Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘pulp and paper’

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?

Read Full Post »

On this date in 1894, a group of men with water and property rights along the Wisconsin River reached a monumental agreement. The group decided to combine their holdings in order to build dams and consolidate water power in the area around Grand Rapids and Centralia (the two towns would later merge to become Wisconsin Rapids). The formal articles of organization were officially signed and dated twelve days later, and the Consolidated Water Power Company was born.

Consolidated Articles of Organization

Consolidated Water Power Company, 1894 articles of organization (click to read full document).

The early years of the company were wracked with disagreements over the allocation of funds, and it wouldn’t be until after the turn of the century that the ultimate direction of the company would emerge. The company’s success would eventually be found in papermaking, a shift in focus which can largely be attributed to George W. Mead.

Born in Chicago in 1871, Mead graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1894, the same year Consolidated was formed. Mead was drawn into the company in 1902 by his ailing father-in-law, Jere Witter, a banker who owned considerable shares in Consolidated. Following Witter’s passing that year, Mead arrived in Grand Rapids to temporarily assist the company. Originally planning to stay in the area for only two weeks, Mead ended up as a resident of Grand Rapids and a permanent fixture in Consolidated’s company history.

Along with Nels Johnson, manager of the Grand Rapids Pulp and Paper Company mill in Biron (and another shareholder of Consolidated), Mead helped lead a new project: the construction of a large paper mill along with a planned dam on the Wisconsin River. The new Grand Rapids dam with attached paper and pulp mill was completed in 1904, beginning its operations with the world’s first electronically powered paper machines. By that time the company’s name had already officially changed to Consolidated Water Power & Paper Company (the name would later change again to Consolidated Papers, Inc.), Mead had taken over permanent direction, and business was on the verge of taking off.

While the company experienced major growth over the following decades, accessible pulpwood supplies in the area eventually began to dwindle. In 1930, Stanton Mead (George’s son) attended an American Forestry Association meeting in Minneapolis to learn more about the growing field of forestry.  There he met a forester named Emmett Hurst and came away impressed.

A few months later, Stanton Mead hosted a private forestry conference at his family’s fishing camp in Markton. Mead invited several notable figures in the field of forestry to the August 1930 gathering, including renowned forest researcher Raphael Zon, Forest Products Laboratory head Cap Winslow, and regional forester E.W. Tinker.

Mead Forestry Conference

Mead Forestry Conference, August 1930. You’ll find a report of the conference in the list of further readings below.

Mead used the assembled group to help determine the best direction for a potential forestry policy for his company. Zon advocated both buying second-growth forest land and adopting more sustainable partial-cutting practices (rather than the clear-cutting practices still widely used at the time). Mead took the advice to heart and decided to adopt a formal forestry program for Consolidated.
(more…)

Read Full Post »

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).
(more…)

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »