The Odd Case of the “W” in Oregon Free Press

Oregon Free Press

Oregon Free Press. (Oregon City, OR.) August 19, 1848, image 1.

The Oregon Free Press, published for only a year in 1848 by George L. Curry, is the second oldest newspaper in the state. Originally an employee of Oregon’s first published newspaper, the Oregon Spectator, Curry began the Free Press after a falling out with the editor. However, the periodicals curious amount of inconsistencies with the letter “w” is perhaps one of the more interesting nuances of this early Oregonian newspaper.

Starting up a newspaper during the early pioneering days of the Oregon territory was no easy feat, and Curry struggled with acquiring the supplies he needed. As a consequence of the difficulty of acquiring goods and services, the letter “w” in the Oregon Free Press has a variety of forms.

Pictured in the clippings below, the letter ‘w’ has either been formed by a normal piece of type, two ‘v’s’, or whittled out of wood by Curry himself.

Oregon Free Press. (Oregon City, OR.) June 3, 1848, Image 1.

Oregon Free Press. (Oregon City, OR.) June 17, 1848, Image 1.

Oregon Free Press. (Oregon City, OR.) June 17, 1848, Image 2.

Oregon Free Press. (Oregon City, OR.) June 17, 1848, Image 2.


The press in which Curry printed with was at one point owned by Catholic Missionaries operating in the Oregon Territory. The variations in the letter “w” can be attributed to its seldom use in French, the common language the missionaries printed in. Thus Curry, forced to accommodate for the lack of “w’s” used a combination of the above methods in his newspaper editions.

The Oregon Free Press offers fascinating insight into the struggles pioneers faced in the early years of Oregon. To read more about this newspaper title, check out ODNP’s essay on the paper here You can also read full issues of the title on our site here.

Written in reference to:

Turnbull, George S. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland, OR: Binfords & Mort, 1939.

Posted in Project Highlights, Uncategorized

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