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A Plot to Kill a President?

In June 1906, five years after the assassination of President William McKinley by a Polish immigrant and anarchist in Buffalo, NY, and just days after the May 31 assassination attempt against the newly married King and Queen of Spain, there was talk of a dangerous band of Polish Anarchists meeting secretly at the White Eagle to plot the assassination of President Theodore Roosevelt. 

The story, fueled by a local media frenzy that approached mass hysteria, was picked up by the national press, which declared in mid-June 1906 that Portland “is becoming one of the worst centers of Anarchy of Russian origin.”

On June 18, 1906, officers raided the White Eagle. Though neither co-owners Hryszko or Sobolewski were arrested, Sobolewski was misidentified in newspapers as a leader of the radical group.Authorities were poised to revoke the White Eagle’s liquor license, and even more drastic, deport any immigrants found to be members of the anarchist group. 

The situation seemed hopeless, until help came from an unlikely source -- the news media. The Oregonian and The Evening Telegram each sent a reporter into Lower Albina, the bustling multi-ethnic, blue collar North Portland riverfront neighborhood in which the White Eagle operated, to interview Sobolewski and other leaders of the alleged Anarchist group. The result, the first rational and objective reporting done on the subject, effectively calmed the public’s fears and probably prevented a grave miscarriage of justice against innocent men (see clipping), deeming them instead “a patriotic band of Poles.”

 The baseless scandal seems to have died down quickly as calmer heads prevailed. No longer fearing deportation, the White Eagle partners went about establishing deeper roots and improving their business situation. Just under a year after the assassination plot accusations, on June 4, 1907, Daniel H. Harnett of Portland sold the land (on which Sobolewski and Hryszko’s White Eagle stood) to the bar owners for $2,600. Financing for the purchase came partly from the Weinhard Brewing Company -- it was common for large breweries in the day to offer loans like this to small tavern owners so they could furnish their bars and also serve that brewery’s products at the bar.

Due to a brisk business at the Eagle, the mortgage was released less than eight months later on January 30, 1908.

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