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Posts Tagged ‘forestry education’

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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On this day in 1964, foresters, government officials, and others gathered near Asheville, North Carolina, at the site of the historic Biltmore Forest School. At this joint annual meeting of the American Forestry Association and the North Carolina Forestry Association, officials laid the cornerstone of the U.S. Forest Service Visitor Information Center, dedicating the Cradle of Forestry in America.

The Cradle of Forestry was envisioned as a unique indoor-outdoor museum that would celebrate the significance of the Pisgah National Forest lands to the history of forestry in the United States.

  • Here, America’s first trained native-born forester, Gifford Pinchot, managed the thousands of forested acres owned by George W. Vanderbilt. Beginning in 1892, Pinchot initiated large-scale scientific forest management practices on the Biltmore and Pisgah lands.
  • Pinchot’s successor, Dr. Carl A. Schenck, opened the first forestry school in America. The Biltmore Forest School operated on the estate from 1898 to 1907.
  • Passed in 1911, the Weeks Law granted the federal government authority to purchase private lands for inclusion in national forests. Following the passage of the Weeks Law, several tracts of Vanderbilt’s land were among the first purchased by the U.S. Forest Service. Incorporating these tracts, a proclamation signed by Woodrow Wilson in 1916 officially established the Pisgah National Forest.

At the cornerstone-laying ceremony, Forest Service Chief Edward P. Cliff delivered remarks, which included a memorandum he drafted for a one-hundred year time capsule. Addressed to the Chief of the Forest Service in 2064, the memorandum provides interesting points to consider:

“I would like to glimpse the technological advances and the wealth of knowledge that you and your colleagues have at your fingertips. I know that it must surpass by far anything we can imagine here in 1964. Yet I am equally sure that you need all of these and more to solve what must be incredibly difficult and complex problems of forest management. . . .

“As a forester, my greatest hope is that in the decades which separate our careers, our people will have proved to be good stewards of our natural resources. It pleases me to think that each generation of foresters during this interval will have been able to build upon the work of their predecessors — just as your generation is benefiting from trees established, protected, and nurtured by us in the mid-Twentieth Century.”

The Forest History Society maintains materials related to this dedication ceremony, including newspaper clippings, event programs, brochures, and artifacts. Cleverly, the Cradle of Forestry planners printed maps and site information on litter bags given to visitors:

Perhaps the most “flavorful” part of the tour involves the description of the Student Quarters:

The materials featured above may be found in our U.S. Forest Service History Collection, under “Forestry Schools/Education: Cradle of Forestry.”

To support further research on the birth of American forestry, the Forest History Society holds several archival and image collections related to the Biltmore School, early foresters, the Forest Service, and lumber companies.  Such collections include:

Additionally, FHS has collaborated with N.C. State University, UNC Asheville, and the Biltmore Estate to present The Rise of American Forestry: From Education to Practice. I suspect Chief Cliff would be impressed by the “technological advances and the wealth of knowledge” at our fingertips.

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