Belle Pauling: Hard Times

Belle Pauling, 1910s.

Belle Pauling, 1910s.

Widowed with three kids, Belle Pauling found herself at a major crossroads in life at the young age of 29.  After initially seeking out some measure of continuity by hiring a manager for her deceased husband’s drugstore, Belle was soon forced to sell both the store and her house in order to buy a larger house. Her intent in doing so was to take on boarders, one of the few income possibilities open to her, given that all three of her children were still under the age of ten.

Having never been in charge of the family finances, Belle made some initial mistakes as she overpaid for the house and, in hopes of offering an attractive place for boarders, bought several expensive appliances.  She also hired someone to cook and clean.  Burdened by these expenses, Belle chronically teetered on the edge of being able to make enough rental income to support her and the children.

Belle’s life began to crumble in other ways as well. Her years-long battle with depression only worsened and she was soon diagnosed with pernicious anemia, which left her physically weak.  At first she refrained from telling the children, as she did not want to frighten them with the possibility that they may soon lose their mother.  Left to care for the children by herself, Belle let them run free around the neighborhood well into the night.  She was also unprepared to deal with her maturing daughters.   As Pauline later recalled, Belle made her and Lucile feel that menstruation “was a scourge that afflicted only women in their family.”

Belle found some relief through weekend visits to Herman’s parents, times during which she could reminisce about the days when her husband and their son was still living.  She also fulfilled one of her lifelong dreams of owning a piano. She and the children began taking lessons and would have singing parties:  Lucile, who took the most to the piano, would play as Pauline joined on ukulele and Linus sang.  In 1913 the family was also able to take a vacation to the Oregon coast, staying in the house of a friend.  This was the only time that the family would take such a trip.

Lucile, Linus, Belle and Pauline, 1916.

Lucile, Linus, Belle and Pauline, 1916.

Once Linus was 13, he began to help out more by taking on odd jobs – delivering papers, milk, and letters, selling meat, and projecting movies.  He didn’t particularly enjoy this work, but Belle came to depend on him more and more for income, so after quitting one job he would soon have to find another.  He even found short-term employment resetting pins at a bowling alley while the family vacationed at the coast.

Belle’s dependence on her children, especially on Linus and Pauline, began to wear on them.  After Belle had to let the cook and maid go, she relied even more on the children to take care of the house.  Linus later remembered his mother “issuing requests and orders and browbeating the children, often from her bed.”

On one occasion, Lucile had taken a boy’s bike for a ride without his permission.  Once she was finished, the boy punched Lucile to the ground.  When she came home crying to her brother, imploring him to go beat up the boy, Linus refused.  Belle strongly disapproved of Linus’s decision and admonished him as a bad brother. Unsurprisingly, as he reached adolescence, Linus began distancing himself more and more from his mother.

As Pauline reached her teenage years, she also came under pressure from Belle.  Rather than look for a job to bring in income, Belle wanted Pauline to marry someone wealthy.  When Pauline was seventeen, Belle had found just the man for her.  Pauline did not take well to her mother’s pressure, particularly since the man was thirty years old.  Belle’s persistence became unbearable and Pauline eventually called the police, telling them that her mother was forcing her into marriage with a much older man.

In the fall of 1917, Linus enrolled at Oregon Agricultural College in Corvallis.  Belle’s nephew, Mervyn Stephenson, was already a junior there and so she arranged for Linus to live in the same boarding house.  Had her nephew not been there, Belle would not have let Linus attend college, and she continued to believe that he should keep working to help support the family.  She rode down to Corvallis with Linus to stay with him for his first night there and to make sure that everything was in order.  After she left, any pretense that her nephew would help Linus disappeared; he offered Linus some advice on getting by in college and after that the two saw very little of each other.  Linus moved out of the boarding house soon afterward.

William Bryden and Belle Pauling.

William Bryden and Belle Pauling.

With Linus away and not working as much, Belle began a courtship with William Brace Bryden, a lumberman.  In a manner very similar to her first encounter with Herman nearly twenty years earlier, Belle’s sister Goldie set the two up on a blind date.  By June 1918 they were married, but it did not last long.  Bryden was not helpful and neither Pauline nor Lucile liked him.  Additionally, when Belle came down with the flu, Bryden offered little assistance.  After Belle recovered and was strong enough, the two constantly argued until, one day in September, Bryden left to go to the barbershop and never came back.

While Linus attended college, he continued to work and send money home to his mother.  By the Spring of 1922, Linus was ready to step further away from his mother’s influence.  He and Ava Helen Miller were recently engaged to be married and Linus made plans to attend graduate school in southern California, where he hoped Ava Helen would join him.  Belle and Ava Helen’s mother, Nora Gard Miller, quickly intervened.  Both mothers thought it best that their child finish their educations before getting married.  The young couple gave in and Linus went to California alone.

With Linus nearly 1,000 miles away, Belle kept him up-to-date on life in Portland, and the news was often not good.  As her health continued to worsen, Belle began to see doctors more and more.  One doctor had her fast for three days and then stayed with her all day as he administered one quart of olive oil over four doses.  Belle told her son, “It is a wonderful treatment, takes all the poisons out of your system.  I feel like a new woman.  I am weak yet but will soon feel strong.”  The positive effects rarely lasted long though and Belle continued to seek out different treatments, sometimes against Linus’s wishes.

In October 1922, Linus sent Belle a letter trying to get his debts to her in order.  This shocked Belle as she could not understand why Linus felt that he owed her, preferring that he continue to support her and his sisters out of purer motives.  Nonetheless, her response could not have helped but make him feel either guilty or resentful:

Do you think because I have let you help carry the burden this year that you are repaying me for money I gave you for your education or the cost of your living since you were born or perhaps pay me for the pain I suffered in bring you into this world… You are helping the girls and not me personally… I have never worried when I had money to give you but I have worried a lot because I couldn’t help you more.

Part of Linus’s money was going to support Pauline’s college tuition – she had also gone on to OAC, leaving Belle and Lucile alone in Portland.  Belle and her youngest daughter got along relatively well and the two traveled together and spent days out shopping downtown.  Both of them were also members of the Order of the Eastern Star; Belle was able to join earlier only because she had made Linus join the Masons.  At the meetings, Lucile sometimes sang, which pleased Belle even more.

Linus, however, continued to disappoint his mother.  One year, while in Pasadena, he had forgotten her birthday. Belle did not take this well, writing:

I look around me and I see lots of young men who have mothers (and fathers too) who are lovely to their mothers.  I tell myself over and over that you do not mean to be unkind but even so such a situation is very depressing.

Linus and Ava Helen also began to make new plans to marry and this gave Belle even more to worry about, as she wanted them to hold the ceremony near to her.  Linus, though, did not include Belle in on the planning, giving her another cause for concern.

Linus made up for all of this by sending his mother a birthday card and a letter which made Belle “feel so much better.”  Ava Helen also tried to bring her some comfort by offering to come up to visit her, but Belle claimed she was too busy as she had four boarders to attend to at the time.  At long last, in June 1923, Linus drove up to Salem, where he and Ava Helen were married. The two then drove to Portland to stay with Belle before going down to California for Linus to continue his schooling.  They returned in the summer of 1925 with their first-born child, Linus Jr.

By that time Pauline had married the athletic director of the local Elk’s Club and the two had moved to Los Angeles.  This devastated Belle, causing her to collapse.  From then on Lucile was the only one around to care for Belle, whose health continued to deteriorate.  Belle began to suffer bouts of delusion and loss of feeling and movement in her limbs. She left many of the household decisions and responsibilities up to Lucile, something for which the nineteen-year-old was not well prepared.

Belle with her grandson Linus Jr., 1925.

Belle with her grandson Linus Jr., 1925.

In March 1926, Linus and Ava Helen came to visit on their way to Europe.  They needed someone to take care of Linus Jr. and had arranged to leave him with Ava Helen’s mother.  When Linus saw his own mother, he was shocked by her appearance – her gray hair and poor balance were clear indications that she was not doing well.  He was tempted to cancel the trip, but ended up going, leaving some money behind to help pay for the increasing expenses surrounding Belle’s care.

Two weeks after Linus and Ava Helen left, Belle sold her home to Lucile for ten dollars, who rented the house out so that she and her mother could move to a smaller apartment.  But Belle’s condition only worsened as she became increasingly restless and had trouble sleeping.  Her moods also grew more volatile, moving from suspicion to happiness to fear.  Eventually Belle’s behavior became so unmanageable for Lucile that she called her aunt Goldie to help.  The two decided that it was best that Belle be moved to the state mental hospital in Salem.  Her admittance form summed up Belle’s difficult life:

Natural disposition? ‘Moral character good.  Disposition happy.  Lost husband 16 years ago – raised family through great struggles.’

First symptoms of mental derangement? ‘Worried from illness and too much responsibility.’

Lucy Isabelle (Darling) Pauling passed away in Salem on July 12, 1926.

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The Life of Belle Pauling – Linus Pauling’s Mother

Belle Pauling with her infant son, Linus. 1901.

Belle Pauling with her infant son, Linus. 1901.

(Part 1 of 2)

We begin the story of Lucy Isabelle Pauling, Linus Pauling’s mother, with Linus Wilson Darling, Belle’s father and Linus Pauling’s maternal grandfather.

In 1863, Linus Wilson Darling’s father abandoned his family in Collingwood, Ontario, leaving his wife to struggle financially on her own. As a result, she sent her four eldest children, including Linus, to a foster home in New Jersey.  When he was fifteen, Linus ran away from this home and made his way to Chicago, where he both worked and lived in a bakery.  From there, he set out west, eventually settling near Salem, Oregon, and began teaching high school.

One of his students was Alcy Delilah Neal.  The two began courting and were married in 1878.  As they moved around Oregon, looking for a place to settle, they began having children.  Their second daughter, Lucy Isabelle “Belle” Darling was born on April 13, 1881, while the family was living in Lonerock, a tiny town in eastern Oregon.

The family had arrived on hard times there and were, in fact, facing starvation. But they were saved when Linus bet his saddle against fifty dollars on Grover Cleveland to win the upcoming presidential election over James G. Blaine.  Funded by those winnings, they moved twenty miles northwest, to Condon, where Linus opened up the town’s first general store selling patent medicines and running the post office – enough to keep him a busy man.

Three years after moving to Condon, when Belle was seven, her mother Alcy gave birth to a stillborn son. Badly injured by the traumatic birthing process, Alcy also passed away, one month later.

Linus however continued to lead a busy life. As he began to study law he occasionally hired a woman to help take care of the household, but mostly left it up to his four daughters – Goldie, Belle, Lucile and Abigail, all born in a span of five years – whom he called the “Four Queens.”  (A fifth queen, Florence, was at the time too young to pitch in.) The bulk of this work often defaulted to the oldest daughter, Goldie.

Linus eventually remarried, finding a younger widow who owned a large wheat farm and an extra ten thousand dollars to her name.  This new-found financial support allowed Linus to become a gentleman farmer and begin his law practice.


Belle Darling posing with her father on her wedding day, 1900.

Belle Darling posing with her father on her wedding day, 1900.

For Belle, this period was one of contrasts. Her mother gone, the household responsibilities mounting, and her father mostly a distant man, she began suffering from bouts of depression.  On the other hand, her new family’s wealth and large home made her one of the Condon elite as a teenager.

Indeed, the family resources offered some measure of protection from the economic depression plaguing the country, and the family was occasionally able to take shopping trips to Portland for dresses and other fineries unavailable in the small farming town. In 1895, Belle and Goldie also took advantage of the opportunity to attend boarding school at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon.  Belle did fairly well academically, earning marks of 85 in Bible, 91 in grammar, and 98 in arithmetic.  But she did not enjoy the boarding school experience and came back to Condon after her first term.  Her older sister, Goldie, was able to make it through the rest of the year before coming home.

Returned to Condon, Belle slipped anew into her role as one of the town’s elite young women.  One day, in the fall of 1899, Goldie invited the seventeen-year-old Belle over to her home, to meet Condon’s new druggist, Herman Pauling.  Herman quickly earned the respect of the town and was the guest of honor at several dinners and dances.  At these events, he and Belle often ended up talking with one other.  The more time they spent together, the closer the two became, and by Christmas of the same year, they were engaged to be married the following May. Their lavish wedding was attended by nearly the whole town.

The fairy tale ended quickly, however, when Herman was forced to look for work: the investors backing his Condon pharmacy had pulled out, forcing Herman to search for a new job.  Since the Condon area was not big enough to support Herman on its own, he and Belle moved to Portland, finding a residence near Chinatown.


Linus Pauling with his sister Pauline, 1904.

Linus Pauling with his sister Pauline, 1904.

Belle was eager to take advantage of the entertainment and shopping possibilities that had once only been accessible following a long trip from Condon.  Yet she was pregnant before she and Herman had left Condon and on February 28, 1901, she gave birth to their first child, Linus, named for Belle’s father.  Soon after the birth, Belle took Linus back to Condon to visit her family.  While there, they both came down with an illness, but quickly recovered and were back in Portland by May.

Linus was quickly followed by his first sister, Pauline, born in August 1902. Frances Lucile (or “Lucie,” named after one of Belle’s favorite poems by Owen Meredith) arrived on New Year’s Day 1904.

When Herman found a job as a traveling salesman, Belle was frequently left alone to care for the children.  Her unquenched desire to enjoy the city, her absent husband, and her mounting responsibilities as a parent all combined to engender a growing resentment. Frustrated, she repeatedly wrote to her husband while he was on the road, admonishing him for not making enough money and spending so little time at home. Herman usually responded that he was doing all that he could to provide for Belle and the children, and that their future as a family would be brighter.

In 1904, attempting to arrive at this brighter future, Herman took a new job – one that still required travel but was based in Salem. His hope was that doing so would give him more time at home since Salem was more centrally located in the Willamette Valley.  The job did not last long though, and Herman was soon searching for new opportunities.  Once again, the family turned to old territory: Condon seemed promising as Herman could open up his own store there with the help of Goldie’s husband.  And so it was that, in April of 1905, with Herman already ahead of them, Belle packed up the remainder of their belongings and moved with the children to her old hometown.


A group photo including the Pauling children: Pauline (front row left), Lucile (front row right) and Linus (back row right).

A group photo including the Pauling children: Pauline (front row left), Lucile (front row right) and Linus (back row right). 1906.

The Paulings’ new home was above the general store that belonged to Goldie’s husband, Herbert Stephenson.  Here, little Linus was free to roam around the town, while Belle stayed at home looking after her daughters.  During the harvest period, Belle would also help at the Stephenson wheat farm by cooking for all the temporary workers brought in to process the grain.

Moving to Condon meant that Herman was always close by and that he made a good income, albeit with a brief interlude of lean times caused by yet another national financial depression.  Condon was able to bounce back due to its rising population of homesteaders taking advantage of the free 320 acres being offered by the federal government, a boon that combined nicely with a run of increased wheat harvests and the addition of a Northern Pacific rail spur.  Nonetheless, Belle was not happy in Condon:  Herman was still working over twelve hours a day, she missed the culture and excitement of Portland, and the summers were unbearably hot.  The latter two issues were solved, at least in part, by annual summer trips to the milder Portland suburb of Oswego, where Belle and the children stayed with Herman’s parents.

While visiting Oswego in the summertime allowed Belle to take in events like the centenary celebration of the Lewis and Clark expedition, she did not like being away from Herman. Letters to her husband sent during this period are full of anxiety over Herman’s fidelity and the family’s financial situation.  By the end of the summer of 1909, Belle had convinced Herman that the family should move back to Portland, though Herman did not need too much convincing on his part, as he was also ready to leave behind the heat and petty small town politics.


Belle Pauling, early 1900s.

Belle Pauling, early 1900s.

The family moved to East Portland, where Herman opened up another drugstore in a fast-growing neighborhood.  Again he worked long hours, leaving Belle to take care of the children.  But Belle also took advantage of being back in Portland by enrolling in German classes at a nearby high school.  Since Herman’s business was slow to start, he used his free time to study German as well, providing Belle and Herman with a rare leisure pursuit that they could share as a couple.

The happy times were not destined to last. In April 1910, the dark clouds began to gather when Belle’s father passed away.  While Belle had never been particularly close with her dad, his passing was still difficult for her.

Three months later, Belle, her sisters, and their children were attending the Rose Festival in Portland and when they returned they found Herman at home in tremendous pain. Herman’s stomach aches, the result of an ulcer, were a recurrent issue for him, but they had never struck so severely.  The attack, as it turned out, was fatal – he died soon after they returned.  Belle was emotionally devastated, financially imperiled and, widowed with three children, staring at a very uncertain future.

Herman Pauling: Striving for a Better Life

Herman Pauling with his three children in Salem, Oregon, where the family briefly lived.

Herman Pauling with his three children in Salem, Oregon, where the family briefly lived.

(Part 2 of 2)

His family settled in Salem but not happy about it, it did not take long for Herman Pauling to look for new employment opportunitiess, and in March 1905 he traveled to Portland to explore the possibility of opening a drugstore.  After visiting the Skidmore Drug Company, his old employer, and deciding that Portland was not going to work out, Herman once again set his sights on Condon.

With the help of Belle’s brother-in-law, Herbert Stephenson, Herman was able to locate a storefront and a place for his family to live.  The logistics settled, Herman wrote to Belle back in Salem, asking her to come join him so that they could start their life anew.  Herman’s letter also revealed a deeper motivation behind his relentless work ethic:

We cannot imagine what it is but I feel that either ourselves or our children will someday stand before the world as a specimen of a high standard of intelligence.


Linus Pauling, a Condon Cowboy at age 5.

Linus Pauling, a Condon Cowboy at age 5.

Condon was in the midst of an economic boom when the Paulings came to town.  The Northern Pacific Railroad had built a spur to Condon to help connect the area’s abundant wheat harvests with the rest of the country.  The town’s favorable economic conditions helped the population to grow and, being the only druggist in town, Herman benefited from the rising tide.  He brought his store to the town’s attention by placing large ads in the weekly Globe newspaper, announcing products like “Pauling’s Pink Pills for Paling,” “Pauling’s Improved Blood Purifier,” and “Pauling’s Barb Wire Cure.”  Herman also sold postcards featuring his son, Linus, dressed up and captioned:  “A Condon Cowboy.”

Condon brought its challenges as well.  The summer heat was hard on Herman and Belle too had also grown accustomed to the milder summer of the Willamette Valley.  To escape the heat, Belle and the children would travel to Oswego for long stays with Herman’s parents, while Herman himself stayed behind to manage the store.  By his second summer in Condon, Herman began conjuring up ideas for how he could get out of eastern Oregon, but it took a few years and more struggles before that would come to pass.


Promotional calendar offered by H.W. Pauling, druggist. 1907.

Promotional calendar offered by H.W. Pauling, druggist. 1907.

The financial panic of 1907 reached out from Wall Street to all corners of the country, including Condon, and it made a negative impact on Herman’s business.  To help shore up his income, Herman partnered with a jeweler who promptly died the following year, leaving Herman to take over his role while also expanding into other areas, like selling eyeglasses.  Herman’s associations through his many fellowship organizations, including Woodmen of the World and the Odd Fellows, helped to keep the drugstore profitable both through and after the panic, but staying afloat did not come easy.

Combined with his continuing need to engage in business travel, Herman’s long hours at work brought more and more pressure on his marriage.  Belle was outspoken about her disappointment in Herman, while Herman tried to do what he could to keep their problems out of the range of the children.  In one letter, Herman let out what he had been holding back.

I have quite enough to worry me without asking you to peck, peck, peck at me.  But I guess you cannot help it, as that blessing is characteristic of the Darling family… Were it not for trying to get a start financially so you and the little ones may live in an abbreviated form of luxury in later years, I would not stay in this God forsaken hole a moment.  You have discouraged me so often in my efforts that I would think you would eventually come to a conclusion to encourage me a little by discontinuing your nonsensical jealousy.

Ground down by the pressures of life, Herman’s health began to suffer.  He developed insomnia and what he described as a “tummick ake,” a condition that would sometimes incapacitate him, leaving him bedridden.  More often that not however, his stomach problems could be soothed simply by eating something.  Armed with an easy method for treating his symptoms, he pushed along as best as he could.


The Pauling children, 1908.

The Pauling children, 1908.

Though he was unable to spend much time with them, Herman adored his children and sought to be the best possible role model, always hoping that they would grow up to be “an asset to the human race.”  He brought his son to work with him and Linus maintained memories of watching his father concoct various medicines, using careful measurements while also testing the compounds through various chemical reactions.

Herman also looked after Linus, who could get into trouble when he was not at home or in his father’s store.  One day Linus was exploring a building that was in the process of being constructed.  One of the workmen saw him there and was angered.  Linus tried to climb out the window, but the workman caught him before he could escape and ended up giving the young boy a beating.

When Linus came crying to his father, Herman immediately went out, found the workman, and punched him to the ground.  As Linus later remembered, his father was arrested soon afterwards.  Though Linus had associated his father’s arrest with assaulting the workman, according to biographer Thomas Hager, the arrest was more likely tied to charges of bootlegging that had been levied against Herman. (He was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.)

While most of the town appreciated Herman, some locals felt otherwise.  After Herman had organized a Fourth of July celebration and run advertisements in the program for the day’s baseball game, the other jeweler in town wrote a letter to the editor of the Globe, attacking his competitor for his advertising tactics.  Herman did not stand for this public affront and retaliated by writing a lengthy response, titled “The Truth Will Out,” that described how “Sorehead Charlie” was being unfair and that, in business, having enemies is helpful, but not at the cost of fair play.  The exchange went on for several weeks until both sides eventually calmed down.

As time passed, Herman and Belle became increasingly eager to get out of Condon. Herman did not like dealing with the recurrent diphtheria and whooping cough which a few of the area’s children.  Belle, as had been the case since they first married, wanted Herman to work less, frequently complaining about his work schedule, which often ran to fourteen hours per day. In early 1909, the final catalyst for a move came about in an unexpected fashion, when Herman’s store caught fire. The local firefighters who responded to the blaze wound up causing even more damage by breaking the store’s front window and the glass figures that were on display.  Badly shaken, Herman focused intently on relocating and, by the fall, had saved enough money to move his family to Portland.


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Back in the big city, Herman spent some time at the Skidmore Drug Company before opening up a new store on the growing east side of town.  In Portland, Herman took a different approach and got out of most of the extra lines of merchandise that he had sold in Condon – jewelry, phonographs and the like.  He did, however, add a soda fountain.

But business was slow.  Herman kept himself occupied by taking up German – Belle had been enrolled in classes at the local high school, and Herman thought it would be fun to join her as she learned.  It was also something to make him look busy when customers came in.

Herman likewise continued to encourage Linus’s growing curiosity by teaching him Latin to help supplement his budding interest in ancient civilizations.  In May 1910, Herman also wrote to the editor of The Oregonian asking for advice about books to provide for his nine-year old son’s new interests.  The editor responded by suggesting Plutarch, Herodotus, and Thomas Arnold’s The History of Rome.

Sadly, Herman did not have much time to follow up on the suggestions.  On June 11, while the rest of the family, along with Belle’s sisters, were at the Portland Rose Festival, Herman was back working when he started to get one of his stomach aches.  He went home and ate some of the roast that Belle had prepared for dinner which, as usual, helped to settle his stomach and allowed him to return to the store.

But the pain quickly returned and ferociously so. Herman collapsed and had to be carried home where he lay until his family arrived.  After seeing his wife, son and daughters one last time, Herman soon passed away, leaving Belle to care for their three young children.  He died at the age of 34, the victim of a perforated ulcer and attendant peritonitis.

The Life of Herman Pauling – Linus Pauling’s Father

Herman Pauling, ca. 1899.

Herman Pauling, ca. 1899.

(Part 1 of 2)

The son of German immigrants, Charles Henry “Carl” Pauling – Linus Pauling’s paternal grandfather – joined his father and brothers during the Civil War by enlisting in Company E of the 45th Regiment of the Missouri Volunteers.  After the war, Carl met Adelheit Blanken, who had come to Missouri with her family from Germany.  They settled in Concordia, Missouri, where they had four children: the youngest, Herman Henry William, was born in 1876.

The following year, the family traveled to Biggs, California where they settled in a predominately German community. It was here where Herman’s sister, Anne Charlotte, was born.  Herman and Anne would be the only two of Carl and Adelheit’s five children to survive into their twenties.

In 1882 the Paulings moved again, this time to Oswego, Oregon, near Portland.  Here Carl worked as an iron monger at the largest foundry west of the Rockies.  It was likewise in Oswego that Herman began to attend grammar school.  By the tenth grade, in 1890, he had grown tired of school and dropped out, talking his way into an apprenticeship with a local druggist instead.


Condon drug store, early 1900s.

Condon drug store, early 1900s.

In the late 19th century, medicine not well regulated, leaving the door open for basically anyone to come along and make whatever claims they wished concerning the efficacy of their products.  The druggist with whom Herman apprenticed taught him to avoid making wild statements and instead instilled in him the importance of the druggist’s responsibility to his customers. This professional ethic was closely bound to the practice of careful preparation of extracts, compounds, ointments, tinctures, oils and other products.  By his nineteenth birthday, after several years apprenticing, Herman felt confident enough to move to Portland, where he found work at one of the largest pharmacies in the city.

The pharmacy, Skidmore Drug Company, employed Herman as a traveling salesman, his purview being a one-hundred mile area ringing Portland; he covered his turf by horse and buggy.  After a financial depression hit the country in late 1893, Herman moved back to Oswego to run his own pharmacy.  The depression led to the closing of Oswego’s massive foundry, pushing many to leave town, including the doctors and other druggists.  Pretty soon Herman found that he was only person in town who could possibly care for the sick and his reputation quickly spread.  The town was grateful for his skills and his caring disposition – as instilled by his mentor – in addition to the low fees that he charged for his consultations.  If he was particularly concerned about them, Herman would commonly visit his patients well after their original appointment, making sure that their health had improved.

Herman’s reputation spread back to Portland as well, and investors there saw him as the perfect person to open up a drugstore in the small eastern Oregon town of Condon. By this time, regulations on drug sales had begun to increase, creating opportunities for those who were well-situated to meet the new standards and get in on the emerging market.


Herman Pauling, 1902.

Herman Pauling, 1902.

Upon first arriving in Condon in the summer of 1899, Herman was not impressed.  The town center consisted of six blocks along Main Street that ran right out into the desert and wheat farms. But by the fall, things began to look up.  Just as in Oswego, his good reputation quickly grew and he became the featured guest at several town functions.  The weekly newspaper, The Globe, described “Doctor” Pauling as “a registered, reliable and experienced druggist.”

He also began to attract the attention of some of the younger women in town.  Goldie Stephenson, the oldest daughter of one of the area’s wealthier families, invited Herman over to her house to meet her sister Belle.  The two immediately hit it off and soon could be seen talking to each other at many of the town’s community dinners and dances.  By Christmas, Herman had proposed to Belle and she immediately accepted.  Herman had business to attend to back in Portland soon after, and so had to be away from his fiancé for a brief time.   This gave him the opportunity to express his love in letters.  In a valentine that Herman wrote to Belle, he confided

Dear love, when life’s storms are raging fiercely I offer you my arms as your protection, and you can trust in their fond yet firm embrace.  When in after years the cares of home and motherhood bear upon your mind you shall find me ever an able assistant and benefactor.

Herman even wrote her a poem:

A maiden fair with jet black hair/ Her heart beats kind and true/ She confides in me her every care/ This maid with eyes light blue.

Herman and Belle married on May 27, 1900 at the Congregationalist Church in Condon.  (Herman was raised as a Lutheran, but was quite willing to adapt to Belle’s Congregationalist upbringing.)  Trouble struck quickly however as, only weeks after the wedding, the Portland investors that had backed Herman’s initial move to Condon pulled out of the venture, leaving Herman scrambling to look for a new job.  Herman had to settle for a clerk’s position at a pharmacy in Portland and the newlyweds found a small apartment near Chinatown.


The young father with his infant daughter, Pauline, and slightly older son, Linus. 1903.

The young father with his infant daughter, Pauline, and slightly older son, Linus. 1903.

Newly married, Herman worked as hard as he could to support his new bride. Meanwhile, the entertainment and shopping possibilities in Portland gave Belle new realms to explore that were unavailable in Condon.  Belle was also pregnant when they arrived in Portland; Linus Carl Pauling, Belle and Herman’s first child, was born at the end of February 1901.  Herman was thrilled to have a son and worked even harder to provide for his growing family.  But this left Belle alone much of the time to take care of Linus on her own.  Only nineteen years old, the young mother was still drawn to the possibilities of the city.  But her feeling of being stuck with the children continued to grow as Pauline was born in August 1902, and Lucile on New Year’s Day 1904.

When Herman was home, he would take Linus for walks around the neighborhood to try to wear out the energetic toddler.  The two wandered through the shops and Herman’s charismatic little boy drew the attention of neighborhood merchants who taught Linus to count to one-hundred in Chinese, a talent that garnered a measure of celebrity for the little boy as he displayed his counting skills for passersby.  Belle sometimes joined Herman and Linus on their walks, and the family often visited a nearby water fountain.

Herman continued to look for a better job and eventually found one in Salem as a traveling salesman for the jeweler and druggist D. J. Fry.  By October 1904, the family had moved into their new house in Salem.  For his job, Herman traveled up and down the Willamette Valley, sometimes seventy miles in one day, still using a horse and buggy.  With Herman away even more, Belle was left to care for the children in another new town, and she quickly made it known that she was not happy with their situation.  In his correspondence with his wife, Herman’s replies are directed at a better future; one where he would own his own drugstore and could provide Belle with more luxury than she had thus far known in their married life.

Young Love

Ava Helen Miller with Linus Pauling, 1922.

Ava Helen Miller with Linus Pauling, 1922.

[An excerpt from Ava Helen Pauling: Partner, Activist, Visionary, by Dr. Mina Carson – now available from the Oregon State University Press.]

As a senior Linus Pauling was quite clear about what he wanted to do – Chemistry – and where he was going – to graduate school at Harvard, Berkeley, or the new California Institute of Technology – until his infatuation with Ava Helen briefly threatened to derail his life project. Occasionally he wavered. “Up until the time you came into my life,” he told her, “my work was sufficient for me.” Perhaps he should marry her right away, work for a while to save money for graduate school, and follow his dream later? He worried about her being idle or anxious; he nursed some guilt at keeping her waiting while he followed his passion.

Their mothers wanted nothing to do with an early wedding. Nora Gard Miller wanted this daughter to finish college. Belle Pauling probably wanted no interference with her own claim on Linus’s earnings, but she argued that he needed to go to graduate school and get his Ph.D. before he committed himself to this marriage. She did tell Linus’s sisters and cousins what a “sweet” girl Ava Helen was. The young couple was determined to marry, but complied with their mothers’ wishes and laid plans for several years away from each other.

As early as June 1922, just a few months after they had begun to date, they were sharing intimate details. Linus wrote not just about his reading, but also about his finances, his diet, his sunburn, and his conviction that he was getting broader across the chest.

When I stand in my birthday suit in front of my big mirror my chest seems larger than it used to be. My hips are broad compared with my waste [sic], but not compared with my chest. I have a number of rather fine dark hairs on my chest too — perhaps some day I’ll be all fuzzy. I don’t think so, though, and I don’t care to be.

Linus Pauling (second from right) with the paving crew, 1922.

Linus Pauling (second from right) with the paving crew, 1922.

From Linus’s work site in Warrenton, Oregon, that summer of 1922 Ava Helen received daily letters from her doting and busy fiance. When he wasn’t doing his paving inspector work for the state highway department, he was reading French and working physical chemistry problems supplied by his soon-to-be Caltech mentor, A. A. Noyes. A special office for the paving inspector had yet to be built at Astoria, and Linus got to oversee that project. She read letters filled with cheerful reflections on his co-workers, his chemistry problems, his hopes for the future, his successful attempt to secure a loan from his Uncle Jim (“The Miller girls are splendid women and I am quite sure this particular one will make you a good helpmate,” Linus quoted his uncle), and his overflowing love for her (“you are the dearest girl in the world”).

Although we have few of Ava Helen’s letters to Linus from this period, his own daily letters respond to hers in detail. She wrote to him about her financial worries, and he reassured her that he would share his loan and his earnings with her. For the first time in his life he felt free to spend or save the money he earned, without accounting to his mother for every dollar. A loan of $1000 from uncle Jim Campbell was earmarked for his mother and sisters, so Linus could move on to graduate school without lingering worries for them. To his future wife he reported that he had “never become intimate with my family.” Despite his mother’s high expectations of his dutiful obedience, and his own guilty feelings as he tore away, he kept a large part of his inner life barricaded away from them. Once he admitted to her that he did not help them much financially, whereas his sister Pauline did.

He was eager to protect her, too, from the careless comments of their friends, who suggested that a long separation might lead to Linus looking at other girls. “Being apart won’t make us forget each other, sweetheart – nothing can separate us in spirit.” They spent the July 4 weekend together that summer, and other evenings every so often. By the end of July, Linus’s restlessness had issued in a new plea to his beloved: Would she consider marrying this September, rather than waiting another year, or two, or three?

This query came out of the blue. The prolonged separation ahead while he completed graduate school in California and she slogged through OAC was suddenly intolerable. But more pressing even than their families’ reluctance to bless a precipitate union was the money question. Linus knew that he must do his graduate work. As he saw it, the only way to assure her lifelong happiness was for him to be “out-of-the-ordinary.” Though this sounds hilariously narcissistic now, there was wisdom in his reasoning. He needed his work to be happy: to be complete. He reassured her that, if he had to choose, he would choose her over his chemistry, but this was not always the tune he played, and fortunately for him, Ava Helen did not want him to make that sacrifice. For the next fifty years she hewed to the same standard. She relied on him to be extraordinary. The time would come when she would look back with regret at having failed to seize that kind of ambition for herself. But she did not begrudge him his fame, won by brilliance, persistence, and her own household management. She thrived on his fame.

Linus and Ava Helen with Pauline Pauling and Wallace Stockton, Pauline's first husband. 1922.

Linus and Ava Helen with Pauline Pauling and Wallace Stockton, Pauline’s first husband. 1922.

In the summer of 1922, Linus tried to figure out how much money they would need to live together in Pasadena as he pursued his graduate studies and she continued her education at one of the California universities. How much of a loan would they need to supplement his $600 stipend? He wondered if she would be willing to share a house with his OAC friend Paul Emmett, who would also attend Caltech, and Paul’s mother. He worried that they would not be able to afford a piano for Ava Helen. He knew they could hardly afford the wedding they hoped for. As he wrote, he started to talk himself out of what he knew was an impractical scheme. Yet he waited anxiously for her reply. Touching back to the vivid everyday world, he asked her about the crabs he had sent over from the coast. He returned to his fantasy.

A few days ago this would have seemed like the wildest dream. Now it seems not improbable. I’m not building my hopes high, tho, sweet. I wish you could talk it over with your mother.

Before she answered he rushed a second letter into the mail. He called himself “careless” for proposing an early marriage. “Dear heart, I so abhor mediocrity. I want our life to be wonderful.” He knew he must devote his energies to graduate study and somehow simultaneously carry out this agonizing long-distance courtship.

Ava Helen wrote back to Linus and offered a plan. They could get ahead financially if she got a job to supplement their income while he studied. He nixed that idea. “You are not equipped for work you like nor can you make a great deal.” During the last week of July Linus’s feelings racketed around like a pinball. He brought himself to the point of believing that they would certainly marry, and even planned the day of the event and the honeymoon (a night in a hotel).

Then he spoke to his mother. Onto his longing Belle poured all the cold water she could chill. Why didn’t Ava Helen’s family finance her schooling? Why hadn’t she worked over the summer? Why couldn’t she work in Oregon over the coming year? What if something went wrong in his graduate studies? What kind of gratitude would an early marriage show for the “sacrifices” his family had made for him? Surely he owed them the Ph.D. (an interesting assertion from the woman who had begrudged him his bachelor’s studies). What if poverty embittered the young couple? What if they had a baby? What if one of them fell ill? Further, the Emmetts could not provide a suitable place to live in Pasadena. Mrs. Emmett disapproved of Paul even dating before he finished his graduate work. And they too were struggling financially.

Linus Pauling and Paul Emmett: life-long friends and two of the twentieth century's greatest chemists.  Posing together as OAC undergraduates, 1920.

Linus Pauling and Paul Emmett: life-long friends and two of the twentieth century’s greatest chemists. Posing together as OAC undergraduates, 1920.

It was a litany of disasters that only a mother’s mind could marshal. Linus’s dreams were shattered. He had planned to write to Ava Helen’s mother, but now he even gave up that step.

Dear heart, I believe now that perhaps it would be unwise of us to be married….I think that my rather blind enthusiasm has caused me to forget things.

Now repeatedly he asked her not to tell either of their mothers that he was helping her out financially. The young man’s agony and the irresolution of life in two places resonates through the correspondence. Even his mother had to admit that she had “never seen a couple so completely gone on each other.” However, Linus’s unquenchably cheery disposition provided ballast. While he was being pulled apart by irreconcilable desires, he was also enjoying crab fritters, mayonnaise, malted milk, and Ava Helen’s candy. His appetite was healthy and his taste for his chemistry problems unabated. He made friends easily at the work site and enjoyed his neighbors across the hall and the woman who ran the restaurant where he ate most meals. He was not a man waffling in his love or evading his beloved, but he believed in the future and could face disappointment in the present. “We are making our small sacrifice now so that our gift to the world may be perfect.”

And Ava Helen was a woman who, for all her little-girl flirtatiousness, could cut to the heart of the matter. “It hurt me a little,” Linus admitted in a letter a few days later, “that you thot it was just because of my mother’s wishes that we aren’t married.” He wrote that he would do whatever Ava Helen wished — though he did not see how he could resign his assistantship or manage his loans. She had acutely assessed his dependence on Belle’s good opinion, and perhaps used it to poke him after her disappointment. But she also stuck to her sensible belief that they needed to minimize their financial dependence, and she too resigned herself to waiting for marriage.

Ava Helen Miller, 1920.

Ava Helen Miller, 1920.

In early September Linus detoured through Corvallis on his way to stay with his family in Portland for a few days before taking off with Paul Emmett for their big adventure at Caltech. “They are too dense to ask if I had been to see you, and I’m not going to tell them outright.” He planned to circle back through Corvallis one more time. There is an unusual break in the daily letters between September 6 and September 16, so the couple probably spent a few days together in that period of time, either in Corvallis or perhaps Portland. “Did you get to Corvallis all right? Did you cry because your bad boy left you?” Linus wrote on the 16th.

Her fiance’s description of his trip to California, and his lyrical portraits of Pasadena, the mountains, and the coast, suggest one compelling reason the Paulings made their lifelong home in California. From the beginning Linus was entranced by the state’s natural beauty and its architectural charms. Housing was expensive, though. He stayed in a hotel while he waited to move into the Emmetts’ new house, bought for $6500, which struck Linus as very high. “Our house is a beautiful little place, as are all of them here. Pasadena is lovely — there are all kinds of palms — some forty feet tall and some three feet thru. There are orange groves a hundred feet from our house, and all the way to school, and there are palms in front of the house. It is all beautiful. The pepper trees are delicate lacy things. I’m enclosing some leaves,” he wrote, sending her a bit of his new world; ” — they may lose their odor, tho.” He fantasized all year about how they would hike the hills together, and perhaps have their own little house.

ahp-bio

Ava Helen Pauling: Partner, Activist, Visionary is available for purchase from the Oregon State University Press.

Pauling110

Linus Pauling. Lecturing at the Concepts of Chemical Bonding Seminar, Oslo University, Oslo, Norway. 1982.

Today marks the 110th anniversary of Linus Pauling’s birth, which occurred in Portland, Oregon on February 28, 1901. As has become tradition on the Pauling Blog, we are celebrating this occasion by looking back at Pauling’s life in increments of twenty-five years.

1911

At the tender age of ten, young Linus was already at a crossroads in his life. First and foremost, his father Herman had died of a perforated ulcer the previous summer, thus throwing the Pauling family into something akin to chaos. Herman was a pharmacist and businessman of middling success, and his death was a source of major financial concern for his widow Isabelle and their three children, Linus, Pauline (age 9) and Lucile (age 7). From this point on, Linus’s childhood was certainly informed, if not dominated, by the continual need to contribute to the household income. His mother’s only asset of consequence was the family home, which she boarded out on a regular basis in an attempt to make ends meet. But as time passed and Belle’s own health faded, her only son was frequently called upon to assist with the family finances, leading Linus to assume any number of odd jobs, from delivery boy to film projectionist to grocery clerk.

Young Linus, ca. 1910s.

It was at this same time that the boy’s interest in science was beginning to flower. The previous year Herman had written a letter to the Portland Oregonian newspaper indicating that his son was a “great reader” keenly interested in ancient history and the natural sciences. In 1911 Pauling’s scientific impulses continued to flourish in the form of an insect collection that he maintained and classified using books checked out from the Portland library. Not long after, as with many scientists of his generation, Linus would develop an interest in minerals and begin compiling a personal collection of classified stones that he found.

1936

By the age of thirty-five, Pauling had already established himself as among the world’s pre-eminent structural chemists and was well on his way to making a major impact in the biological sciences. In 1936 Pauling met Karl Landsteiner of the Rockefeller Institute, a Nobel laureate researcher best known at the time for having determined the existence of different blood types in human beings. In their initial meeting, Pauling and Landsteiner discussed Landsteiner’s program of research in immunology, a conversation that would lead to a fruitful collaboration between the two scientists. Importantly, his interactions with Landsteiner would lead Pauling to think about and publish important work on the specificity of serological reactions, in particular the relationship between antibodies and antigens in the human body.

Linus Pauling, 1936.

The year also bore witness to a major change at the California Institute of Technology: in June, Arthur Amos Noyes died. Noyes had served as chairman of the Caltech Chemistry Division for some twenty-seven years and was among the best known chemists of his era. His death ushered a power vacuum within the academic administration at Caltech, by then an emerging force in scientific research. Three of Pauling’s colleagues cautiously recommended to Caltech president Robert Millikan that Pauling be installed as interim chair of the department. Millikan agreed and offered the position to Pauling, but was met with refusal. At the time of the proposal,  Pauling was the object of some degree of criticism within the ranks at Caltech – certain of his peers felt him to be overly ambitious and even reckless in his pursuit of scientific advance – and the suggestion that Pauling assume division leadership was hardly unanimous. Millikan’s terms likewise did not meet with Pauling’s approval; in essence he felt that he would be burdened with more responsibility but would not gain in authority. The impasse would not last long however, as Pauling would eventually accept a new offer in April 1937 and begin a twenty-one year tenure as division chief.

1961

A busy year started off with a bang when the sixty-year-old Pauling was chosen alongside a cache of other U.S. scientists as “Men of the Year” by Time magazine. By this period in Pauling’s life his peace activism was a topic of international conversation and early in the year Linus and Ava Helen followed up their famous 1958 United Nations Bomb Test Petition with a second “Appeal to Stop the Spread of Nuclear Weapons,” issued in the wake of nuclear tests carried out by France. As a follow-up, the Paulings organized and attended a May conference held in Oslo Norway, at which the attendees (35 physical and biological scientists and 25 social scientists from around the world) issued the “Oslo Statement,” decrying nuclear proliferation and the continuation of nuclear tests.

Group photo of participants in the Oslo Conference, 1961.

While Pauling’s attentions during this period were increasingly drawn to his peace work, he did make time for innovative scientific research. Of particular note was his theory of anesthesia, published in July in the journal Science. Pauling’s idea was that anesthetic agents formed hydrate “cages” with properties similar to ice crystals. Owing to the nature of their molecular structure, these cages would impede electrical impulses in the brain, thus leading to unconsciousness. In a review article published one year later, the pharmacologist Chauncey Leake described the theory as “spectacular,” though for reasons that are still unclear it failed to gain traction with the larger scientific community.

1986

By age eighty-five, Pauling’s interests centered largely upon his continuing fascination with vitamin C. Having already published monographs focusing upon ascorbic acid’s capacity to ward of the common cold and the flu, Pauling was ready to put his thinking together into a general audience book that would discuss the path to happier and healthier lives. The result was How to Live Longer and Feel Better, a modest critical and commercial success that helped bolster the reputation and the finances of the struggling Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine.

Pauling at 85.

Many of the recommendations that Pauling made in How to Live Longer… were fairly typical of most health promotion books: a sensible diet, regular exercise and no smoking. The major exception to this moderate approach was the famed author’s stance on vitamin supplementation. In biographer Thomas Hager‘s words

Pauling was now advising between 6 and 18 grams of vitamin C per day, plus 400-16,000 IU of vitamin E (40-160 times the RDA), 25,000 IU of vitamin A (five times the RDA), and one or two ‘super B’ tablets for the B vitamins, along with a basic mineral supplement.

This staunch belief in the value of megavitamins would stay with Pauling until his death eight years later, in August 1994.

Linus Pauling Day in Oregon

One-hundred and nine years ago, on February 28, 1901, Linus Carl Pauling was born in Portland, Oregon to parents Herman and Isabelle Pauling.