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Archive for the ‘This Day in History’ Category

On this date in 1903, Bob “Forest History” Hope was born in London, England. His career in comedy spanned 60 years and moved from the Vaudeville stage to radio and film and eventually television. He appeared in more than 70 movies, most famously in the “Road” series with his pal Bing Crosby, a fellow tree enthusiast. Readers of a certain age may remember Bob’s many television specials in which he’d refer to himself in the third person and use the name of his sponsor as his middle name, as in “Hi! This is Bob ‘Texaco’ Hope…” So we thought we’d share the few items we have of Bob “Forest History” Hope with you.

This first item appeared in the Advertising Council’s “The Campaign to Prevent Forest, Woods, and Range Fires in 1948″ booklet sent out to magazines and newspapers. It contains sample ads like the one below and Smokey Bear posters that publications could order up and use for free. Why was Bob Hope used? We know that he was one of the most popular celebrities in the country at that time, but we don’t know of a direct forest connection. The booklet says that “to attain high reader interest we use famous people in our newspaper ads” as attention getters and wrap “a serious, pointed story” around them. That information page shows Bob, Bing, and (we think) Jack Benny as their examples. (Leave your guess in the comments section!)

1948 campaign celebs

Bob Hope Fire Prevention ad 1948

Bob Hope Fire Prevention ad 1948.

The second item is from 1950. It appears that Bob was caught backstage somewhere and forced against his will to hold the sign with Woody while his picture was taken. Note the mop or broom handle behind him. The caption with the photo (FHS5978) reads:

Bob “Keep America Green” Hope takes time off from his tour through the Lake States to display this fire prevention poster, designed by American Forest Products Industries for use in schools. Bob holds the national version of the “Keep Green” reminder that was localized for the various states.

Bob Hope (FHS5978)

Bob Hope with Keep America Green poster.

The photo below was taken when Paul Searls, “the living Paul Bunyan,” appeared on Bob’s highly-rated radio show in 1954. Paul was the world champion log-bucker and an employee of Weyerhaeuser Timber who competed in lumberjack competitions and toured giving demonstrations and promoting tree farming. Paul also appeared on the television show “You Bet Your Life.” In the center is actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, who’s famous for being famous, kind of the Paris Hilton of her day (coincidentally, Zsa Zsa was married to Paris’s great-grandfather, Conrad Hilton.)

Bob Hope, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Paul Searls

Bob Hope, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Paul Searls in 1954.

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On this date in 1933, the Timber Engineering Company (TECO) was incorporated  in Washington, DC, as a “national sales promotion, engineering and research agency for wood and forest products” by the National Lumber Manufacturing Association. While that organization later became the National Forest Products Association and later still the American Forest & Paper Association, TECO hasn’t changed names or its mission in the 80 years its been operating (though it has changed hands several times, as is nicely documented on their own history page. Oh, that other companies would provide such useful historical information about themselves—well done, TECO!)

Since 1934, much of TECO’s work has focused on making timber a strong and appealing construction material that can do more than steel or other metals. Its first product was the “split-ring connector,” which was “used in the assembly of heavy timber trusses in building construction,” according to their history page. The connector, the rights to which were purchased from a German manufacturer, allowed the assembly of massive timber trusses used in the construction of blimp hangars, ships, bridges, and buildings, and the occasional oddity such as ski jumps in football stadiums. TECO later moved into plywood research and production and claim to have manufactured the first particleboard in the U.S. Their research and products were critical in the defense industry during World War II era and the construction boom that followed the end of the war.

TECO blimp hangar

Blimp hangars like this one became possible because of TECO’s split-ring connector.

One lesser-known product of TECO’s is the forgotten forest history character, Stickee Staystuck. He was introduced in 1953 in a series of posters citing the “do’s and don’t’s” in successful laminating that were distributed nationwide. But little is known about him, at least to us. It was only by accident that we learned of this character when Eben stumbled across an advertisement with Stickee in it. And despite all the materials we have about TECO (the National Forest Products Association records, the Wilson Martindale Compton papers, TECO Company files in the FHS Library, and TECO subject file in the FHS Photograph Collection), we have almost nothing about this awkwardly named guy. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why our crack research staff (again, mostly Eben) could only turn up that one advertisement with him in it: his name doesn’t roll off the tongue—it twists the tongue. More precisely, it sounds as if you have glue on your tongue. In fact, we’ve been referring to him around the office as “Stickee Sam” or other sobriquets because they’re much easier to say and involve less spittle. His name alone may be why he’s gone the way of Howdy, the Good Outdoor Manners Raccoon. If it’s not easy to say or remember, it won’t, ahem, stick.Stickee Staystuck, the awkwardly named character

Another reason he’s not known to us today is pure conjecture. He isn’t mentioned in the two documents about the founding of the company written just four years after Stickee’s debut available on the company’s history webpage, which, if it’s an indication of his lifespan, says a lot about him. Even for the more freewheeling days of the 1950s, long before the phrase “sexual harassment” was ever uttered in the workplace, you got to admit that Stuckee was a bit over the top, as seen in the cartoon below.

Stickee, we hardly knew ye.

Stickee, we hardly knew ye.

We congratulate the Timber Engineering Company on 80 years of great work. And while this is the 60th anniversary of Stickee’s debut, it’s doubtful that TECO will be marking that anniversary.

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As the Lewis and Clark expedition made its way through the beautiful, rugged area he would name “the gates of the rocky mountains,” Meriwether Lewis recorded in his journal on July 19, 1805: “this evening we entered much the most remarkable clifts that we have yet seen. these clifts rise from the waters edge on either side perpendicularly to the hight of 1200 feet.” The rain storm, complete with hail and lightning, that had struck earlier at 1 pm could explain his description of the area: “every object here wears a dark and gloomy aspect.” While it’s easy to read foreshadowing into that quote, the “dark and gloomy aspect” we today associate with the Gates of the Mountains was also caused by lightning.

The call came in on the morning of August 5, 1949, from a fire lookout 30 miles away. A lightning storm the day before had rolled through and started a fire. The lookout reported smoke coming from the Gates of the Mountains wilderness area. At 12:30, a spotter plane flew over Mann Gulch and confirmed the fire. With most of the local firefighters tied up with two other fires, smokejumpers from Missoula were dispatched. By 3:10, 16 men (15 smokejumpers and 1 fire watch guard who had hiked in to help) were on the ground gathering up equipment and preparing to fight the fire in what they expected to be a routine job. Less than 3 hours later, 11 men were dead and two were dying from severe burns. In many ways, the suffering was just beginning.

Had it been a routine job, I wouldn’t be writing about the Mann Gulch fire today: those 13 men killed wouldn’t have passed into Forest Service and smokejumper lore; few if any would have heard of writer Norman Maclean, whose meditation on the deaths of the young men trapped by the fire still moves people from around the world to visit Mann Gulch and see where “the four horsemen” and the others fell that day. The friends and families of the dead would not still be mourning.

More than 60 years after the fire, LG Walker, a retired doctor from Charlotte, North Carolina, was on the boat tour of the Gates of the Mountains. Where the tour boat docks in Meriwether Canyon now stands two memorials to the men of Mann Gulch. Here Walker learned that Silas Raymond Thompson Jr.—a Charlotte native—was among those killed. He had never met Thompson. After sharing this bit of news with his friend Dan Morrill back home, the two started investigating how a young man from Charlotte had met his death in Montana. They were intrigued by how all these years later, Raymond’s friends and family (nobody who knew him called him “Silas”) were still haunted by his death. His death devastated his parents and still affects his sister’s life. Walker and Morrill soon realized that a tragedy fire has many dimensions, and set about making a documentary film in order to better understand the impact and legacy of the life of Silas Raymond Thompson. While other documentary films on Mann Gulch focus on the event and its impact on the Forest Service, “Death at Mann Gulch” attempts to capture how it affected one man’s community.

Raymond Thompson markers in Mann Gulch, taken in 2010 (courtesy of the author)

Of course, Charlotte was not the only community affected by what happened in Mann Gulch. In a small town in central Pennsylvania, the family of smokejumper Leonard Piper has also done its part to preserve that young man’s memory. His personal papers were recently donated to the local historical society (photocopies of them are now here at FHS). Though Leonard was buried in nearby Stahlstown, descendents of the Piper family gather every year in Pine Ridge Park outside of Blairsville, Pennsylvania, where he grew up, “for a family reunion and to remember a fallen hero, Leonard Piper.” The impact of his death is such that his story and a mention of the family reunion has a 3-page spread in “The Insider’s Guide to Indiana County Parks & Trails,” where that quote comes from. Mind you, there’s no memorial marker in the park. But Leonard Piper’s death still resonates enough in this town to warrant such a gesture. And these are the two families I know about.

Leonard Piper’s marker. This photo also appears in the Indiana County parks and trails guide.

What is it about Mann Gulch that continues to hold or capture the attention of so many? Our “This Day in History” blog post on what happened in Mann Gulch is our most viewed post; my initial post from three years ago sharing my impressions after visiting Mann Gulch ranks third and is one of our most commented upon posts. Certainly Maclean’s Young Men and Fire is a major contributor to the continued interest. Tragedy has its own attractiveness; witness the continuing fascination with sinking of the Titanic 100 years later. Yet few tragedies hold our attention like that of Mann Gulch. It is understandable why it might for the families of those who died. But I suspect that after those who knew the men killed are gone, the Mann Gulch Fire will continue to cast a spell. For me, the pull is personal: I’ve visited the site twice; I participated in the making of the film “Death at Mann Gulch” and contributed the photo of Piper’s marker above to the county’s guide; and I interviewed William “Bud” Moore, who was with crew chief Wag Dodge when he died and was consulted by Maclean when he was writing his beautiful elegiacal work. I could speculate about why it holds the attention of others, but I want to hear your thoughts on this. Why are you interested in Mann Gulch? Do you know of other families that continue to honor their loved ones like Leonard Piper’s does? If so, how do they do it?

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On this date in 1894, a group of men with water and property rights along the Wisconsin River reached a monumental agreement. The group decided to combine their holdings in order to build dams and consolidate water power in the area around Grand Rapids and Centralia (the two towns would later merge to become Wisconsin Rapids). The formal articles of organization were officially signed and dated twelve days later, and the Consolidated Water Power Company was born.

Consolidated Articles of Organization

Consolidated Water Power Company, 1894 articles of organization (click to read full document).

The early years of the company were wracked with disagreements over the allocation of funds, and it wouldn’t be until after the turn of the century that the ultimate direction of the company would emerge. The company’s success would eventually be found in papermaking, a shift in focus which can largely be attributed to George W. Mead.

Born in Chicago in 1871, Mead graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1894, the same year Consolidated was formed. Mead was drawn into the company in 1902 by his ailing father-in-law, Jere Witter, a banker who owned considerable shares in Consolidated. Following Witter’s passing that year, Mead arrived in Grand Rapids to temporarily assist the company. Originally planning to stay in the area for only two weeks, Mead ended up as a resident of Grand Rapids and a permanent fixture in Consolidated’s company history.

Along with Nels Johnson, manager of the Grand Rapids Pulp and Paper Company mill in Biron (and another shareholder of Consolidated), Mead helped lead a new project: the construction of a large paper mill along with a planned dam on the Wisconsin River. The new Grand Rapids dam with attached paper and pulp mill was completed in 1904, beginning its operations with the world’s first electronically powered paper machines. By that time the company’s name had already officially changed to Consolidated Water Power & Paper Company (the name would later change again to Consolidated Papers, Inc.), Mead had taken over permanent direction, and business was on the verge of taking off.

While the company experienced major growth over the following decades, accessible pulpwood supplies in the area eventually began to dwindle. In 1930, Stanton Mead (George’s son) attended an American Forestry Association meeting in Minneapolis to learn more about the growing field of forestry.  There he met a forester named Emmett Hurst and came away impressed.

A few months later, Stanton Mead hosted a private forestry conference at his family’s fishing camp in Markton. Mead invited several notable figures in the field of forestry to the August 1930 gathering, including renowned forest researcher Raphael Zon, Forest Products Laboratory head Cap Winslow, and regional forester E.W. Tinker.

Mead Forestry Conference

Mead Forestry Conference, August 1930. You’ll find a report of the conference in the list of further readings below.

Mead used the assembled group to help determine the best direction for a potential forestry policy for his company. Zon advocated both buying second-growth forest land and adopting more sustainable partial-cutting practices (rather than the clear-cutting practices still widely used at the time). Mead took the advice to heart and decided to adopt a formal forestry program for Consolidated.
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Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” Steven Spielberg’s beloved film about an alien visitor who befriends a young boy; it’s also the film that gave us the catch phrase “Phone home.” As faithful readers of this blog know, we love films from the ’80s nearly as much as forest-themed films. Because “E.T.” was such a hit, naturally talk soon thereafter began about making a sequel. It’s recently come out that Spielberg’s sequel idea had evil ETs coming to Earth and capturing Elliot, then holding and torturing him for information about his friend, who is their nemesis. There was also discussion of a sequel to the novelized version of the film in which E.T. communicated with Elliot through brain wave messages.

Fortunately, a sequel never happened. And I know why. It’s because those two ideas don’t work independently. In my sequel, I combine elements of both. It’s 20 years later and Elliot, who lived near the woods where E.T. originally had landed, has grown up to become a logger. E.T. senses that Elliot’s unhappiness and loneliness is growing worse because Elliot misses E.T. but keeps trying to forget him. That time with E.T. is proving to be the highlight of his life. We see requisite scenes of Elliot in misery: his wife leaves him for an anti-logging protester, he’s about to get fired, he flips through a scrap book with clippings of The Big Adventure, he drinks too much.

So instead of brain wave messages, E.T. begins communicating with Elliot by leaving messages in the trees his human friend cuts for a living. Given that E.T. was a botanist collecting samples when his team was scared off and left him behind, it seems only natural that he communicate through this medium. The first message is delivered the day Elliot is fired. The simple reminder of Elliot’s little friend—his face on a disc cut from a log—goes unseen by Elliot and is accidentally sold to a customer who then shows it off to the local news. Elliot sees the disc on TV, but so do the government agents who had tried to capture E.T. when he first visited. They take Elliot into custody and begin interrogating and torturing him for information. E.T. comes back and helps him escape, then hijinks and chases ensue, and his wife reunites with him. Fast-forward to the end, and the agents who were holding guns as E.T. and a young Elliot and his friends flew overhead on bikes are now protesters holding axes as E.T., Elliot, and his fellow loggers roar past them in logging trucks. Roll credits.

Below are the first publicity photos from the film “E.T.: I Pine for You” (alternative titles include “E.T.: Invasive Species,” “E.T.: Friendship Rings,” “E.T.: A Tree-mendous Friendship,” or “E.T.: Woodsy Pal”.) Okay, maybe the photos are really from page 64 of the June 1983 American Forests magazine. And maybe it’s Ora Best of Eunice, Louisiana, holding a camphor-tree log. But who’s to say this wasn’t E.T.’s way of communicating with Elliot?

Ora Best holding ET tree

Ora Best holding a message for Elliot

ET the extra-terrestrial tree

E.T.: The Extra-Tree-restrial?

 

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On this date in 1962, the Rev. Archie Mitchell was seized by the Viet Cong, bound in front of his wife and daughters, and taken away from the leprosarium where they were working near Buon Ea Na, Vietnam, never to be heard from again. This was the second wartime tragedy for Mitchell. Seventeen years earlier almost to the day, his wife was one of six people killed by a Japanese balloon bomb—the only deaths in the mainland United States caused by a Japanese attack.

Japanese fire balloon of mulberry paper reinflated at Moffett Field, California, after it had been shot down by a Navy aircraft January 10, 1945. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Japanese balloon bomb program has become part of American smokejumping lore. During World War II, the Japanese sent balloons across the Pacific Ocean with incendiary bombs attached. The idea was that the devices, which typically carried four incendiary bombs and one anti-personnel bomb, would land somewhere in a wooded area, explode, and start a forest fire that would then tie up critical firefighting resources. Moreover, the threat from these devices, they hoped, would cause panic and terror to spread whether or not they started a fire. In all, more than 9,000 balloons were launched by Japan but only about 100 are known to have reached the continent, with one reportedly reaching Michigan. No fires were attributed to the bombs. And because the American press cooperated with the federal government and did not report the balloons, the Japanese never heard of any working and assumed that the program had failed.

To some extent, though, the balloon bombs had the desired effect. When the balloons first appeared in 1944, federal officials feared they might carry anthrax or other communicable diseases. The U.S. Army responded to the possibility of forest fires with Operation Firefly. As part of that program the government trained and dispatched conscientious objectors and the first all-black battalion of paratroopers, the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, better known as the Triple Nickles, to do battle with the aerial menace. Their training included demolition of unexploded ordinance. The Triple Nickles never fought a bomb-created fire but did participate in 36 missions and made 1,200 jumps.

It was the issue of unexploded ordinance which led to the first of Rev. Mitchell’s tragedies. He and his wife Elsie had taken 5 children from his church to picnic and fish on land owned by the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company within the Fremont National Forest. When Mitchell reached an impasse in the road, he dropped off his passengers and proceeded to turn the car around. Mrs. Mitchell called out to her husband that she and the children had found something and to come see it. By coincidence a road work crew led by Richard Barnhouse, who was operating a grader, was there as well. Barnhouse could see the children formed in a semi-circle but couldn’t see what they were looking at. Elsie Mitchell called out two more times. Mitchell responded, “Wait a minute, and I’ll come and look at it.”

Just then there was a terrific explosion which shook the ground for a considerable distance. Needles, twigs, and sticks flew through the air, some of which were later picked up near the grader. Barnhouse immediately stopped the grader, which was about 150 yards from the explosion, and both he and Mitchell ran to the scene. Four of the children were dead, part of them badly mangled, another died immediately, and Mrs. Mitchell died within a few minutes. None were conscious after the explosion. Mrs. Mitchell’s clothes were on fire, and Mr. Mitchell immediately put this fire out….

When Barnhouse and Mitchell first arrived at the site, the balloon bag was stretched out full length over some low bushes with two of the shroud lines handing from a stump about ten feet in height. Parts of the mechanism and bomb were scattered quite thickly over an area ninety feet in diameter and fragments from the demolition bomb were found as much as 400 feet away. The balloon was complete and very little damaged, but it was estimated by the military authorities from its weathering, mildew on the paper, and other evidence that the balloon had been there for a month or more. [Melva Bach, History of the Fremont National Forest, pg. 207-208]

On August 20, 1950, the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company dedicated a memorial to those killed by the bomb. In 1998 it turned the land over to the federal government to be included into the Fremont National Forest (now the Fremont-Winema National Forest). The site is now part of the Mitchell Recreation Area and is on the National Register of Historic Places. At the time of the dedication, Rev. Mitchell had been living in Asia for three years.

The plaque on Mitchell Monument reads: “Dedicated to those who died here May 5, 1945 by Japanese bomb explosion: Elsie Mitchell, age 26; Jay Gifford, age 13; Edward Engen, age 13; Dick Patzke, age 14; Joan Patzke, age 13; Sherman Shoemaker, age 11. The only place on the American continent where death resulted from enemy action during World War II.” (FHS1370)

Within two years of losing his wife, Mitchell married again and the couple moved to Asia and eventually made their way to Vietnam to serve as missionaries. They were working at a facility for treating lepers when the Viet Cong showed up on the evening of May 30, 1962. The VC seized three Americans—Dr. Eleanor Ardel Vietti, Mitchell, and Daniel Gerber, a 22-year-old volunteer—looted the facilities, harshly reprimanded the Vietnamese for working with the Americans, and disappeared with their captives. Mitchell’s wife and four children were spared only because the other three promised to fully cooperate. Betty Mitchell stayed at the leprosarium until she was taken captive in 1975, along with six other missionaries, by the Viet Cong. All were released 10 months later. Archie Mitchell, Dr. Vietti and Daniel Gerber are still listed among the 17 American civilians who went missing during the Vietnam War.

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Below are some documents from the “Japanese Fire Balloons” file found in the U.S. Forest Service History Collection. On May 31, 1945, the federal government authorized release of information about the balloons in hopes of preventing further harm to the general public. The first document is an article printed in the June 1945 Forest Log, a journal published by the Oregon State Board of Forestry. It gives an excellent description of how the balloon bombs worked.

An oral history interview was conducted in 1966 about Operation Firefly. The first 10 pages of this document offer a good overview of the program. Click on the image to read it.

Firefly Project document

This next document is the letter sent from the forest supervisor to the district ranger about how he handled the incident.

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On this date in 1922, the Agricultural Appropriations Act of May 11 made the first appropriation for the improvement of public campgrounds in national forests. The bill made special reference to the protection of public health and the prevention of forest fires. The U.S. Forest Service received $10,000. What’s most surprising about that amount is that’s what the agency actually suggested it needed in the chief’s annual report the year before—and then they actually received it!

The bill was passed during the first recreation boom. The automobile and a bit of leisure time were both widely available following World War I. With several national forests located not far from urban centers, the forests were attracting campers in increasingly larger numbers. A 1922 study of the 960 campgrounds in the national forests revealed that more than a million people used them annually. Those numbers were expected to keep increasing as the 1920s roared on.

Though the Forest Service had constructed and opened its first campground in Oregon in 1916, the sheer volume of visitors after the war forced agency leaders to recognize two things: facilities were needed to properly dispose of all the litter and human waste being generated, and an uneducated public represented a fire hazard. In developing new campgrounds and improving existing ones by adding “public-comfort stations” that made available “a few simple sanitary conveniences,” the Forest Service argued that neophyte campers would be less inclined to go “into more remote places and [build] dangerous camp fires, as inexperienced people are likely to do,” but rather would “stop at those improved spots and thus greatly decrease the danger of destructive fires.” According to testimony given in support of the 1922 bill, the agency “has been forced into the recreation business as a means of taking care of the public.” It was build facilities or “make it unlawful for the public to enter the national forests,” an alternative they didn’t desire. The money would be used “in part for the preparation of camp plans and the simple construction necessary for sanitation and fire protection,” i.e., clear parking spaces, construct outhouses and fire rings, and level tent sites.

The request for money came at an important time in the history of recreation on federal lands. The National Park Service had been established in 1916 over the objection of Forest Service leaders, who felt that the parks should fall under their jurisdiction because of their timber holdings. Critics of the Forest Service felt otherwise. They argued that, like in the case of Hetch Hetchy, the Forest Service didn’t want to preserve land but develop it. The debate over the mission of the two agencies can be seen throughout the testimony, with one congressman questioning why “the Forest Service is duplicating practically everything there is in the national parks and specializing in promoting competing projects.” Chief William Greeley had to explain that there was no competition between the two, with associate forester E.A. Sherman adding that most of the visitors were local travelers “of a kind that would not reach the national parks.”

At the same time that the Forest Service was struggling to meet demands for recreation it was also developing its position and policy on wilderness and primitive areas. Two years before, the agency had decided not to develop Trappers Lake in Colorado at the behest of Arthur Carhart, and in 1924 the Forest Service would declare the first wilderness area, the Gila in New Mexico. The debate over wilderness aside, recreation grew in importance during the 1920s as the recreation boom took off. In 1923, the Forest Service received $20,000 for improvements and then nearly double that amount the following year. That was the same year that the agency included it as a line item in its annual budget for the first time—a sign that the agency was fully committed to recreation as both policy and practice.

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The Forest History Society Photograph Collection features numerous images of recreation on national forests, including over 300 historic photos of camping and campgrounds. These photos and others can be accessed through our searchable online image database. A selection of recreation photos has also been highlighted on the FHS Flickr pages. Below you will find a few examples of photographs documenting national forest campgrounds through the years.

Camping at at Lolo Hot Springs.

Tourists camping at Lolo Hot Springs on Montana’s Lolo National Forest, 1920 (FHS973).

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