James F. Failing family papers

Henrietta Chase Failing Henrietta Chase Failing James F. Failing house Jane Johnson (Conner) Failing Kate Whittlesey Failing James F. Failing James F. Failing and Jane (Conner) Failing and children

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Coll 799

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James F. Failing family papers


  • 1850-2009 (Creation)


3.52 cubic feet, (3 legal cases, 3 oversize boxes)

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Biographical history

James Frederick Failing (1842-1920) was a prominent Portland businessman, civic leader, and member of the early Failing family. After arriving in Portland from New York in 1853, James participated in the wholesale hardware business of J. Failing and Co. with his father, Josiah, and his brother Henry. He would later go on to become the director or Portland's First National Bank, and serve as a trustee for numerous local organizations. His children also became notable Portland figures through business and philanthropy.

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James Frederick Failing was born in New York on March 24, 1842 to Josiah Failing and Henrietta Legge Ellison. His father and older brothers, Henry and John William, arrived in Portland in 1851, followed two years later in 1853 by James, their mother, and sister, Elizabeth. James completed his education at Portland Academy, then joined J. Failing and Co. as a clerk. The company was a wholesale hardware business started by Josiah and Henry Failing at the corner of first and Oak Streets. James later became a partner at Corbett, Failing and Company. The company operated under this name for 22 years, before later becoming Failing-McCalman Company, operated in part by James's three sons.

In 1877, James Failing became a director of the First National Bank in Portland, remaining a senior director until his death in 1920. He married Jane Johnson Conner in 1880. She was born in Albany, Oregon on February 14, 1855 to merchant John Conner (1820-1902) and his first wife, Martha Mariea Bancroft Whittlesey (1827-1861). Later, John Conner married James's sister, Elizabeth Ann Failing in 1863. Jane Conner and James F. Failing had five children: Edward Josiah (1881-1936), Kate Whittlesey (1883-1971), John Conner (1886-1951), Frederick Ellison (1892-1929), and Henrietta Chase, 1895-1989). Kate and Henrietta participated regularly in Portland civic life, volunteering with numerous organizations.

James Failing and his family were members of the First Baptist Church of Portland. He was involved in the development and construction of the church's Taylor Street building between 1892 and 1893, and was both a trustee and a deacon. His daughter Kate created scrapbooks documenting the history of the church. He was also a director of the Young Men's Christian Association and a trustee for McMinnville College (later known as Linfield College), and an active member of the Oregon Pioneer Society and the Auld Lang Syne Society. Both his father, Josiah, and brother Henry served as mayors of Portland. While James never held public office, he was regarded as a prominent individual in the Portland business and civic communities.

System of arrangement

Series 1, People, includes materials related to specific individuals from within the family of James F. Failing. This series makes up a majority of the papers, and includes photographs, correspondence, scrapbooks, bills, certificates and other personal memorabilia. Also included are documents from the Failing Family Trust of Josiah and Henrietta Failing, as well as materials illustrating James's arrival in Portland in 1853. The focus is largely on the personal and family life of James F. Failing, rather than his business ventures.

Series 2, Topics, contains materials not specifically linked to an individual, but rather a topic. These include general family trees and history, Portland Academy, and the First Baptist Church in Portland.

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  • English

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General note

Online collection contains a selection of items from the full collection. More information about the full collection can be found here: http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv791838

Specialized notes

  • Citation: James F. Failing family papers, Coll 799, Oregon Historical Society Research Library

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