Loggers Built America (02:00)
Hear a Stuart H. Holbrook quote about logging camps. From 1785 to 1850, the U.S. population grew five-fold; lumber was needed for houses and firewood.
19th Century Logging Camps (02:11)
In the 1850s, lumbermen harvested white pine year round in the Great Lakes region. Learn about harsh living and working conditions. Most "timber beasts" were Scots-Irish, gradually migrating from the Northeast to the Pacific.
Virgin Forests (02:19)
When European settlers arrived in the 17th century, North America contained over one billion acres of timber. Pilgrims cleared trees for farming, but the British exploited colonial woodland resources, including reserving all white pines for the Royal Navy.
Lumberjack Origins (02:10)
Farmers cut timber for fuel and sold surplus logs to mills. As Eastern forests declined, many moved west to pursue logging. Hear a Stuart Holbrooke quote about lumberjack culture.
Muscle Power Industry (03:00)
By the late 19th century, inventions like the kerosene lamp and steam engine modernized society. Logging still relied on hand labor. Learn about the roles of saw bosses, fellers, scalers, barkers, swampers, teamsters, cooks, blacksmiths, saw filers, barn bosses, and bull cooks.
Logging Industry Dangers (03:54)
Lumberjacks worked long hours and released tension in bar fights. River pigs' helped transport logs to saw mills. Workers' compensation was nonexistent but companies began offering rudimentary medical insurance.
Logging Folk Tale (01:56)
Paul Bunyan represented the idealized lumberjack. Timber was vital to the economy during 19th century housing booms, but lacked organization, wealth, and political power.
Frederick Weyerhaeuser (03:51)
"Dutch Fred" transformed the timber industry into a monopoly. Learn about his immigration to America and early career. In 1859, he bought a saw mill in Illinois; circular and gang saw technology tripled output.
Wartime Economy and Westward Expansion (03:59)
The Civil War and Transcontinental Railroad increased lumber prices and demand, bringing Weyerhaeuser wealth. In 1872, he bought white pine forest land on Wisconsin's Chippewa River to control his supply. His empire equaled those of Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller.
Responding to Deforestation (02:32)
Virgin forests became depleted. In 1890, President Cleveland created national forests, limiting American wilderness. Under industry pressure, President McKinley reversed the legislation.
Richer than Rockefeller (02:06)
Anticipating regulation, Weyerhaeuser purchased Northern Pacific Railroad land from James J. Hill. He now owned a timber empire from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.
Conservation Movement (02:34)
In 1901, Theodore Roosevelt set aside 148 million acres for national forests and forced states to pass reforestation laws. Gifford Pinchot implemented scientific forest management. Weyerhaeuser embraced reforestation to perpetuate the industry.
Timber Monopoly Investigation (02:38)
In 1912, muckraking journalist Charles E. Russell accused Weyerhaeuser of operating an illegal trust. The federal government found Weyerhaeuser had not restricted competition illegally.
Logging in the 20th Century (02:04)
The timber industry prospered during World War I; spruce was used to construct airplanes. Postwar construction booms fueled business until the Great Depression. World War II increased demand; new companies competed with Weyerhaeuser.
Georgia-Pacific Corporation (02:03)
The timber company expanded during World War II. During the 1950s housing boom, founder Owen Cheatham developed plywood technology, a process similar to veneering.
Lumberjack Legacy (03:16)
The U.S. slowly regenerated forest lands, supported by the environmental and conservation movements. Modern technology revolutionized the logging trade. Today, lumberjack sports keep logging traditions alive.
Credits: Timber! (00:57)
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