Hodu River, Kyoto
Dear Emily, you will be as surprised as I was to find Japan so mountainous with fields clear up to the sides.
Having a fine trip ok here now
Arthur the Oilman
Something that distinguishes an old postcard from an old letter is that you don’t have much information on the sender of the card. Think about it, unlike a letter, there’s no return address with a first and last name. While usually signed, it’s often just a first name, and that’s not enough to start a search. But that doesn’t stop us from looking into who the postcard was sent to.
Miss Emily R Churchill of Berkeley California, was a student at Cal when this letter was sent in 1914. She was also a member of the Delta Gamma fraternity and the California Library Association. Not long after graduating, she got married, as folks do, to a young man named Arthur Eaton, and started her family in 1918 with her first of two children. Sadly, her trail runs dark after that— but we pick up the story with her husband, Arthur.
Arthur and Emily likely met while studying at Cal as Arthur rowed crew and was a member of Phi Kappa Sigma Fraternity while he studied Geology at U.C Berkley. He was a go-getter from the start and spent 1914 traveling through 1916 China & the Philipines as a member of the George Louderback Geological Party, sent by the Standard Oil Company to determine whether oil resources existed under the foreign soil.
At the end of his travels in 1916, he and his family moved to Denver, Colorado, where he opened Harrison and Eaton, Consulting Petroleum Geologists. There’s not much to find on the organization until 1920 when he and his partner complied a report titled Investigation of Gas possibilities of Western Oregon. Henry Parks, the then director of the Oregon Bureau of Mines and Geology, wrote that Harrison and Eaton were selected “after a careful inquiry into the experience records of many prominent oil geologists of the country. The inquiry showed that the members of this firm are men of unquestioned integrity who are held in high regard by those prominent in their own profession, as well as by leading oil producing companies of the country. The Bureau was fortunate in securing the services of men who have proved themselves so eminently successful as oil geologists in the commercial industry.”
Whatever the pressure was to find oil in Oregon, on February 6th, 1920 Arthur Eaton filed the report with a final passage that said all his data “leads to but one conclusion:-that hopes of productive oil fields in western Oregon are not founded on any satisfactory evidence that can be found by a careful study of the geology.”
And as of 2008, there are still zero oil wells in Oregon. A report from Oregon Public Broadcasting shows that the Bureau of Land Management canceled sales on leases of over 16 million acres of land due to low interest. It’s important to know that BLM is in charge of land rights above and below the ground. BLM commonly generates revenue off of public lands by leasing their mineral right, but 88 years later, geologists and oil companies agree, there is no oil under the soil of Oregon.
But that’s the end of his meteoric rise as things took a dark turn for our favorite oilman, and in 1923 at Lake Merrit hospital in Oakland, at only 37 years old, Arthur perished after surgery. While we can’t know for sure what caused his death, we do know that Penicillin wasn’t used to treat infections until 1942, and infections and septicemia caused many deaths before its use.
The New York Public Libary has a postcard on file that’s identical to this card. However, with some overlayed color flourishes. A keen eye will notice, however, that the card says Hozu vs. Hodu on the card I’ve collected— it’s the same river, the English spelling just changed over time.
The Hozu River was used for years as a way to transport goods on rafts built of timber cut from nearby forests, but in 1895 a rail line was introduced that moved good more efficiently. However, riding rapids was a lot of fun, so in 1895 a tourist-centric white water ride was introduced to the region and gained widespread popularity. A local blogger wrote a comprehensive history of the Hozu river, and it’s worth a read if you are, as I was, initially interested in the subject of card art.
If you haven’t guessed or noticed by now, the sender of this postcard to the then Miss Emily Churchill was, in fact, Arthur. It looks as though sometime during his travels in China and the Philippines, he stopped off in Kyoto, Japan. This card opened the door to a sender from 1914.
That’s all I have for you this week; I hope you check in next week.
Cover Art: Many men traveling down the river in a wooden boat, some with oars, others as passengers
To: Miss Emily R. Churchill #1641 Euclid Ave Berkeley Cal. U.S.A
A special thank you to:
Paul Young & Nettie Fuentes for finding this card at a yard sale
Megumi Tsutsui for copyediting the post.