FLO-DA-DVD coverFrederick Law Olmsted: Designing America is the latest film from Lawrence Hott and Diane Garey for PBS’s American Experience series. It is made in the traditional PBS style, perfect for the Olmsted neophyte and ideal for classroom use because of its length (55 minutes) and subject matter. You can stream it from the American Experience website.

That Hott and Garey have made a film about the father of American landscape architecture and his legacy is of little surprise. As pioneers in the film genre of environmental biography, they have been circling Olmsted as a topic for a quarter century.

Their first two films produced for PBS broadly examined the history of wilderness in the United States. The Wilderness Idea: John Muir, Gifford Pinchot and the First Great Battle for Wilderness (1989) an oversimplified story of the “rivalry” between John Muir versus Gifford Pinchot and the debate over constructing the dam in Yosemite Park’s Hetch Hetchy Valley is used to tell the larger history of how the United States came to embrace the idea of preserving wilderness (personified by Muir) as a sanctuary against the progressive, industrial society (as embodied by Pinchot) the country had become by the early 1900s.

Wild by Law: The Rise of Environmentalism and the Creation of the Wilderness Act (1991) picks up where The Wilderness Idea left off and handles the subject in a more nuanced way than does the earlier film. Viewers learn how “wilderness” evolved from a theoretical and philosophical construct, as expressed through the writings and experiences of foresters-turned-wilderness advocates Robert Marshall and Aldo Leopold, to a legal one embodied in the Wilderness Act, which exists largely due to the herculean work of the Wilderness Society’s Howard Zahniser. Since releasing those two films, Hott and Garey have done films on John James Audubon and John Muir, as well as environmental history films on the Adirondacks and two films on Niagara Falls (which Olmsted helped to restore and protect), and other topics of interest to environmental historians.

This new film covers the fascinating life and work of Frederick Law Olmsted. Born in 1822 to a prosperous Connecticut family, Olmsted spent the first 35 years of his life failing upwards. His formal education was limited due to frequent eye problems and he learned mostly through reading in the family’s book collection and observation while wandering the countryside. Oddly, this and some other telling details are not in the film. But we do learn that at 18, he started a series of jobs and unhappily labored as a surveyor, a clerk, and a deckhand on a merchant ship sailing to China (and nearly died) before his father bought him a farm at age 24. For six years he tried his hand at “scientific farming.” He failed at all these things but the experiences would be incorporated into his life’s work.

The film also does not mention that two years before giving up farming, Olmsted traveled to Britain with his brother John and Charles Loring Brace, a close friend who supplemented his travel expenses by writing for newspapers back home. (Brace later entered the ministry and became a social reformer in his own right.) Olmsted was stunned by the level of poverty he saw in England’s cities, and the aristocracy’s indifference to less fortunate humans reinforced his beliefs in democracy and doing what he could to help the poor. He took extensive walking tours of English gardens, public parks, and the countryside, travels that influenced his thinking not only about the purpose of public spaces but how landscapes mechanically functioned. Still thinking like a farmer while traveling, he saw how clayey fields drained and other things that would later find their way into his landscape design work.

He compiled his observations of British society from his journal entries and letters into a book, Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England, which led to his next job. If the film had concerned itself less with Olmsted’s personal life later on (the film’s attempts to humanize Olmsted by documenting the many deaths in his large family feel somewhat forced), more time could have been given over to revealing incidents like his time in England—ones that explain his interest in helping the poor and tell us more about the roots of his egalitarian vision for parks. At any rate, at age 30, Walks and Talks led to an agreement to tour the South for a then-new newspaper called the New York Times, and report on the economic aspect of slavery to their readers. His articles shaped Northern perspective on the matter and the experience turned him into a committed social reformer.

After a series of setbacks in 1857, including losing his job in publishing followed shortly by his beloved brother dying of tuberculosis, Olmsted landed the job of superintendent of New York’s Central Park, then under construction. He joined with architect Calvert Vaux and submitted a design for the park and won the public competition. His life, and America, were never the same after. In time cities would become livable because of protected greens spaces.

New York City as seen from the air, 2011. The green rectangle is Central Park, with ball fields at the left, or northern, end. (Courtesy of the author)

New York City as seen from the air, 2011. The green rectangle is Central Park, with ball fields at the left, or northern, end and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in the middle. (Author’s photo)

At this point, Hott and Garey begin doing what they do best as filmmakers. The film engagingly illustrates and explains the vision Olmsted had for Central Park’s design (and of those he subsequently developed), what made his parks so different from European parks, and also the impact of his parks on American society. The interviews with historians, park enthusiasts, and employees help us better understand the critical role the park still holds in New Yorker’s lives and by extension those of all Americans.

What we learn is that, to Olmsted, Central Park provided a democratic landscape. For the first time, men and women could recreate together—bicycling or ice skating, for example—and without chaperones. Additionally, the landscape allowed different classes and religions to mix. Yet Olmsted sought to impose an upper middle-class vision of behavior on the park’s visitors and hoped to have rules enforced. Rules included not walking on the lawns or using vulgar language, and visitors were expected to dress nicely. Olmsted’s skewed democratic vision is contrasted with footage of present-day Central Park visitors recreating in innumerable ways and a couple of interviews with those who use it. (One can only imagine how he would react to how people dress today while visiting his park.) It is this impulse to influence if not control behavior that gives deeper meaning to the film’s subtitle Designing America.

Central Park on a spring day. On any given day, you'll find people boating, walking, bicycling, rollerblading, playing ball, or picnicking. (Author's photo)

Central Park on a spring day. On any given day, you’ll find people boating, walking, bicycling, rollerblading, playing ball, or picnicking. (Author’s photo)

Thus began an on-again, off-again twenty-year relationship with the park as architect-in-chief as well as superintendent. His work at Central Park was interrupted by the Civil War, during which he established and led the U.S. Sanitation Commission (a precursor to the American Red Cross) for two years before exhausting himself and resigning. His experience with the commission and virtually every subsequent job repeated that of Central Park—“he did brilliant work,” narrator Stockard Channing tells us, “and quarreled bitterly with his superiors.” Actor Campbell Scott acquits himself well as the voice of Olmsted.

Olmsted went west and found work at an enormous mining operation near the Yosemite Valley area in California. He came to serve as head of the Yosemite Park Commission, which prepared a detailed assessment of the recently created national park. In writing the report he expounded upon a connection between land preservation and “the pursuit of happiness” and the role of a republican government in providing “means of protection for all its citizens” in that pursuit from “the selfishness of individuals or combinations of individuals.” His writings from this period provided a firm foundation upon which both the wilderness and conservation movements could and did in part build.

Yosemite Valley, which Olmsted advocated protection of in his report. (Author's photo)

Yosemite Valley, which Olmsted advocated protection of in his report. (Author’s photo)

When the mining company went under a few years later, Olmsted returned to New York at the invitation of his old partner Vaux to plan and build Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Prospect Park differs dramatically in form and in history from Central Park. The latter was confined to a rectangular shape; they had greater freedoms in designing and building Prospect Park. They were told they had unlimited funds and few constraints on its shape. Their work touched off an urban park movement. Soon other cities across the country wanted what New York had. Olmsted, Vaux and Company—which opened an office in Manhattan—took on several other commissions, including a new park system in Buffalo, New York.

There, in the booming inland port city, they undertook a very ambitious plan. Instead of converting one location into a park, as the city leaders asked, they developed three separate areas and connected them by parkways—tree-lined boulevards that function like green arteries, connecting three green “hearts,” in this case three distinctive neighborhoods, with each park reflecting the characteristics of the surrounding neighborhoods. With the Buffalo plan, Olmsted moved beyond landscape architecture to, in effect, city planning. The parkway system became the template repeated by Olmsted and competing firms in many other cities, like Boston, Seattle, and Louisville. Interestingly, his attempt at planning an entire city was rejected. Asked by the Northern Pacific Railway to design their West Coast terminus city, Tacoma, Washington, Olmsted laid out a city with streets that followed the contours of the sloping land: it was a city plan “without a straight line or a right angle.” The client wanted a city laid out on the familiar grid system and didn’t accept the plan.

The challenge in designing any of these parks, we learn, is that a landscape architect must take the long view and look far out into the future: “In laying out Central Park, we determined to think of no results to be realized in less than forty years,” wrote Olmsted. Each park’s open space, he felt, must be maintained and the impulse to fill in those spaces guarded against. In nearly every public project, Olmsted’s larger vision of open space would be sacrificed or ignored by impatient or unenlightened commission members in favor of ball fields or golf courses or, as in Boston, a zoo and a hospital.

The other notable point made is that Olmsted did not give us natural landscapes, but artificial ones—ones “every bit as artificial as Disney World,” asserts writer Adam Gopnik in one of the interview clips. According to landscape architect Faye Harwell both Walt Disney and Frederick Olmsted were masters of hiding engineering and “the nasty parts”—the waste management and the traffic management. What Olmsted was doing, Harwell says, was “creating stage sets for human life,” meaning beautiful backdrops and scenery. The point is punctuated by newsreel footage showing a mass wedding in Prospect Park from mid-twentieth century.

What we think is natural is artifice. Olmsted moved rocks and earth to create features like this in Central Park as well as other parks. (Author’s photo)

By age 70, Olmsted had created designs for every space imaginable: parks, gardens, hospitals, the U.S. Capital, and even a world’s fair, the White City at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. One of his last commissions was not for public space but for a private residence. In the early 1890s, millionaire George Vanderbilt was constructing his country home in western North Carolina, the Biltmore Estate. He invited Olmsted to design the gardens and parkland. Olmsted encouraged Vanderbilt to think bigger—and at the same time to give back to his country—by initiating forest management on the exhausted farmland he had purchased. In time, Vanderbilt would own 125,000 of forested acres which became home to America’s first school of forestry, a site now preserved as the Cradle of Forestry in America.

Olmsted, around 1895. Biltmore Forester Carl Schenck described him thus: he was "not merely the great authority on all landscapism and indeed the creator of landscape CARL SCHENCK: (CONT'D) architecture in the U.S.A.; he was also the inspirer of American forestry. And he was more: he was the loveliest and most loveable old man whom I have ever met."

Frederick Olmsted, around 1895. Biltmore Estate Forester Carl Schenck described him thus: He was “not merely the great authority on all landscapism and indeed the creator of landscape architecture in the U.S.A.; he was also the inspirer of American forestry. And he was more: he was the loveliest and most loveable old man whom I have ever met.” (Forest History Society Photo FHS294)

By 1895, dementia had begun to affect Olmsted’s ability to work, so he retired and turned the business over to his sons. His wife cared for him for three years before placing him in McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. Ironically, he had submitted a design plan for the grounds there years before but it was rejected. He died in 1903. Long before then, the film makes amply clear, Frederick Law Olmsted had made parks an essential part of American life and society.

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 16, in which we examine Tim Burr.

Tim BurrIn July 1949 the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company debuted the first issue of its new company-wide magazine. Weyerhaeuser Magazine was targeted to company employees and featured company news across the various branches, as well as features on Weyerhaeuser employees both on the job and away from work. The inaugural issue of the magazine also introduced to the world a brilliantly-named character: Mr. Tim Burr.

Tim’s purpose was to promote workplace safety, similar to previously profiled characters like Herman I. Cautious and Paula Bunyan. But unlike Herman and Paula, who were committed examples of proper workplace behavior, Tim was a bit more of a daydreaming klutz. While a good-natured worker, Tim continually ran into trouble while on the job.

The brief item announcing his introduction in Weyerhaeuser Magazine describes him as follows: “It’s not that he isn’t a good worker—he is. The unfortunate thing about Tim is that he’s a dope when it comes to safety.”

In his first appearance, Tim falls down the stairs at work while dreaming of an upcoming vacation. In subsequent appearances he gets stuck in sawmill machinery, runs into trouble while self-administering first aid, forgets to wear a gas mask at an inopportune moment, and gets hit by a falling tree. The five-panel Tim Burr comic strips always ended with Tim either in the infirmary or covered in bandages (usually both).

Tim Burr comic #1

First two panels of first-ever Tim Burr comic (July 1949). Click to view full strip.

The Tim Burr comics were drawn by artist Jack Keeler, who spent much of his early career in the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to some information provided by Keeler’s grand-nephew we now know a lot more about the artist’s life and work.

Keeler was born in Wyoming in 1923 but moved with his family a few years later to Everett, Washington. In the early 1940s he attended the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. Following service in World War II, Keeler went to work as a comic artist. His work appeared alongside icons such as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in various 1940s comics (Keeler created characters such as Soapy Sam, Junior Genius, and the Rosebud Sisters).

During the time of Tim Burr, Keeler was working for an advertising agency in Tacoma, Washington. In 1950 he moved to Los Angeles and then later to New York where he achieved great success in the advertising industry. One of the original “Mad Men,” Keeler was the creative genius behind Folgers Coffee campaigns in the 1960s, and also did work for the 1967 Chevy Camaro, Western Airlines, Heinz Ketchup, and many other brands.

As for Tim Burr, his career proved to be much, much shorter. After taking a physical beating for a year, Tim made his final appearance in the May 1950 issue of Weyerhaeuser Magazine (we assume this coincides with Keeler’s departure from the Tacoma area). In the following issue (August 1950) a new safety character was introduced (stay tuned!), drawn by a new artist. A short item stated: “Tim Burr has retired to a well-deserved rest.”

Like all our Forgotten Characters, though, Tim continues to live on here in the Forest History Society Library and Archives. Continue below for more classic Tim Burr comics drawn by Jack Keeler.

Tim Burr #2

Tim Burr comic September 1949. Click to view full strip.

Tim Burr #3

Tim Burr comic November 1949. Click to view full strip.

Tim Burr #4

Tim Burr comic January 1950. Click to view full strip.

Tim Burr #5

Tim Burr comic March 1950. Click to view full strip.

Tim Burr #6

Tim Burr comic May 1950. Click to view full strip.

The silence, once I recognized it, struck me as odd, but then it made sense. I’ve been in louder empty churches, an apt analogy because I was here to pay my respects to the late, great man. I stood alone in the natural cathedral. The giant trees reminded me of the Corinthian columns that supported the roof of my childhood church—too big to wrap my arms around and requiring that I tilt my head all the way back to see the decorative capital of flowers and leaves. The top of the coastal redwoods and giant sequoias have their own version. I moved about the trail of marked trees silently so as not to disturb the named sentinels that guard the grove. It seemed silly because I was alone but it made all the sense in the world because of the reverence I feel for those honored here: Olmsted, Sargent, Vanderbilt, Pinchot, Fernow, and sixteen other founding fathers of the American forestry movement. They are the men that I have shared my life with, for a quarter of a century now, having spent countless hours studying, questioning, challenging, and arguing with and about them. But I had come to pay tribute to the man for whom the redwood grove is named and who had selected the trees that bore their names: Carl Alwin Schenck.

How is it that a redwood grove in northern California is named for a German forester who had barely stepped foot in these woods until he came here on July 4, 1951, for the dedication ceremony in his honor? He would have told you the answer is “love.” The love Schenck’s former students felt for him, and he them. Schenck’s saying that “Forestry is a good thing but love is better” is inscribed on the commemorative marker. Actually it tells us that “the alumni, his friends and admirers . . . have caused these trees to be designated in his honor as a mark of their affection for him and their devotion to his leadership and his teaching.” In mid-20th century America “affection” was an acceptable term for men to use when saying they loved one another. The word really harkened back to their youth, when they trailed through the forest behind Schenck like so many flannelled fledglings. But the inclusion of Schenck’s quotation tells you it was more than affection. “Affection” stands for many other things: “admiration,” “respect,” “friendship.” But most of all “love.”

“Have caused these trees” is an interesting choice of language. They—the alumni, “his boys” as he called them—had been his cause while he was their teacher. He taught them forestry, for sure, but taught them to be men, to drink beer around the campfire, and to drink deeply from the well of life. To know the great philosophers and the Bible. To know their oaks from their maples. To know that good forestry meant good roads. They in turn had made him their cause, to bring him back to the United States following World War II, to show him that they had become the men he expected them to be and had done the great things he prepared them to do. The last tree named is in their honor: “All Schenck’s Old Boys of The Biltmore School.”

BFS marker


The Carl Alwin Schenck Grove is in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in northern California. It’s named for Dr. Carl Alwin Schenck (1868–1955), the chief forester of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, and founder of the Biltmore Forest School, the first school of forestry in North America (1898–1913). The grove was dedicated on July 4, 1951, by Schenck in a ceremony attended by his former students, friends, and local dignitaries.

Schenck operated the school from 1898 to 1909 on the estate before he was dismissed by the owner, George Vanderbilt. Schenck then spent the next four years traveling with his students throughout the United States and Europe examining working fields and lumber operations before shuttering the school and returning to his native Germany by 1914. One of the many honors bestowed upon Schenck for his pioneering work in American forestry was having a grove named for him through a program operated by the Save-the-Redwoods League and the California State Park Commission.

The event was just one of several stops on a grand tour of the United States in 1951. The tour, sponsored by the American Forestry Association (now American Forests) and the school alumni, is captured in a limited edition book Trees for the Great: Honoring Carl Alwin Schenck. The book includes a phonograph recording recreating the redwood grove ceremony, complete with songs performed at the event and Dr. Schenck giving his speech in which he lists those he wished to honor with named trees. (You can listen to the mp3 version of it here.) It also includes reprints of articles from Newsweek magazine and The New Yorker Magazine.

The grove has two trail loops with numbered markers bearing the names of founders of the American forestry movement as selected by Schenck and one dedicated to his former students. Markers are still visible for (in sequential order) Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., Charles Sprague Sargent, George W. Vanderbilt, Gifford Pinchot, Sir Dietrich Brandis, Carl Schurz, John Sterling Morton, John Aston Warder, Nathaniel Egleston, Bernhard Fernow, Joseph T. Rothrock, Filibert Roth, Samuel B. Green, Dr. Homer D. House, and Dr. Clifford Durant Howe. (House and Howe taught at the Biltmore School.) Five markers are missing. It is hard to determine what names they bore because of some discrepancies between the names recorded at the time Schenck announced them in 1951 and the standing markers. The Save the Redwoods League is in the process of digitizing all their files relating to their many memorial groves.

The grove is located off the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, approximately 8 miles north of Orick, California, off U.S. Highway 101. To reach the grove, park on the road at the Brown Creek Trail trailhead. Begin the 1.3-mile walk by going 0.2 miles east on the groomed dirt path to the trail junction. Turn left (north), staying on Brown Creek Trail and heading away from South Fork Trail. The footbridge to Schenck Grove is about 1.1 miles north of the junction. At the other side of the bridge sits the marker unveiled at the dedication. Allow at least three hours total to hike there and back and for exploring the grove.

Map is from the "Trail Map of Redwood National and State Parks" (Redwood Hikes Press, 2013)

“CAS” indicates the location of the Schenck Grove. “FLO” is the Frederick Law Olmsted Grove. The map is from the “Trail Map of Redwood National and State Parks” (Redwood Hikes Press, 2013)

Just on the other side of the bridge in Schenck Grove on the left you'll find the marker and where the ceremony took place in 1951.

Just on the other side of the bridge in Schenck Grove on the left you’ll find the marker and where the ceremony took place in 1951.


The marker was dramatically lit by the sun when I arrived, as if Dr. Schenck wanted to make sure I didn’t miss it. Click the photo so you can read the inscription.

tree markers

Though the path is easy to walk, markers are subject to the whims of nature such as plant growth or fallen trees. The marker for the “Old Boys of The Biltmore School” is in the foreground.


Dr. Schenck at the marker after its unveiling. The tablet appears to be made of wood. The one there today is made of metal (see above).


Dr. Schenck delivering his speech as some former students and dignitaries listen.

From the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, lecturers often used glass lantern slides to illustrate their topics. Photographs were copied onto glass plates to make the slides, which would then be used with a projector to cast images onto walls or large screens. First developed in 1849, this process allowed for large groups of people to view photographs at the same time. This new technology was a no-brainer for lecturers. Large audiences now had a visual aid, one that was oftentimes further enhanced through color. Professional colorists hand-tinted the slides, producing colorized photos long before the invention of color film.

Cheat River watershed, West Virginia

Lantern slide depicting a stand of mixed hardwoods and softwoods, Cheat River watershed, West Virginia, 1923.

FHS houses a set of such slides in the Duke University School of Forestry Lantern Slide Collection, a portion of which was recently digitized. These slides were collected by Clarence F. Korstian (1889–1968), a seminal figure in the history of forestry education both in North Carolina and nationwide. Korstian used the slides to accompany lectures during his tenure at Duke University from 1930 to 1959.

Clarence Korstian

Korstian standing in open stand of timber in Craven County, NC, 1927.

Born and raised in Nebraska, Korstian spent the majority of his career in North Carolina. He served two decades with the U.S. Forest Service, about half of that at the Appalachian Forest Experiment Station in Asheville. He left the agency in 1930 to take a job at Duke as both a professor of silviculture and director of the Duke Forest. At Duke, Korstian organized a graduate school of forestry and served as the school’s first dean when it opened in the fall of 1938. He was instrumental in developing one of the nation’s leading forestry programs during his tenure, while also managing and expanding Duke Forest.

Duke Forest vehicle 1930s

Duke Forest vehicle traveling on bridge over New Hope Creek in Durham, NC, 1930s.

The lantern slides Korstian collected to illustrate his forestry lectures come from at least 36 different states and several countries. Some of the photographs were taken by Korstian during his time with the Forest Service. The collection also includes photos from a trip he took to Europe to visit forestry schools in Germany, Switzerland, and France in the summer of 1932. The majority of slides in the collection are hand-colored, and as a whole they provide a unique look at forestry practices of the time as well as photographic technology.

German forest road

Dr. Hans Mayer-Wegelin, Forstassessor Petri, and Prof. Joshua Alban Cope on forest road in Bramwald Staatsoberforsterei. Hann-Munden, Germany, 1932.

By the 1940s, 35mm Kodachrome slides began to take over as the preferred method for publicly showcasing photographs. Lantern slide use all but disappeared by the late 1950s. This was also around the same time that Korstian’s own career was winding down. He relinquished the deanship in 1957, and fully retired two years later. Following his retirement in 1959, one of the major divisions of Duke Forest was named in his honor.

Over 100 of the 900 slides in the collection have so far been digitized and can now be accessed online via the FHS image database. You can view more selections from the collection below, and see the collection’s finding aid for additional information. To learn more about Korstian, read the oral history interview Clarence F. Korstian: Forty Years of Forestry conducted by Elwood Maunder in 1959.

Fire scars

Second growth oaks, damaged at the base by fires. Pisgah National Forest, 1927.

Steam skidder in Great Dismal Swamp

Steam skidder in a gum swamp, Dismal Swamp area, NC, 1922.

Kudzu vines planted to control erosion

Kudzu vines planted to control erosion, Tennessee, 1930.

Chestnut trees at Greenwich Park

Chestnut trees at Greenwich Park, England.

rhododendron undergrowth

Virgin forest, chiefly spruce, at high elevation with rhododendron undergrowth, NC, 1900.

The debate can now be settled. We know what the greatest championship series in baseball history is. It’s certainly not the 2014 San Francisco-Kansas City match-up, though that’s been entertaining.

What championship am I talking about? The year was 1908. Theodore “Big Stick” Roosevelt was finishing his second term as president. “Big Bill” Taft was running on the Republican ticket to succeed his friend and was taking on William Jennings Bryan, aka “The Great Commoner.” (This may have been the Progressive Era, but it was also the era of the best sports nicknames. Who could ever forget players like “Wee Willie” McGill, “Handsome” Griffin, or “Postscript” Fletcher? Even the head umpire of the series was nicknamed “Dusty”!)

The teams hailed from Chicago and Indianapolis and met on a sun-baked field in Michigan City, Indiana, for the first game. It had all the trappings of the modern game: two teams loaded with stars, four umpires, clean uniforms. See for yourself.Hoo Hoo baseball Chicago vs. Indianapolis

Oh, did I mention that this was the Hoo-Hoo‘s World Series? After all, lumber mills were big sponsors of teams back then. Nevertheless, there were bragging rights on the line. We’ll let our intrepid reporter take it from here:

At 1 o’clock the invading army of black cats took Michigan City without a struggle, the natives firing only one shot, that being from the artillery of a photographer. Immediately upon the landing of the steamer a brass band headed the line and the cavalcade proceeded to the park, where it was successfully photographed, and then steered to a great refreshment hall, where it was very successfully fed. The local accommodations for caring for the big crowd were found to be excellent and the hunger of all was satisfied without serious difficulty.

The chief event of the afternoon was the baseball game. Immediately after the luncheon the Hoo-Hoo and their ladies proceeded in a body to the b.p., meaning not baseball park but boiling point. The Northern Indiana penitentiary formed an appropriate background to this travesty on a baseball field. The sun turned all its calcium effects upon two inches of red hot sand, in which the athletes were compelled to disport themselves. The game itself was a contest between two teams selected from the lumbermen of Indianapolis and Chicago. They were made up as follows:

Two more formidable teams have never taken the field to battle for a title.

Just before the teams took the field E. F. Dodge, of Chicago, called [umpires] C. D. Rourke, of Urbana, Ill., and George Palmer, of Indianapolis, Ind., to the plate and presented one with a horse pistol and the other with a shotgun. Some of the decisions later proved that this was a wise precaution, undoubtedly saving both umpires from the fury of the populace.

Indianapolis won the game in the first inning, the Chicago team going up in the aeroplane a la Wright Bros. The procession of Indianapolis runs took ten minutes to pass a given point.

Pitcher Fox appeared to be a stranger in the neighborhood and was unable to locate the plate. He gave Mercer and Geisel, the first two men up, passes to first, and then Johnson started a grounder to first, which got through Saye’s legs and caromed into right field, Mercer and Geisel scoring. Avery struck out, but a passed ball assisted Johnson to third, from which he scored when Pritchard singled. Pritchard stole third, but expired there on infield outs of West and Maas.

In the third inning Giesel drew a base on balls, but was forced at second, McGill to Larson, on Johnson’s grounder. Avery’s single advanced Johnson a base and he scored when Lewis threw over Fletcher’s head. Pritchard grounded, McGill to Saye. West struck out.

Chicago got its lone tally in this inning and might have had more but for some bad base running. Larson opened with a beautiful two-base hit and went to third on a wild pitch. Matthias struck out, but Dodge singled through the box, scoring Larson. When Fletcher flied to Mercer, Dodge led away off and was easily doubled, Mercer to Pritchard.

During the four succeeding innings the two teams played airtight baseball, but thirteen Indianapolis men and twelve Chicago men going to bat. Fox opened the fifth inning with a single, but was nailed at second when he attempted to steal with the ball in the pitcher’s hands. Hamilton singled in the seventh with two out and was left at first.

The fielding features of the game were supplied by Fox, McGill, and Pritchard. W. H. Johnson, who besides being a good ball player is president of the Indiana Retail Lumber Dealers’ Association, gave a fine exhibition of backstopping. Wee Willie McGill accepted three chances at second without error. Postscript Fletcher did not have a chance at third, or undoubtedly would be included in the special mention column. The managing of Handsome Griffin was also a conspicuous feature. The score:

Box Score 1908

Immediately after the ball game the Hoo-Hoo and their ladies, many of whom had entertained themselves about Michigan City rather than swelter at the ball park or approach so dangerously close to the penitentiary, again boarded the [steamer] Theodore Roosevelt and enjoyed a beautiful twilight and moonlight trip homeward to Chicago. On the way they were entertained with music by talented vocalists and with explanations from members of the Chicago team.

That’s right. The Chicago players spent part of the trip home making excuses for the loss. I wonder what they said after Game 2, played ten days later in Indianapolis.

Chicago Hoo Hoo baseball team 1908

The losers from Chicago.

Because once again, the Windy City Boys turned in a poor performance, this time getting shellacked 23-3, committing 12 errors, and not scoring their first run until the 7th inning. Let’s go back to our reporter, who appears to be making excuses for the Chicagoans:

Because of the wide difference in the score there was not much excitement, but what the game lacked in excitement was made up in fun. The local team is composed largely of big men who do not often indulge in such exertion as playing ball, most of them being office men. Until noon Monday part of the local team had not reported at their offices for work.

Indianapolis baseball 1908

The victorious team from Indianapolis.

The third and final game was played in Chicago. By then, the Hoosiers had already won the 3-game series, so their incentive to play all-out was not very great. Still, Chicago had to rally from 3 runs down to win 8-4.

A week later the Chicago Cubs won their last World Series title. Perhaps instead of a billy goat, their fans should bring a black cat to Wrigley Field to break the curse.

Go Hoo Hoos!

What we like to think might have been the pennant won by the Hoosiers!

The Chicago Hoo Hoo baseball team.

Chicago’s not-so-lovable losers.

The International Concatenated Order of the Hoo-Hoo is one of the country’s oldest industrial fraternal organizations. Formed in 1892 at a train station in rural Arkansas almost as a lark (and possibly while under the influence of alcohol), the idea of a fraternal organization for the timber and lumber industries founded on the ideals of fellowship and goodwill quickly caught on. Soon chapters could be found all over the United States.


The black cat with its tail curled into the number 9 is the Hoo-Hoo mascot. It flies in the face of superstition and harkens back to the ancient Egyptians, who worshiped the cat as a deity.

While it’s easy to not take the organization seriously in part because the founders adopted their nomenclature from Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Hunting of the Snark,” and they do know how to have a good time, the Hoo-Hoos of today are little different from members a century ago: they are folks who care deeply about their industry and each other. Early proof of that fraternal bond quickly emerged in the days following the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Shortly after the earthquake hit on the morning of April 18, 1906, the news flashed around the country of the catastrophe via telegraph. The earthquake had done its share of damage, but the fires that erupted in the aftermath laid waste to significant portions of the city. Lumber yards and wood products businesses were particularly vulnerable to the fires, of course. Communication in and out of the area was spotty and slow. In Nashville, where the Hoo-Hoo organization was then headquartered, in the Office of Supreme Scrivenoter (Editor) J. H. Baird, they anxiously awaited word from San Francisco. Fortunately for us, Baird sifted through and preserved a good portion of the correspondence in an article published in the May 1906 issue of the organization’s newsletter The Bulletin.

On April 24, Vicegerent Frank Trower in San Francisco telegrammed: “Disaster by earthquake and fire too awful for description has prostrated San Francisco and many interior towns. Three hundred thousand people homeless and destitute. Immediate help sorely needed. Many Hoo-Hoo lost business and homes—everything except their grit. This is the time for brothers to show true spirit of fraternity by temporary relief. Will you help us? Wire me at 1238 Filbert Street, Oakland.” Along with many other businessmen Trower had relocated to Oakland because he had lost his lumber business in the fire that followed the earthquake.

The Mission District burning. [Photographer: Chadwick, H. D. (US Gov War Department. Office of the Chief Signal Officer.) - US Archiv ARCWEB ARC Identifier: 524395 NARA National Archives and Records Administration]

The Mission District burning. [Photographer: Chadwick, H. D. (US Gov War Department. Office of the Chief Signal Officer.) – US Archiv ARCWEB ARC Identifier: 524395 NARA National Archives and Records Administration]

On April 30, a lengthy letter dated on April 25 from Trower to Baird read in part:

“Dear Brother Baird: I am confiscating a few moments’ time to write you regarding conditions here one week after the great earthquake and fire. The experiences and emotions of a lifetime have been crowded into that short week. It is very hard to realize that the beloved San Francisco of former times we shall know no more. Today she is still a splendid city—splendid in her ruins….

Now a few words as to our local Hoo-Hoo and how they have fared. I wired you on the 20th saying that many of our Hoo-Hoo had their business and homes ruined, and asked if our Order would not give them temporary assistance. So far I have not had an answer to this message. I have met several of our members in this situation and there are doubtless many more. It is difficult for us just now to find each other, but I am advertising in the local papers, giving my new address and asking all Hoo-Hoo needing temporary assistance to call on me. What we want is to help our members to help themselves. I am sure that most of them will later repay any relief given now. We do not want charity, but only a little help for the time being, until we can get on our feet. I feel this is the time for our brothers to show a true fraternal spirit. You may be sure any help extended us will be carefully handled, and if there is any balance remaining it will be returned to you for the Imminent Distress Fund or for such other use as the Supreme Nine may decide to make of it.”

Baird received another letter from Trower on May 1:

“Many of our members have suffered heavy financial losses. You can easily understand this when I tell you that about one-half of the lumber yards in San Francisco are gone, all of the hotel district, about one-half of the planing mills and practically all of the sawmill and machinery supply houses…. Brother Baird, it would warm the cockles of your heart to see how our people have accepted their fearful losses without a whimper. Our boys out here are pure grit, and the women, God bless them, are pure gold, and they are all standing by the city, working cheerfully to put it once again in its imperial position.”

Other Hoo-Hoos were writing Baird as well, and so he published those letters in this same article. Arthur White wrote to convey his experiences the day of the earthquake, which makes for a very riveting letter. But I wanted to share this little tidbit. The next time you’re having a tough day at work, you might want to remember this. Recall that the quake hit at 5:18 in the morning. That afternoon, White wrote, “Premature births began. I was told that in one lumber yard in the south end of town forty-two children were born before Friday morning. I did not see this but I have every reason to believe it.”

In the days immediately following the disaster, Trower and the others initially didn’t know that cities and people around the country were organizing relief efforts. In another letter to Baird he wrote: “I think our members here never realized before the strong bond of fraternity between us and our brethren in other parts of the country. We have had many expressions of sympathy and good cheer, and your prompt offer of financial assistance impressed upon us profoundly the fact that while ours is not a benefit order, yet we will not allow any member to be in imminent distress without coming to his aid.”

Trower formed a Hoo-Hoo relief committee to do several things, including securing employment for members. Naturally, there were nine members of the committee. In this time of crisis, being part of the organization brought some solace to Trower and the others in the Bay Area. After a bit of time had passed, maybe just a few weeks or so, he wrote Baird again, saying:

“Please send me the latest handbook and such supplements as may be out, as I have no list of our members here. Our faithful old Hoo-Hoo trunk with all the apparatus and the Sacred Black Cat is no more. They did their duty well. Peace to their ashes. Will you kindly send me the new supply of Hoo-Hoo material of all kinds as soon as convenient? I am anxious to hold another concatenation in the near future, either in the San Joaquin Valley, probably at Fresno, or in the San Francisco Bay section. Another good, old time initiation will make us feel at home again.”

I’ll give Scrivenoter Baird the last word on this. At the end of the article, he wrote:

“All of the foregoing is but a meager outline of conditions in San Francisco, but it serves to show that Hoo-Hoo is far from an order devoted merely to promoting what is known as ‘a good time’ on the part of its members. The returns from the call sent out for aid are still coming in, and the hundreds of letters received at this office are truly an inspiration, proving that the Order does truly typify the universal brotherhood of men.”


I recently spoke at the annual Hoo-Hoo international convention and shared the above with the members in my talk. This year’s gathering was held just north of San Francisco in Santa Rosa. While at the convention, though, I heard echoes of 1906. Ironically, a small quake had hit the region just a few weeks before. Some members couldn’t attend because they were dealing with earthquake damage or contending with wildfires that were threatening their homes. There was some concerned discussion about those not in attendance because of natural disaster, as well as conversations and commiseration about the challenges many of these business owners face in a volatile lumber market. I also saw many displays of friendship and fraternity that transcended international boundaries—the Aussies and Kiwis evidently had been coming for years, judging by the camaraderie between them and the Americans and Canadians. I witnessed the inauguration of their first woman Grand Snark of the Universe, Mary Beth Moynihan, who was clearly beloved and respected. The “universal brotherhood of men” will now be led by a woman. In short, I can attest that nearly 110 years later, the Hoo-Hoo continue to inspire and that the feelings of goodwill and fellowship are strong.

Read a first-person account of the recovery efforts launched by the U.S. Forest Service in the aftermath of the earthquake in the 2006 issue of Forest History Today in Pamela Connor’s “A First-hand Report Concerning the Fire and Earthquake Situation in San Francisco, 1906” and see photos of the city after the fires in our digital online exhibit “Redwood in the San Francisco Fire.”

In this article-length guest blog post, retired U.S. Forest Service research forester Stephen F. Arno discusses why fire management is impeded today and says we need to look at the history of fire policy in tandem with the development of the science of disturbance ecology to gain a better understanding of the issue. 

Numerous books and commentaries have described the century-long evolution of forest fire policy in the United States. However, rarely have these accounts focused on one of the seminal factors that provoked a transformation in policy and fire-control practices—namely, expanding knowledge of fire ecology.

Soon after its inception in the early 1900s the U.S. Forest Service adopted a policy that can be described as “fire exclusion,” based on the view that forest fires were unnecessary and a menace.[1] In the late 1970s, however, the agency was compelled by facts on the ground to begin transitioning to managing fire as an inherent component of the forest.[2] This new direction, “fire management,” is based on realization that fire is inevitable and can be either destructive or beneficial depending largely on how fires and forest fuels are managed. Despite the obvious logic of fire management it continues to be very difficult to implement on a significant scale. To understand why fire management is impeded and perhaps gain insight for advancing its application, we need to look at the history of fire policy in tandem with the development of the science of disturbance ecology. It is also important to review changing forest conditions and values at risk to wildfire. Certain aspects of the situation today make it more difficult to live with fire in the forest than was the case a century ago.

Forest homes burned in the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski wildfire, AZ. Such a scene is increasing in frequency. (Photo by Humphrey’s Type 1 USDA/USDI Southwest Region Incident Management Team)

Forest homes burned in the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski wildfire, AZ. This is an increasingly common scene. (Photo by Humphrey’s Type 1 USDA/USDI Southwest Region Incident Management Team)

This story begins with the emergence of the profession of forestry in America at the turn of the twentieth century. The first professional foresters in the United States were educated in humid regions of Europe, where concepts of forestry developed primarily to establish tree plantations on land that had been denuded by agrarian people seeking firewood and building material and clearing forestland for grazing.[3] Native forests in these regions had largely disappeared long before, and fire in the forest was considered an undesirable, damaging agent. In retrospect, the European model of forestry didn’t apply very well to the vast areas of North American forest consisting of native species that had been maintained for millenniums by periodic fires. For instance, much of the Southeast and a great deal of the inland West supported forests of fire-resistant pines with open, grassy understories, perpetuated by frequent low-intensity fires.

From the outset, American foresters had to confront damaging wildfires, often caused by abandoned campfires, sparks from railroads, and people clearing land. Arguments for “light burning” to tend the forest were first made in print during the 1880s, before there were forest reserves or an agency to care for them.[4] Timber owners in northern California liked setting low-intensity fires under ideal conditions as a means of controlling accumulation of fuel. Stockmen liked to burn in order to stimulate growth of forage plants. Settlers used fire for land clearing and farming. Romanticists favored it for maintaining an age-old Indian way of caring for the land.

Fire historian Stephen Pyne concludes that there was no presumptive reason why American forestry should have rigorously fought against all forms of burning in the forest.[5] What the new government foresters like Gifford Pinchot and William Greeley refused to accept was that frontier laissez-faire burning practices could be allowed to coexist with systematic fire protection, which increasingly became the forester’s mission. But foresters saw light burning as a political threat, and they refused entreaties from advocates of burning to develop procedures for applying fire as a forestry practice.[6] Ironically, promoters of light burning were in a sense recognizing that it is important to account for natural processes in managing native forests, a concept termed “ecosystem management” when it was finally endorsed by the chief of the Forest Service in 1992.[7]

The “light burning” controversy ramped up considerably in 1910. President William Howard Taft, who succeeded Theodore Roosevelt in 1909, appointed Richard Ballinger as Secretary of the Interior. Soon Ballinger was accused of virtually giving away federal coal reserves to his industrialist friends by Forest Service Chief Gifford Pinchot, who publicly denounced Ballinger for corruption. Unable to control Pinchot, President Taft fired him in January of 1910, an action that sparked a national controversy since Pinchot was highly respected as a leader of the conservation movement. The fact that Pinchot’s nemesis, Ballinger, supported light burning—stating “we may find it necessary to revert to the old Indian method of burning over the forests annually at a seasonable period”—certainly didn’t help that cause gain favor with foresters. By unhappy coincidence, in August 1910, the same month that “the Big Burn” consumed 3 million forested acres in the Northern Rockies, Sunset magazine published an article by timberland owner George Hoxie calling for a government program to conduct light burning throughout California forests.[8] (The fact that the Big Burn occurred primarily in wetter forest types more susceptible to stand-replacing fire than most California forests was not generally recognized nor understood, in large part because there was little understanding of forest ecology at the time.) After the Big Burn, Forest Service leaders claimed they could’ve stopped the disaster if they’d had enough men and money. That mindset took hold of the agency and echoes down through to today in some corridors.

Pulaski tunnel

Pulaski tunnel, September 1910. The Big Burn made a folk hero of ranger Ed Pulaski when he forced his men to take refuge from the fire in an old mine shaft. The fire also convinced agency leaders that more men and money could’ve prevented the disaster.

In October 1910, Pinchot’s successor Henry Graves visited T. B. Walker’s extensive timberlands in northeastern California.[9] Graves viewed tracts of ponderosa pine-mixed conifer forest that Walker’s crew had methodically “underburned” (a low-intensity surface fire under the trees) after the first fall rains in order to reduce hazardous fuel and brush. Graves didn’t deny the effectiveness of the treatment, but felt it was bad to kill seedlings and saplings. More than that, he didn’t like the idea of condoning use of fire in the forest. It didn’t help that one of Walker’s light burns had escaped earlier in the year and raced across 33,000 acres before submitting to control. Then, like now, deliberate burning in the forest was not risk free; however, light burning was aimed at reducing the greater hazard of severe wildfires.

Continue Reading »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 77 other followers