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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 9, in which we examine Sam Sprucetree.

Sam was a character created by Consolidated Papers, Inc., of Wisconsin to help tell the role of forest management in paper production. Sam’s autobiography—an 8-page booklet titled “Sam Sprucetree: My Autobiography Sort Of”—appeared sometime in the 1970s, probably in 1978. For reasons that will soon become clear, it was probably Sam’s only appearance.

In the tradition of Woody and Ev’rett, Sam is another in a long line of anthropomorphized trees created to help explain a complex topic to the general public, in this case a public that was hearing conflicting information about forest management practices. Based on a code printed on the back of the booklet and the remark in the “introduction” about Consolidated’s forestry program having started “more than four decades ago,” I think this was printed in 1978. At the time, both public and private foresters were experiencing a great deal of scrutiny and criticism about clearcutting as a result of the Bitterroot and Monongahela controversies. My guess is that Consolidated Papers produced Sam’s story—with its explanation of how its foresters instituted selection cutting on company land—partly to counter the blowback from the clearcutting controversies.

In a curious twist on the anthropomorphized tree genre, Consolidated Papers opted to let Sam tell his own story. A straight-forward history of the company and its longtime embrace of forest management couldn’t possibly match the appeal of a thinking, feeling tree, nor would a tale told in the third person. In “Sam Sprucetree: My Autobiography Sort Of,” when a forester comes by and marks his trunk with paint, Sam knows that the end of his life is at hand (or branch), which prompts him to share his story. It’s a classic take on a rich, full life: there’s the requisite childhood trauma and obstacles to overcome, but unlike many of today’s celebrity memoirs, Sam doesn’t complain or whine about the hand life dealt him. In fact, in the face of death, he’s at peace with his fate (though you’d never know it by looking at his facial expression on the cover).

Click on the image to read the book. Don’t wait for the movie. But if you do wait for the movie, rumor has it that either one of the apple trees from “The Wizard of Oz” or Daniel Day-Lewis will play Sam.

Sam has borne witness to the changes in attitudes towards trees and forests over the last 75 years or so. He has seen it all during his long life, a life that started in the “cut and get out” days of the early 20th century, when loggers indiscriminately logged white pine in the Lake States region. Sam shares the lessons he’s learned from each phase of his life—that early loggers were bad, fire is evil, foresters are heroic, and being designated for cutting and turned into pulp is an honor—perhaps the greatest honor for a spruce tree. His noble death enables him to realize a lifelong dream.

Sam sheds tears of joy when he finds out that he’s been “scheduled for a ride.”

Like many of these publications, this one does do a good job of explaining the topic for a general audience of all ages. What I find interesting after having read so many of these promotional publications, however, is not what’s in print, but what’s not in print. While there’s a very exciting recounting of how a team of oxen nearly dragged a log over Sam and killed him when he’s just a sapling, there’s no mention later of any threats from mechanized vehicles operating in the woods, nor from chainsaws or other modern methods of logging. Perhaps the PTSD (post tree-matic stress disorder) he suffered when threatened by the log or later by fire has rendered him mute on the subject. It might also explain his weird vision of what fire looks like.

Sam survives being nearly killed by oxen only to be threatened by fire (below). He didn’t need a tree surgeon for his injuries, he needed a tree psychologist.

The booklet ends with Sam knowing that he’ll be logged. Which begs the philosophical question: If an anthropomorphized tree falls in the forest, does he make a sound?

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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 4, in which we examine Cal Green.

Cal Green logoCal Green was a child of the popular “Keep Green” fire prevention campaign of the mid-twentieth century. Not to be confused with the jazz guitarist, the boxer, or the California Green Building Standards Code, Cal Green was a short-lived symbol of the California timber industry, as well as a regional figure in the growing national forest fire prevention movement. His existence may have been fleeting, but Cal nonetheless represents an important chapter in the history of forest-related organization on the state level.

Cal’s lineage can be traced back to May 31, 1940, when Washington Governor Clarence D. Martin issued a proclamation appealing for the public to become proactive in the prevention of wildfires. Martin’s call led directly to the creation of the Keep Washington Green Association, the first statewide forest fire prevention organization of its kind. Washington’s model proved influential, and in May of 1941 Oregon Governor Charles Sprague called together state leaders to form a Keep Oregon Green Association. From there the movement took off. The American Forest Institute formed a national Keep America Green program in 1944, and by the beginning of 1949, twenty-four states had their own Keep Green programs.

Keep California GreenCalifornia was in this first group of states to join the movement. Like other states’ campaigns, Keep California Green advocated for forest fire prevention while also demonstrating the importance of protecting the state’s valuable forest resources. The program proved successful, and by the 1960s the leadership of Keep California Green decided the organization needed its own mascot. Who or what would best represent their work? Keep Idaho Green was already setting the tone with their brilliant and unique Guberif campaign. The Guberif would be hard to top, so instead California decided to go a more traditional route.

Mean Cal GreenIn 1965, Keep California Green officially adopted a new character as their mascot. A logger with a hard hat and boots, usually carrying a shovel, he was named (what else?) “Cal Green.” The organization’s newsletter, Keep Greener, announced his arrival in May 1965: “‘Cal Green’ has been adopted to serve as front man of this timber industry oriented group. ‘Cal’ will be the central figure in all future Keep California Green publications and will cover California with his fire prevention efforts.”

As a logger, Cal clearly demonstrated the importance of forest industries while delivering his messages of fire prevention. His image popped up on signs, billboards, and trucks around the state, as well as on Keep California Green’s publications, mailings, and advertisements. Unfortunately for Cal, though, his time was relatively short-lived. There’s no official record stating a reason for his demise, but for whatever reason the character never caught on. Maybe he wasn’t cute and cuddly enough for the kids, maybe it was the Hitler-esque mustache, or maybe it was the Sixties and Cal represented The Man at a time when California youths were flocking to Haight-Ashbury. More likely, it was just the overwhelming popularity of Smokey Bear as the singular figure of fire prevention nationwide. Regardless, here at Peeling Back the Bark we pay tribute to this forgotten character with a few selections from our archives of the little man in action.

Cal Green sign

Cal Green sign displayed at front entrance of the Yolo County Fair in Woodland, California.

(more…)

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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. We here at Peeling Back the Bark would like to shed some light on a few of these forgotten characters, discussing their place in forest history and showcasing them to modern audiences.

Featuring Woody imageOne such forgotten character is Woody, a walking, talking log of wood who first came about through a forest products industry public relations campaign during the early 1940s. The creation of Woody is credited to American Forest Products Industries (AFPI) – an organization created in 1932 as a trade promotion subsidiary of the National Lumber Manufacturers’ Association (in later years AFPI would be renamed the American Forest Institute and would go on to become part of the American Forest & Paper Association in 1992). The main role of AFPI was to fund and distribute research and promotional projects relating to lumber and other wood products industries. In 1941, in response to negative public opinion about forest industries as well as the threat of federal regulation, a formal “Forest Industries Public Relations Program” was launched under the guidance of AFPI’s Public Relations Committee.

One of the first tasks for this new public relations program was to design various forest products advertising campaigns. These ready-made ads were designed for use in newspapers and allowed forest products companies to provide educational messages to their local communities. The first ads began circulating in 1942, carrying messages about the importance of forests as a natural resource. In 1944 a character named “Woody” first appeared in the AFPI advertising campaign. This log of wood with arms and legs proved to be immensely popular, and continued to be added to subsequent editions of AFPI advertisement books.

Introducing Woody advertisement

A 1944 press release from AFPI announced the debut of the Woody character, describing him as “a smiling, animated log.” As part of an industry-wide public information campaign Woody served as a symbol of forest products, good forestry, managed woodlands, tree farming, and more. Because of the time period, many of the Woody ads from this first series included wartime tie-ins.

Woody wartime advertisement

After the war Woody evolved into a figure of forest fire prevention, and later became a symbol of the national Keep Green Movement. (more…)

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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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This week marks the 50th anniversary of National Forest Products Week, a designation created to recognize the importance of forest products to America’s growth and economic development, as well as the forest industry’s contributions to improved forest management and forest utilization. This annual observance dates back to September 13, 1960, when Congress passed a joint resolution providing for the establishment of an annual National Forest Products Week to be held each year on the week beginning with the third Sunday in October. (It was perhaps without irony that it was Representative E. L. “Tic” Forrester from Georgia who presented the proclamation in the House for approval.) President Eisenhower signed the first proclamation two days later, calling on the people of the United States “to observe the week beginning October 16, 1960, as National Forest Products Weeks, with activities and ceremonies designed to focus attention on the importance of our forests and forest products to the Nation’s economy and welfare.” Upon signing the proclamation Ike was presented with a commemorative clock made from 10 different species of American wood (see photo below).

Eisenhower Forest Products Week

President Eisenhower being presented with a commemorative clock by the National Lumber Manufacturers Association in 1960 after signing the proclamation.

The state of Minnesota, which has a long history of promoting forest products and forest preservation, passed its own proclamation in 1960. Governor Orville Freeman, who signed the proclamation, went on to become secretary of agriculture under presidents Kennedy and Johnson, placing him in charge of the U.S. Forest Service for eight years.

The National Lumber Manufacturers Association and the Concatenated Order of the Hoo Hoo were big promoters of National Forest Products Week in its inaugural year. The observance continued to expand nationwide the following year when President John F. Kennedy issued a proclamation in 1961, and official observances continue today. On October 15, 2010, President Obama issued a proclamation for the 50th anniversary of the Week, which reads in part:

“Since the first communities and settlements in our Nation, forests and their products have played a vital role in our growth and economic development. Forests have also enhanced the splendor of our surroundings, served as wildlife habitats, provided places for recreational activities, and offered serene settings for contemplation. As we mark the 50th anniversary of National Forest Products Week, we recognize the enduring value of forests as sustainable, renewable, and bountiful resources, and we recommit to our stewardship and efforts to further their conservation.”

In honor of 50 years of National Forest Products Week, here are a few selections of forest products promotional images from the FHS Archives (click images to enlarge):

Louisiana forest products.

A display of Louisiana forest products (FHS4712).

More From Every Tree

"More From Every Tree" highlights some major forest products (from the American Forest Institute Records).

This Dress is a Forest Product

"This Dress is a Forest Product," an image from "The Story of Forests," an AFPI promotional booklet.

Woody

Forest Products character "Woody" combines his message of the value of the forests with the importance of preventing forest fires in the comic book "A Visit to the Forest...with Woody."

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With Chicago’s recent failure to become host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics, we here at Peeling Back the Bark were reminded of a little-known chapter from Chicago’s sports history which can be found in the FHS Archives.  Should Chicago have also submitted a bid for the Winter Olympiad?  Possibly.  We submit for your consideration this image of preparations for a ski jump competition taking place in Chicago’s Soldier Field in the year 1937.

Ski Jump at Soldier Field, Chicago, 1937.

A ski jump is readied for competition at Soldier Field, Chicago, 1937 (from FHS Archives).

Of course, this begs the questions: Why was there ski jumping in Chicago? And what does this have to do with forest history?  To answer both questions it helps to dig into the TECO company files in our archives, where this image came from.

The Timber Engineering Company (TECO) was formed in 1933 as the timber research subsidiary of the National Lumber Manufacturing Association (later known as the National Forest Products Association, and today as the American Forest & Paper Association).  TECO immediately established a wood products research laboratory in Washington D.C., and began its pioneering work in wood engineering and forest products testing and development.  The most notable early innovation was a unique brand of timber connector called a “split-ring.”  TECO purchased the rights to the split-ring connector from a German manufacturer in 1934, and further developed the product for use in assembling large timber tresses for building construction.

TECO timber connectors  proved to be a revolutionary development in wood construction, and were used in thousands of building projects such as schools, churches, theaters, warehouses, airplane hangars, lookout towers, bridges, and much more.

TECO blimp hangar

World War II U.S. Navy blimp hangar (1,000′ long, 153′ high) built using TECO timber connectors (FHS Archives).

That list of TECO engineered timber structures also included ski jumps, the largest being a 180-foot tall wooden ski jump temporarily erected outside of Soldier Field on more than one occasion.  A little known fact about Chicago’s sports history is that the city has hosted several large-scale international ski jumping competitions.

Brought to the U.S. by Norwegian immigrants, ski jumping was a very popular sport in the early 20th century, especially in the Northeast.  The sport of skiing was more directly tied to jumping at this time rather than downhill racing.  The 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, also helped to further spread the sport’s popularity in the U.S.  It was this popularity which facilitated the staging of ski jumping events in large American sports stadiums.

In February 1936, Soldier Field first hosted such a competition, which proved so successful that a larger ski jump was built again the following year.  In 1937, 140 jumpers competed in the event in front of nearly 60,000 spectators.  Soldier Field hosted another competition in 1938, but then not again until 1954 (Wrigley Field would also host a jumping competition in 1944).

View of TECO-built ski jump tower at Soldier Field, 1937.

Prefabricated, demountable 180′ TECO timber connector-built wooden ski jump tower at Soldier Field, February 1937 (FHS Archives).

Chicago was not the only city hosting international ski jump events during this time period.  Surprisingly, California also hosted several similar events in equally unusual places.  TECO was not involved in their construction and wood was not always the main material used, but large temporary jumps were built in several California cities.  Using snow machines and crushed ice, ski jumping competitions were held in Berkeley in 1934, the Hollywood Bowl in 1935, at the San Francisco Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in 1939, and in Los Angeles Coliseum in both 1938 and 1939.

SKi Jump at Los Angeles Coliseum

Construction of the temporary ski jump at Los Angeles Coliseum.

While the decades following this “golden age” of American ski jumping have seen a decline of interest in the sport, TECO has maintained its presence in the wood products industry.  Celebrating its 75th anniversary last year, TECO continues to provide important work for the industry today through the testing and certification of building products.

For more information on the history of TECO, see the following FHS resources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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