Historical Programs by Tom Laidlaw

Tom has developed a versatile series of programs on Northwest History, both in character and straight lecture. The talks are amplified by many audio visual aids, maps, charts and modern Power-Point presentations. Programs  of any length can be developed, from 20 minute mini talks to multi day courses. Presented here are the most asked for programs, but Tom can adapt almost any part of the talks listed to your specific needs.  Call Tom at 360-695-4824 to discuss your program requirements.

Pacific Northwest History

William Cannon (30 - 45 minutes)
William Cannon
is Tom's signature character. He was a member of the Overland Astorians, who walked across the country in 1811 to help found Astoria, OR,  at the mouth of the Columbia River. Even when England took over that settlement in 1813, Cannon stayed on to work with the Hudson's Bay Company when they built Fort Vancouver as the headquarters of their Columbia Department. He is credited with building the first gristmill and sawmill in the Oregon Country. At times he was a free trapper and was the first American to go through Puget Sound with James MacMillan in 1824,  the Central Oregon Coast with Alexander MacLeod in 1826, and first American over the Siskiyous into California, with Peter Skene Ogden in 1827. He was one of the voters for Oregon's Provisional Government in 1843.

Cannon's long life and involvement in so much of American history allows Tom to tailor his talks for many types of groups from the Boone Society to DAR to Lewis and Clark to Fur Trade to Oregon History to Washington History. He has legitimate connections to all of these themes. More about  William Cannon

Peter Skene Ogden (30 - 45 minutes)
Of all that lusty band of mountain men who roamed the forests and streams of the Far West in the early days of the nineteenth century, none trapped more beaver, laughed louder, played wilder practical jokes, fought harder, or left his name on more places he discovered and explored than did Peter Skene Ogden.  (California Historic Quarterly  vol XIX) In this sketch Tom becomes Ogden and relates his great adventures as a major force of the Hudson's Bay Company working out of Fort Vancouver. When adapted for schools the story tells the whole process of the fur trade, with children acting out the parts of trapper, trapper's wife, Fur Trader, ship captain, and even the beaver.
More about Ogden.

Columbia River Exploration (Part 1; 45-60 min. * Part 2; 30 min.)
earn about the search for the Northwest Passage and the four mariners who had the opportunity to be the first to enter the Columbia River and give it its name. Part 2 recounts the stories of the three major land explorers who were looking for the Columbia river and the way to the China trade. This great River of the West was and still is very important in transporting goods from the interior of the country to the Orient. It is the closest thing to a Northwest Passage within the continent of North America, and its discovery touched off a controversy which several times had England and the United states on the brink of war. The story is full of irony and through it you will understand that America's Pacific Northwest might have belonged to Canada.

Again, the story can expand and contract to fit your schedule. At its most complete it is 75 - 90 minutes, with maps, charts, and the magic of Powerpoint. For children it is simplified, with kids playing the parts wearing various hats appropriate to their characters.

These first three programs are often combined into a full day for Elderhostel's "Adventures Afloat" programs: Columbia River Exploration in the morning, Peter S. Ogden conducting a tour of Fort Vancouver, and William Cannon telling his amazing story in the evening. A full day of Pacific Northwest History.

Westward Expansion

Lewis and Clark (45-90 minutes)
HE object of your mission is to explore the Missouri River and such principal stream of it as, by it course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregan, colorado or any other river may offer the most direct and praciticable water communication across this continent for the purposes of commerce." Tom brings Meriwether Lewis and the expedition to life by involving the audience. They read the real letters that passed between Lewis, Jefferson and Clark. They become members of the expedition by using tools or wearing expedition style clothing. Much of the program is ad lib and tongue in cheek, but with good history behind the invented and spontaneous conversations.

In addition to this program Tom has pulled out of the journals certain thematic materials and created short pieces about them. They serve as handouts for his many Elderhostel trips and step-on performances.The Transportation of Lewis & Clark , William Clark, Master Grafittist, and  the Return Split-up. These are available for download at Essays.

After Lewis and Clark (30-45 minutes)
Appearing as himself, Tom tells of the next era spawned by Lewis and Clark, the fur trade. Concentrating on the Pacific Northwest he brings into focus John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company, the Northwest Company, and the Hudson's Bay Company, as Great Britain and the United States vie for control of the Oregon Country. He brings the story up to the fulfillment of Jefferson's Dream, a mere 40 years to the day after the signing of the Louisiana Purchase.

Mountain Man Stories and Tall Tales (45 minutes)
early days of the 19th century a new creature was brought forth on the face of the earth. His name was Mountain Man. He spent the winter in the wilderness and the summer in debauchery. He dressed in animal skins and ate buffalo tongue, beaver tail, roots and berries. And sometimes his own moccasins. His job was to trap beaver to make hats and fancy clothing for the fancy ladies and gentleman of Europe. His best friends were his gun and his pack mule. He took an Indian wife and took on native ways. And he usually smelled like beaver bait. He would meet with hundreds of others at a Rendezvous each summer and trade his furs for needed supplies. Needless to say the supplier made all the money.

He is gone now, like the beaver he relentlessly trapped in the Rockies and its streams and valleys. But his memory lives on in city and place names all over the country, for it was his exploration that conquered the wilderness and made possible the westward expansion of the United States by way of the Oregon Trail. Hear the stories of John Colter, Jim Bridger, Hugh Glass and many others. Learn how they lived, trapped, partied and died. (30-45 minutes)

Missionaries (45 minutes)
1832, so the story goes, four Flathead Indians traveled to St. Louis, looking for the Red-Haired Chief (William Clark). In their contact with the white fur traders they had heard about the "White Man's Book of Heaven", which would teach them how to live right and please the creator. In this sketch Tom appears as Provisional Governor George Abernethy telling the story of the first Methodist Mission in Oregon, that of Jason Lee. Abernethy, himself, joined that mission in 1840. Learn how Lee became more of a colonizer than a Christianizer, and how his mission school became Willamette University. (30-45 minutes)

The Shoemaker and the Tea Party (45 minutes)
Appearing as Revolutionary Patriot George Robert Twelves Hewes, Tom uses Hewes'  first hand account to tell of the Boston Tea Party and other events leading up to the Revolutionary War. Hewes was also at the Boston Massacre, and participated in hanging effigies of the hated Stamp Act collector.

Tour Historian Services
Tom is also available as a traveling historian or step-on guide for your motor coach tour or RV Caravan

Download Printable Programs Page [Adobe PDF] [Word]

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