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To shanghai, or to crimp someone was to kidnap a man for a forced term of labor aboard a deep-sea vessel, or to trick him into a sea-faring contract in any way. In a law sense any sailor who had no soberly signed a ship's articles was considered to be shanghaied. The pratice started in England, as early as the seventeenth century but quickly spread to foreign parts as crimps' servirces was needed everywhere as a shangaid victim would soon desert and needed to be replaced.

Crimping was a shady waterfront business in any major port-town, including Portland and Astoria. Crimps ran sailor's boarding houses, saloons, marine supply stores, and brothels all in attempts to get the sailor intoxicated, sign a contract, and aboard a ship. They were paid per sailor and often collected from the sailors wages in advance.

After the men were drunk they were tricked into signing a contract and then handcuffed and taken onto the ship. Once deep out into the sea they were told what had happened and they were now sailors for the ship. The law couldn't do much against this as the men did sign contracts.

Astoria became a very popular for crimps but also lead to the downfall of the business. After the story of a man dying after being Shanghaid and jumping ship ran in "The Astorian" there was a riot against the practice. After it was outlawed and notrious crimpers started to get arrested, Astoria's population began to stabilizie and a competent police force replaced the vigilante system that was used to prevent such crimes, shanghaiing had all but vanished along the Columbia River.
Liberty Theater