Peeling Back The Bark

  • Reclaiming Henry David Thoreau, Forest Historian

    By James Lewis on July 12, 2017

    The bicentennial of the birth of Henry David Thoreau this month comes at an auspicious time. Given the political climate we live in, his essay “Civil Disobedience” resonates today more than it has in nearly a half-century. I break no new ground in saying that the man has much to say to us 155 years…

  • Collaboration, Inclusivity, and Resilience: Three Birthday Wishes for the Forest Service’s Second Century

    By James Lewis on June 30, 2017

    July 1 marks the anniversary of the U.S. Forest Service’s establishment of the National Forest System in 1907—the day the “federal forest reserves” were renamed “national forests.” Historian Char Miller wants to share his birthday wishes for them. Not every anniversary deserves commemoration. Ordinarily, the 110th birthday of anything would not merit much attention, but…

  • Parachuting Into History: Smokejumpers Land In DC For First Time

    By James Lewis on June 28, 2017

    On this date in 1949, four Forest Service smokejumpers made the first jump east of the Mississippi River and the first parachute jump ever made onto the Washington Ellipse, the oval park between the Washington Monument and the White House. The jump was even televised, which is how President Harry Truman reportedly watched it, even…

  • Explosive Truths: A Review of the book Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens

    By James Lewis on May 18, 2017

      This is an expanded version of the review of Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens, by Steve Olson, which first appeared in the April-May 2017 issue of American Scientist.  When I visit environmental history–related locations, I typically bring back two reminders of the trip: photographs I’ve taken and rocks I’ve collected from the sites….

  • The Gift of the Pisgah National Forest

    By James Lewis on October 17, 2016

    On October 17, 1916, the Pisgah National Forest was the first national forest established under the Weeks Act of 1911. Written by FHS historian Jamie Lewis, this post was originally published in the online version of the Asheville Citizen-Times on October 14, 2016, and in print on October 16 to mark the centennial. “When people walk…

  • 7/31/1865: Austin Cary, the Father of Southern Forestry, Born

    By James Lewis on July 31, 2015

    Austin Cary, one of the great unsung heroes of American forestry, was born this date in 1865 in East Machias, Maine. A Yankee through and through, he found professional success in the South, eventually becoming known as the “Father of Southern Forestry.” In 1961, twenty-five years after Cary’s passing, his biographer Roy R. White wrote…

  • Hollywood Stars Celebrate Arbor Day In All Their Finery

    By James Lewis on April 24, 2015

    Much like today’s celebrities, Hollywood stars of the 1920s never missed an opportunity to align themselves with a cause that everyone could get behind. In 1923, industry leaders joined with conservation leaders like Gifford Pinchot and William Greeley to establish the American Reforestation Association, which sought to leverage Hollywood’s PR machinery and the exploding popularity of…

  • May 29, 1903: Bob "Forest History" Hope was Born

    By James Lewis on May 29, 2013

    On this date in 1903, Bob “Forest History” Hope was born in London, England. His career in comedy spanned 60 years and moved from the Vaudeville stage to radio and film and eventually television. He appeared in more than 70 movies, most famously in the “Road” series with his pal Bing Crosby, a fellow tree…

  • TECO and Stickee Staystuck Celebrate Anniversaries

    By James Lewis on January 16, 2013

    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…

  • Further Reflections on Mann Gulch

    By James Lewis on August 5, 2012

    As the Lewis and Clark expedition made its way through the beautiful, rugged area he would name “the gates of the rocky mountains,” Meriwether Lewis recorded in his journal on July 19, 1805: “this evening we entered much the most remarkable clifts that we have yet seen. these clifts rise from the waters edge on…

  • July 16, 1894: Consolidated Water Power Company Formed

    By Eben Lehman on July 16, 2012

    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…

  • "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" released 30 years ago today. Where's the sequel?

    By James Lewis on June 11, 2012

    Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” Steven Spielberg’s beloved film about an alien visitor who befriends a young boy; it’s also the film that gave us the catch phrase “Phone home.” As faithful readers of this blog know, we love films from the ’80s nearly as much as forest-themed…

  • The Two Tragedies of Archie Mitchell

    By James Lewis on May 30, 2012

    On this date in 1962, the Rev. Archie Mitchell was seized by the Viet Cong, bound in front of his wife and daughters, and taken away from the leprosarium where they were working near Buon Ea Na, Vietnam, never to be heard from again. This was the second wartime tragedy for Mitchell. Seventeen years earlier…

  • May 11, 1922: US Forest Service heeds call of nature

    By James Lewis on May 11, 2012

    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…

  • "On April 5, 1895, I passed the Statue of Liberty…"

    By James Lewis on April 5, 2012

    On this date in 1895, Carl Schenck arrived from Germany to the United States to replace Gifford Pinchot as forester at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Three days after arriving in New York, Schenck met with Pinchot, then just 29 years old and seemingly without a care in the world. To mark the…

  • Forest History Today issue on the Weeks Act now available

    By James Lewis on March 1, 2012

    The new issue of Forest History Today is now available. It’s all about the Weeks Act, which turns 101 years old today. Forest History Society members have received a copy as a benefit of their membership. If you’re not a member but would like to purchase a copy, contact Andrea by email or by calling…

  • Happy 125th Birthday, Aldo Leopold!

    By Guest Contributor on January 11, 2012

    On this date in 1887, author, forester, ecologist, and conservationist Aldo Leopold was born in Burlington, Iowa. The founder of the science of wildlife management and a major influence on the wilderness movement, wildlife preservation, and environmental ethics, he is perhaps best known for his book, A Sand County Almanac (1949). In honor of his birthday,…

  • November 14, 1921: First-ever National Fire Control Conference held

    By James Lewis on November 14, 2011

    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,…

  • Happy 40th Birthday, Woodsy Owl!

    By James Lewis on September 15, 2011

    Give a hoot—and a holler—for Woodsy Owl! Today’s his birthday. Or at least it’s the 40th anniversary of the press conference announcing Woodsy’s arrival. And that’s close enough for us. We won’t bore you with the details of how he came to be. You can learn that at this blog post. Instead, we’ll share the original…

  • September 11, 1893: Forest Fire Researcher Harry Gisborne's Birthday

    By James Lewis on September 12, 2011

    Family and friends probably had to be careful when they lit the candles on a birthday cake for Harry Gisborne. As the first true specialist in forest fire research in the country, he might have held court about fire danger while the candles burned down to the icing. Kidding aside, Gisborne’s work included fire danger…

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