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Gift of Time

W. C. Cheney Americana Collection 1900-1960

In 1962, W. C. Cheney, an inventor from Seattle, WA presented President Theophilus with 17 55-gallon drum barrels on the condition that the barrels be opened in 2010.  The year 2010 has arrived and the mystery barrels have been opened. 

Who was W. C. Cheney?

W. C. Cheney, circa 1898-circa 1977, earned his living as a machine shop operator. "With drill and lathe and torch," writes Rafe Gibbs in his history of the University of Idaho, Beacon for Mountain and Plain, "Cheney was a master." He also was an inventor who applied his imagination and skill to many avocations, including astronomy, history, and photography.

Cheney's place of birth has not been identified, but according to the finding aid for the William Cheney Motion Picture Collection at the Oregon Historical Society, Cheney was a child in Oregon City, Oregon when he became interested in photography. As a youth, he discovered astronomy and mountain climbing.

In 1922, Cheney lived in Tillamook. By 1927 he had taken a wife, whose name is not known, and was living in Oceanside. The couple lived briefly in Portland before moving to Longview, Washington around 1930. Sometime in 1933, Mr. and Mrs. Cheney moved to Seattle where he still lived when he donated his Americana collection to the University of Idaho in 1961. The specific date and place of his death also are unknown.