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Archive for May, 2009

On this date in 1940, Washington Governor Clarence D. Martin issued an influential proclamation appealing for the positive action by all of Washington’s citizens in the prevention of wildfires.  This public proclamation would directly lead to the creation of the Keep Washington Green Association, an organization whose model was eventually copied by states throughout the country.

KWGlogo2_thMartin’s address came at a crucial time in the history of Washington and Oregon’s forests.  An increase in destructive forest fires in the Pacific Northwest during the early 20th century had culminated in the Tillamook Burns of the 1930s, a series of fires which destroyed massive amounts of the region’s timber.  These catastrophic fires led to great concern among foresters and forest industry leaders, including former U.S. Forest Service chief William B. Greeley, who at the time served as head of the West Coast Lumbermen’s Association.  Greeley publicly called for improved logging practices and more organized fire suppression.  His continued championing of these issues eventually led directly to Washington Governor Martin’s public proclamation of May 31, 1940.

KWGlogo3_thAlong with his address urging the public to embrace forest fire prevention, Governor Martin also called for a public meeting in Olympia five days later to further address the issues at hand.  At this meeting an organization was formed to create publicity campaigns promoting forest fire prevention.  Roderick Olzendam, public relations director for Weyerhaeuser Timber Company and originator of such slogans as “Timber is a Crop” and “Tree Farm,” proposed the new organization be named Keep Washington Green.  As the new organization began implementing forest fire prevention advertising campaigns and radio programs in Washington, the idea quickly began to spread.  In May 1941 Oregon Governor Charles Sprague called together 250 state leaders in Portland to replicate the program, forming a Keep Oregon Green Association.

Keep Oregon Green sticker

An early Keep Oregon Green promotional item.

Both state organizations undertook increasingly larger projects and campaigns to spread the word about forest fire prevention to the public.  Grassroots community-focused plans were established, as well as the production of dramatic radio presentations, newspaper features, and various promotional items.

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When the Red River Lumber Company installed electrically operated mills in California, logs could be devoured “faster than a small boy devours a cookie.”  At the prospect of keeping the mills supplied with enough lumber to match the incredible processing speed, logging contractors shook their heads and said, “Send for Paul Bunyan.”  Or so claimed William B. Laughead, former lumberjack, artist, and freelance advertising man.

In 1914, Archie D. Walker, Secretary of the Red River Lumber Company, employed Laughead, his cousin, to develop an advertising campaign for the company’s new Westwood, California mill.  As Laughead recalled in a FHS-sponsored oral history interview, Archie

… said that an idea he wanted to get over was that “we’re operating in a big way out here so we have a big production, and it will be a reliable source of supply for wholesalers and buyers to hook up with. That’s the idea that we’ve got to sell – not only to our old customers in the Mississippi Valley but the new territory we’ve got to break into, east on the Atlantic seaboard, that we’ve never had contact with before. We want them to know it’s the same kind of pine that they’ve been using, and that we can handle business in a big way with a big manufacturing capacity out there.” So I said to him, “That’s kind of a big message to get over in a short time. Maybe we could get ahold of some kind of a slogan that would tie us up with the old traditions of the eastern white pine and carry them right over into the West. They’re getting the same thing.”

The two men tossed around ideas.  Finally, Walker suggested the folk hero Paul Bunyan, stories of whom circulated forestry camps, especially in the Great Lakes region.

Paul Bunyan first appeared in print in 1906 but languished in relative obscurity until Laughead’s efforts for the Red River advertising campaign.  Reporter James MacGillivray had gathered stories from lumber camps and added his own touches, which eventually culminated in an unsigned story, entitled “The Round River Drive,” that appeared in the June 24, 1910 Detroit News Tribune.  Four years later an unknown poet set MacGillivray’s “The Round River Drive” to verse in the April 25, 1914 issue of American Lumberman magazine.  (More detailed coverage is available in “The First Paul Bunyan Story in Print” from the October 1986 issue of the Journal of Forest History.) Appearing only in local newspapers and lumber trade journals, the prose and verse forms of “The Round River Drive” recorded the Paul Bunyan legend for its traditional audience.

Laughead, however, has been credited with catapulting the little-known folk hero to American national idol.

In the William B. Laughead Papers, FHS holds a copy of the first edition pamphlet, Introducing Mr. Paul Bunyan of Westwood, California.  Laughead created the characters on the second row (left to right): Brimstone Bill, Big Joe, and Johnny Inkslinger.

FHS holds a copy of the rare first edition pamphlet, "Introducing Mr. Paul Bunyan of Westwood, California," in the William B. Laughead Papers. Laughead created the characters on the second row (left to right): Brimstone Bill, Big Joe, and Johnny Inkslinger.

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We’ve asked Jim Mackovjak, author of the forthcoming FHS book, Tongass Timber: A History of Logging and Timber Utilization in Southeast Alaska, 1804-1960, to share his thoughts on his recent cross-country bike trip and his time here in Durham. Around our office he has earned the nickname “Lawrence of Alaska” for his ride through the American desert.


When I left San Diego on my bicycle trip across the country two months ago, I envisioned evenings spent camped behind roadside billboards and nourishing meals of road-killed animal parts that, cooked over an open fire, would invariably taste like chicken. Not really. But though I had done little planning, I knew which way to go: head into the morning sun and keep Mexico on my right. Despite the facts that I had not trained at all and my equipment was very basic (though sound), some 50 gallons of Gatorade and five and a half weeks later I arrived safely in St. Augustine, Florida, none the worse for wear.

The hot, southern tier of the United States is not my customary environ. I hail from the small town of Gustavus, in southeast Alaska, where I have resided for forty years. Southeast Alaska’s climate is a bit harsh, but it is truly a region of great natural abundance, both terrestrial and marine, and offers a stark contrast to the three deserts I crossed. The bicycle ride was a lark, something I had wanted to do since I was a teenager, but work and family responsibilities had always prevented. These days, I do contract writing and my wife teaches school, and our three children are grown and off pretty much on their own. I made time for the trip.

Some of the stretches through the deserts were long, hot, and lonely, and, in my own small way, at the end of a day’s riding I felt like Lawrence of Arabia emerging from the desert on a bicycle. The first real trees I saw along the route, a juniper-like species in the hill country of Texas that reached a size that would at least provide a modicum of shade, were a welcome sight. I relished the increasing amounts of greenery as I journeyed east. I understand the importance of the pineries of the southeastern states to our nation’s wood supply, and the plantation forests, with their neat rows of evenly-spaced trees, were of great interest to me. But constantly feeling the need to push east, I never made a serious effort to learn more about them firsthand. I nevertheless enjoyed the shade they provided.

Jim Mack traveling in Texas. Trees took on a new significance to him as he biked across the country.

Jim Mack traveling in Texas. Trees took on a new significance to this "Lawrence of Alaska" as he biked through three deserts.

One question that I often asked myself while pedaling along was: What am I learning? I’m still not sure what the answer is, other than the fact that I had the strength and stamina to complete the trip.

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The six new photo galleries added to our website today feature well over 200 historic photos further documenting the work of loggers in the field.  The first four new galleries relate to the bucking and limbing of cut timber, the process during which loggers removed branches and then sawed the felled trees into fixed-length sections.  This process was historically done using axes and crosscut saws:

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Eventually, modern power saws were developed that could be used effectively by loggers for the bucking and limbing work.  Power saws and chainsaws were of course also adopted for the felling of timber as well.  The other two new photo galleries document timber felling using power saws and the larger two-man power saws.  These galleries provide an excellent visual record of the early field use of power saws for logging operations.

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For more on the history of loggers and power saws, read “A Lesson from Nature: Joe Cox and His Revolutionary Saw Chain” by Ellis Lucia from the July 1981 issue of Journal of Forest History.  This article looks at the many mechanical and technological experiments and innovations that went into the development of power saws over the 19th and 20th centuries.  The article focuses on Joe Cox, who laid the foundation for modern chainsaws with his saw design during the 1940s modeled after the jaws on timber beetle larva.  Cox patented his unique design and in 1947 founded his own company, the Oregon Saw Chain Corporation, which is still in existence today as the Oregon Cutting Systems Group, the world’s leading manufacturer of cutting chains for chainsaws.

Visit all of these new photo galleries:

And for additional topics, browse our previously posted subject galleries, or search the FHS Image Database.

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Each year, the first full week of May marks North American Occupational Safety and Health Week. Created by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE), along with a partnership with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the week is intended to promote the prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses, and to raise public awareness of occupational safety issues.

In honor of this year’s North American Occupational Safety and Health Week, which runs from May 3-9, Peeling Back the Bark would like to feature a few relevant items from the Rudolph Wendelin Collection.  Wendelin, the artist behind Smokey Bear, created a large number of workplace safety flyers for the U.S. Forest Service from the 1930s through the 1970s.  He also collected Forest Service safety flyers created by other artists.

Below you’ll find just a few selections from a folder of safety illustrations that can be found in the Wendelin collection.  Click on any of the images to view a larger version.

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"Temptation" safety flyer by Rudy Wendelin.

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