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Lee D. Drake photograph collection

Lee D. Drake (1882-1957) was a newspaper owner and civic booster in Pendleton and Astoria, Oregon. The collection includes Drake’s amateur work and that of professional photographers from the Pendleton region, capturing images of the Pendleton Round-Up, tribal peoples of the region, and Drake friends and family.

Biographical Sketch
Lee D. Drake (1882-1957) was born May 5, 1882, to James Adelbert Drake and Josephine Georgette Ann (Dolsen) Drake. The family lived on Bear Creek in the Blue Mountains of southern Umatilla County, Oregon, relocated to a farm on Birch Creek that adjoined the reservation of what is now the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, and then moved to another farm on Stewart Creek. In 1888 the Drakes moved to Pendleton and began operating a hotel, restaurant and feed yard. Lee Drake was married to Francis M. Hager from 1904 until her death in 1953. Drake had a brother, Fred, who resided in San Carlos, California, and a son, James Robert Drake, of Poulsbo, Washington.

Above: Portrait of Lee Drake. Left: "Chief with a B-17." Below: Scene from a Western; elderly tribal spectator at Round-Up. Images by Lee Drake, from the Drake Collection, PH021.

Lee Drake used his administrative and technical expertise to support several newspapers, worked with some of the most influential men in Oregon journalism history, and helped advance the unified action of Oregon newspapers through service with regional organizations. He was also an active civic promoter, serving on several Chambers of Commerce, assisting with political campaigns, helping found and support the Pendleton Round-Up and the Happy Canyon pageant, playing in several bands, serving in the National Guard and running civil defense, managing baseball teams and creating leagues, and taking leadership in the Elks. In the words of the Albany Democrat-Herald obituary, “It is safe to say that the name of Lee Drake will long be remembered in Oregon.”

Drake’s newspaper career began in 1888, when his father became an agent for the Portland Oregonian, as a paper boy. He dropped out of school the following year. In 1891 he helped wrap and mail an edition of the East Oregonian. In 1896 he started a weekly paper, the Saturday Skeptic, producing it from a friend’s print shop. Drake also wrote a newspaper for his school for several years, and his sketches from an 1896 murder trial were published in the Oregonian. In 1899 he began formal work in the press room of the East Oregonian, and in 1902 Drake stated he was pressman for the “Major Moorhouse famous book of Indian pictures” (presumable Lee Moorhouse’s Souvenir album of noted Indian photographs, although the earliest edition extant is 1905. Copies of the 1905 and 1906 editions are held in the Rare Books collection).

In 1903 Drake quit the East Oregonian for “financial reasons,” but en route to covering the Heppner flood he was hired by Oscar W. Dunbar for a new Pendleton “luncheon” paper called the Daily Guide. Drake sold out the next year following Dunbar’s death and went to work for E.P. Dodd, publisher of the Pendleton Tribune .In 1906 Drake returned to the East Oregonian in charge of the job printing department, eventually becoming foreman of the mechanical department. He served as secretary of the Typographical Union, and as delegate and then secretary to the Central Labor Council. He then became advertising manager of the East Oregonian.

Edwin B. Aldrich, son of a founder of the Oregon State Press Association, worked with Drake at the Tribune, then joined the East Oregonian in 1904. In 1908 Drake and Aldrich bought shares in the East Oregonian (Turnbull states they acquired Fred Lockley’s 25 percent share in the paper; Drake’s autobiography claims it was a one-third share bought from Bert Huffman. Lockley then became editor of the Portland Oregon Journal for 31 years, finishing his career with the Portland Oregonian when it bought out the Journal.) In 1913 Aldrich and Drake bought a one-third interest in the East Oregonian from Charles Samuel Jackson; Fred W. Lampkin held the other third.

In 1919 the three owners of the East Oregonian Publishing Company purchased the Astoria Budget from John E. Gratke and William F. Gratke. A fourth partner, Merle R. Chessman (a graduate of the University of Oregon who had joined the staff in 1909, rising eventually to city editor despite a lack of experience) was named editor, and held the position until his death in 1947. In 1920 Drake relocated to Astoria to help Chessman run the paper, commuting from a home in Seaside. He also started a radio station, KAST, in connection with the Budget. In 1922 Drake dealt with high paper prices by importing newsprint from Norway and organized a buying cartel among regional papers.

On December 8, 1922, the printing plant of the Budget—holding three linotypes, a Ludlow typograph, and three job presses—and its new office were leveled in a fire that devastated the business district of Astoria. The printing plant of its rival, the Astorian, was also destroyed, causing the paper to miss one issue. Both papers managed to provide mimeographed coverage throughout the emergency, and rebuilt their production facilities in a month. Drake noted, “Fire was out at 11:00 a.m. At 1:30 p.m. I presided over mass meeting in Court House with half of crowd members KuKluxKlan [sic] and half against them. Won confidence of both factions, wrote new proclamation for the mayor and went to Legislature in Salem at the request of both groups for relief legislation—and got it. Had strike on newspaper but won it after one year.”

Drake became president of the Oregon State Newspaper Conference in 1922, in association with the University of Oregon School of Journalism, and the School of Advertising gave him an associate membership in the national advertising fraternity, Alpha Delta Sigma. Four years later he spoke at the Oregon State Editorial Association’s annual convention on the topic of radio and its role in shaping the future of newspapers.

Aldrich, Lampkin and Drake purchased the Idaho Evening Times in Twin Falls, Idaho, in 1928. Joe Harvey of Hermiston was the editor and Drake the manager, traveling between Pendleton, Twin Falls and Astoria. The Twin Falls paper required much of Drake’s time in 1929 and 1930, when the consortium sold the paper. Drake returned to Pendleton and active newspaper work in 1934, taking over as business manager of the East Oregonian after Lampkin’s death. Two years later he signed “a life contract” as East Oregonian business manager.

In 1943 Drake was appointed as printing committeeman for Oregon for the National Editorial Association. He worked to keep the newspaper going during the war, but had to discontinue the broadcasting arrangement with radio station KUJ in Walla Walla due to a lack of trained manpower. When Aldrich died in 1950, Drake kept the paper going through the year, and then sold his interest to the Aldrich children; the Forrester and Bedford family continues to own the company as of 2004. He consulted for the newspaper until his death in 1957.

An early mechanical aptitude was demonstrated in 1890, when Drake and his brother build a pedal-operated wagon that served as a prototype for a factory production. In 1898 Drake worked in the jewelry store of Louis Hunzicker and learned to repair clocks. Later he restored the clock from the Umatilla County Courthouse and kept custody of it until the building was replaced and the clock returned to its position.

Lee Drake demonstrated an interest in historical materials and a longstanding commitment to preservation. He served as vice president of the Old Oregon Trail Association for Umatilla County in 1951, and that year “started taking pictures of all the prominent Indians.” He was responsible for placing the images of photographers Walter S. Bowman (PH004) and Lee Moorhouse (PH036) at the University of Oregon Libraries, establishing a core group of Northeastern Oregon images that remains an unparalleled documentary source.

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