From old-timers to tourists, everyone has seen it around town.
A circular icon with “Bend” written in the center. From shirts to trucks, to Christmas ornaments. It’s a classic branding logo.
But little did I know, it’s not a logo – it’s an emblem. Straight out of the dreams of one man.
An early pioneer in Central Oregon founded a thing called The Bend Emblem Club.
“Which was a group that was formed around 1912 by a man who had come to town by the name of William Chaney,” says Kelly Cannon-Miller of the Deschutes Historical Museum.
“He was flush with money that he had made in the oil industry and he saw Bend as his next business venture. He wanted to form this club that was equal parts Chamber of Commerce – commercial club type organization, but also had a healthy fraternal side to it where it was a brotherhood of businessmen, of the time, to create a great thing, in this little tiny spot of Bend, where the train had just arrived.”
Chaney and his compatriots had seen what the arrival of the train had done for other areas and knew that when it finally made its way, life would never be the same.
“Once the train came in 1911, it was kind of game on for Bend history,” she said. “There were all these resources here, but you know, resources are only good if you can get them to market in the way our economy works.”
“So, the move came, and they started building on the river and all things were possible. Including agriculture. You could come, and you could homestead, and you’d be able to turn the desert into a blooming Garden of Eden, and the train would take your products off-market.”
The men looked at what happened up in rival Washington state when the train arrived and decided that they wouldn’t rest, until they had accomplished the same. Vowing to wear the emblem every day until they crossed the finish line.
“They came up with the number 100,000 for population, and they were basing that on what happened when the railroad came to Spokane about 10 years earlier. The railroad had gotten to Spokane WA and their population exploded to 104,000 in a really short time period.”
“So doing the math on the number of years it took Spokane to reach that they thought, “OK we will hit a population of 100,000 people in bend by 1937.”
And they were only off by a little over 80 years. As Bend only recently reached that number in 2019.
But you can’t say they didn’t have fun trying.
“They would get these groups of businesspeople from Seattle and Portland, load them up on the train and bring them down into Bend and take them on tours. They would start by staging a train robbery, where they take all of their stuff on the way down, and then give them back their wallets when they got here.”
“But their biggest exploit was a trip. They tried to convince the businesspeople that Lava Butte was erupting. They had sent one of their members up on top of Lava Butte and strapped explosives and bags of flour, to try and create this big plume and freak them out that Lava Butte was erupting. It didn’t go quite how they planned.”
Sadly, that event was a bit indicative of the club’s relationship with Lady Luck, and after just a handful of years of trying to put Bend on the map, The Bend Emblem Club faded into the sepia tones of time.
“Bill Chaney invested all of that money, wholeheartedly, into The Emblem Club. He bought Drake lodge. That was their clubhouse, for lack of a better word. He paid for stationary. He paid for booklets to be printed and sent out all across the country, encouraging people to come here.”
“He paid for the train extravaganzas, all of that stuff, and within only about five or six years, his fortune was gone and the emblem club folded and he had to go back to work in the oil industry.”
And ultimately Bill Chaney left the emblem to the people…with one request.
“In his rules for the group, he did specifically say that it should be always in a royal blue and gold lettering. So those are the traditional colors for the emblem. But you’re free to print it and use it, because it is public domain. “
Ah, but before you go out and start using it on bulk mailers, there’s one thing you ought to know.
“There is a copyrighted version if it’s a lowercase N that is copyrighted by the city of Bend.”
So just in case, be sure to use upper case.