Pauling’s Freshman Diary, Part 2

diary title

In part one of our look at Linus Pauling’s Oregon Agricultural College diary, we covered the genesis of document as well as a few of the young Pauling’s more interesting entries. Today, we’ll discuss some of subjects most prominently occupying Pauling’s thoughts both before and after he left for college. Although Pauling undoubtedly had much to think about during this time, a few specific topics dominate his entries.

First, it is interesting to note that Pauling, even at the age of sixteen, wrote in his diary with the same detailed, precise, and occasionally cumbersome prose that tended to define the more formal writings of his later life. One excellent example of this tendency is found in one of his earliest entries, written on August 30, 1917.

I regret to say that I have this minute laid my fingers on the top of the little stove in which I was burning some waste paper, and in this manner have caused the formation of blisters fully 1/3 cm in diameter on each of the four fingers of my dextrum. They are already visible, although formed only a minute ago. They do not interfere with my writing, but pain me considerably.

Another particularly interesting example is dated September 6, 1917.

The more I look at myself in the mirror the more peculiar my physiognomy appears to me. I do not look at all attractive, but I am a prejudiced judge. I already have faint horizontal wrinkles in my forehead, and my upper lip projects to an unnecessarily great extent. I must remember to restrain it.

[For the sake of comparison, see Pauling’s account of a hallucination experienced some fifty-seven years later.]

Although other entries along these lines do make appearances, the majority of Pauling’s writing before he left for O. A. C. is focused on his various jobs. In particular, the teenager details time spent working at a movie theater named The Echo, his short stint at Apple’s Meat Market, and a job in the machine shop of the Brown Portable Conveying Machinery Co. For the most part, these entries are not particularly intriguing, but do provide a nice timeline for a portion of Pauling’s blue-collar adolescence.

Business card for Palmon Laboratories, Pauling's joint venture with his boyhood friend, Lloyd Simon.

Business card for Palmon Laboratory, Pauling's joint venture with his boyhood friend, Lloyd Simon.

More interesting are Pauling’s accounts of a photograph-developing business started by himself and his friend Lloyd Simon. The first mention of this business is found in an entry dated September 5, 1917.

Lloyd, while working at the Portland Rubber Mills, made the acquaintance of Dave Beutler, who is a very good photographer; i.e., from the developing side. We three are going to install in our lab (a 14’ x 14’ structure in Lloyd’s basement), a complete developing, printing, enlarging, tinting, etc., establishment, enlarging a specialty. We will attempt to get the trade of Huntley’s and, after that, of other places. Tomorrow, I will have a business conversation with Mr. Zeigler, and will show him samples of Dave’s ability as a photographer.

In this same entry, Pauling also writes:

We are accordingly on our way to becoming firmly established in business. The company will probably purchase a second hand motorcycle for use in delivering and collecting work, and Lloyd will use it before and after school. If I get $5 to $10 a week throughout the year my college course will present few pecuniary difficulties.

The next few pages of the diary are composed of a business plan developed by Pauling and very detailed records of the company’s expenses. Unfortunately, their business seemed to never hit its stride. The last entry in which it is referred to is dated September 28, 1917. It is the last we hear of the company, even though its mention contains no talk of failure.

Pauling and friends, freshman year at O.A.C., ca. 1917.

Pauling and friends, freshman year at O.A.C., ca. 1917.

After Pauling leaves for college, his writing undergoes an understandable change in direction. Two excerpts from his first Corvallis entry, dated October 7, 1917, read:

I have a nice big room, much larger than two boys usually have. I will share it with a sophomore named Murhard, who has not yet arrived. Last night the two other boys and I killed about 50 yellow jackets there with a fly swatter. There are two rooks; one, a 20 yr. old talkative fellow, named Hofman, weight 175# and always talks about his girl, Millicent, nicknamed “Titter.” The other, Henry is a very quiet, small young man, but slightly deaf. He will take Commerce, and Hofman will take Forestry….

Last night at the train I met Mr. Johnson, and his small son. He asked me if I was new, and said he was the head of the math department. According to the catalogue he is: Charles Leslie Johnson, B.S., Professor of Mathematics. I intend to take every one of his courses offered in Mathematics.

From there on, Pauling’s diary focuses more and more on finances. Because money was very tight for him in his first year of college, most of the remaining pages are filled with long lists of expenses and strategies for making ends meet.

Amidst the ledgers, there remain a few compelling entries that allow us to glean telling information about the make-up of young Pauling. In an entry dated October 10, 1917, he records:

I’m getting along all right. Cleaned the fountain today and serpentined with a couple of hundred other rooks to the football field, where we yelled for O.A.C. and sung some songs. We then marched to Waldo hall and sang “How green I am” to a crowd of inmates. We were guarded by about 20 sophs.

And in one of the diary’s final passages, dated October 29, 1917, Pauling reveals himself in a manner duplicated by untold numbers of diarists throughout the generations.

Saturday (two days ago), I went to work at Kincaid’s chopping word. I saw Irene at 8 o’clock in morning. I saw her again once during morning. In afternoon she went to game. About 6:30 I called her up and asked her to go to the show. She consented, and I got up some speed getting ready. We went to show and to A’s & K’s. Sunday I stayed away all day, then called her up about 6 and went to Presbyterian church with her. I do not know whether she likes me or not. I hope she will go to Lyceum with me Sat. night. I must remember to reserve seats for it. Then we will have reserved seats for all Lyceums this year. She is the girl for me. She is 17 years old and is about 5’5” tall. She is rather light and fragile. On account of lack of strength she is taking a special course in Dom. Sc., together with stenography. She lives with her uncle and Aunt, Mr. & Mrs. Kincaid. They have been in Corvallis about 4 months, having lived in Eugene before. She said she had never gone with anyone for over six months, but I will show her. I must not, however, monopolize her. She has pretty curly hair. Her last name is Sparks. I must be as nice as possible to her.

Overall, much of Linus Pauling’s diary helps to prove the point that his adolescence was anything but typical. However, a select few entries also show that beyond all his extraordinary characteristics, he still had the feelings and concerns typical of a young man.

For more information on Linus Pauling in Oregon, check out our Oregon 150 series. For general Linus Pauling information, please visit the Linus Pauling Online portal.

Oregon 150

Pauling’s Freshman Diary, Part 1

Linus Pauling’s childhood and adolescence would not be classified as typical, especially by today’s standards. From a very young age, his life was largely defined by an immense interest in his education and an incredible work ethic. On top of devouring every book he could get his hands on, breezing through his normal school work, and engaging in free-time scientific pursuits, Pauling was also forced to spend his days working. By the end of his high school career, he had worked well over half a dozen different jobs.

Fortunately Pauling was also able to find time to participate in activities that were considered more normal for his age. He enjoyed playing outdoors – especially as a young boy – and wreaked his fair share of havoc in the small wild-west town of Condon, Oregon. He also spent time visiting friends and family. And at the age of 16, he began writing in a diary.

Pauling’s diary, or the OAC diary as it is known here in Special Collections, begins with a single file folder annotated with the word “diary” alongside Pauling’s signature. The first entry, dated August 29, 1917, gives some insight into the reasons why he decided to start recording his thoughts.

Today I am beginning to write the history of my life. The idea which has resulted in this originated a year or more ago, when I thought of the enjoyment that I would have could I read the events of my former and younger life. My children and grandchildren will without a doubt hear of the events in my life with the same relish with which I read the scattered fragments by my granddad, Linus Wilson Darling. This ‘history’ is not intended to be written in diary form or as a continued narrative – rather, it is to be a series of essays on subjects most important in my mind.

Regardless of his intentions, the document does take on diary form, and in the next few pages more entries written by Pauling are intermixed with various items that were apparently of some importance to him. One such item is a newspaper clipping of a wedding announcement for Mrs. Linus Vere Windnagle. Pauling’s rationale for saving this seemingly random clipping is found a few pages later when he writes:

This [is] from today’s Oregonian. I will save all reference to any Linuses or Paulings.

Another notable item is a business card from “Palmon Laboratories,” the independent chemical research company that Pauling and Lloyd Simon attempted to launch with when they were only fifteen years old.

Flipping through the pages of the diary, one finds that Pauling recorded many interesting nuggets of information from his earlier life. One undated page is entitled “Tentative Resolutions” and is comprised of a list of Pauling’s goals for his first year at Oregon Agricultural College.

I will make better than 95 (Mervyn’s record) in Analysis (Math). (I made 99 6/11 % in Analytic Geom.).  [Pauling’s older cousin, Mervyn Stephenson, also attended OAC.]

I will take all the math possible.

I will make use of my slide rule.

I will make the acquaintance of Troy Bogard.

I must go out for track and succeed.

Certain of these resolutions are best explained by looking at other entries in Pauling’s diary. For example, this excerpt from an entry dated Sunday, September 16, 1917, explains why Pauling feels that he must track down Troy Bogard.

Mr. Benedict, of the Pacific Scale and Supply Co., after a trip to a place where he was to set a scale, said that at some town he had seen a young man, with whiskers, dirt, and ragged clothes, whom he had thought to be a tramp, but who was an O.A.C. student working in the harvest fields. He told him about me, and the young man said for Mr. Benedict to tell me to look him up at Corvallis. Bennie could not remember my name, never having known what it was. The young man, whose card is in an envelope marked ‘High School Reminiscences,’ although not belonging there, was named Troy Bogard, of Woodburn, Oregon, and is a Senior in Farm Crops at O.A.C.

Pauling’s curious resolution about his slide rule can also be explained by diary notations. In another excerpt from the September 16 entry, he writes:

Early last fall, as I was crossing a field on the way to school with a bunch of boys, I found a slide rule. The other boys had stepped over the box in which it was, but I picked it up. I watched the advertisements in the daily papers for many days, but it was not advertised for. It is a polyphase duplex slide rule, made by Keuffel and Esser Co., and costing about $7.50. Its number is < 4088-3 >. It is 12 inches long and contains 12 scales.

Another entry, this time dated Friday, September 21, 1917, contains a brief mention of the slide rule.

Last winter I found a Keuffel & Esser Co. polyphase duplex Slide Rule < 4088-3 >. I will be able to use it in college.

As it turns out, Pauling did put his slide rule to excellent use – it would quickly become (and remain) his calculating tool of choice, one with which he developed an uncanny proficiency.

And of his other resolutions? As indicated by the addendum to the first, it appears that Pauling was able to handily beat his cousin’s record in Analysis. Furthermore, Pauling also took a great deal of math in his college career. Whether or not it was all the math “possible,” we do not know, though surely Caltech enabled his studies where OAC may have been lacking. As for meeting Troy Bogard, it is unknown whether or not Pauling was ever able to track him down. And finally, Pauling’s single obvious failure of the bunch was succeeding in track. Although he did try out and ran in one meet, he never actually made the team.

Make sure to check back later this week for part two of our OAC Diary post. For more information on Linus Pauling in Oregon, check out our Oregon 150 series. For general information on Linus Pauling, please visit the Linus Pauling Online portal.

Working in Oregon: The Blue Collar Adolescence of Linus Pauling

The Pauling family, 1916.

The Pauling family, 1916.

Interviewer: Have you in the past, or do you now smoke?

LP: When I was about your age or younger, I thought that it was proper, something wrong if I didn’t smoke cigarettes; so I smoked a few cigarettes.  But fortunately I was so poor that I didn’t have money enough to buy them, so I got through the danger period as a result of poverty.  It was a fortunate thing; I might well have developed this drug addiction, as the fellows call it.

-“Aging and Death,” April 8, 1960.

As a famed scientist, activist, and Nobel laureate, Linus Pauling had the opportunity to travel all over the world, acting as guest to some of the 20th century’s most distinguished intellectuals. Despite spending much of his adult life as a world traveler, jetting from one laboratory to the next, we here at the Pauling Blog like to think that he reserved a special place in his heart for Oregon. Born and raised an Oregonian, Pauling met and overcame many of the hurdles of adolescence here in our green state. For Pauling, memories of his education and work always seemed to mark his time in the beaver state. Today, we’d like to honor the famously industrious chemist with a look at his role as a blue collar worker and member of the Oregon labor force.

After the death of Linus’ father, Herman, in 1910, the Pauling family fell on hard times. Belle, Linus’ mother, sold Herman’s drugstore in Portland and purchased a home with the proceeds. There, she opened a boardinghouse and used the income from renters to support her family. Unfortunately, the boardinghouse didn’t bring in enough money and Linus, the man of the house, was sent to work.

When Pauling turned thirteen, his mother purchased a bicycle for him so that he could work as a delivery boy. He found jobs delivering milk, newspapers, and even special delivery packages for the postal service. While the delivery work did offer Pauling a chance to tour Portland and gave him plenty of exercise, it was dull and, by and large, he resented it. By now, he had discovered an interest in the sciences and the deliveries kept him away from his homemade laboratory. On top of it all, he wasn’t allowed to keep his earnings but was instead compelled to hand them over to Belle.

In the summer of 1914, the Pauling family took a vacation. Belle suffered from pernicious anemia, which kept her bedridden much of the time. In order to help alleviate the symptoms, her doctor suggested a trip to the Oregon coast, where she could get away from the stress of the boardinghouse and benefit from the sea air. Unfortunately for Linus, the summer at the coast was not to be one of uninterrupted relaxation. Upon arrival at their vacationing spot, young Pauling was sent out in search of employment. He soon found a job at a local bowling alley and spent his summer setting pins for other tourists.

After returning to Portland in the fall of 1914, Pauling was again required to find a job. This time, he was hired on at a local movie theater where he worked as a projectionist, switching out reels and monitoring the film. Pauling, who was too poor to attend the cinema as a paying customer, enjoyed the work because he was able to watch all the newest films. Unfortunately, work as a projectionist soon lost its novelty. Moreover, the Paulings were sliding further into debt and Linus was expected to contribute increasing amounts to the household income.

Salary and expenditures data, January 1920.

Salary and expenditures data, January 1920.

By this time, Pauling had aspirations of becoming a corporate chemist. It was well known that companies across the nation were paying high salaries to trained chemists capable of developing saleable products. In a fit of ambition, Pauling and his friend, Lloyd Simon, decided to put their own knowledge of the sciences to work:  the two teenagers opened a photo developing business, purchasing expired materials at bargain prices from a local supplier. Next, the two boys began going door-to-door in search of clients. A few kindly shop owners in the neighborhood agreed to send their business to the two young entrepreneurs. Unfortunately for the boys, prosperity was not to be achieved so easily. Between their lack of experience and the poor quality of the materials they had purchased, the developed photos were unusable. The business venture was a disaster and, even worse, both boys had sunk most of their own savings into it. Linus was poorer than ever.

In 1917, frustrated with his high school administrators, Pauling dropped out. He had earned enough credits to attend Oregon Agricultural College, so he decided to work instead of continue on with his high school education. For the remainder of the winter and spring, he worked odd jobs, including a brief stint at People’s Market and then Apple’s Meat Market, making eight dollars a week. Both stores were floundering though, and Pauling was soon laid off due to lack of business.

Desperate to earn money for school in the fall, Pauling took a job as an apprentice machinist under Mr. Schwiezerhoft, owner of the Pacific Scale & Supply Co. Pauling began work at $40.00 per month. He quickly proved to be a capable worker and, at the end of his first week, was given a five dollar per month raise. By the end of the month, he was making $50.00. Over the course of the summer, Schwiezerhoft began relying more and more on Pauling’s skills. The salary raises continued and, by late August, Pauling was earning $100 per month – approximately $1600 dollars in today’s economy.  Schwiezerhoft did his best to convince Pauling to stay with the company rather than venturing off to Oregon Agricultural College. He even went so far as to offer Pauling a 50% salary increase. Alas, despite the promise of a living wage and his mother’s pleas, Pauling chose to leave for OAC at the end of the summer.

Linus puts his finely honed wood-chopping skills to use. 1927.

Linus puts his finely honed wood-chopping skills to use. 1927.

By the time Pauling reached Corvallis, he was almost broke. His family had absorbed most of his earnings, and supplies and living expenses had eaten up the rest. In order to cover the cost of room and board, Pauling took on employment with OAC. He was assigned a long series of odd jobs including janitorial work, chopping wood, and butchering meat for a girls’ dormitory. The work was dull, hard, and time consuming. To make matters worse, Pauling only made $0.25 an hour and worked one-hundred hours each month. In a 1960 letter from Pauling to his son, Peter, he hints at the difficulty of this time.

I have decided that I have a little neurosis resembling the one that affected W. C. Fields. He had had such a hard time in his youth that after he got old and rich he still had trouble to keep from worrying about money. I have decided that the bad three months that I had just after my seventeenth birthday, when I was doing pretty hard physical work but not getting enough to eat because of lack of money still bothers me to some extent. Of course, Mama and I had some trouble during the first couple of years after we were married, but nothing quite so bad as this earlier three months for me.

It is easy to see how Pauling may have been dogged by his early money woes. During his freshman year in Corvallis, he was in almost constant transition between boarding houses, never having enough cash to make rent. His time was consumed by school and work without much opportunity for sleep, and he was perpetually hungry. For the rest of his life he would possess a small, irrational fear of returning to that poverty.

During the summer of 1918, Pauling was employed at a Tillamook shipyard where he worked on the construction of a 4,000-ton ship. The work was labor intensive, but Pauling earned enough to meet his living expenses. At the beginning of the following school year, he was hired on with the chemistry department as a stockroom employee, charged with maintaining inventories of supplies and mixing compounds for student use. The work was easy and allowed him to interact with members of the chemistry department, something that would prove valuable later on.

Linus Pauling working as a pavement tester. 1926.

Linus Pauling working as a pavement tester. 1922.

Pauling’s chemistry skills again came into play during the summer of 1919. Instead of returning to the shipyards, he found a position as a pavement tester with the Oregon Department of Transportation. For three months, he and his fellow workers travelled through Oregon, repairing and building new roads. Pauling’s job was to analyze the quality of the pavement being applied, making sure that the material would hold together under heavy use. Despite months of sleeping outdoors and spending his days with a group of rough, experienced, blue-collar laborers, Pauling never lost his academic persona. In true Pauling fashion, during the evenings while the other workers gambled and told stories, he studied chemistry and physics.

Though Pauling made good money working as a pavement tester, Belle was getting desperate. The boardinghouse wasn’t bringing in enough cash and Belle’s debts, including her medical expenses, were becoming unmanageable. In an attempt to make Linus responsible for providing for the family, she forbade him from returning to OAC for the 1919-1920 school year. Out of options, Pauling decided to keep his job with the Department of Transportation. Fortunately, his luck was about to turn.

In the late autumn of 1919, Pauling received a telegram from the OAC chemistry department. A member of their faculty was unable to teach during the following term and they needed a replacement. Pauling was offered a full-time position as an assistant professor of chemistry. Though it meant a $25 per month pay cut, Pauling accepted immediately. That winter, he taught Quantitative Analysis to eighty freshmen. The department was so pleased with his work that he was assigned two more classes for the following term.

That summer, he returned to his pavement testing job and in the fall, he took up a position as assistant to Samuel H. Graf, the school’s professor of mechanics. The job paid well enough that Pauling was able to meet all of his living expenses and send the remainder back to his mother. During the summer of 1922, he again worked with the road crew, zig-zagging across Oregon. By now, he had established seniority and was bringing in good money. And in the process, he had become a sort of kid brother to the rest of the crew, who admired his intelligence and seemed to enjoy his company.

Pauling returned to OAC in 1922 as a senior. At first, he started back as Graf’s assistant but was soon approached with a better offer. The chemistry staff was once again in need of another professor, and asked that Pauling teach Chemistry for Home Economics Majors. Pauling accepted and it was here, in the winter of 1923, that he met his future wife Ava Helen Miller.

That spring, Linus graduated. The next few years would be lean, with he and Ava Helen carefully monitoring their spending. But before long Pauling would find himself to be a successful and, in time, wealthy individual. Even so, as evidenced by his letter to Peter, the memory of hunger and the stress of poverty would always be with him.

For more information about Linus Pauling, please visit the Linus Pauling Online portal or check out our Oregon 150 series.

Oregon 150