Heralding Homer: Titanic connection sparks renewed interest

April 2012 Posted in Arts, Culture & History

By Brenna WiegandHome Davenport, late of Silverton

He’s just doing what he loves, but Gus Frederick’s lifelong passion for unearthing local history could yield a heaping of tourism for Silverton.

Over the years, Frederick’s research, multi-faceted as any family tree, has resulted in countless films, articles and books as well as live lectures, dramatizations and the like. Naturally, he’s had a hand in Silverton’s Homer Davenport Community Festival throughout its 30-year history.

Now, his discoveries in regard to the Davenport family are being flung far and wide through The Davenport Project.

Inspired by Oregon Cartoon Institute’s Mel Blanc Project last year, Frederick ran with the concept as a “stealth marketing endeavor for the Davenport Community Festival, GeerCrest Farm and by default, the entire community” – cloaked in the guise of a valley wide series of Davenport art exhibits, literature, lectures and film.

Homer Davenport caught his death of cold a hundred years ago in the wind and weather, feverishly sketching the raw emotion etched on the faces of returning Titanic survivors. His health deteriorated until, on May 2, 1912, the artist’s hand let go its masterly grip on life – and on his pencil whose well-placed marks once shook both greedy corporations and corrupt government. He died at 45; just 17 days after the HMS Titanic went down.

Calling Davenport “RMS Titanic’s last victim,” Frederick said that link was enough to ignite his launching of an ambitious undertaking.

“Somebody had to,” Frederick said. “‘Centennials of Passings’ don’t happen every year.”

He used the line on a producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “History Detectives,” who he met at the Portland Archives Crawl last November.

“She asked if I had a history question,” Frederick said. “I told her about Homer, and her reply: ‘Great! We have looking to do a Titanic story, but lacked a connection – this is perfect.’ …So we shall see how that develops.”

Frederick is incredulous at the doors that have opened for The Davenport Project despite its minimal budget. He calls it “coasting,” but his activities hardly bear out this claim.

Homer Happenings

Farm Dinner with Davenport

Saturday, April 7, 6 p.m.
GeerCrest Farm
390 Sunnyview Road N.E., Silverton
Four-course farm dinner features
chef-prepared seasonal fare with
wine pairing. Gus Frederick,
GeerCrest Board member and
Davenport Project lecturer,
shares the life and times of
Davenport and his pioneering relatives.
$60 a plate; space for 30.
Prior to the meal, Frederick
offers an optional walking tour
of ‘Davenport’s Silverton.’
RSVP GeerCrest Farm,

Homer Story
Tuesday, April 24,
7:30-9:30 p.m.
Jack London Bar,
529 S.W. Fourth Ave., Portland
Gus Frederick gives lecture and
Gordon Munro tells a “Homer Story.”
Part of the “Stumptown Stories.”

Homer Who? The Life and Times
of Homer Davenport, Late of Silverton

Saturday, April 28. Time TBA
Oregon Convention Center
777 N.E. ML King Blvd.
Gus Frederick hosts a panel
discussion at the ninth annual
Stumptown Comics Festival.

Homer Davenport Community Festival
Aug. 3-5, 2012
Volunteers and sponsors needed

The Davenport Project

GeerCrest Farm &
Historical Society

“I have been getting cozy with the many heritage and history groups around…” and he’s getting bites on his article proposals, locally and further afield: 1859 Magazine, Willamette Valley Life and Willamette Valley Voices, a new quarterly publication of the Willamette Heritage Center, formally Mission Mill.

Another connection netted him an invitation to host a panel discussion during the 9th annual Stumptown Comics Fest, April 28-29 at the Oregon Convention Center.

“That bit of info led me to the Stumptown Comic Fest coordinator, whom I asked if it was too late to do a ‘Homer Gig’ at their show,” Frederick said. “He replied that yes, I can have a panel discussion, and that he was hired by the Oregon Historical Society to prepare and curate an exhibit on Oregon cartoonists. Needless to say, he was quite delighted to stumble upon a Davenport Aficionado.

“…one of the keys to successfully promoting anything is hitting it from many different angles … hopefully the final one being ‘And by the way, come to Silverton in August to see where it all began,’ he said.

“Gus is doing a monumental job of using new media to educate people about this pioneer of old media political cartooning,” said Anne Richardson, who, with Dennis Nyback started Oregon Cartoon Institute to raise public awareness of Oregon’s rich animation and cartooning history. She added of Gus: “I’m a huge fan!”

“Turns out there are several relevant facts that help grease the skids on this whole gig,” Frederick said. “First and most obvious is the fact that many of Davenport’s cartoons are once again relevant.” Frederick grabs that coattail in one of his lectures: ‘Occupy Davenport – Cartoons for the 99 Percent.’

“The other is that comics are ‘hip’ in Portland,” he said. “The success of Dark Horse Comics has had a big impact. One of the more interesting developments has been The Dill Pickle Club’s ‘Portland History Comics’ series released in March.”

Last year Silverton Rotary Club offered to be the legal umbrella from which Homer Davenport Community Festival operates. It has been a blessing, Frederick said, to have them “handling all the logistics” and supporting this effort. He said sponsorship for the festival is on track and that a framework of volunteers is forming, ready to take on the many facets the festival involves.

“What I want to show with The Davenport Project is that it is much more than simply Homer Davenport. Any story about Homer by necessity will include all these other webs of stories, many connected and many from elsewhere.”

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