Writing Home: Commentary
12. Jeff W. Hayes, "Portland, Oregon, A.D. 1999"
Jeff W. Hayes (1858-1917) was a businessman who helped bring the telegraph to Portland in 1882 as an agent for Western Union. He wrote about business and technology, but much of his writing could be categorized as booster material in support of his adopted town. In addition to being a businessman and promoter, Hays was also a utopian—in large part because he felt that technological innovation and political reform would usher in a golden age in the Northwest (Segal 1978). Hayes thus could be counted a “utopian entrepreneur”—a relatively rare species, but one that fit easily into the broader radicalism of the region during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Northwest had more than its share of the utopianism that flourished in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Hayes’s principal utopian contribution to Northwest literature was “Portland, Oregon, A.D. 1999,” a story that first appeared in 1913. He framed this tale so that it resembled Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888). The main character is an elderly woman who has seen Portland in the year 1999 and returns to the city around 1911 to offer “prophecies” of how life would change. Her predictions emphasize how technological change and social reform produced a sort of Christian socialism that would make Portland a nearly perfect city. Note how people of color are described at the end of the included text. In a chapter not included here, Hayes’s prophet envisioned a truly utopian transformation—doctors, lawyers, and ministers who work not for themselves but for the public good as defined by city commissioners (Hayes 1913:15).
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