The Leo Lange Postcard

Last week, I wrote about my postcard shopping in Richland, Washington, and mentioned a postcard that I’d bought written by a man named Leo Lange. There were two reasons that his postcard stood out to me from the others that I would eventually buy: 1) it had a photo of the Willamette that I’d never seen before, and more importantly, 2) he had his return address on the card, verifying that he was actually a Portland resident, rather than someone that was just visiting. Here’s the front and back of the card:

The text of the back reads:

“Portland, Oregon 1/20/12
Dear Cap. I saw a picture of your boat stuck in the ice. You should come out here where it never freezes. This picture doesn’t show the steamboats but the river is usually crowded with them. Lots of big steamers come in here too. The river is from 40 to 70 ft. deep.
Leo Lange
363 6th Street

Capt. H.J. Stewart
c/o Premier Sand Co.
St. Joseph, Mo”

As far as I can tell from the front of the card, the sailboats are about where the RiverPLace marina is now, or maybe a little further South of there. I’m basing that off of my belief that Ross Island is the left side of the background, and Marquam Hill is in the right side. I can’t find any evidence that would confirm this, but I also can’t think of any other location in town that would have that background.

When I first purchased the card, I guessed that Leo was probably from St. Joseph initially, and that he’d probably moved out here somewhere between 1905 and 1912, when the big post-Lewis and Clark Centennial population boom was going on. I imagined that maybe he was also some sort of sailor or dockworker based on his writing to his friend. The 363 6th Street address would not have been a reference to being 3 blocks from Burnside, because this was sent before the street re-naming of 1932, and would have put him closer to where PSU is now.

Resolving to find out more about Mr. Lange, I went down to the Central Library after I got back to town earlier this week. I didn’t find any “Leo Lange” in the 1912 City Directory, although I did find a “Leo Lang”, who resided at 363 6th St. I found him with the correct spelling in 1913, working as a draftsman and living at 897 1/2 E Ash, but then I couldn’t find him under either spelling in 1911 or 1914, and I got a little sad, thinking that maybe he lived here for such a brief time that I wouldn’t find anything out about him. I randomly pulled out the 1932 City Directory, but he wasn’t listed in the 1932 directory at all. Despondent, I decided to give it one more shot, and grabbed the 1928 Directory. And there he was: Leo R Lange, engineer, 602 Spalding Building, residence 687 E 32nd Ave N. He had a wife named Josephine. I wondered why I hadn’t been able to find him in 1911 or 1914, and I imagined that maybe he hadn’t moved here until late 1911 or early 1912. I checked the 1910 Directory, and after finding no sign of him, figured that my first thought must have been the case.

I was running low on time at the Library that day, so I decided to cut to the chase and see if his name was listed at all in the Oregonian card catalog. Most folks I look up aren’t listed in the catalog unless they had a published obituary; the card catalog doesn’t reference death notices. This makes looking up random past Portland residents a bit of a long shot, but with Mr. Lange, I hit pay dirt: I found his obituary from April 15th, 1932 (explaining why I didn’t find him in the City Directory published later that year). Here it is:

Leo R. Lange Well Known Consultant Here
Funeral Services Will Be Held at 3:30 p. m. Today: Widow and Sons Survive.
Funeral Services will be held at 3:30 o’clock this afternoon from the Holman & Lutz chapel, East Fourteenth street and Sandy boulevard, for Leo R. Lange, 42, past president of of the Oregon section, American Association of Engineers, and a director in the Professional Engineers of Oregon Association, who died at a local hospital Wednesday.

Mr. Lange is survived by his widow, Josephine M. Lange; two sons, Robert Ernest and Kenneth Wilson Lange, both students at Grant High School; and by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. L. C. Lange, Kansas City, Mo.; and a brother, Ernest Lange, Fairfield, Ia.

Mr. Lange was born in St. Joseph, Mo., June 13, 1889, and came here in 1911. In 1913 he went to Honolulu and returned in 1915. For the past 12 years he had been a consulting mechanical engineer.”

So there’s our man, Mr. Lange. I haven’t looked for his wife’s obituary yet, but I’m currently assuming that they met in Hawaii, because she’s listed as his spouse in all of the City Directories from 1915 onward. I hope Josephine’s obituary will provide more clues about who they were. I looked through the rest of the City Directories to-day, and saw that between 1915 and 1923, they lived in at least three different residences before finally settling in at 687 E 32nd Ave N. in 1924. The obituary raises other questions: why did he move out here? Why did he go to Hawaii? Why didn’t he fight in WWI? Why did he die so young (he was 43)? My next step is too look for his wife’s obituary, and then the obituaries of his sons. Maybe there is a grandchild out there that might have a better use for Leo’s postcard than I do.