Posts Tagged ‘historic photographs’

Small crowds gathered around the Bellingham, Washington, waterfront on a Tuesday afternoon this past February to watch a 93-foot red brick building crash to the ground. The planned demolition of the former bleach plant building was just the latest chapter in the ongoing transformation of the city’s waterfront landscape. Once the site of a sprawling, state-of-the-art pulp and paper mill complex, the area is now part of a massive redevelopment and environmental cleanup effort. Numerous buildings have already been demolished and cleared away, leaving behind a digester building and two large tanks in the middle of an open expanse of concrete. The industrial skyline has given way to the first stages of a commercial waterfront district, signaling the beginning of a new era in Bellingham. The city’s industrial age, though, lives on in the Forest History Society Archives.

Bellingham waterfront

Pulp mill facilities on the Bellingham waterfront, circa 1946 (FHS6413).

It wasn’t that long ago that the now-vacant site was a center of regional pulp production. With its proximity to both quality timber and the shipping channels of Puget Sound, Bellingham was a natural venue for the pulp and timber industry. Puget Sound Pulp & Timber would ultimately be the company to put the city on the map. Formed in 1929, the Puget Sound Pulp & Timber Company was a conglomerate of pulp, logging, lumber, and railroad companies in northwestern Washington. Bellingham soon became the center of the company’s operations, and the first unit of a new pulp mill was built on the city’s waterfront in 1938.

The mill continued to expand and modernize over the following decades. An alcohol plant (the first such facility in the U.S. to produce industrial alcohol from sulphite waste) was completed in 1945. A new hydraulic barking and log chipping plant was completed in 1946. In 1947 a paperboard mill was added, as well as a chemical laboratory to research uses for pulp byproducts. The bleaching plant was completed in 1951. Further expansion occurred in 1958 when Puget Sound Pulp & Timber acquired Pacific Coast Paper Mills, which operated on an adjacent waterfront property.

In the mid-20th century Puget Sound Pulp & Timber was one of the largest and most modern pulp-making facilities in the region, with operations running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. On July 2, 1963, Puget Sound Pulp & Timber Company was acquired by the Georgia-Pacific Corporation. Georgia-Pacific operated the mill for the next four decades, eventually shutting down the pulp mill in March 2001 and the adjoining tissue paper and converting facilities in December 2007. Reconstruction plans for the abandoned waterfront complex began soon after.

Bellingham pulp mill

Sulphur silos and acid towers, with chip conveyor leading to the digester building. Puget Sound Pulp facilities, circa 1946 (FHS6404).

Materials documenting the industrial history of the Bellingham waterfront can be found in the FHS Archives. We recently digitized two rare promotional photo albums distributed by Puget Sound Pulp & Timber in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The first album includes photos of the exterior and interior of the pulp mill facilities in Bellingham. The second album features photos of the company’s logging operations in the Clear Lake, Washington, area. View the photos from both volumes in the new online gallery: Puget Sound Pulp and Timber Company Albums.

Also found in the FHS Archives is a copy of a 1953 promotional publication from the company: “Making Puget Pulp.” This large volume includes a visual documentation of the pulp manufacturing process. Photos follow logs as they are cleaned and barked, cut into chips, and then cooked in chemical solution until reduced to pulp. The pulp is then washed, screened, and bleached. The processed pulp is dried, cut into sheets for bailing, and then sold to mills where it is turned into various paper products. Take a visual tour of this pulp-making process via an excerpt from “Making Puget Pulp” (1953).

Continue below for a selection of Puget Sound Pulp & Timber Company advertisements from 1958-1963 (click images to enlarge).

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On this date in 1922, the Agricultural Appropriations Act of May 11 made the first appropriation for the improvement of public campgrounds in national forests. The bill made special reference to the protection of public health and the prevention of forest fires. The U.S. Forest Service received $10,000. What’s most surprising about that amount is that’s what the agency actually suggested it needed in the chief’s annual report the year before—and then they actually received it!

The bill was passed during the first recreation boom. The automobile and a bit of leisure time were both widely available following World War I. With several national forests located not far from urban centers, the forests were attracting campers in increasingly larger numbers. A 1922 study of the 960 campgrounds in the national forests revealed that more than a million people used them annually. Those numbers were expected to keep increasing as the 1920s roared on.

Though the Forest Service had constructed and opened its first campground in Oregon in 1916, the sheer volume of visitors after the war forced agency leaders to recognize two things: facilities were needed to properly dispose of all the litter and human waste being generated, and an uneducated public represented a fire hazard. In developing new campgrounds and improving existing ones by adding “public-comfort stations” that made available “a few simple sanitary conveniences,” the Forest Service argued that neophyte campers would be less inclined to go “into more remote places and [build] dangerous camp fires, as inexperienced people are likely to do,” but rather would “stop at those improved spots and thus greatly decrease the danger of destructive fires.” According to testimony given in support of the 1922 bill, the agency “has been forced into the recreation business as a means of taking care of the public.” It was build facilities or “make it unlawful for the public to enter the national forests,” an alternative they didn’t desire. The money would be used “in part for the preparation of camp plans and the simple construction necessary for sanitation and fire protection,” i.e., clear parking spaces, construct outhouses and fire rings, and level tent sites.

The request for money came at an important time in the history of recreation on federal lands. The National Park Service had been established in 1916 over the objection of Forest Service leaders, who felt that the parks should fall under their jurisdiction because of their timber holdings. Critics of the Forest Service felt otherwise. They argued that, like in the case of Hetch Hetchy, the Forest Service didn’t want to preserve land but develop it. The debate over the mission of the two agencies can be seen throughout the testimony, with one congressman questioning why “the Forest Service is duplicating practically everything there is in the national parks and specializing in promoting competing projects.” Chief William Greeley had to explain that there was no competition between the two, with associate forester E.A. Sherman adding that most of the visitors were local travelers “of a kind that would not reach the national parks.”

At the same time that the Forest Service was struggling to meet demands for recreation it was also developing its position and policy on wilderness and primitive areas. Two years before, the agency had decided not to develop Trappers Lake in Colorado at the behest of Arthur Carhart, and in 1924 the Forest Service would declare the first wilderness area, the Gila in New Mexico. The debate over wilderness aside, recreation grew in importance during the 1920s as the recreation boom took off. In 1923, the Forest Service received $20,000 for improvements and then nearly double that amount the following year. That was the same year that the agency included it as a line item in its annual budget for the first time—a sign that the agency was fully committed to recreation as both policy and practice.


The Forest History Society Photograph Collection features numerous images of recreation on national forests, including over 300 historic photos of camping and campgrounds. These photos and others can be accessed through our searchable online image database. A selection of recreation photos has also been highlighted on the FHS Flickr pages. Below you will find a few examples of photographs documenting national forest campgrounds through the years.

Camping at at Lolo Hot Springs.

Tourists camping at Lolo Hot Springs on Montana’s Lolo National Forest, 1920 (FHS973).


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On this date in 1921, the U.S. Forest Service convened the first national conference on fire control at Mather Air Field near Sacramento, California. Virtually all the agency’s leaders and brightest minds came together for the conference, including six district (now regional) foresters and six forest supervisors, numerous Washington office people including Chief William Greeley, and others of various ranks. Leaders in fire research and policy such as S. B. Show, E. I. Kotok, Evan Kelley, and William Osborne attended, as did Aldo Leopold and future chief Lyle Watts. All seven districts were represented.

The two-week long conference, the first national conference held by the U.S. Forest Service on any topic, was organized to address the controversy surrounding the issue of allowing light burning on federal lands. California was chosen as the host site because that district was a leader in the development of fire control theory and practice, and because many of the problems there could be found throughout the country.

A major outcome of the conference was settlement of the debate between those favoring “let burn” and light burning and those like Greeley and Show who believed in aggressively attacking all fires. Policies varied from district to district and even forest to forest. The agency found itself in a quandary because it was letting some light burning occur on lands adjacent to national forests but demanded that fires on federal land be fought. Agency leaders felt that this contradiction undermined its authority and wanted to formulate a national standard. The debate over what to do had been raging for more than a decade and had become important enough to prompt a national conference on the topic. Greeley’s position was clear; in an article a short time before, he had derisively dismissed the use of light burning as “Piute burning.”

Not surprisingly Chief Greeley decided in favor of attack and control. The agency set forest fire control as a priority over other activities, established national forest fire control standards, and provided for cooperation in forest fire control between districts. This new attitude towards fire control is best exemplified by the “10 a.m. policy,” under which the Forest Service decreed that all fires on federal land would be attacked as quickly as possible and fought until extinguished. The Forest Service is still dealing with the fallout of that decision ninety years later because the resulting fuel buildups continue to create problems for fire control personnel and forest managers.

For Greeley, the outcome of the conference gave him the opportunity to shape agency policy as he had long hoped. As the district ranger in Montana during the 1910 fires, he had come away from that disaster convinced of the need for cooperative fire control and the elimination of fire from forests. After the 1921 conference, he unequivocally committed the agency to cooperative forest management and systematic fire control. His next major move was pushing for the Clarke-McNary Act of 1924, which strengthened and expanded the provisions of the Weeks Act, particularly in cooperative fire control. To achieve these goals, Greeley brushed aside dissent and further debate on the topic of light burning, which left those who favored it labeled as heretics for years.

To learn more about the conference and its impact, you may wish to consult Stephen Pyne’s Fire in America, from which much of this information is drawn. We also have oral history interviews with Kotok, Show, and Kelley.

1921 Fire Control Conference

Osborne is standing 2nd from left; Watts is 6th from left; Greeley is in the second row 7th from left; and Leopold is 3rd from left in the front row. (click to enlarge).

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“Recent experiments conducted in the woods of the Great Upper Lumber Company of Scandinavia have demonstrated the permanency of the Aerologger for use in the lumbering operations of this and other planets.”

So read the opening sentence of a 1913 article found in the publication Steam Machinery, in which author S. MacHenry described a double-plane airship capable of logging an entire forest in one flight. While meant as a humorous piece, in reality MacHenry wasn’t too far off the mark. Within the next fifty years, the use of balloons and helicopters in aerial yarding operations would become a reality.

Images of these aerial yarding techniques are featured in a new photo gallery added to our website today. The historical photos presented in the gallery document the use of balloons and helicopters in logging operations, primarily during the 1960s and 1970s.

The use of balloons, in particular, has an interesting history when it comes to log-moving technology. Balloon logging was first seen in the U.S. in 1964, when the Bohemia Lumber Company of Oregon began using a helium-filled balloon in logging operations. Company vice-president Faye Stewart was inspired in part by the use of logging balloons in Sweden, and brought the practice to the U.S. The perceived advantages of using balloons were both economic and environmental. Lifting the logs could help limit soil erosion, as logs would not be skidded along the ground. Logs also suffered less breakage moving through the air, and the use of balloons would theoretically lessen the need for additional forest road construction.

Stewart worked with the Goodyear Aerospace Corp. to develop a “V”-shaped balloon, and Bohemia soon formed a subsidiary company – Balloon Trans-Air Inc. – to manufacture and market the balloons. In the 1970s, Stewart would leave Bohemia and form Flying Scotsman Enterprises, his own balloon logging company. Other companies also began to market balloons, including Raven Industries in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which manufactured traditional onion-shaped balloons for use in logging operations. The U.S. Forest Service also decided to get in on the action.

In 1971 the Forest Service announced the FALCON program (Forestry, Advanced Logging, and Conservation), a research and development program for aerial logging systems. The program’s stated purpose was to “improve the ability of resource managers to predict the economic and environmental consequences associated with the use of conventional and new logging methods such as balloons, helicopters, and cable systems, singly or in combination, with the aim of providing less damaging timber harvesting methods for environmentally sensitive areas.” With its special emphasis on helicopter and balloon logging, the USFS looked to perfect aerial logging systems that would minimize environmental impact, particularly in areas of difficult access.

Below is a clip from the FHS YouTube channel featuring film footage of some of the balloon logging operations from this era:

Of course, no discussion of aerial logging operations would be complete without mention of the infamous Heli-Stat — a controversial helicopter-blimp hybrid with a tragic history. The concept of an airship combining four helicopters with a large blimp was first patented by aviation pioneer Frank Piasecki in 1961. In many ways, Piasecki’s design could be viewed as the natural extension of MacHenry’s satirical 1913 aerologger. Except that Piasecki’s was actually real. After nearly twenty years of struggling to find funding for development of the craft, the Forest Service proved an enthusiastic supporter.


Artist rendering of the Piasecki Heli-Stat.

As fantastical as the design seemed on paper, the Forest Service saw the Heli-Stat as a way to log remote, roadless regions of the Pacific Northwest. Capable of lifting 25 tons of timber and carrying loads up to five miles, the Heli-Stat was viewed as the next evolutionary step after the logging helicopter. George Leonard, then the USFS timber management chief, stated that “it appears to offer an opportunity to remove logs from areas where it is economically or environmentally unwise to put roads.” The agency approached Oregon congressman Robert B. Duncan with the idea and in 1979 he managed to get three million dollars earmarked for development of the Heli-Stat.

Piasecki began assembling the craft almost immediately at the naval air engineering center in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Using four Korean War-era helicopters and an old salvaged Navy blimp, Piasecki’s long-planned airship finally began to take shape.

Things didn’t go quite according to plan, though. The Forest Service stated that the agency would recoup any investment in timber sales from the lumber accessed with the new craft, but construction continued to go over budget. A GAO report in November 1982 estimated that the net cost of the Heli-Stat had already increased from 6.7 million to almost 32 million dollars. Critics asked if the agency was funding a balloon or a boondoggle. Journalists today would probably call it a “balloondoggle.”

Construction fell behind schedule and various technical problems plagued the development process. Navy, NASA, and Federal Aviation Administration officials all criticized the project during construction, stating that “poor quality workmanship practices have been used to build the interconnecting structure.” One Navy engineer, Louis Berman, criticized Piasecki’s use of “slide-rule engineering in an age when everyone else is using computers. You just don’t design aircraft that way.”

The criticisms proved to be well-founded. In a test run of the massive airship on July 1, 1986, the Heli-Stat failed in dramatic and spectacular fashion. On the same Lakehurst airfield where the Hindenburg crashed in 1937, the Heli-Stat rose thirty feet off the ground before the right rear helicopter broke loose and the entire craft collapsed into a burning heap. One of the five crew members was killed. It was a tragic ending to a controversial chapter in the development of log transportation technology.

Additional information:

Visit the new photo gallery:

And for additional topics, browse our previously posted subject galleries, or search the FHS Image Database.

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Here at PBBWHQ (Peeling Back the Bark World Headquarters), we’re perfectly giddy with the holiday spirit. The lights are up, the tree is lit, and Alvin J. Huss is watching over us.

Alvin reports to Santa on which FHS staffers have been naughty and which have been nice.

We’re so caught up in the season that we thought we’d share our version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” with you. (Some may think we’re inflicting it on you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder–and this version is a beaut!) So click on the slide show and sing along. In the interest of time and sanity, we’ve cut straight to the twelfth day and started the countdown there. If you want to know more about the individual images, we’ve included the photo ID number for those images that have them in each caption. You can then look them up in our Image Database by jotting down the number, going to the database, and plugging the number into the Quick Search field.

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS from all of us at the Forest History Society!

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Three new photo galleries added to our website today contain more than 250 historic photos illustrating aspects of logging over the past century.  The first gallery, Logging–Scaling, documents the work of scalers in the woods.  A scaler was the person who measured and marked the quality of timber, and estimated the number of board feet in a log.   Scalers used an instrument known as a “scale rule” to measure and place monetary value on the logs.

Scaler measuring large log.

Scaling large log to measure volume of cut timber, July 1944.

With money at stake, scalers were sometimes the object of criticism.  As scaling standards, practices, and instruments evolved, disputes over inconsistencies became commonplace.  Many logging crews believed that the scaler automatically favored the millowners, and referred to his scale rule as a “cheat stick,” “thief stick,” “swindle stick,” or “robber’s cane.”  For an excellent history of the work of the scaler, see “The Scaler: Forgotten Man in Maine’s Lumbering Tradition” by William S. Warner, from the October 1982 issue of the Journal of Forest History.

Two other new photo galleries document the transport of logs, one featuring images of trucks, and the other with images of tractors and wagons.  The Logging–Hauling–Trucks gallery includes more than 100 images of trucks transporting large and small logs through various parts of the country.

Caravan of trucks carrying Douglas fir logs through North Bend, Washington.

A caravan of trucks carrying mammoth Douglas fir logs pass through North Bend, Washington.

The Logging–Hauling–Tractors and Wagons gallery shows the evolution of tractors, wagons, and trailers used to haul logs in the woods.  Included are a few images of the earliest Caterpillar tractors built by the Holt Manufacturing Company in Stockton, California.  A history of the crawler tractor, looking at the development of the Lombard log hauler and the Caterpillar tractor, can be found in the following clip from the FHS YouTube Channel:

For more information on early log hauling equipment, see the William H. Carson Collection in the FHS Archives.  For further reading related to the tractors gallery, also take a look at “From Bulls to Bulldozers: A Memoir on the Development of Machines in the Western Woods from Letters of Ted P. Flynn,” from the Fall 1963 issue of Forest History.

Caterpillar Tractor hauling logs near Columbia, South Carolina, June 1929

Caterpillar tractor hauling logs near Columbia, South Carolina, June 1929.

Visit all three of these new photo galleries:

And for additional topics, see our previously posted subject galleries, or search the FHS Image Database.

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We recently received an advanced copy of the new Ken Burns film, The National Parks – America’s Best Idea, which begins airing on PBS starting Sunday, September 27.  You can see images from the FHS Archives in the first three episodes and our name in the credits.  (By the way, if you can’t get to your TV when those air, the PBS website will be streaming the video of each episode after it airs.)

As we watched here at the Peeling Back the Bark World Headquarters for our images to appear in the film, we got to talking about other films in which our moving footage and still images have appeared.  Of course, tops on the list is The Greatest Good: A Forest Service Centennial Film.  (Normally, I’d say, Buy the book – don’t wait for the movie. But in this case, I say, Buy them both and now!)  Footage from the two films we’ve produced, Up in Flames and Timber on the Move, has appeared in a number of documentaries and television shows over the years.  Our images have appeared in films as varied as Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues to Fungi: Pennsylvania’s Hidden Treasures.  Below the photos that we think appear in The National Parks is a partial list of video projects with images or footage from our archive.

The other thing we discussed is how FHS expertise has been used in productions.  Sometimes it’s in a very hands-on manner, as with The Greatest Good.  That was fun because two of us were involved in reviewing the script and rough cuts of the film, and we were listed individually by name in the final credits.  Other times, we’ve been asked to do research that finds its way into scripts.  The latter is true for an upcoming History Channel show, America: the Story of US.  You can see the results of that in the spring.

Here are just a few of our images to look for in the Ken Burns film.




Sheep grazing

And here’s a list of some of the other productions in which our archival material has appeared:

– On PBS, from the American Masters series – Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues.  Hank briefly worked as a logger.

Firestorm: The Fire Suppression Paradox, follows a firecrew from Ontario who joined with firefighters from the U.S. and other jurisdictions to fight a fire in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana, in the summer of 2000.

Chief Mountain Hotshots: Firefighters of the Blackfeet Nation tells the history of one of the most respected Hotshot crews in the country.

The Forest Where We Live – The Series (Louisiana Public Broadcasting)

The Ultimate 10 Dangerous Jobs (“Ultimate 10” series on TLC) – has footage of smokejumping from Up in Flames.

Fungi: Pennsylvania’s Hidden Treasures is an award-winning full-length documentary produced by the State of Pennsylvania’s DCNR’s Wild Resource Conservation Program and Commonwealth Media.

The Lord God Bird documentary film is about the ivory-billed woodpecker.

– The History Channel Toolbox Series – the episode on Mechanic’s Tools and Chainsaws.

– The History Channel series Modern Marvels – “Logging Technology” episode has footage from Timber on the Move.

– And for the upcoming 12-hour series on the History Channel, America: The Story of US, we conducted research and provided background material on 19th-century log drives in the upper Midwest.

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