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A customer recently found a vintage “Bull Run Portland’s Sparkling Water” poster at an estate sale, and asked us about its history via Facebook. They guessed correctly that it dates to the 1980s, specifically the Mayor Ivancie Era.
Since this history is already documented in the second edition of Water: Portland’s Precious Heritage, we’ll just share an excerpt from the book, pages 150-51:
Marketing Bull Run
The ten years under Frank Ivancie’s direction were momentous ones for the Water Bureau. Ivancie’s leadership also produced a couple of less significant, though still noteworthy, events. In his term as mayor, Ivancie’s agenda focused on economic development and he wanted to use Portland’s superior water as part of a strategy to market Portland as a business location.
Bottled water was just coming into vogue in the early 1980s, primarily sparkling water along the European model. (The ubiquity of bottled still water, which does not have to meet the same water quality standards as municipal supplies, and produces tons of disposable plastic containers, was a later development.) Ivancie directed the Water Bureau to bottle Bull Run water, hoping it would create a niche in the designer water market. Privately, bureau staff groused about the project, as it added cost, diverted staff from other work, and perhaps most importantly did not really provide Bull Run quality water. The water came from Bull Run, true enough, but in bottling it and carbonating it, the chemistry changed, and it just wasn’t as good.
Undeterred, Ivancie used “Bull Run in a bottle” as the centerpiece of a Portland marketing campaign that extended to the 1984 New Orleans World’s Fair. The theme of the fair was “The World of Rivers – Fresh Water as a Source of Life.” Ivancie had Bull Run posters printed, and he commissioned a mobile sculpture that featured flowing water in something of a Rube Goldberg creation to be the drawing point of Portland exhibit at the fair. The Southern Pacific 4449 “Freedom Train” made the trip from Portland to New Orleans, promoting Portland and Bull Run water at every stop. Ivancie sent three employees to staff the World’s Fair booth for three days, but it produced no leads for economic development. In the meantime, Ivancie had been upset in his re-election bid by tavern owner and political newcomer J.E. “Bud” Clark. Ivancie’s defeat, and principal completion of the decade-long changes to the Water Bureau’s physical and financial infrastructure, ushered in a new era.
Frank Ivancie pours a glass of bottled Bull Run water, photo credit The Oregonian.
Thanks for the Facebook comment that spurred this post!
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