Homer Davenport - History Con't

youth many in town did not appreciate his interest in drawing and thought him to be lazy because he did not “work.”

He left his hometown while still a young man and was in turn a jockey, railroad fireman, and a circus clown. During this time, however, he did not neglect his drawing. In 1892 he accepted a position as a cartoonist on the San Francisco Examiner where his talented drawings were exhibited and his fame grew. In 1895 newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst believed in young Davenport’s talent and took him under his wing giving him work in New York.

Homer’s cartooning career was solidified with his portrayal of Mark Hanna, McKinley’s campaign manager, during the 1896 McKinley-Bryant presidential campaign. Representing Hanna in a suit tattooed with dollar signs gave Davenport international recognition and solidified his career. Another turning point in his career was his contribution to the1904 presidential campaign. Although politically disagreeing with Theodore Roosevelt, Homer admitted the presidential candidate was “good enough for me,” and drew a cartoon depicting this sentiment. The cartoon was used extensively throughout the campaign, which Roosevelt won; Davenport and Roosevelt became fast friends and Homer’s fame continued to grow.

For the most part, his cartoons chiefly showed the evils of the trusts, the corporate conglomerates. He originated the gigantic “Brute,” a generic symbol of the trusts as well as his own version of the Thomas Nast “Tammany Tiger.” Although his cartoons caused considerable agitation on the part of the trusts, he drove the truth home in such a forceful way that he won worldwide fame and many friends. The trust element tried to pass an anti-cartoon bill through the 1897 New York state legislature, but failed because public opinion had grown so strong against them. For a while Homer was the highest paid cartoonist in the country.

Cartooning, however, was not Davenport’s only interest. A lover of animals and especially horses, Homer made several trips to Arabia in quest of fine stock. He was the first person to successfully import purebred Arabian horses into this country, no small feat for the times. This was chronicled in his book, “My Quest of the Arab Horse.” While in Arabia he won the friendship of many of the desert people.

But no matter what he did, where he traveled or how successful he became, Homer never forgot his beloved Silverton and remained steadfastly loyal to his old friends and his old town. Though most of his later years were spent away from Silverton he relished his visits to his hometown. The incidents of Homer’s early life and his close friendships were always on his mind and were expressed in his heartwarming book, “The Country Boy.”

Homer Davenport’s death in 1912 came in the prime of his life. He was only 45 years old when he succumbed to severe pneumonia contracted while covering the sinking of the Titanic. His former boss, Hearst, had his body shopped back to Silverton, where it rests next to his father in the Silverton cemetery. Although he was always considered a bit of a character in Silverton, hundreds of people turned out to pay him their last respects. Above all else, Homer was a fair man and a friend of the people. His cartoons reached thousands of people and addressed the abuses by powerful men; but Homer never understood why people thought so much of him.

For more information, please visit the Silverton Country Historical Society Museum at 428 South Water Street in Silverton, Oregon. Website: www.silvertonmuseum.com.

Sources: A dedication printed in the 1927 Silverton High School yearbook; “Davenport Incredible man” by Thomas W. Mann, Silverton Appeal-Tribune, July 31, 1991.

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