Archive for December, 2009

This past weekend the New York Times reported the passing of Harold Bell on December 4 at age 90. Mr. Bell was one of the creators of Woodsy Owl, the Forest Service’s anti-pollution mascot. He was working with agency employees Glenn Kovar, Betty Conrad Hite, and Charles Williams (who gave Woodsy his slogan “Give a Hoot — Don’t Pollute!”) on the television show “Lassie.”  Mr. Bell was there in his capacity as a marketing agent, the others as technical advisers (since Lassie “belonged” to Forest Ranger Cory Stuart), when the Forest Service asked them to develop a new mascot to fight pollution. A self-taught cartoonist, Mr. Bell did the first drawings of Woodsy.

It was the late 1960s, when the environmental movement and concern for the earth were taking off. Newspaper editors were technically breaking a law by using Smokey Bear in media campaigns against pollution. (Federal law restricts Smokey to discussing firefighting issues. Woodsy has greater latitude. In addition to advising against littering, he has for several years been encouraging folks to “Lend a hand, care for the land” by planting trees and other activities.) The Forest Service developed Woodsy in part to get involved in the burgeoning environmental movement. Though created in time for the first Earth Day in 1970, he wasn’t formally introduced until September 15, 1971. Congress passed legislation protecting Woodsy’s image and establishing his licensing requirements in 1974. Funds from licensing agreements went to promoting education about conservation and fighting pollution. As we approach the fortieth birthday of the friendly owl, and given Woodsy’s message and the Forest Service’s emphasis on land restoration and conservation these days, it seems like the perfect time for Woodsy to make a return to the spotlight.

Because Woodsy was aimed at preschool and grade-school children, Mr. Bell and his creative team quickly settled on a woodland creature found in the wilderness as well as urban forests — the owl. Their owl would not be a wise old owl who might seem to be lecturing kids about pollution, but rather a young one with a kind face who, when in costume, could look children in the eye, which made it easier for them to relate to Woodsy. Within a few years of his introduction, a national survey found that Woodsy and his message were recognized by 90 percent of U.S. households with children and by 70 percent of the general population. Like his older “cousin” Smokey, Woodsy had his own song, appeared in television ads and children’s programs, and generated tons of fan mail from children around the country. (As discussed on this blog before, however, neither icon is in the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame, which is especially criminal in the case of Smokey.)

Woodsy and Smokey had another thing in common — Rudy Wendelin served as the lead artist for both characters. Complementing the materials in the U.S. Forest Service History Collection on Woodsy, which include education kits and a memo from 1988 debating whether to transfer or terminate the Woodsy program, the Wendelin collection has lots of cool Woodsy material. Rudy was brought in fairly early on in the development process to help bring Woodsy to life. Below are just three of the items: original artwork of Woodsy by Rudy, a January 1975 letter from Harold Bell to Rudy requesting Rudy’s help in giving Woodsy more “personality” in his face, and a thank-you note to Rudy with a feather from Woodsy.

Woodsy Owl, from the Rudolph Wendelin Papers

The letter from Harold Bell to Rudy Wendelin discussing Rudy doing some work on Woodsy. Click to read the letter and see some of Rudy's earliest sketches. (Rudolph Wendelin Papers)

When Rudy retired, Woodsy made the ultimate sacrifice for the man who gave him "personality." Click to read the note. (Rudolph Wendelin Papers)

Told you it was cool stuff!

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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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