Olson’s Butcher Shop, circa 1915

Olson’s Butcher Shop. Believed to be Bernard Olson behind the counter with an unknown man in the foreground, circa 1915. A clipping on the back of the photo indicates that the Olson family had a shop in Montavilla, and were “prominent for many years in the meat industry in Portland.”


City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A2004-002.6808

City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A2004-002.6808


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16 thoughts on “Olson’s Butcher Shop, circa 1915

  1. Maybe sand? Although sawdust is easy to come by here, it would be more of a mess to clean up if blood dripped into it than if it were sand.

  2. I thought butcher’s used sawdust on the floor for odors. Suppose those cedar boughs lacing the walls weren’t Christmas decoration, but for odor control too?

    Maybe that explains the look on their faces.

  3. Besides butcher shops, some bars and restaurants used sawdust on the floor. Jacob Wirth’s restaurant, in Boston, did that until it contributed to a fire in 1975.

  4. A minor point. Technically the product on the floor is ground wood. It had a absorbent quality without the “dust”. In addition it provided some traction under foot even when mixed with fat. It was usually ground from hard wood, alder was common locally and sold by the gunny sack.

  5. Thanks, Rod. One of the things that made us wonder if it were sand was that it seemed finer than sawdust. Your comment explains that!

  6. a dollar says the saws read “s. birkenwald butchers’ supplies portland, ore.” i have a few of those at my workbench.

  7. The only Olson butcher in the 1916 directory I can find is Emil, at St. Vincents. A Bernard Olsen is listed, but as an electrician. Whoever Bernard Olson was, he didn’t leave many footprints in the directories I have or on Ancestry…

  8. I lived in Australia for many years in the 80’s and 90’s. I loved my butcher shop and yes, it had sawdust on the floor. I remember my butcher saying it made the surface safer and easier to clean. Butcher shops are still a regular feature today. Although I’m a vegan, I loved Australian meat. It really was wonderful. Far superior to our corn-fed, feed-lot herds. These guys look like they knew what they were doing. Isn’t that a pound of ‘ground round’ on the counter?

  9. It’s Bernhard with an “H”. In 1931 burglars attempted to break into his shop at 1374 Union ave, N. He was asleep in the back room. Upon hearing them he grabbed a pistol and started firing but the gun wouldn’t fire leaving some awful lucky burglars to escape. In 1911 a Mr. Fred Olson “butcher” was treated for blood poisoning at a local hospital.

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