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Posts Tagged ‘Biltmore Estate’

What began as a millionaire’s dream, a genius’s vision, and a forester’s labor is now being captured in a Forest History Society documentary film. This spring the Forest History Society joined forces with Bonesteel Films to produce First in Forestry, a documentary film about Carl Alwin Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School. Principal photography for the interviews and re-creation footage began in earnest last month, and yours truly was there to witness the excitement and action, consult a bit, and try to look like I know what I am doing.

For those not familiar with our story, George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, is where the first large-scale forest management effort was carried out in the United States under the direction of Gifford Pinchot and Carl Schenck. Schenck also established the first school of forestry in North America. Several of the nearly 400 men who graduated from his school went on to become leaders in American forestry in the first half of the 20th century. Much of the land they worked and learned on is now preserved as the Pisgah National Forest. The story of Carl Schenck and his work at the Biltmore is the focus of the film.

cradle overlook

The view from the Blue Ridge Parkway towards where the Biltmore Forest School spent the summer months. George Vanderbilt owned much of what is visible from there. (Jamie Lewis)

Director Paul Bonesteel strongly believes that including re-creation footage will draw in today’s audiences, and we couldn’t agree more. He used this technique with great success in two other films that have aired on PBS, The Mystery of George Masa and The Day Carl Sandburg Died.

Critical to that success is finding the right actors to portray historical figures, in this case, finding forester Carl Schenck (not Finding Forrester).

"Dr. Schenck" keeps a close eye on "his boys" during a break in filming while Paul checks the playback.

“Dr. Schenck” keeps a close eye on “his boys” during a break in filming while director Paul Bonesteel checks the playback. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Here's an example of pretending I know what I'm doing: showing Paul and "Dr. Schenck" the proper height to hold a Biltmore stick. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Here’s an example of acting like I know what I’m doing: showing Paul (left) and “Dr. Schenck” (right) the proper height to hold a Biltmore stick. The rumors reported on Entertainment Tonight about my having punched out Paul over creative differences are incorrect. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Paul gives “Dr. Schenck” direction for his next scene. The rumor reported in the press in 1909 that Dr. Schenck punched out estate manager C.D. Beadle is, sadly, true. (Courtesy of Bonesteel films)

We are fortunate to have the cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service and the Cradle of Forestry National Historic Site in making the filming possible. We’re using locations found throughout the Pisgah National Forest and at the Cradle of Forestry.

No shoot is too difficult for the Bonesteel team to capture. They even set up a camera in a cold mountain stream to get just the right shot. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

No shot is too difficult for the Bonesteel team to capture. They even set up a camera in a cold mountain stream to get just the right angle. No animals or camera crew were hurt in the taking of this photograph. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

As you might imagine, it takes a number of talented people behind the scenes to make the action in front of the camera look good and convincing. The folks at Bonesteel Films are top-notch and really pleasant to work with. Early calls and long days don’t dampen spirits. Not even a relentless rain storm stopped our filming interviews one day. We just moved to a new location. Fortunately, when it was time for shooting re-creation footage in the forest we had good weather.

Part of the crew watching and making sure everything runs smoothly. We needed people for wardrobe and makeup, wrangling horses, and coordinating the two cameras.

We needed people for wardrobe and makeup, wrangling horses, checking the script, and coordinating the two cameras. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

One of the things that excites us about working with Bonesteel Films is Paul’s skill in mixing traditional documentary film-making style (historical photographs and interviews with historians) with re-creation footage that works like a historical photograph brought to life. But without good interviews, the film could suffer. So we brought in one of the best at on-screen interviews, Char Miller. You may know him from such films as The Greatest Good and The Wilderness Idea.

Pinchot biographer Char Miller will be one of the featured interviews. Here Char (right) takes a break from being interviewed to pose with yours truly and Paul. Rumors reported on Entertainment Tonight that I got in a fight with Char and Paul over sartorial differences are not true. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Not all of the film will be “talking heads” and re-creation footage. This is not just a story of the people, but the story of the place. The Pisgah region and the Southern Appalachians are one of the most beautiful places in the world in my opinion. You can’t ask for a better backdrop for filming. It’s why so many Hollywood films are made there, too.

The area around Asheville, NC, is known as "The Land of the Sky" and with good reason. Here's the view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Jamie Lewis)

The area around Asheville is known as “The Land of the Sky” and with good reason. Here’s the view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Jamie Lewis)

For a few months now, whenever he gets a chance, Paul has been shooting footage that will capture and convey that beauty. He has plenty of experience doing so because of his film about George Masa and commercial work for the Biltmore Estate.

Paul works both on the micro and macro levels when it comes to capturing nature on film.

Paul works both on the micro and macro levels when it comes to capturing nature on film.  (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

One of the things you often hear about with actors and film sets is how groupies sneak on to the set to watch filming. I’m hear to tell you it’s true. We’re going to beef up security for the next round of filming. We can’t allow set crashers who then peddle gossip to the tabloids.

We eventually had security remove this interloper from the set. We think he's the source of the rumors in the press.

We eventually had security remove this interloper from the set. We think he’s the source of the rumors in the press of fisticuffs and tantrums. (Jamie Lewis)

If you’ve read this far, thank you! If you want to be a part of forest history, we’re still fundraising for the film. Please visit our film page to learn how you can contribute, and stay tuned for more news on the film.

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We asked Andy Mason of the National Capital chapter of the Society of American Foresters to share with us what he recently learned about a family with deep forestry roots.

Shirley Ann Mattoon was there on September 24, 1963, joining the large crowd that welcomed President John F. Kennedy to Milford, Pennsylvania, and Grey Towers for the dedication of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation. On this day, Gifford Pinchot’s ancestral home, was given by the Pinchot family to the American people and is now managed as a national historic site by the U.S. Forest Service. Known to her friends as “Sam,” now 88 years old, Shirley was a celebrity at the 50th anniversary of the 1963 dedication. She had many other stories to tell us about that day and her family of foresters with connections to Pinchot as we sat and enjoyed appetizers and sipped wine on a beautiful moonlit fall evening on the lawn in front of the Grey Towers mansion.

Sam Mattoon

Sam Mattoon identifying herself in this 1963 photo of President John F. Kennedy at Grey Towers. President Kennedy is to the right of the man with the camera.

Sam’s husband, John A. Mattoon, a second-generation forester and U.S. Forest Service employee, was also there in 1963 with just a few things on his mind. John worked for the national “I&E” office (Information and Education office, known today as the Office of Communication and Conservation Education), and with the chief of I&E (his boss) on assignment in Europe, John had a major role in coordinating the president’s visit and the event.

Sam Mattoon (right) with Margie Mattoon Cox (John A. Mattoon’s sister) at the 1963 dedication.

Sam Mattoon (right) with Margie Mattoon Cox (John A. Mattoon’s sister) at the 1963 dedication.

When he retired in 1983, John A. Mattoon had more than 40 years of federal service that began in World War II, when he served as a naval aviator flying a Curtiss Helldiver bomber with the 88th squadron on the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. For several heroic actions in the Pacific, he earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses and two Air Medals. He graduated from Penn State before the war and received a master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry in 1950.

Early in his distinguished natural resources career, in the 1950s, John A. Mattoon was district ranger on national forests in Colorado, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. He transferred to the Washington Office, where he worked closely with Forest Service artist Rudy Wendelin and others to help promote Smokey Bear into the icon it remains today. While in Washington, Mattoon and Wendelin also worked together to design the agency’s shoulder patch that was used beginning in 1963 until the early 1970s.

John A. Mattoon (center) with fellow employees showing off their new Forest Service shoulder emblems at the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, 1963

John A. Mattoon (center) with fellow employees showing off their new Forest Service shoulder emblems at the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, 1963

After 24 years with the U.S. Forest Service, Mattoon transferred to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and continued his work to promote conservation and educate the public about it. He had a major role in developing the advertising campaign for Johnny Horizon, BLM’s very successful symbol of the late 1960s and early 1970s that encouraged litter cleanup and brought attention to air and water pollution and other issues. He also worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and ended his federal career in the Department of the Interior working on the Alaska pipeline and the Endangered Species Act, among other issues. When he retired in 1983, his colleagues presented him with a framed simulated press release that described how he was widely admired throughout his long career by coworkers, the conservation community, and the news media for his “outstanding personal and professional integrity, unswerving loyalty, and dedication to open communication.”

Singer Burl Ives, broadcaster Arthur Godfrey, and Secretary of the Interior Wally Hickel follow John A. Mattoon (far right) at a Johnny Horizon publicity event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1970 (Photo by Jack Rottier, National Park Service)

Singer Burl Ives, broadcaster Arthur Godfrey, and Secretary of the Interior Wally Hickel follow John A. Mattoon (far right) at a Johnny Horizon publicity event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1970 (Photo by Jack Rottier, National Park Service)

The forestry roots of the Mattoon family go deep. John A. Mattoon’s father, Merwin “Chic” Mattoon, was also a Yale Forestry School graduate (class of 1914) and the second forest supervisor of the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. The Pisgah was the first national forest established under the Weeks Act of 1911 and included a portion of the Biltmore Estate, where Gifford Pinchot first put scientific forestry to work in America. The first school of forestry in the United States—the Biltmore Forest School—was also there, now preserved as the Cradle of Forestry in America National Historic Site.

John and Margie Mattoon on a U.S. Forest Service parade float, Asheville, North Carolina, circa 1930

John and and his sister Margie Mattoon on a U.S. Forest Service parade float, Asheville, North Carolina, circa 1930

“Party on Big Levels Federal Refuge—May 1939” is written on the back of this photo, along with the following identifications: “Standing (Left to Right): T. E. Clarke, Leo Couch, E. Addy, Dr. Jackson, C. O. Handley, Carl Nolting, M. A. Mattoon (tall man wearing a vest), R. M. Evans, D. J. Wooley, and H. S. Mosby. Bottom Row (Left to Right): B. C. Park, G. L. Varney, A. L. Nelson, S. P. Goodloe, Dr. H. L. Shantz, and Mr. Thornton.”

“Party on Big Levels Federal Refuge—May 1939” is written on the back of this photo, along with the following identifications: “Standing (Left to Right): T. E. Clarke, Leo Couch, E. Addy, Dr. Jackson, C. O. Handley, Carl Nolting, M. A. Mattoon (tall man wearing a vest), R. M. Evans, D. J. Wooley, and H. S. Mosby. Bottom Row (Left to Right): B. C. Park, G. L. Varney, A. L. Nelson, S. P. Goodloe, Dr. H. L. Shantz, and Mr. Thornton.”

And the family roots go even deeper. Merwin Mattoon married Marguerite McLean of Simsbury, Connecticut, Gifford Pinchot’s birthplace and early childhood home. Pinchot was close friends with another McLean family member, George P. McLean. Gifford and George were said to be “soulmates” and loved the Simsbury woods. George would gain fame as governor of Connecticut and a three-term U.S. senator. Gifford also knew George’s brother, John B. McLean; the two reportedly met in 1895 to help establish the Connecticut Forestry Association. Merwin was also personal friends with Gifford Pinchot and would fish with him as well as with L. L. Bean. Both Merwin and Marguerite Mattoon are buried in the Hop Meadow cemetery at Simsbury. William “Bill” Cox, grandson of Merwin, great-grandson of John B. McLean, and nephew of John and Sam Mattoon, lives in Simsbury.

The Mattoon family tree includes yet one more forester: Wilbur Reed Mattoon, Yale Class of 1904. Known as W. R. or “Matty,” he was one of the first extension foresters who worked throughout the South to promote farm forestry and the possibilities of growing timber in that region. He is recognized for his many publications and speeches and as one of the best writers in the Forest Service on forestry matters (from 1959 oral interview with Elwood L. Demmon, Asheville, by Elwood R. Maunder, Forest History Foundation, Inc.). One example of his work is “Forestry Lessons on Home Woodlands” (USDA Department Bulletin No. 863), issued in 1920.

Through their associations with Gifford Pinchot, the U.S. Forest Service, other conservation agencies and organizations, the Yale School of Forestry, and a love of the woods, the Mattoons and McLeans certainly had a role in shaping early forestry and conservation in the United States. Thanks to Sam Mattoon and her family, we have now quilted these two families into that rich history. Do you have a story to tell about another “first family of forestry”? Please contact Jamie Lewis, Forest History Society historian.

Andy Mason is the chairperson of the National Capital Society of American Foresters. This article was prepared with the aid of Shirley Ann “Sam” Mattoon, Bill Cox, and Margie Mattoon Cox. Tom Thompson and Karl Brauneis (both foresters and U.S. Forest Service retirees) also made important contributions to this story.

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A flash of light woke me around 3 am. I thought someone had flicked a light in the bedroom and left the water running in the bathroom. But then I remembered. I was in a tent. The running water was from the nearby stream, the flash was lightning. In that foggy no-man’s land where my brain resides when awakened from a dead sleep, several related thoughts raced through it at once: Damn, the forecasters were right after all—rain. But for how long? The entire race? Was it cold, too? Didn’t matter, I reminded myself. I was going to run regardless. I’d heard from the office Friday afternoon that the Dash for the ‘Stache had already raised $1,600 and I couldn’t disappoint those folks (the total is now over $2,000—and you can still give). I just hoped that it wouldn’t rain Saturday night, too. My last thought before drifting back to sleep was that Smokey Bear would be pleased. Our campfire was good and drowned.

cradle_tent

Friday evening’s weather was perfect for camping. Friday night’s weather was perfect for ducks.

About two hours later, I woke up to find my lower back cold and wet. Now all I could think of was the sign on the footbridge from the parking area to the campsite that warned of flash floods. My brain immediately went there—I’m about to become the subject of a freak news story, the camper swept away in a flash flood. I reached behind me and found a puddle, not a stream. Okay, maybe I won’t float away after all. But the sleeping bag was acting like a sponge and soaking up the water. I tried spinning and contorting like an acrobat to avoid the wet spot, but there was no way to escape it. It was done and so was I. I listened to the slow thwip thwip thwip of the water coming from the roof peak and on to the sleep pad for a few more minutes. The rain outside sounded like it was coming down harder than before, which meant it was going to do the same inside. I sighed as I began the process of extricating myself from the synthetic cocoon, all the while trying to avoid the puddle and wet bag. I got dressed, found my headlamp so I could see to tie the boot laces, grabbed my jacket and hat, and headed for the bathroom and then the car for a little more sleep, if I was lucky.

As I approached the car, it was light enough that I could barely make out Jason sleeping in his car. New to trail running but not camping, he had taken the forecast seriously and decided not to risk using a worn-out rain fly and opted to spend the night in his car. He was looking like a genius. Then I heard POP POP POP POP. Gunshots? At 5:30 in the morning? Who’d be hunting in this weather? Get a life, I thought. And get in the car. Wearing a green raincoat in this low light, I might be mistaken for a deer or Sasquatch’s shorter brother. I climbed in my car and shed my raincoat so I wouldn’t be sitting in another puddle. And then I heard what sounded like a large creaking door followed by WHOMP. That got my attention. I hadn’t heard gunshots—it was a tree snapping and then falling over. Oh, crap, I thought. I hope that tree didn’t just block the road. We’d never make the race.

(more…)

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The Forest History Society is excited to announce that we’re developing a new documentary film. First in Forestry: Carl Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School will be the first documentary film to examine the pivotal role that the Biltmore Estate’s chief forester Carl Schenck and America’s first school of forestry played in American conservation history. It’ll be made in collaboration with UNC-TV and the Cradle of Forestry Interpretive Association for airing on PBS stations in North Carolina and possibly around the country.

Carl Schenck in woods (FHS473)Why Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School? Established in 1898 by Schenck, it was the first forestry school in North America. Its 300-plus graduates were part of the first generation of foresters in America, many of whom became leaders in the conservation movement. And the Biltmore’s forests are the site of the first large-scale forest management effort in the United States, as well as the first land purchased under the Weeks Act. But even though the school and Schenck’s contributions to American forestry were considered important enough that the school’s buildings and grounds were preserved as the Cradle of Forestry in America National Historic Site a half-century ago, no documentary film exists about him or the school. Schenck tends to be overshadowed by his contemporaries Gifford Pinchot, Teddy Roosevelt, and John Muir in forestry and conservation history—all subjects of documentary films.

Afraid that this will be a bone-dry, march-through-time history lesson? Fear not! At the heart of any good film is tension and drama, and the history of the Biltmore Forest School and its larger-than-life founder is a story spilling over with both. Think of it as forest history’s Downton Abbey. After all, it’s the height of the Victorian Era and Carl Schenck worked for one of the wealthiest men in the country at the largest private home ever built in the U.S. How’s that for a dramatic setting. Not dramatic enough? How about: He worked at a place built by robber baron money. No? Schenck was a hotheaded forester who didn’t shy away from a fight: He argued with Teddy Roosevelt over the future of America’s forests and he so angered Gifford Pinchot that Pinchot denounced him as an antichrist! Got your attention yet? When Schenck’s boss lied to him, Schenck punched him out and got fired! Soon thereafter, World War I broke out and Schenck found himself in the German army fighting against some of his former American students!

Biltmore Estate (FHS258)

So, you ask, when can I see this epic forest history documentary? That’s where you come in. We could trade on our good looks and charm to get this made, but, frankly, that won’t get us past the opening credits. So to help kickstart our fundraising for the documentary film, we’re excited to announce another first: Yours truly, The Mad B-Logger, aka, historian Jamie Lewis, has volunteered to run the inaugural From the Cradle to the Grave 30K Trail Race on May 18, 2013, and then the next day run the Biltmore Estate 15K—a total of 45 kilometers. I’m calling this effort “The Dash for the ‘Stache” in honor of Carl Schenck’s famous mustache. You can follow my training efforts on Twitter.

dash for the stacheEach of these races takes place on the land where Carl Schenck worked and made history. We’re suggesting a minimum donation of $45—that’s a dollar for every kilometer I run—with all proceeds going to the production of the film. Of course, any donation is welcome and appreciated. But why not get a little something for your money? To become a supporter of the film, visit our Donation page. As a thank-you for giving at certain levels, we’ve established a few incentives. We have a donor who has pledged to match every dollar donated at a 1:1 ratio, so the more you give, the sooner we can begin production of First in Forestry: Carl Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School. So please tell your friends and help spread the word.

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I’ve just returned from Connecticut, where I spent time at Yale University conducting research in the Yale Forest School papers and also visited Simsbury, birthplace of Gifford Pinchot, to see the world premiere of the new film, Seeking the Greatest Good: The Conservation Legacy of Gifford Pinchot. Produced for PBS, Seeking the Greatest Good effectively weds together two different films—a biography of conservationist Gifford Pinchot with an overview of the Pinchot Institute, the organization created to not only preserve but expand upon his legacy, and its outstanding conservation projects. It’s expected to air next year on PBS stations around the country in part to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Institute. Like the film Green Fire, which is about Aldo Leopold and his conservation legacy, Seeking the Greatest Good speaks to a national audience by looking at local environmental projects; these projects serve as reminders that the conservation work begun by Pinchot, Leopold, and others remains vital and help protect what’s at stake for all of us, regardless of where we live. Be sure to look for Seeking the Greatest Good, and if you don’t see it listed, call your local PBS station and demand they air it. Also keep an eye out for local screenings or try to organize one once the film is available.

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With the trip coming just after Labor Day and the traditional end of summer, discussion turned to a forest history vacation bucket list—places to visit and things to do relating to forest history before going to that great forest in the sky. With this trip I was visiting two places I’d already checked off. The Eno home in Simsbury where Pinchot was born is now a B&B, so you can go inside, though when I did a few years ago the clerk was unaware of its connection to greatness. No matter. It’s quite lovely, as you can see.

The Eno house, birthplace of Gifford Pinchot, belonged to his mother’s family. It’s now the Simsbury 1820 House, and you can stay there. (Courtesy of the author)

The Eno house, now known as the Simsbury 1820 House. (Courtesy of the author)

The other box already checked was Yale, home to the oldest continuously operating forestry school in North America. The school was founded by the Pinchot family, and the original school building (Marsh Hall) still stands, as do the other subsequent homes to the school, including Sage Hall. Other Pinchot-related places on the list include Grey Towers NHS in Milford, PA, Pinchot’s estate and home to the Yale Forest School’s first summer camp site, now operated by the U.S. Forest Service, and of course the Cradle of Forestry in America historical site and Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, where Pinchot started his forestry career. (Be sure to read the book by the same name before going!)

But the bucket list is about more than GP or the Forest Service, though many places on that list are certainly tied to Forest Service history. As we tossed around places to visit, the homes of other great conservationists and related sites quickly came up: Aldo Leopold’s Shack in Baraboo, WI, and his boyhood home in Burlington, Iowa; John Muir’s home in Martinez, California, and his boyhood home in Wisconsin (as well as Hetch Hetchy Dam in Yosemite National Park and Muir Woods); and Sagamore Hill, Theodore Roosevelt’s home on Long Island (along with his North Dakota ranch and his Manhattan birthplace.) Some bucket list sites we’ve already blogged about—like the Pulaski Tunnel and Mann Gulch—others, like the site of the New York State College of Forestry’s experimental forest near Tupper Lake, NY, we haven’t yet. And of course I work at one of these—Peeling Back the Bark Worldwide Headquarters in Durham, NC. These are all places I’ve been. But I’ve not yet been to the World Forestry Center in Portland, OR, and its outstanding Discovery Museum; or Smokey Bear Historical Park in New Mexico, where they found the bear cub that became the living embodiment of Smokey Bear in the 1950s; or the Sawmill Museum in Clinton, Iowa, for the museum and Lumberjack Festival. I think them worthy of a place on the list. I’ve been to a TimberSports competition, which is also on the list for things to do, but haven’t been to a forest festival or visited any of these Paul Bunyan statues to celebrate the contributions of the forest and wood products industries to forest history.

Paul Bunyan statue

Paul Bunyan statue, Bemidji, Minnesota. Fear the ‘stache.

We have lots of other places and events on the list. But I want to hear from you. What sites might be found on your forest history vacation bucket list? Please share them in the Reply section and tell us why we should go there—why is it so significant that those interested in forest history would want to see it before taking that great spiritual log drive to the great beyond? Perhaps if it’s intriguing enough, like driving on Cleveland’s woodblock-paved road, your idea may become a “History on the Road” column!

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Cradle Of ForestryOn this date in 1895, Carl Schenck arrived from Germany to the United States to replace Gifford Pinchot as forester at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Three days after arriving in New York, Schenck met with Pinchot, then just 29 years old and seemingly without a care in the world. To mark the anniversary, we offer this excerpt from his memoir, Cradle of Forestry: The Biltmore Forest School, 1898-1913In it, Schenck shares an immigrant’s wide-eyed reaction to a bustling New York. The reader also gets a peek into the charmed life of Pinchot, who would later be first chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

On April 5, 1895, I passed the Statue of Liberty and was received in Hoboken at the docks of the North German Lloyd Lines by my friends and cousins, George Merck and his wife, residents of New York since 1893. They were overjoyed at my coming. Their son, George W. Merck, who as I write is a director of the American Forestry Association, was just one year old. I was taken in a horse-drawn cab, with the help of a ferry, to New York and to their residence on Eighty-sixth Street. In the afternoon George Merck drove me in a buggy through Central Park. There were thousands of buggies, and they seemed to me more admirable than any of the trees in the park and more attractive than the entire bank of the Hudson River, including the Grant Memorial. I recall that everybody craned his neck whenever a woman riding on a bicycle was seen—apparently a new sensation for New York in 1895….

On the third day after my arrival in the United States, Pinchot came to the Merck home and picked me up for a day to be spent in New York City. He was good looking. His shining black eyes and black mustache betrayed his French origin….

Gifford Pinchot appealed to me as the most lovable companion I could desire. To begin with, we inspected the city of New York, riding in horsecars, cable cars, and on the new elevated railroad. In those days electric lines did not exist. We visited the American Museum of Natural History, where we saw the Morris K. Jesup collection of native American woods. O Lo! The biggest trees I had seen in the Spessart and int he Black Forest were mere babies when compared to the gigantic dimensions of American trees. In the course of our trip we visited a large store, Rogers Peet Company, where there could be had all and everything that a gentleman might require for society, for business, or for sport. I was amazed when Pinchot selected, without askeing the prices, several sport suits, the finest touring shoes, some tents, and some fishing tackle. Obviously, he was well known at the store. He himself was clad in black, from neck to foot. Apparently he was in mourning; but his cheery eyes were in strict contrast with his mourning attire.

At noon he took me to his home, a patrician house in Gramercy Park. Upon entering, Pinchot introduced me to his father as George Vanderbilt’s new forester and added that he had invited me to have lunch with the family. Much to my astonishment, the elder Pinchot replied, without looking at me and without giving me a hand: “No, it does not suit us today; you have to take him elsewhere.” Undismayed by his father’s brusqueness, Pinchot left the house with me at once and took me to his Yale Club for lunch.

Subsequently Pinchot and I met at various places and for various purposes. Queerly, the task awaiting me at Biltmore was scarcely touched on in our conversations, which were restricted to discussions of hunting and fishing…. Seeing me off at the depot in the evening, Pinchot paid me this compliment: “Dr. Schenck, I believe you are just the right man for the position.” Then he added, “You will be forester and I shall be chief forester during your term of employment.” He had promised to go to Biltmore in the near future and to discuss with me all the problems on the spot. I was happy, indeed, to be able to work under him on the Biltmore Estate and under his responsibility.

Little did Schenck know that his “lovable companion” soon would be trying to undermine Schenck and his Biltmore Forest School, going so far as to  denounce Schenck as an “antichrist.” Want to know more about this bitter rivalry for control of the future of American forestry? Then read Cradle of Forestry today!

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One hundred years ago today, Dr. Carl Schenck, resident forester at George W. Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate and founder of the Biltmore Forest School, opened a three-day forestry fair on the Biltmore grounds.  At a time when forestry work in America was still very much in its infancy, this unique fair was designed by Schenck to demonstrate to visitors the accomplishments and possibilities of scientific management and practical forestry techniques.  Schenck’s forest festival also celebrated the 20th anniversary of forest management on the Biltmore estate and the 10th anniversary of the Biltmore Forest School.

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Schenck sent personal letters inviting close to 400 people to the fair, including several senators, governors, and the newly elected president of the U.S., William Howard Taft (for a full look at the text from the invitations, which also included a program of planned events, see this excerpt from Cradle of Forestry in America: The Biltmore Forest School, 1898-1913).  Along with these letters of invitation, Schenck also mailed to each proposed guest a 55-page illustrated booklet, A Forest Fair in the Biltmore Forest, which served as both a guide to the forests at Biltmore as well as a textbook of forestry and conservation practices.  And although no presidents, senators, or governors made an appearance, some 50 to 100 guests, including foresters, lumbermen, furniture manufacturers, botanists, university professors, and more, took part in the events of the fair.

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A group of Forest Fair attendees (from FHS Photo Collection).

The fair’s program, as designed by Schenck, featured three days of activities.  Visitors were given tours of the various forest plantations with Schenck as their educational guide, learning detailed lessons on forestry practices, planting techniques, logging operations, seed regeneration, soil composition, and more.  The fairgoers were also treated to tours of the nationally-famous Biltmore Estate nurseries and herbarium, as well as events such as a Gala Dinner, a fishing and shooting contest, and a possum hunt and barbecue.

Overall the fair was successful in demonstrating the importance of Schenck’s forestry and conservation practices to those in attendance.  Schenck and the fair were highly praised in various newspaper editorials following the fair’s completion.  An article in the Southern Lumberman commented that “this event will mark an epoch in American forestry.”

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Dr. Schenck, at right, greets Fair guests at Biltmore Plaza (from FHS Photo Collection)

The successful nature of the fair unfortunately proved to be the last high point of Schenck’s pioneering forestry work at Biltmore.  The next year, 1909, saw his fallout with Vanderbilt and the end of the original Biltmore Forest School.  Schenck’s many contributions to American forestry, though, have long outlived his time at Biltmore, and his legacy continues to be celebrated today at the Cradle of Forestry in America.

For a great overview of the Fair see Harley E. Jolley’s article from the April 1970 issue of Forest History, “Biltmore Forest Fair, 1908.”

For a look at the Fair through primary source materials, see the FHS Biltmore Forestry Fair Collection, which includes a series of full-text articles from American Lumberman (whose editor attended the fair).  Also see the FHS Biltmore Forest School Images Collection which includes several photos taken at the Fair.

To read the complete first-hand account of Schenck’s time at the Biltmore, see Cradle of Forestry in America: The Biltmore Forest School, 1898-1913.

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