Peeling Back The Bark

  • The Wood Prince of Bel Air: Building the ‘Strangers When We Meet’ House

    By Eben Lehman on June 4, 2020

    In the summer of 1960, Columbia Pictures released the film Strangers When We Meet. Adapted by Evan Hunter from his novel by the same name, the film’s plot centers around Larry Coe, an architect (played by Kirk Douglas) who is building a home for a Hollywood writer (played by Ernie Kovacs). While designing and building…

  • The Monongahela at 100: How Its Signature Event Changed American Forestry

    By Guest Contributor on April 30, 2020

    The Monongahela National Forest was established on April 28, 1920. Historian Char Miller has adapted a chapter from the book America’s Great National Forests, Wilderness & Grasslands, with photographs by Tim Palmer (Rizzoli, 2016), to mark the centennial.  The banner headline on the front page of the Elkins, West Virginia, newspaper for November 8, 1973,…

  • Carl Schenck and His Life in Lindenfels

    By Guest Contributor on March 25, 2020

    Historian Jameson Karns recently interviewed the two remaining “Schenck boys”—the young boys Carl Alwin Schenck taught and mentored in the aftermath of World War II. They have generously provided hours of interviews for FHS, as well as having donated some of Schenck’s lesson plans, correspondence, love letters, and photos. They provided an intimate look into…

  • President bans Christmas tree from White House!

    By James Lewis on December 1, 2019

    (First published in 2008, this blog posted was updated in 2012 and, after finding the letters to his sisters on the Theodore Roosevelt Center’s website, again in 2016 and 2019.) Around the internet, there are innumerable articles about how Theodore Roosevelt banned Christmas trees in the White House because of “environmental concerns” only to then…

  • “Madam Secretary” and the Gifford Pinchot Connection

    By James Lewis on November 21, 2019

    I’d never seen the TV series Madam Secretary until this week. Now in its sixth season, former secretary of State Elizabeth McCord is president of the United States. The character’s concern about climate change makes it unsurprising to see landscape paintings throughout the offices and private family quarters in the White House. An early scene…

  • The Night the Mountain Fell

    By James Lewis on August 16, 2019

    “The night the mountain fell” is how one of the strongest earthquakes to rock the United States was remembered by some survivors. It wasn’t in California, though. It hit Montana. An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 centered on the Gallatin National Forest—about 40 miles northwest of Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park—struck at…

  • When Woodsmen Bested Spacemen

    By James Lewis on July 19, 2019

    Capitalizing on the excitement surrounding the Apollo space program and the first Moon landing on July 20, 1969, the Weyerhaeuser Company published an article in its company magazine that December. “Spacemen become Woodsmen” recounted the visit by four Apollo astronauts to its Millicoma Tree Farm property the previous year for an elk hunting trip. You…

  • The Early Career of John S. Holmes, North Carolina’s First State Forester

    By Eben Lehman on May 31, 2019

    John Simcox Holmes—born on this day in 1868—was a pioneer of forestry work in the state of North Carolina. The state’s first professional forester, he was hired in 1909 to survey and protect North Carolina’s forests, though he had little funding or staff with which to do the job. In 1915 he was named as…

  • Forest History on the Move: Everett’s Wandering Weyerhaeuser Office

    By Eben Lehman on May 10, 2019

    Twenty-five miles north of Seattle, at the mouth of the Snohomish River, lies the city of Everett, Washington. Officially incorporated on May 4, 1893, the city has seen more than 126 years of growth and development, much of it bolstered by the area’s vast timber resources. In fact, it is impossible to separate Everett’s history…

  • Remembering Jerry Williams (1945-2019), Forest Service Historian

    By James Lewis on February 12, 2019

    Gerald W. Williams, a former national historian with the U.S. Forest Service and a Fellow of the Forest History Society, passed away on January 3, 2019. Among the many reasons for naming Jerry a FHS Fellow was his many significant contributions to the U.S. Forest Service History Reference Collection. While government reports and manuals comprised the…

  • Dark Days, Then and Now

    By Guest Contributor on January 24, 2019

    In this guest post, renowned fire historian Stephen Pyne reviews the history of wildland fires in the United States and the policies and strategies various agencies continue operating under before offering some recommendations for dealing with the issue. On May 19, 1780, the skies over New England darkened ominously as an immense pall of smoke…

  • October 15, 1934: Glued Laminated Timber Comes to America

    By Eben Lehman on October 15, 2018

    On October 15, 1934, workers broke ground for a new school gymnasium in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. To this day, this small city in the far northeast corner of Wisconsin remains best known for being totally consumed by a massive forest fire in 1871. The groundbreaking, while seemingly an unremarkable event, is another turning point in forest…

  • New Digital Exhibit: Pioneer Trail Riders of the Wilderness

    By Eben Lehman on August 17, 2018

    Recently FHS staff came across a scrapbook in our collection of American Forestry Association records. Its pages were filled with original photographs and documents from the American Forestry Association’s (AFA) first Trail Ride in July of 1933. The Trail Riders program was run by the AFA for over 50 years, from 1933 through 1988. Originally…

  • The Forest Service Faces a Century-old Call for Equality

    By James Lewis on May 7, 2018

    The following opinion piece by FHS historian James Lewis was originally published by High Country News on April 30, 2018, and is republished here in its entirety. The third applicant was “no gentleman,” the U.S. Forest Service ranger wrote to his boss, but would still make a first-class fire lookout on the remote Klamath National…

  • A Clear-eyed History of the Redwood Wars: A Review of the Book “Defending Giants”

    By James Lewis on March 29, 2018

    FHS historian James Lewis wrote this review of Defending Giants: The Redwood Wars and the Transformation of American Environmental Politics, by Darren Frederick Speece (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016) for Western Historical Quarterly. It was published in the October 2017 issue. The tallest species in the world, the redwood tree (sequoia sempervirens) is found in a narrow range…

  • “New Faces, Same Old Values”: Revisiting a History of Attitudes Towards Women in the Forest Service

    By James Lewis on March 9, 2018

    In light of the recent news about the systemic and system-wide problem of sexual harassment and misconduct throughout the U.S. Forest Service, and other federal land management agencies, it is useful to have some historical perspective. In short, this is not a recent problem. The following excerpt from my book The Greatest Good and the…

  • A Look Back at George Washington’s Birthday Trees

    By Eben Lehman on February 22, 2018

    “Ten million monuments to a great man!” So went the call out from Charles Lathrop Pack and the American Tree Association to the American public. The “great man” was George Washington and the year was 1932 – the bicentennial of Washington’s birth. Mired in the midst of the Great Depression, Americans were nonetheless still in the…

  • The Year When Turkeys Were Used to Fight Forest Fires

    By Eben Lehman on November 22, 2017

    There’s no better time than Thanksgiving week to look back at some of forest history’s famous turkeys. While we’ve previously looked at how turkeys changed forest history by upending timber policy in the 1960s, it’s due time to highlight a pair of birds. “Sir Keep Oregon Green” and “Chief No Fire” were two large 40-pound…

  • The Most Epic Forest History Road Trip Yet

    By James Lewis on November 21, 2017

    This post was first published in the Spring 2017 issue of Forest History Today, which was produced for the National Park Service’s centennial, as the “History on the Road” column. It’s been adapted for the blog to include more stops at places other than in national parks and seashores. Last fall, I took a leave of absence and…

  • Meet a Conservation Character: Rozzie the Rat

    By James Lewis on November 6, 2017

    Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon. While there are many forest-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside, new ones are appearing all the time. We thought we’d interview the people behind these new characters. In this first installment of our new series “Meet a Conservation Character,” we introduce…

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