Feeds:
Posts
Comments

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 17, in which we examine Turp and Tine.

The annals of classic cartoon duos are packed with famous forest-dwelling characters who worked together such as Rocky and Bullwinkle, Chip ‘n’ Dale, Yogi and Boo Boo, and many others. Venture deep enough into the recesses of cartoon history and you’ll also find the classic forgotten forest history character duo of Turp and Tine.

Turp and Tine

Who were these simple painters who transformed an industry? Well the story of Turp and Tine has its beginnings over a century ago with the Hercules Powder Company.  A division of DuPont, Hercules became an independent company in 1912 after a federal court ordered DuPont broken up for violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. As an independent, Hercules continued its growth in the explosives market, supplying construction firms and the military with gunpowder, dynamite, and blasting powder. As of 1919, 99% of the company’s revenue came from sales of these various explosives.

Looking for diversification and new opportunities, the company expanded in 1920 into the world of naval stores (products derived from pine tree sap). Hercules bought the rights to pull pine stumps on large expanses of cut-over lands throughout the South, while also investing in research and technology to develop products from wood rosin. Soon the company was manufacturing steam-distilled wood turpentine from these stumps on a massive scale. This was contrary to the prevailing gum turpentine cut from living pine trees, which dominated the market at this time.

Turp and Tine on cut over lands

As a new kind of turpentine, Hercules needed to get the message out as to why their turpentine product was better (or at least as good) as the existing gum turpentine on the market. Enter Turp and Tine. The cartoon duo was created to help educate the public on the steam-distilling process as well as promote the Hercules brand. In the early to mid-1920s Turp and Tine promotional materials, advertisements, and even animated films began to appear nationwide. A Hercules advertising manager of the time described the creation and success of the Turp and Tine characters:

When we prepared this picture two years ago, we were faced with the problem of educating the users of turpentine to the fact that steam-distilled wood turpentine is a genuine spirits of turpentine and just as satisfactory for their work as the gum spirits of turpentine, which prior to a few years ago, was the only kind available. We had to get our story across not only to painters but also to distributors, jobbers and dealers through whom turpentine reaches the ultimate consumer. There was the usual prejudice against a product differing from that which had been the standard for many years, and our salesmen found it very difficult to tell the story with words only. In our picture we made use of animation to portray two painters “Turp” and “Tine” who appear in our  advertising. The introduction of humor into the picture helped to secure the interest of the spectators in the educational features, which included a complete description of the methods of producing both gum and wood turpentine and an animated mechanical diagram of the processes followed in our plants … We have ample evidence in our file that the motion picture was one of the most effective means we employed in accomplishing our objective. Our sales of turpentine have now increased to the point where our present manufacturing facilities are insufficient to supply the demand.*

The characters themselves were designed and drawn by artist Archibald B. Chapin (1875-1962). Chapin was a successful newspaper political cartoonist in the first half of the twentieth century, working for publications in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Philadelphia. He also penned comic strips such as Home Sweet Home, Uncle Dudley, and Superstitious Sue. A Hercules promotional publication circa 1930 stated: “Turp and Tine … sprang full-grown from the ink bottle of A.B. Chapin, who is one of the foremost cartoonists in this country. Since their appearance, Turp and Tine have made a host of friends, because they are likeable chaps; their antics make people laugh, while the lessons they teach are well worth knowing.”

Turp and Tine promo cover

With Turp and Tine leading the way the Hercules Company continued to grow throughout the 1920s and 1930s. At the time of America’s entrance into World War II, Hercules was the country’s largest producer of naval stores. Turp and Tine would ultimately fade into oblivion, though, as the naval stores industry declined and Hercules expanded into production of other chemicals as well as aerospace equipment and fuels. But like all forgotten forest history characters they continue to live on here at FHS.

*Klein, Julius “What Are Motion Pictures Doing for Industry?” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 128 (November 1926): 79-83.

Making turpentine with Turp and Tine

Turp and Tine show how Hercules steam-distilled wood turpentine is produced (click to enlarge).

Making turpentine with Turp and Tine

Turp and Tine show how Hercules turpentine is distilled from pine wood chips (click to enlarge).

Spirits

Hercules Turp and Tine

Here in the Alvin J. Huss Archives you’ll find numerous stories of foresters and loggers from years past. Even among these legends, though, some figures still stand just a bit taller. As we continue to dig through the vinyl collection at FHS we find a set of records by one such figure: the one and only Buzz Martin. At ease both in the woods with a chainsaw and on the stage with a guitar, Buzz Martin was a unique and legendary figure among loggers during the 1960s and 1970s. During a time of lumber industry decline Buzz Martin was able to find success as a country music singer. Known as “The Singing Logger,” he wrote emotional, personal, and humorous tunes about the working logger. Martin ultimately released six albums, and while his singing career was relatively short his music presents a unique audio snapshot of logging work of this era.

Buzz Martin

Buzz Martin at work in the woods.

Buzz Martin was born in Coon Hollow, Oregon, in 1928. As a kid he began to lose his eyesight and at thirteen was sent to the Oregon School for the Blind. It was during this time that Martin began to play the guitar. He received a corneal transplant and regained his sight while at the school, but tragedy immediately struck again—both his parents died prematurely. Martin was then sent to live with his sister and her husband, a musician and amateur instrument-maker named Bill Woosley. They lived in Five Rivers, a tiny community at the midway point between the Willamette Valley and the Oregon Coast. Martin was encouraged by his sister to sing.

Martin entered the logging world as a whistle punk at eighteen, operating a loud, steam-powered whistle used by loggers to communicate with each other. He quickly ascended up the logging jobs ladder, from cutting timber to high climbing. He began singing to his fellow loggers as camp entertainment in his twenties. After landing a meeting with Buddy Simmons, music director at radio station KRDR in Gresham, Oregon, Martin was able to cut his first record, Where There Walks a Logger, There Walks a Man. His 1968 debut on Ripcord Records was followed by subsequent logger classics like A Logger Finds an Opening and The Old Time Logger, A Vanishing Breed of Man.

Buzz Martin cover

Martin’s biggest hit was probably the song “Butterin’ Up Biscuit” which he actually played in person for his hero Johnny Cash backstage after one of Cash’s concerts in Oregon in 1969. This led to Martin eventually appearing on The Johnny Cash Show on ABC in 1971. This may have been the peak of Martin’s career though. Unable to find mainstream success, he refocused on logging work, moving to Alaska in 1979. Unfortunately tragedy struck again. In 1983 he died in a freak accident in the Alaska woods while scouting out a hunting trip.

Buzz Martin records

A selection of Buzz Martin records available at FHS.

Martin’s final resting place is at Lone Oak Cemetery in Stayton, Oregon. His headstone is inscribed with a pine tree and title: “The Singing Logger.” Martin’s music lives on and is well worth a listen. His catalog is available online via Amazon and iTunes. Enjoy a short clip from one of his songs below.

Buzz Martin

Audio clip from “Hoot Owlin Again” – by Buzz Martin off his album Where There Walks a Logger There Walks a Man:

**This blog post draws from “Out of the Woods” by Casey Jarman, which appeared in The Believer (July/August 2013).

Here at Peeling Back the Bark World Headquarters we occasionally like to get our fingers a little dusty by digging through the vinyl record collection in the FHS archives. Our collection may be modest, but it’s full of vintage forest-related audio treasures. One of our favorite items from the collection is undoubtedly the self-titled album from Lausmann’s Lousy Loggers Band. Everyone who sees the album gets a kick out the band’s name as well as the photos inside the record sleeve. But who were these guys?

Lousy Loggers Band album cover

The Lousy Loggers were a band made up of members all with connections to forest industries. Here’s how the group was described by the Western Conservation Journal: “The story of the barkclad bards who keep the loggers dancing is an inspiring example of men dedicated to a rewarding purpose. Each Lousy Logger earns his bread in a job related to bringing in the trees. Each donates his time and pays his entire expenses — instruments, travel, convention board and room; everything. As a group, they give and ask nothing back except that their friends, the loggers, swing their partners.”

The band was led by the legendary Anton “Tony” Lausmann (1889-1978), founder of KOGAP Lumber Industries in Medford, Oregon. Lausmann was certainly a character. He could easily be spotted by either the ever-present cigar in his mouth, or the concertina in his hands — and oftentimes with both at the same time.  In addition to founding KOGAP, Lausmann’s long forest industry career included serving as director of the Oregon Forestry Center, the Industrial Forestry Association, and the National Lumber Manufacturers Association. But what brought him the most joy (and fame) was his concertina — or “squeeze-box” — which he was said to have carried with him just about everywhere since he was a kid.

Tony Lausmann

It was Lausmann’s commitment to carrying his concertina that led to the Lousy Loggers name. In 1958 he was on a voyage by ship to Hawaii with a group of Shriners. Asked to entertain the passengers with his concertina, Lausmann was eventually joined by other “musicians” on board playing the harmonica, tin cans, and other improvised instruments. A fellow passenger asked what the name of the group was, and another one of the Shriners yelled out “Lausmann’s Lousy Loggers.” The name stuck.

Lousy Loggers Band

That same year Lausmann was invited to play at the Pacific Logging Congress Annual Convention. He recruited some forest industry musician friends and the official Lousy Loggers Band was born. Following a successful debut at the 1958 Pacific Logging Congress, the group performed for much of the next two decades at various conferences and conventions, mainly in the Pacific Northwest. The band recorded their one and only album in 1972. At the time of this recording, the band included Lowell Jones on the keys; Gene Pickett on trumpet and trombone; three men on sax and clarinet — Clifton Crothers, Bill Preuss, and Vince Bousquet; Jack Bennett on drums; Dave Totton on bass; and Rex Stevens on vibes. Other past members of the group included Howard Smith, Jim Bigelow, Stu Norton, Clyde Lees, Ed Pease, Phil English, Gene Duysen, and Tony’s son Jerry Lausmann.

Lausmann's Lousy Loggers

The group officially disbanded in 1976 and Tony Lausmann passed away two years later. In his obituary he was remembered as “best known and revered for his leadership in organizing the west coast’s well known and popular Lausmann’s Lousy Loggers Band.” For a sampling of the group’s work, enjoy the audio slideshow below created by librarian extraordinaire Jason Howard. And for more on the unique character that was Tony Lausmann, we recommend the book Swivel-Chair Logger: The Life and Work of Anton A. “Tony” Lausmann, which can be found in the FHS Library.

The holiday season is fully upon us, and we here at Peeling Back the Bark want to make sure your gift-giving needs are covered. Below we feature a few items suitable for all the hard-to-please forest history fans on your holiday gift list.

Books are always a great option, and we would be amiss if we didn’t point out a new work co-published by the Forest History Society and Louisiana State University Press: Forestry in the U.S. South: A History. This book explores how, since the mid-twentieth century, the forests of the U.S. South have made significant commercial and environmental gains through collaborations between industry, universities, and government agencies. The history behind these alliances, the success of sustainable forest management, and the evolution of private forestry in the South are all captured in this book, which provides a fascinating and immensely detailed overview of the people and organizations responsible for the revitalization and long-term successes of southern forestry. Forestry in the U.S. South is written by FHS members Mason Carter, Robert Kellison, and Scott Wallinger. Wallinger was also a past chairman of the Forest History Society board of directors.

Forestry in the U.S. South: A History

Two other new books of note would not only look great on a recipient’s coffee table, but are well worth reading as well. The first examines one hundred years of forestry in Texas through the history of two influential state organizations. A Century of Forestry, 1914–2014: Texas Forestry Association and Texas A&M Forest Service provides an illustrated account of Texas’s forest history, detailing important events such as the founding of state and national forests, the establishment of a state tree farm system, developments in forest research, urban forestry initiatives, and the founding of the Texas Forestry Museum. The book also reveals how the Texas Forestry Association and Texas A & M Forest Service have transformed the state’s natural landscape. One hundred years ago, expansive stands of virgin longleaf pine had largely disappeared because of lumber industry practices, along with unsuppressed wildfires. Deforestation had also led to widespread soil erosion that was affecting the state’s streams and rivers. Into this vacuum of forestry leadership entered the Texas Forestry Association (TFA), which was established in 1914 to promote forest conservation in the state. TFA members, led by William Goodrich Jones, a banker turned conservationist, continued a decade-old quest to create the Department of Forestry, now called the Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS). With that, Texas became the first state in the nation to establish its state forestry agency as part of a land-grant college. Since their creation, TFA and TFS have worked to establish pine seedling nurseries, fire control projects, and state-administered forest areas. With its large format and attractive presentation, the book would make an excellent gift for anyone interested in Texas history or forestry history in general.

Century of Forestry

Another new book that would be a natural fit for home display is Primeval Forests of Finland: Cultural History, Ecology and Conservation, by Petri Keto-Tokoi and Timo Kuuluvainen. This book celebrates the cultural and ecological importance of Finland’s natural boreal forests. Keto-Tokoi and Kuuluvainen open with a discussion of how we define a “natural” forest and how such forests cannot be viewed in absolute terms: environmental factors mean that forests have different and changing states of naturalness. The authors then delve into the role of the forest in Finland’s art and folklore and how it has served for centuries as a national symbol. In fights over forest conservation in Finland throughout the twentieth century, nature conservationists have proven to be effective even in periods of economic growth and development. The natural forests are treasured and widely considered too valuable to sacrifice for short-term economic gain. Nevertheless, conservationists and forest industry tussled over the protection of the North Lapland wilderness areas in the latter part of the twentieth century. The book’s visuals—the large, full-color photos, maps, and illustrations—and beautiful and engaging.

Primeval Forests of Finland

Looking beyond the world of books brings us to several other gifts for those with an interest in forests and forestry.

Artwork always makes a great gift, and you can’t go wrong with this John Muir Trail Print which would improve the look of any wall. The same image is also available on a t-shirt.

For the distinguished gentleman on your list who loves wood products we suggest the following accessories. The Wood Tie and the Etched Walnut Wooden Bow Tie are both unique wooden fashion items not just for lumberjacks.

wooden bow tie

 

For the beverage fan on your list we give you two unique ways to handle your beer and wine.

The Lumberjack Beer Bottle Opener is an opener in the shape of an axe, with a real wood handle and a notch cut into the back for opening brew caps in the home or in the woods. lumber Jack

For the wine drinker we offer the Lumberjack Bottle Stopper to seal your bottles with a tree stump topper complete with a small ax cutting into it.

LumberjackStopper

Party hosts may also like this Mango Wood Platter with Bark, providing a unique way to present appetizers or other items.

mango wood platter

You can further outfit your home with Tree Branch Candle Holders. These 3-tiered tree branch candle holders accent the glow of a candle to create the perfect rustic focal point for any table, mantle or counter top.

For the lumberjack on your list with an unruly mane or beard, we suggest the Saw Comb. This attractive mini saw with a cherry wood grip can cut through even the worst of tangled hair.

Saw Comb

Enjoy and happy holidays!

 

 

This weekend a winner will be crowned at the 89th Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. While we wish all the ladies luck, here at Peeling Back the Bark World Headquarters our favorite Miss America will undoubtedly remain one woman born all the way back in 1928.Miss America Green Cross

Miss American Green Cross, as she is known, was unveiled in Glendale, California, 87 years ago. Posing against the backdrop of a cross, her striking figure appeared with her arms outstretched in a call to save America’s trees. But who was this woman and where did she come from? To fully understand her story we need to go back a few more years to the origins of the American Reforestation Association.

American Reforestation Association logoThe early 1920s was a time of growing concerns over dwindling forest resources in the United States. In response to this perceived crisis, the American Reforestation Association was incorporated in Los Angeles in 1923. The stated aim for the group was “the saving of America’s greatest asset – trees. Not simply for sentiment but for the very life of the nation.” The official organizational motto was “The sapling of today is the man-timber of tomorrow,” and the group promoted tree planting, while also disseminating educational materials on the value of trees, hoping to influence the public on the need for laws to protect America’s forests.

ARA membership emblemThe organization also worked closely with various Hollywood figures, hoping to use the growing film industry as a means of promoting the group’s cause of planting trees. From its base in Southern California, the Association recruited membership from across the country. The official membership emblem greeting potential new members was a woman in a crown of laurels (labeled “America”) with arms outstretched against a cross backdrop under the words “help save our trees.”

This symbol appeared on American Reforestation Association publications and promotional materials, before eventually becoming the group’s centerpiece as the organization re-branded. On December 3, 1926, the American Green Cross Society was formally created as a successor to the American Reforestation Association.

Green Cross announcement

The group was publicly launched with a series of events in Southern California in April of 1927, in conjunction with national Forestry Week observances. This included a tree planting event on April 30, 1927, at Royal Palms (San Pedro, CA) near the Pacific Ocean end of Western Ave. The event was attended by U.S. Forest Service Chief William Greeley and featured the planting of 20 different trees from historic spots (including trees from Mount Vernon, Monticello, Fort McHenry, and other locations).

The local influence of the group was significant enough that in February 1928 the city of Glendale offered an office building and auditorium with a block of property valued at $150,000 to the American Green Cross to be used as their national headquarters. Around this time plans for a large monument also began.

The artist Frederick Willard Potter sculpted the monument – an imposing work featuring a bronze version of the familiar Green Cross woman atop a pile of logs all standing on a six-foot high stone base. The base featured a plaque as well as the words “help save our trees” and “the forest is the mother of the rivers.” The statue was placed in Glendale at the intersection of Broadway and Verdugo Roads at the corner of the Broadway High School campus (now Glendale High School).

Potter statue

Frederick Potter (left) with his American Green Cross statue.

The unveiling ceremony was attended by Potter as well as his model Verlyn Sumner. A Los Angeles Times report of the event began, “Amidst the cheers of several thousands of school children and citizens, the American Green Cross at Glendale yesterday unveiled a monument dedicated to forest conservation and propagation.” Lieutenant Governor Buron Fitts in his speech at the ceremony stated that “Just what the Red Cross means to humanity now, the Green Cross will mean to humanity of the future.”

While the Green Cross organization would ultimately prove to be short-lived, the strange journey of Miss Green Cross herself was only beginning. A few years after the dedication a car crashed into the statue’s base, causing significant damage. Shortly thereafter the statue was moved away from school grounds and relocated to a remote canyon area behind Brand’s Castle (now Brand Library & Art Center). As if following the statue’s path, the Green Cross organization also began to fade from public view during the 1930s. The statue was abandoned, vandalized, and mostly forgotten over the next few decades until a group of hikers “re-discovered” it during the 1950s. By this time the statue was crumbling and Miss Green Cross was missing an entire arm. In the late 1970s Glendale’s Historic Preservation Element designated the statue as a landmark piece and it was selected to be relocated to a prominent place in Brand Park. The statue was moved to storage in 1981 to await restoration work.

After significant work by Glendale artist Ron Pekar – and significant cost – the restoration project was completed. The Miss American Green Cross statue was unveiled at its current home in Brand Park with a re-dedication ceremony in 1992.

The story doesn’t exactly end there, though. In January 2007, a group of community service workers clearing brush behind Brand Library uncovered a buried arm. After an initial shock, they soon realized what they had found was a 3-foot-long bronze arm – which they later discovered was a missing piece of the original Green Cross statue. The Glendale Parks Department evidently now holds permanent possession of this original appendage (which had already been replaced in the restoration efforts).

While the statue itself remains in a prominent place near Brand Library Park, the origins of the Green Cross lady – as well as the stories of the American Reforestation Association and the American Green Cross – are unfortunately mostly forgotten.

Reforesters of America

1925 book by the American Reforestation Association.

Moulding Public Opinion

1927 book by the American Reforestation Association and the American Green Cross.

Help Save Our TreesMiss Green CrossMiss American Green Cross plaque

On the 100th anniversary of the last log raft floated on the Upper Mississippi River, scholar and Aldo Leopold biographer Curt Meine reflects upon conservation efforts over the last century and the challenges that lay ahead.

This summer marks an obscure anniversary in the history of conservation. In August 1915 a large raft of white pine lumber was floated down the Upper Mississippi River from Hudson, Wisconsin, to Fort Madison, Iowa. For those on board and those watching from shore, it was a ceremonial occasion, an elegiac gesture. For decades, from Maine to western Ontario, white pine logs and lumber had been transported by water to downstream sawmills and rail towns. In northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan the cut crescendoed in the decades after the Civil War. At the peak of the industry in the 1880s, some 500 rafts of white pine came down the Mississippi each month.  But with the exhaustion of the “inexhaustible” pineries, there was no more big pine to float. The pine boom was over.

And so the lumbermen organized one last raft for nostalgia’s sake. The steamboat Ottumwa Belle, under Captain Walter Hunter, guided the raft around the great river’s bends.  At Albany, Illinois, it paused to take aboard 93-year-old Stephen Beck Hanks, famed riverman and cousin to Abraham Lincoln. In 1843 Hanks had guided the first raft of white pine logs downstream, from the St. Croix River pinery at Stillwater down to St. Louis. In the words of river historian Calvin Fremling, “Hanks has seen the whole thing—the beginning, the culmination, the end—all in one man’s lifetime.”

The Ottumwa Belle and lumber raft at Davenport, Iowa,  August 20, 1915   Source:  Putnam Museum, Davenport IA  http://www.umvphotoarchive.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/putnm/id/499/rec/8

The Ottumwa Belle and lumber raft at Davenport, Iowa, August 20, 1915
Source: Putnam Museum, Davenport, IA

As that final raft slipped downriver, it left in its symbolic wake a region of ruin: some 50 million acres of cutover and burned-over stump fields; soils sterilized by fire and eroded into gullies; streambeds and riverways altered by scouring and heavy sediment loads; disrupted and depleted fish and wildlife populations; a scattering of boom-and-bust work camps and abandoned lumber towns; and a legacy of concentrated wealth, political power, and corruption. The very landscape of unsustainability.

The story of the white pine was remarkable but not unique, even in its time. The lumber barons of the Midwest had their equivalents elsewhere:  yellow pine barons in the South; Douglas fir barons in the Northwest; wheat and cattle barons in the Plains; copper and iron barons in the upper Great Lakes; steel barons in the lower Great Lakes; coal barons in Appalachia and Illinois; gold and silver barons in the Rockies and California; oil barons in the newly tapped petroleum districts; and railroad barons tying them all together.

Across the continent the pattern repeated itself, varying by landscape and resource: the alienation and removal of Native American people; an advance wave of speculation and maneuvering; an onrush of hopeful opportunists; the manipulation of laws and courts; the recruitment of cheap, abundant labor; the winnowing of economic winners and losers; the consolidation of wealth into cartels; the channeling of that wealth into political power and authority; a compliant host of publicists and newspapers; the co-opting of the mechanisms of representative government.  And always the same legacy: degraded landscapes and exhausted sources of wealth; communities inflated by the booms and drained by the busts; citizens left to clean up the messes and to create more sustainable places and economies.

And, finally, always, the same question: can democracy find a way out of the crisis, right itself, reclaim some equilibrium between private wealth and commonwealth, between self-interest and the general welfare? Like the other booms, the pine boom yielded immediate prosperity, but at the price of destabilized and distorted ecosystems, social systems, and political systems. All too many of those who had reaped the quick profits had scant concern for the vitality and resilience of the forest (or prairie, or river, or range, or fishery) or the health of the democracy that provided their opportunity.  In the absence of economic self-restraint, social constraint became inevitable. In the face of crisis, there was no alternative.  Reckless economics and devastated landscapes will do that to an ideology.

White pine stump and seedlings, Vilas County, Wisconsin. (Photo by author)

White pine stump and seedlings, Vilas County, Wisconsin. (Photo by author)

Now, as the full scope of the climate crisis becomes evident, the question arises again: Can democracy respond? The story of the white pine offers some hope. As the big pine (and redwoods, and passenger pigeons, and bison) dwindled, reformers of varied political backgrounds and stripes found common cause and enacted reforms. We called it conservation. Over time the forests of the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes returned as the soils, waters, plants, and animals went about their collective work of self-renewal. That recovery continues, more than a century after the Great Cut. The region has hardly achieved sustainability. There is always some short-term economic fix, some new scheme to begin yet another round of heedless exploitation of the waters, the minerals, the forest. Yet, starting a century ago, citizens overcame political inertia in a way that made long-term positive change possible, and inaugurated the modern search for what George Perkins Marsh called “a wise economy.”

Climate disruption, though, is a crisis of a different order and magnitude. It is not local or regional in scope, but global. It is a crisis, not of a certain stage or kind of economy, but of the entire fossil-fuel-dependent meta-economy that spans the globe, that has been expanding since the dawn of the industrial age, and that actively resists envisioning alternatives to its own continued domination. The resulting concentration of wealth now flows directly toward unprecedented political power. Especially in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, that power has few institutional checks on its momentum or direction. The climate crisis and the democracy crisis are now two names for the same thing.

Just as the Ottumwa Belle’s historic journey signified change in its time, indicators of transformation mark our moment: activists gathering by the thousands to speak out against the epic exploitation of Canada’s tar sands; Pope Francis releasing his encyclical Laudato Si’, defining a moral imperative in the Catholic tradition to conserve “our common home”; international climate policy negotiators making plans to gather in Paris later this year; presidential candidates calibrating their messages and calculating their impact. All, in their way, reveal that the fate of our democracy and the future of our climate are inseparable. If there is any positive side to all this, it is that as we work to address the one, we must inevitably deal with the other.

Curt Meine is senior fellow with the Center for Humans and Nature and the Aldo Leopold Foundation, research associate with the International Crane Foundation, and associate adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is editor of the Library of America collection Aldo Leopold: A Sand County Almanac & Other Writings on Ecology and Conservation (2013). This essay is a contribution to the Center for Humans and Nature’s “Questions for a Resilient Future” series, “Can democracy in crisis deal with the climate crisis?”

Sources

Blair, Walter A.  A Raft Pilot’s Log:  A History of the Great Rafting Industry on the Upper Mississippi, 1840-1915 (Cleveland:  Arthur H. Clark Company, 1930).

Fremling, Calvin R.  Immortal River:  The Upper Mississippi in Ancient and Modern Times (Madison:  University of Wisconsin Press, 2005).

Jones, Joseph J. “Transforming the Cutover article: The Establishment of National Forests in Northern Michigan,” Forest History Today 17 (Spring/Fall 2011): 48-55.

“Last Raft Leaves Hudson.”  Duluth Evening Herald (23 August 1915).

Marsh, George Perkins. Man and Nature or, The Earth as Modified by Human Action.  2003 edition by David Lowenthal, with a new introduction by David Lowenthal and a forward by William Cronon (Seattle:  University of Washington Press, 2003).

Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive.  Putnam Museum.  Davenport, Iowa.  http://www.umvphotoarchive.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/putnm

Williams, Michael.  Americans and Their Forests:  A Historical Geography (Cambridge, U.K.:  Cambridge University Press, 1992).

The following is an op-ed piece by FHS staff historian James G. Lewis that appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times on August 9, 2015, in honor of Gifford Pinchot’s 150th birthday on August 11. 

Born just after the guns of the Civil War fell silent, he died the year after the first atomic bomb was dropped. He was, in his own words, a “governor every now and then” but a forester all the time. Indeed, Gifford Pinchot, born 150 years ago on Aug. 11, served two terms as Pennsylvania governor but is best known as the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service (established 1905), which today manages 192 million acres. He also created the Society of American Foresters (1900), the organization that oversees his chosen profession, and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (1900), the oldest forestry school in America. And just south of Asheville, in the Pisgah National Forest, is the Cradle of Forestry in America, both of which exist in part because of him.

But perhaps his greatest legacy is his prescient call, made 75 years ago, for conservation as the foundation for permanent peace.

GP portrait

Gifford Pinchot during his tenure as Forest Service chief.

When Pinchot enrolled at Yale College in 1885, his father encouraged him to pursue forestry. It was a radical idea. The United States had no forestry school, no working foresters, no land being managed on scientific principles. To become a forester, in 1889 Pinchot traveled to Europe. There he met Sir Dietrich Brandis, who was leading British forestry students on tours of sustainably managed forests in Germany. The best way to introduce forestry to the United States, Brandis told him, was to demonstrate that scientific forest management could earn a private landowner a steady income.

Pinchot came home in 1890 full of ideas but few job prospects. Through family connections, he learned of George Vanderbilt’s great undertaking in Asheville. Vanderbilt hired him to be his estate’s—and thus the nation’s—first working forester. When some of Pinchot’s employees began asking why he did things a certain way, like selecting only some trees to cut instead of cutting them all, he decided to teach them in the evenings.

Pinchot didn’t have the temperament to be a teacher, and the classes, such as they were, didn’t last. But fortunately for America, his forestry exhibit at the Columbian Exposition of 1893 and accompanying booklet, Biltmore Forest, attracted wider attention, and he left Biltmore in 1895. On his recommendation, Vanderbilt hired Carl Alwin Schenck, another Brandis protégé, who in 1898 established the Biltmore Forest School, the first forestry school in America.

In 1898, Pinchot was appointed chief of what would become the U.S. Forest Service. He and his friend President Theodore Roosevelt made forestry the focus of a national conservation movement. The two held national and North American conservation conferences before Roosevelt left office in 1909. An international one was scuttled after Pinchot was fired by President Taft in 1910.

A political progressive, Pinchot next plunged into politics. No matter what office he ran for—governor, senator, representative—he advocated for human rights and sustainably managed natural resources. In the 1930s, he watched as Europe and Asia waged wars in large part over access to natural resources. His 1940 observation that “international co-operation in conserving, utilizing, and distributing natural resources to the mutual advantage of all nations might well remove one of the most dangerous of all obstacles to a just and permanent world peace” rings louder even today and is a premise of the just-released UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Although planting a tree or visiting the Cradle of Forestry are good ways to commemorate Gifford Pinchot’s 150th birthday on Aug. 11, the best way to honor America’s first forester is to continue working for conservation and, by extension, world peace.

James Lewis is the staff historian at the Forest History Society in Durham and an executive producer of “First in Forestry: Carl Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School.” The film will have its world premiere at Brevard College on Aug. 30 and its television premiere on UNC-TV in 2016.