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Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Forest Service’

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 first 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 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 significant amount of Michigan’s public forests today owe their existence to the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s. Known as “Roosevelt’s Tree Army,” CCC enrollees played a crucial role in reforestation efforts throughout the country during the Great Depression, and nowhere was the impact of their work more significant than in Michigan. Between 1933 and 1942, CCC workers in Michigan planted 485 million trees, more than were planted in any other state.

These plantings by the CCC took place on both state and federal land, but much of it occurred on the five national forests that existed in Michigan by the late 1930s: the Ottawa, Hiawatha and Marquette forests in the Upper Peninsula, and the Manistee and Huron forests to the south (the Marquette was later consolidated with the Hiawatha in 1962, and the two forests in the Lower Peninsula were combined administratively in 1955 to form the Huron-Manistee).

1941 Map of Michigan's National Forests

Michigan’s National Forests in 1941.

Michigan’s massive reforestation effort during the 1930s would not have been possible without the work of tree nurseries administered by the Forest Service. Most of the state’s planting stock was provided by four USFS nursery operations: the Beal Nursery in East Tawas, the Wyman Nursery in Manistique, the Chittenden Nursery in Wellston, and the Toumey Nursery in Watersmeet. By 1941 these nurseries were providing an average of 97 million seedlings each year for Michigan’s national forests.

The visual history of these nurseries is documented in four new image galleries recently added to the FHS website. With more than 150 historic photos, the galleries showcase the important work behind the reforestation efforts which transformed Michigan’s landscape. Continue below to view the photos in each gallery and to learn more about the history of each nursery.

Joseph Sparks, official artist for Huron National Forest, sketching CCC boys at Beal Nursery

Joseph Sparks, official artist for Huron National Forest, sketching CCC boys at Beal Nursery, 1934.

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By Dan Dwyer, Port Jervis Union-Gazette¹

MILFORD, Penn., Sept. 24—

The helicopter landed exactly on time. It was 1 p.m.

The door opened and became a ramp and this man came out.

It was the start of a hectic 70-minute visit by Pres. John F. Kennedy to Grey Towers in Milford yesterday afternoon.

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President Kennedy is greeted by Forest Service Chief Edward P. Cliff.

Mr. Kennedy, dressed in a neat blue suit with a faint pin stripe, white shirt and matching tie, moved towards a waiting convertible with the inevitable secret service men providing a way through the press of the crowd. The familiar shock of brown hair looked lighter than it does in most pictures and the white teeth shone in a constant smile. He is deeply tanned.

President John F. Kennedy

The president entered the third car in the six car entourage that moved slowly through a field to the road leading to Grey Towers. The road was lined with state police, foresters and Milford fire police. The landing field was some 200 yards from the amphitheater where a crowd estimated at over 12,000 waited. Some had been there since early morning, coming to get a good place to stand in front of the 20-foot stage where the ceremonies were scheduled to be held….

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But as the hour neared 1 p.m., the expectation grew and then the great mass of people suddenly knew the president had arrived for the audible noise of the copter blades sounded across the valley even though the Delaware Valley high school band was providing musical entertainment. There was a tingle of anticipation that rolled through the sea of humanity even though it would be another 15 minutes before the president would be seen by most of them.

It was a perfect day. Pennsylvania’s Gov. Scranton said later in his speech that it was typical weather for the state and who could dispute it. It was warm. A heavy frost had covered the area in the morning but the sun warmed the earth and by noon it was anything but cool. There was not a cloud in the blueness of the sky….

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The president stopped off at Grey Towers and for some ten minutes was greeted by area officials and conservation men from all over the country. He met with them on the terrace and the crowd was enlarged by the stream of reporters and camera men who surged in for information and the hundreds and hundreds of photos that were being taken along almost every stop of the way.

The president went up onto the platform and the band began to play the traditional “Hail To The Chief.” There was a feeling that swept across the great masses. I could sense it sitting near the front. It was a feeling of proudness and a feeling of drama and a feeling that this was a great moment in many lives … lives that could go through an entire lifetime and never again be in the presence of a president of the United States.

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The president gets a warm reception from the crowd and from those on the stage with him: (l to r) Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman, Chief Cliff, President Kennedy, Samuel H. Ordway, and Penn. Governor William Scranton.

It was 70 minutes that would be hard to account for if you had to list every minute but it was, for most of the people, a highlight in their lives that grandchildren not yet born are destined to hear about.

That’s how it was.

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This breathless article was written by a newspaper columnist from the town located across the river from Milford, PA. It was one of many that appeared in the Port Jervis Union-Gazette the day after President Kennedy paid a brief visit to Grey Towers to dedicate Gifford Pinchot’s home and the establishment of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation Studies on September 24, 1963. This issue, as well as a special commemorative souvenir edition of the Union-Gazette published the day before Kennedy’s visit, can be found in the U.S. Forest Service History Collection here at FHS.

The trip to Grey Towers was the start of a grueling 4-day, 11-state tour for the president that the New York Times said was “dedicated to conservation but tinged with politics.” But on that cloudless day in Milford, the last thing on the minds of the overflow crowd was politics. They were there to see the president dedicate the estate of Gifford Pinchot, the hometown hero, to the cause of conservation. On September 21, 2013, another crowd will watch as dignitaries gather to commemorate that great event and rededicate the home and the institute that bears Pinchot’s name.

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In addition to Dwyer’s article excerpted above (“The Day JFK Was Here“), the September 25th Union-Gazette also included an account by Norman Lehde, “JFK’s Visit Thrills Thousands,” and a look at the special preparations made for the president’s visit to Milford (3 miles of telephone cable!) in “Behind the Scenes for the JFK Visit.”

The collection also contains the original event program from the day, which lists the speakers and guests of honor, along with the transcripts of the remarks given by President Kennedy, Secretary of Agriculture Orville L. Freeman, and Samuel H. Ordway, president of the Conservation Foundation.

View more photos from the September 24, 1963, dedication event at Grey Towers in the Pinchot Institute Dedication photo gallery.

1. Dan Dwyer was a longtime columnist with the Port Jervis (NY) Union-Gazette and a Pulitzer Prize nominee. He interviewed Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson, each time nabbing the interview simply by writing them a letter and asking for an interview. His interview with LBJ took place in the Oval Office and lasted 40 minutes.

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Over 300 historic U.S. Forest Service photographs from California were recently added to our image database, thanks to a collaboration with USFS Region 5 (Pacific Southwest). Matthew Stever, a Region 5 Heritage Photo Project intern, organized and scanned a large number of previously uncataloged photographs from the region, and digital copies were added to the FHS online image database. The photos come mostly from the San Bernardino National Forest, range in date from the 1910s to the 1960s, and cover a broad array of topics including forest rangers at work, fire prevention, fire suppression, recreational activities, and the Civilian Conservation Corps. The collection also highlights some lesser-known pieces of California history, such as the story of Camp Cajon.

Camp Cajon stone signAt a time when long-distance auto travel was still relatively new, Camp Cajon became a nationally known rest stop along an important route into southern California. For travelers during the 1920s and 1930s — long before the era of interstates, rest areas, and ubiquitous hotel chains and fast food restaurants — Camp Cajon provided a roadside stopping place, complete with facilities for eating, camping, and much more.

The camp was the brainchild of citrus grower William M. Bristol, who had a moment of inspiration while attending the dedication ceremony of the Pioneers Monument in December 1917. This monument to early settlers was erected along the National Old Trails Highway in Cajon Pass, at the junction of the Salt Lake and Santa Fe Trails (north of San Bernardino, along present-day Interstate 15). While at the dedication, Bristol came up with the idea of building a welcome station and rest area in Cajon Pass as a “gateway to southern California.”

Bristol returned to the area following World War I, pitching a tent in Cajon Pass during May of 1919 and intending just to stay a few months. Instead of building a few picnic tables and heading back to his orchards as originally planned, Bristol soon found himself immersed in a large-scale project which would continue on for years.

On land donated in part by the Santa Fe Railroad, Bristol began his work by building picnic tables. A master craftsman, Bristol designed and built a unique series of large round concrete tables, which would come to define the site even as it expanded.

The round concrete Camp Cajon picnic tables (0512_233).

The iconic round concrete Camp Cajon picnic tables (0512_233).

The initial dedication ceremony for Camp Cajon was held on July 4, 1919. A poem written especially for the event by Jennie Cook Davis was read, a quotation from which was set on a tablet in a stone sign marking the camp’s entrance:

“We have builded a shrine to friendship, good-fellowship and cheer,
That all who cross our threshold may find refreshment here.”

The camp quickly grew as sponsors provided funds for more picnic tables, large stone cooking stoves, massive barbeque pits, bath facilities, and more. The Elks Club built a stone lodge building, and a store and post office even sprung up. These facilities provided a place of much-needed comfort for motorists just emerging from miles of desert. The rest stop, picnic area, and free campground became well known nationwide as a can’t-miss stopping point along the route into southern California. A headline from a 1921 Los Angeles Times article summed this up: “Camp Cajon Takes Cake for Comfort, Gives Motor Travelers Great Welcome as They Come in from Desert.”

Camp Cajon travelers

Travelers making a stop at Camp Cajon (0512_118).

The legend only grew in 1926 when the National Old Trails Highway became part of Route 66, and the country’s iconic east-west highway ran right through Camp Cajon.

Unfortunately, Camp Cajon’s time was ultimately short-lived. Devastating floods during March of 1938 completely destroyed the camp, burying the facilities under piles of rocks and sand. Less than 20 years after Bristol began construction of the first picnic table, the camp was left in total ruin.

Three years later the Camp’s founder would end his own life. Bristol, a vocal proponent of euthanasia, took his life rather than continue suffering due to a debilitating illness. Ever a craftsman to the end, Bristol built his own wooden coffin by hand, got inside and shot himself.

No trace of Bristol’s once famous camp is left in the original Cajon Pass location today. The Camp Cajon site sits near a McDonalds on the edge of Interstate 15 just south of its intersection with Highway 138. While the camp was buried and built over, pieces of Bristol’s work still live on elsewhere. Several of the original concrete picnic tables from Camp Cajon were salvaged, and can be found in Lytle Creek and Perris Hill Parks in the city of San Bernardino.

Continue below to view Camp Cajon photos from the collection. To browse additional Region 5 photos, search all fields for: “0512_*” (which is the ID# prefix for the images added as part of this project).

Present day site of Camp Cajon

Present-day site of Camp Cajon, just off Interstate 15.

Camp Cajon

Stove and picnic tables at Camp Cajon (0512_235).

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A short time ago, my co-blogger Eben received a query from someone asking for “GP’s 10 commandments.” He had not heard of this and passed the query along to me. “GP” is Gifford Pinchot, and as you probably know, he was the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service and helped develop many of the agency’s policies that still shape the agency today. As the founder of the Society of American Foresters, he also laid the foundation for the profession of forestry.

At first, “GP’s 10 commandments” didn’t ring a bell. Because this is fire season, I thought maybe the person had conflated Pinchot and firefighting and was confusing the commandments with the Ten Standard Fire Orders. After reviewing the note, we decided it wasn’t that. But given Pinchot’s strong religious convictions, his missionary zeal in leading the conservation crusade, and his willingness to martyr himself for the cause during the Ballinger controversy, such a list by that name didn’t seem out of the question. This is, after all, someone who began his memoir, Breaking New Ground, by calling his revered father, James, the “Father of Forestry in America,” claiming in quite a bit of hyperbole, “My Father’s foresight and tenacity were responsible, in the last analysis, for bringing Forestry to this continent.” In addition, he sprinkled fervent language throughout the memoir: “Being a convert to Forestry, I was eager to bear witness to the faith” being the best example.

Feeling puckish, I quickly responded to Eben with what I thought Gifford Pinchot’s Ten Commandments might have been. I can just picture Pinchot coming down the hill from Grey Towers with two tablets in his hands to speak to his green-clad followers and reading these aloud.

Pinchot’s Ten Commandments

  1. I am your Forester thy Chief.
  2. Remember the Transfer Date and keep it holy.
  3. Honor my Mother and my Father.
  4. Thou shalt always capitalize the phrases “National Forest” and “Forestry.”
  5. Thou shalt read daily from The Use Book (1905 edition only).
  6. Thou shalt prevent transfer of the Forest Service to the Interior Department.
  7. Thou shalt not alter the U.S. Forest Service name or shield.
  8. Thou shalt not take Theodore Roosevelt’s name in vain.
  9. Thou shalt not kill a tree before it has matured.
  10. Thou shalt not allow wildfires.
Pinchot with some of the faithful, aka, a timber marking group on the Yellowstone Forest Reserve in 1906.

Pinchot with some of the faithful, a.k.a., a timber marking group on the Yellowstone Forest Reserve in 1906. Pinchot is in the center, in white.

Well, it turns out that what the person was asking for was Pinchot’s Principles—his advice to guide the behavior of foresters in public office. Put forth in a lecture or a series of lectures in the early 1900s at the Yale Forestry School, these were listed as “Maxims for Foresters” in a sidebar for an article in the February 1994 issue of the Journal of Forestry. The list can also be found under the title “Pinchot Principles” as an appendix in the Proceedings of the U.S. Forest Service Centennial Congress, published by the Forest History Society. Without further ado, here they are.

Pinchot Principles

  • A public official is there to serve the public and not to run them.
  • Public support of acts affecting public rights is absolutely required.
  • It is more trouble to consult the public than to ignore them, but that is what you are hired for.
  • Find out in advance what the public will stand for; if it is right and they won’t stand for it, postpone action and educate them.
  • Use the press first, last and all the time if you want to reach the public.
  • Get rid of the attitude of personal arrogance or pride of attainment of superior knowledge.
  • Don’t try any sly or foxy politics because a forester is not a politician.
  • Learn tact simply by being honest and sincere, and by learning to recognize the point of view of the other man and meet him with arguments he will understand.
  • Don’t be afraid to give credit to someone else even when it belongs to you; not to do so is the sure mark of a weak man, but to do so is the hardest lesson to learn; encourage others to do things; you may accomplish many things through others that you can’t get done on your single initiative.
  • Don’t be a knocker; use persuasion rather than force, when possible; plenty of knockers are to be had; your job is to promote unity.
  • Don’t make enemies unnecessarily and for trivial reasons; if you are any good you will make plenty of them on matters of straight honesty and public policy, and you need all the support you can get.

As it turns out, Pinchot was prescient once again. His principles seem as apropos today as they were a century ago.

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Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon, but there are many other forest and forestry-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside. Peeling Back the Bark‘s series on “Forgotten Characters from Forest History” continues with Part 13, in which we examine Herman I. Cautious and Paula Bunyan.

The first week of May marks the annual occurrence of North American Occupational Safety and Health Week. Sponsored by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), NAOSH Week is intended to raise awareness about occupational safety, health and the environment. In honor of NAOSH week, and in the spirit of workplace safety, Peeling Back the Bark brings you not one, but two new forgotten characters of forest history.

Herman I Cautious headIn early 1960, the Pacific Plywood Company of Dillard, Oregon, launched an innovative new safety program. Under the slogan “Caution Pays You,” the new program awarded employees for eliminating workplace accidents. Accident-free years would bring cash awards, based on money collected from monthly contributions into a Safety Dividend Account plan. To help launch this new safety program, a promotional character was introduced: Herman I. (Izzy) Cautious.

While his name was a basic play on a safety question (“her man, is he cautious?”), there was no doubt about Herman’s commitment to workplace health. Always safely decked out in hardhat and gloves, Herman appeared on posters and signs around the plant to raise awareness for the program. His image was accompanied by the “Caution Pays You” slogan, which was trademarked in 1960.

Herman I. Cautious

Pacific Plywood employees with Herman I. Cautious signs. Bob Young at far right.

The idea to use monetary rewards to reduce accidents came from Pacific Plywood Company’s Safety Director Bob Young. He and others at the company had big plans for the program.  An article in the May 1960 issue of The Lumberman stated, “Considerable interest has been shown in the plan by outside industries, and many inquiries have been made about its operation even before it has been started.” It’s unknown how much interest was shown in the Herman Cautious character, though. He was used on company safety awards for a short time, but then appeared to quickly vanish from the public eye.

Pacific Plywood Co. safety award

Herman Cautious wasn’t the only hardhat-wearing forest-related safety character to fade from view in the early 1960s. The U.S. Forest Service has a forgotten safety character of its own: Paula Bunyan. Paula, drawn by legendary Forest Service artist Rudy Wendelin, was presented as the “Guardian of Safety” for the agency.

Paula Bunyan

We’ll let the official backstory on Paula speak for itself: “She is the daughter of Paul Bunyan, the legendary, swashbuckling, and sometimes unsafe north woods hero. Being a woman, Paula knew how to get her message across to her father and converted him to a safety conscious individual without impairing his tremendous production. This spread his fame all the more. We feel the modern day forester is susceptible to the wiles of such a safety symbol.”

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Eighty years ago, Rudy Wendelin was a young artist fresh out of the University of Kansas School of Architecture struggling like many others to find work during the Great Depression. Relief came in 1933 when he applied for a job in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, under the new Civilian Conservation program launched that same year. Wendelin got the job, a position as a draftsman with Region 9 of the U.S. Forest Service, and immediately began turning out various artwork, signs, displays, publications, architectural drawings, and much more for the agency. By 1936 the local newspapers were referring to him as “the Ding Darling of the United States [Forest] Service” after the famed cartoonist Jay Darling. Within four years Wendelin would be promoted to the Forest Service’s national office in Washington, DC, and go on to become well known as the primary artist and “caretaker” of Smokey Bear. His time in Milwaukee working on CCC projects, though, was a crucial step towards this future career success.

During his final year working for Region 9, Wendelin drew a series of sketches depicting the forestry work of the CCC that were used in an instructional pamphlet given to enrollees. Woodsmanship for the Civilian Conservation Corps, published annually from 1937 to 1941, served as a guide to using various tools, basic first-aid, poisonous plants and insects, and an introduction to conservation and forestry. Some of the artwork was also used in other CCC materials, like recruitment flyers. The cover image captures the spirit of the CCC then and the perception of it today—the strapping young man made strong from the work and smiling with gratitude for the opportunity.

“The mountains and forests of this country may seem a wilderness to those of the Civilian Conservation Corps who come from the cities and farms,” read the pamphlet’s text. “Experience in the C.C.C. . . . will, however, call for what is known as ‘Woodsmanship’ – the ability to live and work safely, conduct yourself in accordance with your surroundings, and adapt yourself to your environment. No one can be taught woodsmanship out of a book, but here are a few traits of a good woodsman.”

View selections of Wendelin’s CCC art from Woodsmanship below, and consult the Rudolph Wendelin Papers in the FHS archives for further information.

CCC artUsing the Shovel, CCC artwork.
Fighting Fires, CCC artwork. lookout tower art.
Carrying the Crosscut, CCC artwork.
Carrying the D.B. Ax
Felling Trees, CCC artwork.Drill Ye Tarriers
Holding the Ax
Planting Trees, CCC artwork.
Always Break your Matches
Dragon art.

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We’ve asked Leila Pinchot, a Research Fellow at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation (PIC) and a descendant of Gifford Pinchot, to share her thoughts as the premiere date of a new film about Gifford Pinchot approaches. 

Starting in March, keep your eyes peeled for Seeking the Greatest Good: The Conservation Legacy of Gifford Pinchot on your local PBS affiliate (check your local listings here). Seeking the Greatest Good is a documentary produced by the public television station WVIA that links Gifford Pinchot’s conservation philosophy with the Pinchot Institute for Conservation’s (PIC) efforts to address contemporary environmental issues.

PIC-SGG-DVD-Film-COV

I was involved with the film early in its development, as a Pinchot family member, and later became involved with the project as a PIC staff member. As a new member of the PIC staff, the film introduced me to my colleagues’ efforts to preserve water quality in the Delaware River by investing in forest management in the river’s headwaters; their innovative project to link sustainable family forests and affordable healthcare; and community-building through sustainable forestry in Ecuador. In the hour it took me to watch the film, I was able to really grasp how PIC is building on Gifford Pinchot’s conservation philosophy of “the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run” to develop innovative on-the-ground conservation programs. And I learned a thing or two about my great–grandfather during the biography portion that opens the film.

I’m very happy to be able to share that experience with middle school and high school students by developing a Seeking the Greatest Good curriculum guide with WVIA. The guide shows teachers how to use the documentary as part of interactive lesson plans to teach their students about conservation, its history, and current applications. To purchase the DVD or to learn more about the curriculum guide visit: http://www.seekinggreatestgood.org/. To read more about Grey Towersits residents, and the Pinchot Institute, please visit the FHS website. You can view the film trailer below.

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This holiday season we turn to the U.S. Forest Service History Collection for a little fun artwork. The “Service Bulletin” was the newsletter, initially issued weekly and then later monthly, published by the Washington Office (WO) to keep employees abreast of the latest information from DC and around the nation. They typically were 6 or 8 pages in length, and included submitted news pieces, announcements, and even reminiscences from retiring employees. They are a treasure trove of insight and information about the agency during the period from 1920 to 1942. The Service Bulletin was different from the Information Bulletin, also issued from the WO. That came out every few days and typically was the front-and-back of one page. Items were just a couple of sentences in length, sometimes delivered in list form. We have a run of those from its launch in 1936 through 1956, with a break between 1951 and 1954.

Eleven months out of the year, the WO was all business—only the December issue of the Service Bulletin had cover art, and naturally its theme was tied to the holiday season. The artists who designed the December covers vary, as does the featured subject matter. Some are lighthearted, like the one from 1940 by Rudy Wendelin, whose holiday art we’ve featured before. Others reflect the accomplishments of the past year, such as the one from 1932, when the Copeland Report was issued. We’ve opted to share just a sampler of the covers. And instead of interpreting them for you, we’ll instead let these act as a holiday history exam. Do you know what happened and why it was deemed important enough to document in the artwork? We’ve given you the link to find the answer to “What was the Copeland Report?” Answer correctly to avoid getting a lump of coal in your stocking!

1922 Forest Service Bulletin

Service Bulletin – 1922 (William Greeley was chief for this one and the next one)

1926 Service Bulletin

Service Bulletin – 1926

1932 Forest Service Bulletin

Service Bulletin – 1932 (Robert Stuart was chief)

(more…)

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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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