Book Review of
The Oregon Shanghaiers
In the hardscrabble early days of Portland’s seaport, “shanghaiing” or “crimping” ran rampant. The proprietors of crooked saloons and sailors’ boardinghouses coerced unwitting patrons to work on commercial ships. Shanghaiers like James Turk, Bunko Kelley and Billy Smith unashamedly forced men into service and stole the wages of their victims. By the 1890s, these shanghaiers had become powerful enough to influence the politics of Astoria and Portland, charging sea captains outrageous fees for unskilled laborers and shaping maritime trade around a merciless black market. For nearly a century, the exploits of these notorious crimpers have existed mainly in lore. Now historian Barney Blalock offers a lively and meticulously researched account of these colorful and corrupt men, revealing an authentic account of Oregon’s malicious maritime legends.
I have been to Portland and Astoria Oregon several times in my life, and I have also watched a lot of westerns where the main characters have been Shanghaied. So when I saw this book, I decided that I should read it. I am glad I did because now I can point to where some of the tv shangaies where in accurate, but also where they got it spot on. I also can now tell my friends who live in Portland, Oregon about a chunk of the history of their city.
I will have to say that it was a slower read because there was so much information in the books. It was all put rather straight forward, but it was all interesting, especially since I knew where some of the places were in the book. If you live or have visited Portland, you should probably pick up this book or at least look into the history of Shangaing in Oregon.