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Posts Tagged ‘TECO’

On this date in 1933, the Timber Engineering Company (TECO) was incorporated  in Washington, DC, as a “national sales promotion, engineering and research agency for wood and forest products” by the National Lumber Manufacturing Association. While that organization later became the National Forest Products Association and later still the American Forest & Paper Association, TECO hasn’t changed names or its mission in the 80 years its been operating (though it has changed hands several times, as is nicely documented on their own history page. Oh, that other companies would provide such useful historical information about themselves—well done, TECO!)

Since 1934, much of TECO’s work has focused on making timber a strong and appealing construction material that can do more than steel or other metals. Its first product was the “split-ring connector,” which was “used in the assembly of heavy timber trusses in building construction,” according to their history page. The connector, the rights to which were purchased from a German manufacturer, allowed the assembly of massive timber trusses used in the construction of blimp hangars, ships, bridges, and buildings, and the occasional oddity such as ski jumps in football stadiums. TECO later moved into plywood research and production and claim to have manufactured the first particleboard in the U.S. Their research and products were critical in the defense industry during World War II era and the construction boom that followed the end of the war.

TECO blimp hangar

Blimp hangars like this one became possible because of TECO’s split-ring connector.

One lesser-known product of TECO’s is the forgotten forest history character, Stickee Staystuck. He was introduced in 1953 in a series of posters citing the “do’s and don’t’s” in successful laminating that were distributed nationwide. But little is known about him, at least to us. It was only by accident that we learned of this character when Eben stumbled across an advertisement with Stickee in it. And despite all the materials we have about TECO (the National Forest Products Association records, the Wilson Martindale Compton papers, TECO Company files in the FHS Library, and TECO subject file in the FHS Photograph Collection), we have almost nothing about this awkwardly named guy. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why our crack research staff (again, mostly Eben) could only turn up that one advertisement with him in it: his name doesn’t roll off the tongue—it twists the tongue. More precisely, it sounds as if you have glue on your tongue. In fact, we’ve been referring to him around the office as “Stickee Sam” or other sobriquets because they’re much easier to say and involve less spittle. His name alone may be why he’s gone the way of Howdy, the Good Outdoor Manners Raccoon. If it’s not easy to say or remember, it won’t, ahem, stick.Stickee Staystuck, the awkwardly named character

Another reason he’s not known to us today is pure conjecture. He isn’t mentioned in the two documents about the founding of the company written just four years after Stickee’s debut available on the company’s history webpage, which, if it’s an indication of his lifespan, says a lot about him. Even for the more freewheeling days of the 1950s, long before the phrase “sexual harassment” was ever uttered in the workplace, you got to admit that Stuckee was a bit over the top, as seen in the cartoon below.

Stickee, we hardly knew ye.

Stickee, we hardly knew ye.

We congratulate the Timber Engineering Company on 80 years of great work. And while this is the 60th anniversary of Stickee’s debut, it’s doubtful that TECO will be marking that anniversary.

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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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