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Posts Tagged ‘Carl A. Schenck’

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

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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.

rock_shining

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.

SchenckGrove_1

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).

SchenckGrove_2

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

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What began as a millionaire’s dream, a genius’s vision, and a forester’s labor is now being captured in a Forest History Society documentary film. This spring the Forest History Society joined forces with Bonesteel Films to produce First in Forestry, a documentary film about Carl Alwin Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School. Principal photography for the interviews and re-creation footage began in earnest last month, and yours truly was there to witness the excitement and action, consult a bit, and try to look like I know what I am doing.

For those not familiar with our story, George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, is where the first large-scale forest management effort was carried out in the United States under the direction of Gifford Pinchot and Carl Schenck. Schenck also established the first school of forestry in North America. Several of the nearly 400 men who graduated from his school went on to become leaders in American forestry in the first half of the 20th century. Much of the land they worked and learned on is now preserved as the Pisgah National Forest. The story of Carl Schenck and his work at the Biltmore is the focus of the film.

cradle overlook

The view from the Blue Ridge Parkway towards where the Biltmore Forest School spent the summer months. George Vanderbilt owned much of what is visible from there. (Jamie Lewis)

Director Paul Bonesteel strongly believes that including re-creation footage will draw in today’s audiences, and we couldn’t agree more. He used this technique with great success in two other films that have aired on PBS, The Mystery of George Masa and The Day Carl Sandburg Died.

Critical to that success is finding the right actors to portray historical figures, in this case, finding forester Carl Schenck (not Finding Forrester).

"Dr. Schenck" keeps a close eye on "his boys" during a break in filming while Paul checks the playback.

“Dr. Schenck” keeps a close eye on “his boys” during a break in filming while director Paul Bonesteel checks the playback. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Here's an example of pretending I know what I'm doing: showing Paul and "Dr. Schenck" the proper height to hold a Biltmore stick. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Here’s an example of acting like I know what I’m doing: showing Paul (left) and “Dr. Schenck” (right) the proper height to hold a Biltmore stick. The rumors reported on Entertainment Tonight about my having punched out Paul over creative differences are incorrect. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Paul gives “Dr. Schenck” direction for his next scene. The rumor reported in the press in 1909 that Dr. Schenck punched out estate manager C.D. Beadle is, sadly, true. (Courtesy of Bonesteel films)

We are fortunate to have the cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service and the Cradle of Forestry National Historic Site in making the filming possible. We’re using locations found throughout the Pisgah National Forest and at the Cradle of Forestry.

No shoot is too difficult for the Bonesteel team to capture. They even set up a camera in a cold mountain stream to get just the right shot. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

No shot is too difficult for the Bonesteel team to capture. They even set up a camera in a cold mountain stream to get just the right angle. No animals or camera crew were hurt in the taking of this photograph. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

As you might imagine, it takes a number of talented people behind the scenes to make the action in front of the camera look good and convincing. The folks at Bonesteel Films are top-notch and really pleasant to work with. Early calls and long days don’t dampen spirits. Not even a relentless rain storm stopped our filming interviews one day. We just moved to a new location. Fortunately, when it was time for shooting re-creation footage in the forest we had good weather.

Part of the crew watching and making sure everything runs smoothly. We needed people for wardrobe and makeup, wrangling horses, and coordinating the two cameras.

We needed people for wardrobe and makeup, wrangling horses, checking the script, and coordinating the two cameras. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

One of the things that excites us about working with Bonesteel Films is Paul’s skill in mixing traditional documentary film-making style (historical photographs and interviews with historians) with re-creation footage that works like a historical photograph brought to life. But without good interviews, the film could suffer. So we brought in one of the best at on-screen interviews, Char Miller. You may know him from such films as The Greatest Good and The Wilderness Idea.

Pinchot biographer Char Miller will be one of the featured interviews. Here Char (right) takes a break from being interviewed to pose with yours truly and Paul. Rumors reported on Entertainment Tonight that I got in a fight with Char and Paul over sartorial differences are not true. (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

Not all of the film will be “talking heads” and re-creation footage. This is not just a story of the people, but the story of the place. The Pisgah region and the Southern Appalachians are one of the most beautiful places in the world in my opinion. You can’t ask for a better backdrop for filming. It’s why so many Hollywood films are made there, too.

The area around Asheville, NC, is known as "The Land of the Sky" and with good reason. Here's the view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Jamie Lewis)

The area around Asheville is known as “The Land of the Sky” and with good reason. Here’s the view from the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Jamie Lewis)

For a few months now, whenever he gets a chance, Paul has been shooting footage that will capture and convey that beauty. He has plenty of experience doing so because of his film about George Masa and commercial work for the Biltmore Estate.

Paul works both on the micro and macro levels when it comes to capturing nature on film.

Paul works both on the micro and macro levels when it comes to capturing nature on film.  (Courtesy of Bonesteel Films)

One of the things you often hear about with actors and film sets is how groupies sneak on to the set to watch filming. I’m hear to tell you it’s true. We’re going to beef up security for the next round of filming. We can’t allow set crashers who then peddle gossip to the tabloids.

We eventually had security remove this interloper from the set. We think he's the source of the rumors in the press.

We eventually had security remove this interloper from the set. We think he’s the source of the rumors in the press of fisticuffs and tantrums. (Jamie Lewis)

If you’ve read this far, thank you! If you want to be a part of forest history, we’re still fundraising for the film. Please visit our film page to learn how you can contribute, and stay tuned for more news on the film.

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A flash of light woke me around 3 am. I thought someone had flicked a light in the bedroom and left the water running in the bathroom. But then I remembered. I was in a tent. The running water was from the nearby stream, the flash was lightning. In that foggy no-man’s land where my brain resides when awakened from a dead sleep, several related thoughts raced through it at once: Damn, the forecasters were right after all—rain. But for how long? The entire race? Was it cold, too? Didn’t matter, I reminded myself. I was going to run regardless. I’d heard from the office Friday afternoon that the Dash for the ‘Stache had already raised $1,600 and I couldn’t disappoint those folks (the total is now over $2,000—and you can still give). I just hoped that it wouldn’t rain Saturday night, too. My last thought before drifting back to sleep was that Smokey Bear would be pleased. Our campfire was good and drowned.

cradle_tent

Friday evening’s weather was perfect for camping. Friday night’s weather was perfect for ducks.

About two hours later, I woke up to find my lower back cold and wet. Now all I could think of was the sign on the footbridge from the parking area to the campsite that warned of flash floods. My brain immediately went there—I’m about to become the subject of a freak news story, the camper swept away in a flash flood. I reached behind me and found a puddle, not a stream. Okay, maybe I won’t float away after all. But the sleeping bag was acting like a sponge and soaking up the water. I tried spinning and contorting like an acrobat to avoid the wet spot, but there was no way to escape it. It was done and so was I. I listened to the slow thwip thwip thwip of the water coming from the roof peak and on to the sleep pad for a few more minutes. The rain outside sounded like it was coming down harder than before, which meant it was going to do the same inside. I sighed as I began the process of extricating myself from the synthetic cocoon, all the while trying to avoid the puddle and wet bag. I got dressed, found my headlamp so I could see to tie the boot laces, grabbed my jacket and hat, and headed for the bathroom and then the car for a little more sleep, if I was lucky.

As I approached the car, it was light enough that I could barely make out Jason sleeping in his car. New to trail running but not camping, he had taken the forecast seriously and decided not to risk using a worn-out rain fly and opted to spend the night in his car. He was looking like a genius. Then I heard POP POP POP POP. Gunshots? At 5:30 in the morning? Who’d be hunting in this weather? Get a life, I thought. And get in the car. Wearing a green raincoat in this low light, I might be mistaken for a deer or Sasquatch’s shorter brother. I climbed in my car and shed my raincoat so I wouldn’t be sitting in another puddle. And then I heard what sounded like a large creaking door followed by WHOMP. That got my attention. I hadn’t heard gunshots—it was a tree snapping and then falling over. Oh, crap, I thought. I hope that tree didn’t just block the road. We’d never make the race.

(more…)

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The Forest History Society is excited to announce that we’re developing a new documentary film. First in Forestry: Carl Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School will be the first documentary film to examine the pivotal role that the Biltmore Estate’s chief forester Carl Schenck and America’s first school of forestry played in American conservation history. It’ll be made in collaboration with UNC-TV and the Cradle of Forestry Interpretive Association for airing on PBS stations in North Carolina and possibly around the country.

Carl Schenck in woods (FHS473)Why Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School? Established in 1898 by Schenck, it was the first forestry school in North America. Its 300-plus graduates were part of the first generation of foresters in America, many of whom became leaders in the conservation movement. And the Biltmore’s forests are the site of the first large-scale forest management effort in the United States, as well as the first land purchased under the Weeks Act. But even though the school and Schenck’s contributions to American forestry were considered important enough that the school’s buildings and grounds were preserved as the Cradle of Forestry in America National Historic Site a half-century ago, no documentary film exists about him or the school. Schenck tends to be overshadowed by his contemporaries Gifford Pinchot, Teddy Roosevelt, and John Muir in forestry and conservation history—all subjects of documentary films.

Afraid that this will be a bone-dry, march-through-time history lesson? Fear not! At the heart of any good film is tension and drama, and the history of the Biltmore Forest School and its larger-than-life founder is a story spilling over with both. Think of it as forest history’s Downton Abbey. After all, it’s the height of the Victorian Era and Carl Schenck worked for one of the wealthiest men in the country at the largest private home ever built in the U.S. How’s that for a dramatic setting. Not dramatic enough? How about: He worked at a place built by robber baron money. No? Schenck was a hotheaded forester who didn’t shy away from a fight: He argued with Teddy Roosevelt over the future of America’s forests and he so angered Gifford Pinchot that Pinchot denounced him as an antichrist! Got your attention yet? When Schenck’s boss lied to him, Schenck punched him out and got fired! Soon thereafter, World War I broke out and Schenck found himself in the German army fighting against some of his former American students!

Biltmore Estate (FHS258)

So, you ask, when can I see this epic forest history documentary? That’s where you come in. We could trade on our good looks and charm to get this made, but, frankly, that won’t get us past the opening credits. So to help kickstart our fundraising for the documentary film, we’re excited to announce another first: Yours truly, The Mad B-Logger, aka, historian Jamie Lewis, has volunteered to run the inaugural From the Cradle to the Grave 30K Trail Race on May 18, 2013, and then the next day run the Biltmore Estate 15K—a total of 45 kilometers. I’m calling this effort “The Dash for the ‘Stache” in honor of Carl Schenck’s famous mustache. You can follow my training efforts on Twitter.

dash for the stacheEach of these races takes place on the land where Carl Schenck worked and made history. We’re suggesting a minimum donation of $45—that’s a dollar for every kilometer I run—with all proceeds going to the production of the film. Of course, any donation is welcome and appreciated. But why not get a little something for your money? To become a supporter of the film, visit our Donation page. As a thank-you for giving at certain levels, we’ve established a few incentives. We have a donor who has pledged to match every dollar donated at a 1:1 ratio, so the more you give, the sooner we can begin production of First in Forestry: Carl Schenck and the Biltmore Forest School. So please tell your friends and help spread the word.

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Cradle Of ForestryOn this date in 1895, Carl Schenck arrived from Germany to the United States to replace Gifford Pinchot as forester at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Three days after arriving in New York, Schenck met with Pinchot, then just 29 years old and seemingly without a care in the world. To mark the anniversary, we offer this excerpt from his memoir, Cradle of Forestry: The Biltmore Forest School, 1898-1913In it, Schenck shares an immigrant’s wide-eyed reaction to a bustling New York. The reader also gets a peek into the charmed life of Pinchot, who would later be first chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

On April 5, 1895, I passed the Statue of Liberty and was received in Hoboken at the docks of the North German Lloyd Lines by my friends and cousins, George Merck and his wife, residents of New York since 1893. They were overjoyed at my coming. Their son, George W. Merck, who as I write is a director of the American Forestry Association, was just one year old. I was taken in a horse-drawn cab, with the help of a ferry, to New York and to their residence on Eighty-sixth Street. In the afternoon George Merck drove me in a buggy through Central Park. There were thousands of buggies, and they seemed to me more admirable than any of the trees in the park and more attractive than the entire bank of the Hudson River, including the Grant Memorial. I recall that everybody craned his neck whenever a woman riding on a bicycle was seen—apparently a new sensation for New York in 1895….

On the third day after my arrival in the United States, Pinchot came to the Merck home and picked me up for a day to be spent in New York City. He was good looking. His shining black eyes and black mustache betrayed his French origin….

Gifford Pinchot appealed to me as the most lovable companion I could desire. To begin with, we inspected the city of New York, riding in horsecars, cable cars, and on the new elevated railroad. In those days electric lines did not exist. We visited the American Museum of Natural History, where we saw the Morris K. Jesup collection of native American woods. O Lo! The biggest trees I had seen in the Spessart and int he Black Forest were mere babies when compared to the gigantic dimensions of American trees. In the course of our trip we visited a large store, Rogers Peet Company, where there could be had all and everything that a gentleman might require for society, for business, or for sport. I was amazed when Pinchot selected, without askeing the prices, several sport suits, the finest touring shoes, some tents, and some fishing tackle. Obviously, he was well known at the store. He himself was clad in black, from neck to foot. Apparently he was in mourning; but his cheery eyes were in strict contrast with his mourning attire.

At noon he took me to his home, a patrician house in Gramercy Park. Upon entering, Pinchot introduced me to his father as George Vanderbilt’s new forester and added that he had invited me to have lunch with the family. Much to my astonishment, the elder Pinchot replied, without looking at me and without giving me a hand: “No, it does not suit us today; you have to take him elsewhere.” Undismayed by his father’s brusqueness, Pinchot left the house with me at once and took me to his Yale Club for lunch.

Subsequently Pinchot and I met at various places and for various purposes. Queerly, the task awaiting me at Biltmore was scarcely touched on in our conversations, which were restricted to discussions of hunting and fishing…. Seeing me off at the depot in the evening, Pinchot paid me this compliment: “Dr. Schenck, I believe you are just the right man for the position.” Then he added, “You will be forester and I shall be chief forester during your term of employment.” He had promised to go to Biltmore in the near future and to discuss with me all the problems on the spot. I was happy, indeed, to be able to work under him on the Biltmore Estate and under his responsibility.

Little did Schenck know that his “lovable companion” soon would be trying to undermine Schenck and his Biltmore Forest School, going so far as to  denounce Schenck as an “antichrist.” Want to know more about this bitter rivalry for control of the future of American forestry? Then read Cradle of Forestry today!

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The 25th anniversary of the iconic film franchise Back to the Future and the Blu-ray release of the trilogy on October 26 got us thinking about what forestry and logging were supposed to look like today as predicted by the best minds of the mid-20th century.

Some of those same minds had predicted that we would all be driving flying cars or have individual jetpacks to get to work. I don’t know about you but I’m still relying on the internal-combustion engine to get around. And that’s the problem with committing predictions of the future to paper. When organizations like the Forest History Society hold on to those documents, it’s easy to look back at them and assess how close to (or far from) the mark the writer was.

Logger of the future

So let’s look at two sets of predictions. The image above isn’t a storyboard of a scene from Back to the Future. It’s a sketch of a forester treating a tree in 1975. Well, that was the prediction in 1955. For their film, People, Products and Progress: 1975, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asked several organizations in 1955 to make future predictions about transportation, home life, and the workplace. To furnish a sequence on the lumber industry they called upon the National Lumber Manufacturers Association for help. The NLMA might have called their segment “Better Living through Chemicals.” They predicted foresters would use radioactive materials, hormones, and “other stimulating substances” to do things like pre-season the wood, make it fire resistant, and even change the color of the wood while the tree is still growing. Maybe they didn’t get all of that correct, but maybe what hasn’t come to pass still could through a combination of chemical injections and genetic modification.

The NLMA’s description of the sawmill of the future is fairly accurate in terms of using scanning equipment to assess the best way to cut a log. And although we aren’t yet cutting lumber with lasers it seems only a matter of time. They got the part right about helicopter logging, but using an ordinary helicopter isn’t as exciting to contemplate as using this contraption, a strange marriage of 19th– and 20th-century technologies.

Helistat

This combination of multiple helicopters and blimp seemed like a good idea at the time. Alas, one of its flight tests failed in spectacular and tragic fashion and the program ended in 1986.

In 1980 the American Forest Foundation made a stab at predicting what the industry would look like in both 2010 and 2020. In 1980, to generate interest in National Forest Products Week, they issued what appears to be a press release that described working in 2010. For a separate project they produced a poster that made predictions about 2020. You’ll want to read the poster and the press release to see the subtle differences between the two in describing the future.

Some of it has already come to pass, like the use of handheld computers in the field and computers to aid in harvesting timber. The discussion of the “paperless society” in the press release is one worth revisiting in light of the internet and technology’s impact on how we read. (Are you reading this on your phone or a Kindle?) Interestingly, the artist wasn’t much of a visionary. You can clearly see the influence of Star Wars on the artist’s rendition of a logger. He looks like Luke Skywalker in his X-Wing fighter pilot uniform wielding a light saber—or is that a logging saber?

logging of the future

It’s interesting to note the emphasis on transportation in these various visions. More than a century ago Biltmore Estate forester Carl Schenck declared that “forestry was a problem of transportation” and that “good roads are needed to practice forestry!” Talk about back to the future! The vision of hovercraft lifting logs out of hard-to-access areas brings to mind the closing line from Back to the Future, when Doc Brown tells Marty, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” If Doc were a forester, he might instead proclaim: “Roads? Where we’re logging, we don’t need roads.”

Will lasers be used to cleanly cut timber? Will robots load lumber onto hovercraft that haul lumber? Will trees be genetically engineered to produce different grains and colors? What are your predictions for the future of forests, wood utilization, and forest management? Leave them in the Comments area and we’ll come back in 25 or 30 years and see if you were right.

 

“Back to the Future” of logging and timber management

The 25th anniversary Blu-ray release of the film franchise Back to the Future got us thinking about what forestry and logging were supposed to look like now from the perspective of the mid 20th-century. Weren’t we all supposed to be driving flying cars or have individual jetpacks to get us to work? At least that’s what was predicted in the 1960s. And that’s the problem with committing predictions of the future to paper. When organizations like the Forest History Society hold on to those documents, it’s easy to look back at them and assess how close to (or far from) the mark the writer was.

So let’s look at two sets of predictions. The image above (or below) isn’t of a spaceman or of Doc Brown from the film. He’s a logger in 1975. Well, that was the prediction in 1955. For their film, People, Products and Progress: 1975, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had asked several organizations to make predictions about transportation, home life, and the workplace. To furnish a sequence on the lumber industry they called on the National Lumber Manufacturers Association for help. The NLMA might have called their segment “Better Living through Chemicals.” They predicted foresters would use radioactive materials, hormones, and “other stimulating substances” to do things like pre-season the wood, make it fire resistant, and even change the color of the wood while the tree is still growing. So maybe they didn’t get all of that correct, but maybe what hasn’t come to pass could still through a combination of chemical injections and genetic modification. [link to book?]

The description of the sawmill of the future is fairly accurate in terms of using scanning equipment to assess the best way to cut a log. And although we aren’t yet cutting lumber with lasers it seems only a matter of time. They got the part right about helicopter logging, but using an ordinary helicopter isn’t as exciting as using this contraption, a strange marriage of 19th– and 20th-century technologies. It failed its one flight test in spectacular and tragic fashion.

In 1980 the American Forest Foundation made a stab at predicting what the industry would look like in 2010. Some of it has already come to pass, like the use of handheld computers in the field and computers to aid in harvesting timber. You can clearly see the influence of Star Wars on the artist’s rendition of a logger. He looks like Luke Skywalker in his X-Wing fighter pilot uniform wielding a light saber—or is that a logging saber?

It’s interesting to note the emphasis on transportation in these various visions. Biltmore Estate forester Carl Schenck declared more than a century ago that “forestry was a problem of transportation” and that “good roads are needed to practice forestry!” The vision of hovercraft lifting logs out of hard-to-access areas brings to mind a line from Back to the Future, when Doc Brown tells Marty, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” If Doc were a forestry professor, he might instead proclaim: “Roads? Where we’re logging, we don’t need roads.”

What are your predictions for the future of forests, wood utilization, and forest management? Will lasers be used to cleanly cut timber? Will hovercraft be used to haul lumber?

 

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One hundred years ago today, Dr. Carl Schenck, resident forester at George W. Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate and founder of the Biltmore Forest School, opened a three-day forestry fair on the Biltmore grounds.  At a time when forestry work in America was still very much in its infancy, this unique fair was designed by Schenck to demonstrate to visitors the accomplishments and possibilities of scientific management and practical forestry techniques.  Schenck’s forest festival also celebrated the 20th anniversary of forest management on the Biltmore estate and the 10th anniversary of the Biltmore Forest School.

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Schenck sent personal letters inviting close to 400 people to the fair, including several senators, governors, and the newly elected president of the U.S., William Howard Taft (for a full look at the text from the invitations, which also included a program of planned events, see this excerpt from Cradle of Forestry in America: The Biltmore Forest School, 1898-1913).  Along with these letters of invitation, Schenck also mailed to each proposed guest a 55-page illustrated booklet, A Forest Fair in the Biltmore Forest, which served as both a guide to the forests at Biltmore as well as a textbook of forestry and conservation practices.  And although no presidents, senators, or governors made an appearance, some 50 to 100 guests, including foresters, lumbermen, furniture manufacturers, botanists, university professors, and more, took part in the events of the fair.

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A group of Forest Fair attendees (from FHS Photo Collection).

The fair’s program, as designed by Schenck, featured three days of activities.  Visitors were given tours of the various forest plantations with Schenck as their educational guide, learning detailed lessons on forestry practices, planting techniques, logging operations, seed regeneration, soil composition, and more.  The fairgoers were also treated to tours of the nationally-famous Biltmore Estate nurseries and herbarium, as well as events such as a Gala Dinner, a fishing and shooting contest, and a possum hunt and barbecue.

Overall the fair was successful in demonstrating the importance of Schenck’s forestry and conservation practices to those in attendance.  Schenck and the fair were highly praised in various newspaper editorials following the fair’s completion.  An article in the Southern Lumberman commented that “this event will mark an epoch in American forestry.”

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Dr. Schenck, at right, greets Fair guests at Biltmore Plaza (from FHS Photo Collection)

The successful nature of the fair unfortunately proved to be the last high point of Schenck’s pioneering forestry work at Biltmore.  The next year, 1909, saw his fallout with Vanderbilt and the end of the original Biltmore Forest School.  Schenck’s many contributions to American forestry, though, have long outlived his time at Biltmore, and his legacy continues to be celebrated today at the Cradle of Forestry in America.

For a great overview of the Fair see Harley E. Jolley’s article from the April 1970 issue of Forest History, “Biltmore Forest Fair, 1908.”

For a look at the Fair through primary source materials, see the FHS Biltmore Forestry Fair Collection, which includes a series of full-text articles from American Lumberman (whose editor attended the fair).  Also see the FHS Biltmore Forest School Images Collection which includes several photos taken at the Fair.

To read the complete first-hand account of Schenck’s time at the Biltmore, see Cradle of Forestry in America: The Biltmore Forest School, 1898-1913.

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