Archive for January, 2009

January 31st is more than just Super Bowl Saturday here in the U.S.  It’s also the anniversary of the founding of International Paper.*  On this day in 1898, fourteen paper companies came together and incorporated as International Paper (IP).  Capitalized at almost $40 million dollars, IP included seventeen pulp and paper mills operating 101 paper machines with close to 1,500 tons of daily output capacity.  The new company supplied 60 percent of all American newsprint in the world’s largest market for printing paper.  Company executives hoped the large-scale merger would bring some stability to a volatile market that had seen the huge rise in production output far outstrip demand in the last decade of the nineteenth century.  Several issues and factors, however, contributed to IP’s market share plummeting from that initial 60 percent in 1898 to 26 percent by 1913.

The latter year saw the passage of the Underwood Act, which abolished tariffs on Canadian newsprint imports and made newsprint the first major commodity to enter the U.S. virtually duty free.  Abolishing the tariff fundamentally changed the industry and initially caught IP unprepared for the rapid changes.  With an infinitely larger supply of spruce trees for turning into newsprint pulp, Canadian producers began turning out newsprint for much less than IP and other American companies.  IP responded by shifting its newsprint production to Canada.  During the 1920s, IP went on a building and buying spree in Quebec and the Maritime Provinces, including completing a mill at Three Rivers, Quebec, in 1922 and one in Gatineau, Quebec, in 1927.

Mill of the Canadian International Paper Company at Three Rivers, Quebec, 1930.

Canadian International Paper Company mill at Three Rivers, Quebec, 1930.

The mills at Gatineau, Dalhousie, and Three Rivers (seen above) were operated by Canadian International Paper (CIP), a wholly owned subsidiary formed in 1925.  Again, factors and trends worked against IP and made it difficult for IP to realize an adequate rate of return on its $60 million investment in Canadian newsprint.  All this occurred just before the onset of the Great Depression, when IP’s foray into Canada nearly wiped out the company.  Long story short, the company survived because of its production of kraft paper and other consumer goods and still thrives today.  In fact, today it is a Fortune 500 company.  But IP’s survival and revival is a story for another day.

What does this have to do with the Super Bowl?  Frankly, nothing.  I just wanted to get your attention by mentioning it and then rhetorically ask, Arizona?  Really?

But the emphasis on the Canadian side of IP’s story is no accident.  It’s an excuse to draw your attention to some holdings in our archives relating to Canadian International Paper.  For your listening enjoyment, archivist extraordinaire Eben has pared down audio files we have of programs done for radio broadcast in 1948.  The programs were sponsored by CIP and, not coincidentally, are about CIP operations.  The first clip highlights the newsprint creation process at the Gatineau, Quebec, paper mill and the second clip provides a profile of the same plant and its importance as a CIP mill town.  Both clips are about four minutes long.  So, phone the neighbors and wake the kids!  Gather them around the computer speakers and listen to these exciting stories of yesteryear!

Excerpt from “The Story of Newsprint” – a 1948 CIP-sponsored radio program (4min 09sec): 

Excerpt from “Plywood & Banquet” – another 1948 CIP-sponsored radio program (3min 54sec): 

* This entry borrows heavily and shamelessly from Thomas Heinrich’s fine article, “The Case of International Paper, 1898-1941,” Business History Review Vol. 75, No. 3 (Autumn 2001): 467-505.  For an overview of the history of International Paper, see “A Short History of International Paper: Generations of Pride,” Forest History Today, 1998.  For more on the history of newsprint and the history of Canada’s forest industries, check out these two FHS publications:  the Issues Series book Newsprint: Canadian Supply and American Demand by Thomas Roach, and Lost Initiatives: Canada’s Forest Industries, Forest Policy and Forest Conservation by R. Peter Gillis and Thomas Roach and co-published with Greenwood Press.

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On this day in 1935, the Society of American Foresters presented its first-ever award, the Sir William Schlich Memorial Award Medal, to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Roosevelt was recognized for his “interest and effective work for forest conservation,” with specific acclamation given for his establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Test ststu

(Standing, left to right) SAF officers H.H. Chapman, E.H. Clapp, and Franklin W. Reed present the Schlich Award to President Franklin Roosevelt in the White House, January 29, 1935.

The award was named for Sir William Schlich, a 19th-century German-born forester, who worked extensively in India for the British government developing forest management and education programs.  Schlich served as a member of the Royal Indian Forest Service from 1867 to 1885, moved to England and became a British citizen in 1886, and in 1905 founded the School of Forestry at Oxford.  Following Schlich’s death in 1925, a fund was raised by Oxford to establish an award in his name.  Schlich awards were given in Australia, New Zealand, and India, before the trustees of the award elected the U.S. to be the next country of recipient.  At this time the Society of American Foresters adopted the award as a permanent fixture within their organization.

Schlich Award Medal

The award has been presented by SAF to a total of 33 individuals since 1935.  Many of the winners over the past 70 years represent a who’s who of major figures from the world of forestry — from early winners such as Gifford Pinchot (1940), Henry S. Graves (1944), and William B. Greeley (1946) to more recent recipients such as USFS researcher Robert E. Buckman (1994) and our own Harold K. (Pete) Steen (2000), Executive Director of the Forest History Society from 1978-1997.

The FHS Archives houses numerous materials relating to the award and its past winners, including items from the Society of American Foresters Records documenting the award selection process through the years.  The archives also feature several collections with newly published online finding aids representing winners such as Tom Gill (1954), William E. Towell (1978), and Harold K. Steen (2000).

For more on the history of the Sir William Schlich Memorial Award, see “The First American Forestry Award” by Harold K. Steen, from Forest History Today, Spring 2000.

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There are few things I desire more in this world than to unmask secret societies and to find derivations of  “concatenate” in unexpected places. Imagine my delight when I learned that FHS holds a small collection of records for the International Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo.

On this day in 1892, the International Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo, a fraternal society for men in the lumber industry, was founded in Gurdon, Arkansas.  The Order owes its birth in large part to a train delay. As the story goes, Bolling Arthur Johnson, a journalist for Chicago’s Timberman trade newspaper; George K. Smith, secretary for the Southern Lumber Manufacturers Association in St. Louis; and three others arrived in Gurdon as a connection point. Journeying from the meeting of the Arkansas Yellow Pine Manufacturer’s Association held in Camden, the five men anticipated a short stop in Gurdon and then transit to other destinations. They learned the train would be delayed for seven hours and the men looked for ways to fill time.

Johnson and Smith sat on a lumber pile, eventually sharing thoughts on a unified lumber fraternity.  Later, the two sought out the three other men, George Washington Schwartz, William Starr Mitchell and William Eddy Barns.  In the lobby of Hotel Hall, the five discussed the feasibility of the fraternity, joined later by Ludolph O.E.A. Strauss of the Malvern Lumber Company in Gurdon.

As the Daily Siftings Herald reports, “In a nutshell, the men wanted to create a fraternity that would obtain the business interests of all lumber organizations in existence so that, in the ‘complex web of industry concerns,’ the fraternity’s fellowship and goodwill would trickle down to every timber organization — so they could all ‘bear the fruit of service to the industry.'”


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As President-elect Barack Obama’s cabinet nominees are being finalized with little controversy, we here at Peeling Back the Bark can’t help but think back one hundred years ago and wonder what might have happened if, as newspapers speculated, Gifford Pinchot had been appointed to a cabinet position in William Howard Taft’s administration. Here’s what the Southern Lumberman, an industry newspaper, had to say on November 14, 1908.

Gifford Pinchot and Taft's Cabinet

(Click image to enlarge)

As chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Pinchot was frequently mentioned as suitable for either secretary of agriculture or secretary of the interior for two reasons. First, he was “the personal friend of President Roosevelt and one of his advisers.” Most reporters assumed that because Roosevelt had chosen Taft as his successor, Taft would want to continue Roosevelt’s policies and use many of his policymakers to do so. The second reason was his grasp of the issues faced by either department; there is little argument that from a knowledge standpoint, Pinchot was more than qualified for either post. “He is a keen student of the great problems of our national resources and their conservation,” observed the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal at the time.

The possibility of Pinchot’s nomination for either position raises several questions, but I’ll limit the discussion to two. (This assumes Taft, a conservative who disagreed with Roosevelt’s expansion of executive power, would have even nominated Pinchot.) First, would Pinchot have survived the nomination process? Western newspapers had been calling him “Czar Pinchot” for several years and probably would have demanded blocking his appointment. Western senators, resentful of Pinchot’s growing stature and Roosevelt’s usurping and circumventing of Congress’s power, had already succeeded in reining in Pinchot’s power in 1907 and might have tried to humble him before approving him. It would have been fun to watch those hearings!

One of several cartoons depicting Gifford Pinchot as a czar.

One of several cartoons depicting Gifford Pinchot as a czar bent on controlling all western natural resources. Another one called him "King of the Forest Reserve."

Assuming he was approved, the next question is: how long would Pinchot have lasted in Taft’s cabinet? Were the two men going to clash — and Pinchot dismissed — regardless of whether he was secretary or Forest Service chief? I suspect that even as a secretary, once Pinchot’s disillusion with Taft and his policies had set in, he would have sought some way to martyr himself for the cause of conservation. The end result would have been the same, with Pinchot and others trying to pull Roosevelt back into politics in order to challenge Taft in 1912.

"I'll tell Teddy on you!"

"I'll tell Teddy on you!"

What do you think? Would Pinchot have made a good Interior or Agriculture secretary under Taft? Would he have picked a fight and gotten fired for the cause, or stayed in the cabinet to fight for it? Would he even have been approved by Congress?

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Bernhard Fernow

Bernhard Fernow (FHS Archives)

Happy birthday, Bernie! You helped bring forest management and forestry education to the United States and Canada, and we are forever grateful! Have an extra piece of cake on us!

Born in Prussia on January 7, 1851, Bernhard Eduard Fernow trained for both law and forestry. He served in the Prussian Forest Service for seven years and completed his forestry training at the Forest Academy at Muenden. But instead of taking over a family estate as expected, he traveled to the United States in 1876 to attend the American Forestry Association (AFA) meeting held in Philadelphia and to be reunited with his American-born fiancée. They married soon thereafter and he became a United States citizen.

The first trained forester in the United States, Fernow is a pivotal figure in forest and conservation history. For twelve years (1886–1898), he served as chief of the U.S. Division of Forestry, the predecessor to the U.S. Forest Service. He churned out top-notch reports, worked with legislators to pass the Forest Reserve Act (1891) and the Forest Management Act (1897), and put the lowly agency on a solid scientific footing. His work as the executive secretary of AFA (1883–1895) proved just as vital, moving that organization beyond its initial focus on planting trees to advocating for forest preservation and scientific management.

R.H. Campbell, Walter Potts, Mrs. Fernow, and Dr. Fernow on Bow River Forest, Alberta, 1915.

Left to right: R.H. Campbell, Walter Potts, Mrs. Fernow, and Dr. Fernow on Bow River Forest, Alberta, 1915 (FHS Archives).

Fernow can be considered the father of professional forestry education in North America. A long-time advocate for forestry schools in the U.S., in 1898 he left the U.S. Division of Forestry to establish the New York State College of Forestry at Cornell University, the first professional forestry school in the United States (meaning, the first school to offer a college degree). While there, he launched what would become the Journal of Forestry, the first professional forestry journal in the country. The governor shut the school down in 1903 after complaints from the wealthy neighbors of the school’s Adirondack experimental forest. It seems they could hear the sawmill running and didn’t want to be disturbed. In 1907, he founded the forestry program at Pennsylvania State College’s main campus, teaching forestry there in the spring of 1907 before heading to the University of Toronto and establishing Canada’s first forestry school, where he stayed until his retirement in 1920.

Moreover, Fernow represents the transition in forest conservation thinking from the post–Civil War conservationists to the Progressive conservationists, a transition from self-taught botanists and scientists to professionally trained foresters. He provided the first link from forestry’s German roots to its transplantation to the New World. Sympathetic to the moral arguments being made about preserving forests, he knew that conservation was really about economics and that forestry was about annual profits. He worked for the establishment of American forestry management with a singular purpose, but ultimately left to teach in Canada with his reputation in tatters and his endeavors largely unappreciated. He was widely praised after his death in 1923, but then began receding in historical relevance.

That he has received so little recognition for his role in organizing and fostering the forestry profession in America speaks more to the efforts of his professional rivals (especially but not exclusively Gifford Pinchot) to elevate their own work at the expense of his than it does to his actual contributions. The one full-length biography of him, Bernhard Eduard Fernow: A Story of North American Forestry, does little to help recover his reputation because of its dated interpretations (it was originally published in 1951) and poor organization. (A bit encyclopedic, it is, however, an excellent resource for understanding the beginnings of forestry in the western hemisphere.)

John McGuire, R. Max Peterson, and F. Dale Robertson at the book signing party for the 1991 reprint of the Fernow biography.

Left to right: USFS Chiefs John McGuire, R. Max Peterson, and F. Dale Robertson at the book signing party for the 1991 reprint of the Fernow biography (FHS Archives).

It’s time now for a new biography of Fernow — one that incorporates the historiography of the last half-century and can also properly assess his legacy now that so much has been written about the agency he helped to get up and running. That would be a worthy birthday gift!

For more information see the Bernhard E. Fernow page in the FHS U.S. Forest Service Headquarters History Collection.

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