grist and flour mills.” (8)

Oregon became the 33rd state on February 14, 1859. Salem is the state’s capital.

“An innovation in Willamette River steam boating was witnessed in 1874, when the steamer Ohio made her appearance at Portland. She was built by Capt. U.B. Scott. The steamer made her initial trip Dec. 12, 1874, going up the river light as far as Eugene City on a draft of eight inches.” (8)

“In 1902 Ellis Hughes discovered the 15 1/2 ton Willamette Meteorite. At that time the land was owned by the Oregon Iron and Steel Company. Hughes recognized the meteorite’s significance, and in an attempt to claim ownership, secretly moved it to his own land. This involved 90 days of hard work to cover the 3/4 mile distance. The move was discovered, and after a lawsuit, the Oregon Supreme Court held that Oregon Iron and Steel Company was the legal owner.” (9)

Agriculture and trapping were the important industries in Oregon’s early days. Lumber became more important as the American West surged in population. The Willamette Valley Lumber Company was founded in 1906 by Louis Gerlinger. Shortly thereafter, Gerlinger’s son George took over the family’s timber interests and quickly became a leader and spokesperson for the forest products industry in Oregon, serving on the Oregon State Board of Forestry for twenty-nine years. (10)

Manufacturing of wood and woolen products contributed to the industrial growth in the state supplementing agriculture and forestry. Because of the distance to the more advanced industries and technologies back east, Oregonians had to learn to fix and improve the machines and adopt the processes to the sometimes harsh conditions. The early settlers were a hardy, independent and innovative breed.

In 1858, what would become Oregon State University began as Corvallis College as it was formally incorporated by members of the Freemasons.  October 271868 is known as OSU Charter Day, the day that the Oregon Legislative Assembly designated Corvallis College as the “Agricultural College of the State of Oregon” (11)

The University of Oregon, the second oldest public university in the state, was founded in 1872 in Eugene. Both OSU and UO have made significant contributions to innovation in the state and will have major sections in our History of Innovation series.

The Corvallis Gazette-Times was first published on July 2, 1909.

In 1916, mining engineer K.C. Li founded a trading company for the refinement and export of tungsten and antimony ores from his native China.  Li called his new company Wah Chang, meaning “great development” – and over the next several decades his company earned that name, pioneering the creation of new specialty metals and alloys. Located in Albany, Wah Chang comprises 180 buildings on 110 acres. The reactive and refractory metals producer has been making zirconium mill products since 1956.

Linus Pauling was born on February 28, 1901 in Portland, Oregon.  He received his Bachelor’s degree from Oregon State College in 1922. He received a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology in 1925. Dr. Pauling won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1954 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. Linus Pauling is the only person to ever receive two unshared Nobel prizes. The Institute of Orthomolecular Medicine was founded by Pauling and colleagues in Menlo Park, CA in 1973. It relocated to OSU in 1996.

In 1942, the U.S. Bureau of Mines established a research center on the old Albany College campus, focusing on the development of new metallurgical processes. First known as the Northwest Electro-development Facility, the name of the center was changed in 1945 to the Albany Metallurgy Research Center and was used through 1977 when the name was shortened to Albany Research Center. The site produced titanium and zirconium and fostered the growth of a new rare metals industry in Albany led by internationally recognized companies like the Oregon Metallurgical Company (Oremet) and Wah Chang. Albany calls itself the “Rare Metals Capital of the World.” (12)

Stanford University classmates Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded Hewlett-Packard. Bill and Dave formalized their partnership January 1, 1939. They decided whose name came first with a coin toss. The company’s first product, built in a Palo Alto garage, was an audio oscillator—an electronic test instrument used by sound engineers. One of HP’s first customers was Walt Disney Studios, which purchased eight oscillators to develop and test an innovative sound system for the movie Fantasia. HP was incorporated August 18, 1947. (13)

HP became a model for the modern high-tech, innovative company, not only for their products, but also for the way they encouraged their workers to excel and to take risks. HP is considered to have been the archetype “Silicon Valley” company. They changed not only the Santa Clara Valley, they changed the world.

The term Silicon Valley was coined by Ralph Vaerst, a Central California entrepreneur. Its first published use is credited to Don Hoefler, a friend of Vaerst’s, who used the phrase as the title of a series of articles in the weekly trade newspaper Electronic News. The series, entitled “Silicon Valley USA,” began in the paper’s issue dated January 111971. Valley refers to the Santa Clara Valley.(14)  An irony for those in Corvallis known as “ Heart of the Valley”. Santa Clara’s nickname used to be the “Valley of Heart’s Delight.”

While strictly not a part of Willamette Valley history until they opened their McMinnville Division making medical devices in the early 1970s, HP later moved their crown jewel, Advanced Products Division, from Palo Alto to Corvallis in October of 1975. They started with HP-55 and HP-80 handheld calculators. This became a critical turning point and a big boost for innovation in the Willamette Valley.

Textronix was incorporated in 1946 in Portland, later moving to Wilsonville. Its founders, C. Howard Vollum and Melvin J. “Jack” Murdock invented the world’s first triggered oscilloscope. For many years Textronix was Oregon’s leading high-tech company and along with Electro Scientific Industries the seed stock for what became known as “Silicon Forest.”

The term Silicon Forest can refer to all the technology companies in Oregon, but usually is in reference only to those in Washington County on Portland’s west side. First used in a Japanese company’s press release dating to 1981, Lattice Semiconductor trademarked the term in 1984. (15)

1946, Cascade Printing opened in Corvallis.  In 2000, the company changed its name to CORE Communications to reflect the changes in advanced technology integrated customer solutions.

In January 1946, the post-war economy was ripe for qualified, experienced engineers, and four OSU men were eager to help fill that need. They established a partnership in Corvallis that swiftly gained momentum—and the firm of Cornell, Howland, Hayes, and Merryfield became known as CH2M. In 1971, they merged with Clair A. Hill and Associates of Redding, California, becoming CM2H Hill, and have grown to become a highly respected, global engineer-procure-construct company.

In 1948, Douglas Engelbart earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from Oregon State and a Ph.D. in EECS from UC Berkeley in 1955. In 1968, Dr. Engelbart and a team at the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) gave the first public demonstration of the computer mouse, windows, and networking.

Whites Electronics had its beginnings back in the year 1950 during the uranium craze. All the country was looking for uranium; so were Olive and Ken White, Sr. In 1959, after the U.S. government announced it would no longer purchase uranium, Whites switched over to the manufacturing of metal detectors. The company is based in Sweet Home.

Mater Engineering automated a complete saw mill in 1955. Milt Mater established Mater Machine Works and Mater Engineering in Corvallis, pioneering and inventing sawmill automation equipment. He was named the 1965 Oregon Engineer of the Year.  His wife and partner Jean Mater earned a doctorate in forest products chemistry from OSU. In 1974, she was named President of the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce, the first woman to hold such a position in the state. She played a leading part in overcoming community opposition to Hewlett-Packard’s plans to open a calculator plant in Corvallis. The Mater tradition continues today under the leadership of Catherine Mater, President of the firm. (16)

1962, Delford “Del” M. Smith founded Evergreen Aviation.  Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum started in 1991 as the Evergreen Museum.

In 1964, the Oregon Hop Commission was formed. The Oregon Hop Commission consists of 35 hop growing business entities from 24 families. The majority of hop growing entities include third and fourth generation Oregon growers. Oregon produces approximately 17% of the U.S. market share, which is about 5% of the hops grown in the world.

Blue Ribbon Sports, the progenitor to Nike was founded in 1964. Phil Knight and his former track coach, Bill Bowerman, each invested $500 to start the company. They had both expressed dissatisfaction with American running shoes and decided to try to improve on shoe design. Off to an uncertain start, Knight sold his shoes out of the back of a station wagon but continued to practice as a certified public accountant and teach at Portland State University until 1969. Nike innovations in shoe design include the waffle sole and air cushioning. Knight has also introduced several advances in the field of sports business.

The Gordon House, built in 1963 for Evelyn and Conrad Gordon, is a prime example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Usonian” architecture which he began designing in the 1930’s. In 1938, Life magazine commissioned Wright and several other leading architects to design “Eight Houses for Modern Living.” The homes were featured in the September 26, 1938, issue. The home was saved from destruction in 2000.  It was dismantled and moved to historic Silverton.1(7)

Oregon Freeze Dry was incorporated in 1963, when the company began drying fruit for breakfast cereals. Later, Oregon Freeze Dry worked with the Department of Defense to develop and produce military rations that tasted better, weighed less, and were easier to prepare than canned rations. In 2009, Oregon Freeze Dry and Seattle-based EnerG2 will produce carbon-based battery materials. The companies were recently awarded $21.3 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to build a production plant in Albany.

Based in Newberg, Climax Portable Machine Tools, Inc. is a strategic world-class provider of comprehensive, on-site machining solutions. Climax pioneered the portable machine tools concept in 1966.

Founded in 1968, Cascade Steel Rolling Mills, located in McMinnville, is a state-of-the-art steel manufacturing facility that takes recycled metal and turns it into high-quality finished steel products.

In 1969, PSC Inc. was founded as Photographic Sciences Corp. in Eugene, making photographic reproductions for microfiche.
In October 2005, Italian bar-code scanner manufacturer, Datalogic SpA announced an agreement to buy PSC for $195 million.

Videx began its business in 1979 by creating a video card enhancement solution for Apple computers. Videx increased the line of Apple and Macintosh enhancement products to Include microprocessor- based keyboard enhancers, advanced printer interface cards, and productivity software. In 1985 Videx launched portable data collection terminals. 2000, Videx Introduced Cybertock®, a product so innovative, that it was recognized by the security Industry as an exciting break-through technology. Since its introduction, Cybertock has been honored with many national and international product of the year awards.

In 1979, Steve Schaberg started Kalatel. It manufactured a wide range of closed-circuit television (CCTV) and digital video storage equipment for security and safety applications. Kalatel products embody the company’s “Born to Build” philosophy – they’re modular and they’re designed for easy integration with other manufacturer’s equipment, ensuring rapid and cost-effective expansion or modification of existing systems. Kalatel was later acquired by GE Security System.

Palo Alto Software is the worldwide leader in business plan software and marketing plan software. The company was founded in 1983 by Tim Berry, a business planning expert, Stanford MBA, and co-founder of Borland International with a long history of technology sector leadership in the Silicon Valley. Despite the company’s name, Palo Alto Software is now headquartered in Eugene, with international offices in London and Ireland.

The Willamette Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) was first authorized in 1984; its geographic description included some 3.3 million acres.  Twenty years later, winemakers and wine growers succeeded in submitting applications for approval of six sub-regions within the Willamette Valley. The valley is home to about 300 wineries.

ENTEK began the research and development of Polyethylene Battery (PE) Separator production in 1984. Commercial production began in 1987 when the primary manufacturing plant opened in Lebanon.

Corvallis, 1987- Tripod Data System (TDS) founded by two HP Corvallis engineers. They began making software for HP calculators, including land surveying applications. September 2000—entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Trimble Navigation Limited, headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif. TDS will stay in their Corvallis HQ.

Sanda Communications a high-tech marketing, advertising and PR firm began in January 1998, in Corvallis in the Corvallis, Business Enterprise Center. Sanda, “Storytellers for the Information Age” works with companies integrating print, online and live event marketing activities.

Dan Whitaker is a serial entrepreneur and has been involved in many start-ups. He was named Entrepreneur of the Year for Benton County 2003. Several of his major projects include: He was instrumental in getting a Greenfield Sawmill started in Chehalis, WA. This sawmill is one the first brand new sawmills to be built in recent times. He was a founder and President of HotData, Inc an internet data company. HotData has raised 3 rounds of Venture Capital and was sold to Group 1 Software. Mr. Whitaker was an initial partner and a director of Rogue Wave Software, Inc. Rogue Wave was #93 on the INC 500 list. Mr. Whitaker was instrumental in raising Venture Capital and helping Rogue Wave do an IPO. Mr. Whitaker has also served as Vice President for Evergreen Technologies, a computer hardware company. He was one of the founders of the Software Association of Oregon and its first Executive Director.

In 2003, NuScale a Corvallis start-up developed the conceptual design for a small, multi-application nuclear power plant developed with OSU, DOE and INEEL.

The South Korean company Uni-Chem announced in September 2009 that it is buying Hynix’s, Eugene computer chip plant.

Arcimoto introduced its “Pulse” a three-wheeled electric vehicle in September 2009. The company is based in Eugene and founded in 2007 by Mark Frohnmayer.

November 2009, Sanyo Solar of Oregon LLC officially has started making the fundamental materials, ingots and wafers, necessary to manufacture SANYO’s proprietary HIT® solar cells and modules, at its new $80 million, Salem factory. Sanyo has hired 100 employees in Salem and expects to double the number by 2010.


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