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A parade, a pageant, and Paul Bunyan. These may not be the first three things that come to mind when you think about fire prevention, but residents of Mason County, Washington, back in 1945 had their own unique ideas. To help combat the destructive wildfires in the region — while also promoting the importance of forests to the local economy — Mason County hosted a forest festival in the spring of 1945. The festival featured a parade through downtown Shelton, a beauty pageant, a Paul Bunyan impersonator, and various other events and activities. The idea proved even more successful than imagined. This weekend Shelton hosts the 69th annual Mason County Forest Festival, which still prominently features a parade, pageant, and Paul Bunyan, just like back in 1945.

Paul Bunyan leads parade (FHS773)

Wayne Allen as Paul Bunyan leads the parade through Shelton, 1954.

The history of Shelton is closely tied with the history of logging operations in the area. In 1853, Michael T. Simmons built the first sawmill in Mason County on Mill Creek just south of present-day Shelton. Around this same time, David Shelton (the town’s namesake) staked a settlement claim on a nearby inlet off Puget Sound. As the town grew, its connections to the forest industry only strengthened. Sol G. Simpson came to the area and founded the Simpson Logging Company in the 1890s. The Simpson Company would eventually grow and expand throughout the country, but Shelton served as an important center of operations for much of the following century. The area was also notable for being the home of the Shelton Cooperative Sustained-Yield Unit, which became active in 1946 and ended in 2002.

The first Mason County Forest Festival in 1945 honored the area’s logging history by showcasing the value of timber to the community, while demonstrating the importance of safeguarding the forests against destructive fires. Fire prevention was a prominent theme, as the Mason County Forest Festival Association was at this time operated as an auxiliary of the local chapter of the Keep Washington Green Committee.

Following that first festival – in which Lois Gibler was crowned Festival Queen and Gus Anderson played the part of Paul Bunyan – the event only grew. People from the northwestern Washington region flocked to Shelton to see, in the words of an ad for the 12th annual Forest Festival, “the dramatic Forest Pageant, the thrilling parade and the exciting contests in which loggers demonstrate their skills at falling, bucking, tree topping and truck driving. For three memorable days, the communities participate in a program which you can’t afford to miss.” The idea of a forest festival quickly spread across the country along with the Keep Green program. “You have in Shelton, in my opinion, the best all-around forest festival in the United States,” read a quote from a mid-1950s article on the event. “It has been the inspiration of many forest communities throughout the U.S.”

Carving Shelton Log Sign 1953

Artist Clarence Beauchamp (right) carving Douglas fir log sign, 1953.

The ninth annual Forest Festival in 1953 was one for the ages. The monumental event celebrated the 100th anniversary of logging operations in Mason County, and a large sign carved into a piece of Douglas fir was permanently dedicated (the log sign still welcomes visitors to Shelton today). On the festival’s final day 30,000 people — about six times the regular population of the town — crowded into Shelton to watch the Paul Bunyan Parade through downtown.

The 1953 event was an early high point for the festival, but there have been many other great moments throughout the years. Continue below to see featured images from the FHS Archives documenting the long history of the Mason County Forest Festival. (more…)

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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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“Recent experiments conducted in the woods of the Great Upper Lumber Company of Scandinavia have demonstrated the permanency of the Aerologger for use in the lumbering operations of this and other planets.”

So read the opening sentence of a 1913 article found in the publication Steam Machinery, in which author S. MacHenry described a double-plane airship capable of logging an entire forest in one flight. While meant as a humorous piece, in reality MacHenry wasn’t too far off the mark. Within the next fifty years, the use of balloons and helicopters in aerial yarding operations would become a reality.

Images of these aerial yarding techniques are featured in a new photo gallery added to our website today. The historical photos presented in the gallery document the use of balloons and helicopters in logging operations, primarily during the 1960s and 1970s.

The use of balloons, in particular, has an interesting history when it comes to log-moving technology. Balloon logging was first seen in the U.S. in 1964, when the Bohemia Lumber Company of Oregon began using a helium-filled balloon in logging operations. Company vice-president Faye Stewart was inspired in part by the use of logging balloons in Sweden, and brought the practice to the U.S. The perceived advantages of using balloons were both economic and environmental. Lifting the logs could help limit soil erosion, as logs would not be skidded along the ground. Logs also suffered less breakage moving through the air, and the use of balloons would theoretically lessen the need for additional forest road construction.

Stewart worked with the Goodyear Aerospace Corp. to develop a “V”-shaped balloon, and Bohemia soon formed a subsidiary company – Balloon Trans-Air Inc. – to manufacture and market the balloons. In the 1970s, Stewart would leave Bohemia and form Flying Scotsman Enterprises, his own balloon logging company. Other companies also began to market balloons, including Raven Industries in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which manufactured traditional onion-shaped balloons for use in logging operations. The U.S. Forest Service also decided to get in on the action.

In 1971 the Forest Service announced the FALCON program (Forestry, Advanced Logging, and Conservation), a research and development program for aerial logging systems. The program’s stated purpose was to “improve the ability of resource managers to predict the economic and environmental consequences associated with the use of conventional and new logging methods such as balloons, helicopters, and cable systems, singly or in combination, with the aim of providing less damaging timber harvesting methods for environmentally sensitive areas.” With its special emphasis on helicopter and balloon logging, the USFS looked to perfect aerial logging systems that would minimize environmental impact, particularly in areas of difficult access.

Below is a clip from the FHS YouTube channel featuring film footage of some of the balloon logging operations from this era:

Of course, no discussion of aerial logging operations would be complete without mention of the infamous Heli-Stat — a controversial helicopter-blimp hybrid with a tragic history. The concept of an airship combining four helicopters with a large blimp was first patented by aviation pioneer Frank Piasecki in 1961. In many ways, Piasecki’s design could be viewed as the natural extension of MacHenry’s satirical 1913 aerologger. Except that Piasecki’s was actually real. After nearly twenty years of struggling to find funding for development of the craft, the Forest Service proved an enthusiastic supporter.

Helistat

Artist rendering of the Piasecki Heli-Stat.

As fantastical as the design seemed on paper, the Forest Service saw the Heli-Stat as a way to log remote, roadless regions of the Pacific Northwest. Capable of lifting 25 tons of timber and carrying loads up to five miles, the Heli-Stat was viewed as the next evolutionary step after the logging helicopter. George Leonard, then the USFS timber management chief, stated that “it appears to offer an opportunity to remove logs from areas where it is economically or environmentally unwise to put roads.” The agency approached Oregon congressman Robert B. Duncan with the idea and in 1979 he managed to get three million dollars earmarked for development of the Heli-Stat.

Piasecki began assembling the craft almost immediately at the naval air engineering center in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Using four Korean War-era helicopters and an old salvaged Navy blimp, Piasecki’s long-planned airship finally began to take shape.

Things didn’t go quite according to plan, though. The Forest Service stated that the agency would recoup any investment in timber sales from the lumber accessed with the new craft, but construction continued to go over budget. A GAO report in November 1982 estimated that the net cost of the Heli-Stat had already increased from 6.7 million to almost 32 million dollars. Critics asked if the agency was funding a balloon or a boondoggle. Journalists today would probably call it a “balloondoggle.”

Construction fell behind schedule and various technical problems plagued the development process. Navy, NASA, and Federal Aviation Administration officials all criticized the project during construction, stating that “poor quality workmanship practices have been used to build the interconnecting structure.” One Navy engineer, Louis Berman, criticized Piasecki’s use of “slide-rule engineering in an age when everyone else is using computers. You just don’t design aircraft that way.”

The criticisms proved to be well-founded. In a test run of the massive airship on July 1, 1986, the Heli-Stat failed in dramatic and spectacular fashion. On the same Lakehurst airfield where the Hindenburg crashed in 1937, the Heli-Stat rose thirty feet off the ground before the right rear helicopter broke loose and the entire craft collapsed into a burning heap. One of the five crew members was killed. It was a tragic ending to a controversial chapter in the development of log transportation technology.

Additional information:

Visit the new photo gallery:

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

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The 25th anniversary of the iconic film franchise Back to the Future and the Blu-ray release of the trilogy on October 26 got us thinking about what forestry and logging were supposed to look like today as predicted by the best minds of the mid-20th century.

Some of those same minds had predicted that we would all be driving flying cars or have individual jetpacks to get to work. I don’t know about you but I’m still relying on the internal-combustion engine to get around. And that’s the problem with committing predictions of the future to paper. When organizations like the Forest History Society hold on to those documents, it’s easy to look back at them and assess how close to (or far from) the mark the writer was.

Logger of the future

So let’s look at two sets of predictions. The image above isn’t a storyboard of a scene from Back to the Future. It’s a sketch of a forester treating a tree in 1975. Well, that was the prediction in 1955. For their film, People, Products and Progress: 1975, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asked several organizations in 1955 to make future predictions about transportation, home life, and the workplace. To furnish a sequence on the lumber industry they called upon the National Lumber Manufacturers Association for help. The NLMA might have called their segment “Better Living through Chemicals.” They predicted foresters would use radioactive materials, hormones, and “other stimulating substances” to do things like pre-season the wood, make it fire resistant, and even change the color of the wood while the tree is still growing. Maybe they didn’t get all of that correct, but maybe what hasn’t come to pass still could through a combination of chemical injections and genetic modification.

The NLMA’s description of the sawmill of the future is fairly accurate in terms of using scanning equipment to assess the best way to cut a log. And although we aren’t yet cutting lumber with lasers it seems only a matter of time. They got the part right about helicopter logging, but using an ordinary helicopter isn’t as exciting to contemplate as using this contraption, a strange marriage of 19th- and 20th-century technologies.

Helistat

This combination of multiple helicopters and blimp seemed like a good idea at the time. Alas, one of its flight tests failed in spectacular and tragic fashion and the program ended in 1986.

In 1980 the American Forest Foundation made a stab at predicting what the industry would look like in both 2010 and 2020. In 1980, to generate interest in National Forest Products Week, they issued what appears to be a press release that described working in 2010. For a separate project they produced a poster that made predictions about 2020. You’ll want to read the poster and the press release to see the subtle differences between the two in describing the future.

Some of it has already come to pass, like the use of handheld computers in the field and computers to aid in harvesting timber. The discussion of the “paperless society” in the press release is one worth revisiting in light of the internet and technology’s impact on how we read. (Are you reading this on your phone or a Kindle?) Interestingly, the artist wasn’t much of a visionary. You can clearly see the influence of Star Wars on the artist’s rendition of a logger. He looks like Luke Skywalker in his X-Wing fighter pilot uniform wielding a light saber—or is that a logging saber?

logging of the future

It’s interesting to note the emphasis on transportation in these various visions. More than a century ago Biltmore Estate forester Carl Schenck declared that “forestry was a problem of transportation” and that “good roads are needed to practice forestry!” Talk about back to the future! The vision of hovercraft lifting logs out of hard-to-access areas brings to mind the closing line from Back to the Future, when Doc Brown tells Marty, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” If Doc were a forester, he might instead proclaim: “Roads? Where we’re logging, we don’t need roads.”

Will lasers be used to cleanly cut timber? Will robots load lumber onto hovercraft that haul lumber? Will trees be genetically engineered to produce different grains and colors? What are your predictions for the future of forests, wood utilization, and forest management? Leave them in the Comments area and we’ll come back in 25 or 30 years and see if you were right.

 

“Back to the Future” of logging and timber management

The 25th anniversary Blu-ray release of the film franchise Back to the Future got us thinking about what forestry and logging were supposed to look like now from the perspective of the mid 20th-century. Weren’t we all supposed to be driving flying cars or have individual jetpacks to get us to work? At least that’s what was predicted in the 1960s. And that’s the problem with committing predictions of the future to paper. When organizations like the Forest History Society hold on to those documents, it’s easy to look back at them and assess how close to (or far from) the mark the writer was.

So let’s look at two sets of predictions. The image above (or below) isn’t of a spaceman or of Doc Brown from the film. He’s a logger in 1975. Well, that was the prediction in 1955. For their film, People, Products and Progress: 1975, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had asked several organizations to make predictions about transportation, home life, and the workplace. To furnish a sequence on the lumber industry they called on the National Lumber Manufacturers Association for help. The NLMA might have called their segment “Better Living through Chemicals.” They predicted foresters would use radioactive materials, hormones, and “other stimulating substances” to do things like pre-season the wood, make it fire resistant, and even change the color of the wood while the tree is still growing. So maybe they didn’t get all of that correct, but maybe what hasn’t come to pass could still through a combination of chemical injections and genetic modification. [link to book?]

The description of the sawmill of the future is fairly accurate in terms of using scanning equipment to assess the best way to cut a log. And although we aren’t yet cutting lumber with lasers it seems only a matter of time. They got the part right about helicopter logging, but using an ordinary helicopter isn’t as exciting as using this contraption, a strange marriage of 19th- and 20th-century technologies. It failed its one flight test in spectacular and tragic fashion.

In 1980 the American Forest Foundation made a stab at predicting what the industry would look like in 2010. Some of it has already come to pass, like the use of handheld computers in the field and computers to aid in harvesting timber. You can clearly see the influence of Star Wars on the artist’s rendition of a logger. He looks like Luke Skywalker in his X-Wing fighter pilot uniform wielding a light saber—or is that a logging saber?

It’s interesting to note the emphasis on transportation in these various visions. Biltmore Estate forester Carl Schenck declared more than a century ago that “forestry was a problem of transportation” and that “good roads are needed to practice forestry!” The vision of hovercraft lifting logs out of hard-to-access areas brings to mind a line from Back to the Future, when Doc Brown tells Marty, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” If Doc were a forestry professor, he might instead proclaim: “Roads? Where we’re logging, we don’t need roads.”

What are your predictions for the future of forests, wood utilization, and forest management? Will lasers be used to cleanly cut timber? Will hovercraft be used to haul lumber?

 

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On September 10, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt established the Tongass National Forest in southeastern Alaska. This month, the Forest History Society is publishing a history of the region, Tongass Timber: A History of Logging and Timber Utilization in Southeast Alaska, by James Mackovjak (you may remember Jim from his cross-country bike trip documented on this blog). Tongass Timber, now available in our online store, traces the history of the decades-long attempts by commercial interests and the U.S. Forest Service to develop the region’s forests, examining their motivations and resulting impacts. This historical background reveals the forces that influence present choices about forest management in Southeast Alaska.

The Tongass National Forest originated with the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve, which Roosevelt established in 1902 under the old forest reserve system. The Alexander’s creation was controversial because Alaskans feared that the forest would no longer be available for development, a general misconception about the purpose of the forest reserves. Forester Gifford Pinchot sought to assure the territorial governor, John Brady, that the opposite was the case, declaring at the time: “[T]he permanent success of the industries of Alaska can best be secured through the establishment of forest reserves.” It was the first of many controversies over economic policy and the Tongass.

Five years later, the Tongass National Forest was created on the recommendation of forest supervisor W. A. Langille and F. E. Olmsted, the forest inspector sent out from Washington, D.C. As Jim Mackovjak notes, Olmsted’s was “the first detailed examination of Southeast Alaska’s forests by a professionally trained forester.” The announcement of Tongass’s establishment in Forestry and Irrigation, the predecessor to the American Forests magazine, is here. If you want a history of the agency in Alaska, check out Lawrence Rakestraw’s A History of the United States Forest Service in Alaska. It is, however, nearly thirty years old.

Langille is regarded by many as the father of forestry in Alaska. A skilled outdoorsman and mountaineer who deeply impressed Pinchot when they met in 1896 in Oregon, Pinchot hired him first as a forest expert and eventually as forest supervisor of the Alexander. Langille projected what a colleague termed an “abrupt, outspoken and occasionally mildly terrifying manner.” You can learn more about this fascinating man from this article, and investigate his papers through our online finding aid.

But that’s not all! For you, our dedicated blog readers, we have an exclusive excerpt from Tongass Timber, which gives the history of the establishment of the Tongass, including the origins of its name and how Alaska went from being designated as District 8 to becoming Region 10 on the National Forest System map. You’ll also find maps showing how the Tongass grew from 2 million to 16 million acres.

We’d like to thank the following for making Tongass Timber possible through their generous funding: the Kendall Foundation, Mike Blackwell, the SB Foundation, the Alaska Historical Society, the Alaska Humanities Forum, and the Lynn W. Day Endowment for Forest History Publications.

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Three new photo galleries added to our website today contain more than 250 historic photos illustrating aspects of logging over the past century.  The first gallery, Logging–Scaling, documents the work of scalers in the woods.  A scaler was the person who measured and marked the quality of timber, and estimated the number of board feet in a log.   Scalers used an instrument known as a “scale rule” to measure and place monetary value on the logs.

Scaler measuring large log.

Scaling large log to measure volume of cut timber, July 1944.

With money at stake, scalers were sometimes the object of criticism.  As scaling standards, practices, and instruments evolved, disputes over inconsistencies became commonplace.  Many logging crews believed that the scaler automatically favored the millowners, and referred to his scale rule as a “cheat stick,” “thief stick,” “swindle stick,” or “robber’s cane.”  For an excellent history of the work of the scaler, see “The Scaler: Forgotten Man in Maine’s Lumbering Tradition” by William S. Warner, from the October 1982 issue of the Journal of Forest History.

Two other new photo galleries document the transport of logs, one featuring images of trucks, and the other with images of tractors and wagons.  The Logging–Hauling–Trucks gallery includes more than 100 images of trucks transporting large and small logs through various parts of the country.

Caravan of trucks carrying Douglas fir logs through North Bend, Washington.

A caravan of trucks carrying mammoth Douglas fir logs pass through North Bend, Washington.

The Logging–Hauling–Tractors and Wagons gallery shows the evolution of tractors, wagons, and trailers used to haul logs in the woods.  Included are a few images of the earliest Caterpillar tractors built by the Holt Manufacturing Company in Stockton, California.  A history of the crawler tractor, looking at the development of the Lombard log hauler and the Caterpillar tractor, can be found in the following clip from the FHS YouTube Channel:

For more information on early log hauling equipment, see the William H. Carson Collection in the FHS Archives.  For further reading related to the tractors gallery, also take a look at “From Bulls to Bulldozers: A Memoir on the Development of Machines in the Western Woods from Letters of Ted P. Flynn,” from the Fall 1963 issue of Forest History.

Caterpillar Tractor hauling logs near Columbia, South Carolina, June 1929

Caterpillar tractor hauling logs near Columbia, South Carolina, June 1929.

Visit all three of these new photo galleries:

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

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In the spirit of Thanksgiving and large-scale turkey consumption, we wish to acknowledge the impact of turkeys on forest history. How did a couple of turkeys change history? Well, a better question might be: How did a handful of angry turkey hunters in West Virginia upend U.S. Forest Service timber management policy and help usher the agency into the environmental era?

Around 1964, a handful of hunters went to their favorite spot on the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia to hunt turkey. There, they found no turkeys because the area had been clearcut by the Forest Service. Upset, they took their complaints to the agency, eventually getting a meeting with Chief Ed Cliff, and demanded an end to clearcutting as a timber management practice. As Cliff says in an excerpt from his oral history Half A Century in Forest Conservation, “It soon got beyond the turkey hunting issue.” Indeed, what started off as a disappointing hunting trip for some buddies eventually led to Congress rewriting the Forest Service’s Organic Act and forever changing the agency.

Gobble gobble hey! Any chance you guys are going to West Virginia? (FHS image #R9_492831)

After several years of studies and discussion that changed nothing, the hunters turned to the Izaak Walton League and other conservation groups, and together they filed a lawsuit to stop the use of clearcutting as a harvesting method. Ironically, the outrage wasn’t over clearcutting per se, but over the size of the clearcuts. Nonetheless, the plaintiffs asserted that the Forest Service was in violation of the Organic Act of 1897, which allowed the cutting of “dead, matured, or large growth” trees that had been “marked and designated” for sale. Clearcutting removed all trees; no one bothered marking individual trees since they’d all be removed. No matter, said the court. The law is the law. Izaak Walton League v. Earl Butz was found in favor of the hunters and overturned “the whole legal basis for timber management on the national forests.” Congress now had to write a new organic act for the agency. The resulting National Forest Management Act changed how the Forest Service managed the national forests. Things were never the same for the agency after its passage in 1976 — additional protests and lawsuits further shaped and influenced how the agency conducted management. Ultimately, this led to its turn away from emphasizing timber management and to its embrace of ecosystem management.

This gross oversimplification of a major turning point in forest history is explored in numerous articles and books, many of which we’ve published. But we thought we’d pull two nuggets from our U.S. Forest Service History Collection to share with you. The first PDF is a one-page excerpt from Ed Cliff’s oral history. The second is from The Monongahela National Forest, 1915-1990, which weaves together oral histories and secondary sources into a solid history of the forest. This lengthy excerpt delves into the background of clearcutting on national forests and does a great job of providing context for the controversy, as well as showing that the agency was not monolithic in its thinking. So, on Thanksgiving Day, just before you drift into that tryptophan coma after eating too much turkey, think about how different history would be if only some turkeys had been hanging around in that clearcut in West Virginia.

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This past weekend saw the Lumberjack World Championships take place in Hayward, Wisconsin.  The annual event of sawing, chopping, climbing, and log rolling contests celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.  While the golden anniversary is cause for celebration, signs of the sport’s decline in popularity seemed to be more evident than ever.  A New York Times article covering the championships addressed this issue, noting the lack of television coverage and the drop in participation levels.  The number of big-time contests held in the U.S. has also dwindled. It’s now virtually impossible to make a living from winnings on the American lumberjack contest circuit.

For decades the Lumberjack World Championships were a featured television event — from ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” in the early years, to ESPN and the Outdoor Life Network more recently.  That all ended this year, when the event was given no national TV coverage.  Some former champions are questioning whether the lumberjack sports themselves are dying.  “The best years are gone,” seemed to be a common refrain.  While the glory years of the sport may in fact be behind us, there are still many talented young lumberjack athletes — such as J.R. Salzman, an Iraq war veteran who lost part of his arm to a roadside bomb in 2006, and returned this year to win his seventh log rolling championship.

With others looking towards the past, though, this is the perfect time to highlight some of the visual documentations of lumberjack competitions from yesteryear found in the FHS Archives.  Below is a small sampling of images documenting the sport’s past, as well as some of the larger-than-life figures.

Paul Searls axe chop

Lumberjack legend Paul Searls (left) with his son Max competing in a tree felling contest.

Paul Searls bucking

Paul Searls competing in his specialty event, log bucking. Searls was a world champion log bucker from 1932 to 1952, as well as a former Guinness World Record holder in the event. On May 28, 1937, Searls also helped dedicate the Golden Gate Bridge by sawing through a 34″ redwood log in record time at the bridge’s opening.

Herron

A three-time International Log Rolling Association Champion and leading competitor from the 1930s through the 1950s, Jim Herron prepares to perform his infamous log rolling striptease as his alter-ego “grandma” character.

axethrow

The axe throw event at the Albany (Oregon) Timber Carnival in July 1958.

Clive McIntosh saw

Clive McIntosh (right), with partner D. Mann, examining their saw after winning the World Championship Doubles Sawing Contest at Sydney, Australia. McIntosh was an Australian lumberjack legend, as well as an influential axe and saw designer.

The selected photos here come from both the FHS Photograph Collection and the American Forest Institute Records.  If interested, also take a look at this 1920-era log rolling film footage from the FHS YouTube Channel, as well as the previously posted Loggers–Rodeos photo subject gallery.

Special thanks to Jeffrey Stine for telling us about the NY Times article that inspired this entry.

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Prior to the expansion of railroads and later use of trucks, the logging industry relied on river currents to move large amounts of cut timber to sawmills. In October, we highlighted six photo galleries related to various aspects of river log drives. Since this posting, searches for “log drives,” “log drivers,” “moving logs on rivers,” and “logger photos” have frequently led readers to Peeling Back the Bark and the FHS Photo Collection.

To further satisfy reader interests, I would like to share our top-viewed YouTube video, an excerpt from Timber on the Move: A History of Log Moving Technology, a documentary film from the Forest History Society. This clip illuminates the river driving process as only action footage can. This segment also includes informative narration describing the effect of the log drives, such as flooding of farmland adjacent to the river banks.


(more…)

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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:

FHS5269thFHS5243th

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.

FHS5414

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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