Peeling Back The Bark

  • “How Great the Gain!”: Women and the Forest Service

    By James Lewis on August 28, 2021

    This post, coauthored by James G. Lewis of the Forest History Society and Rachel D. Kline of the U.S. Forest Service, was originally published in a special issue of the journal Western Forester on “Women in Forestry” in August 2021. The journal is published by the Society of American Foresters’ Oregon, Washington State, and Alaska…

  • How Forest History Can Be Like A Beethoven Symphony

    By James Lewis on January 16, 2021

    This post is adapted from the Editor’s Note in the Spring/Fall 2020 issue of Forest History Today. As I sit here in a medical facility in December, waiting to be called, surrounded by people wearing masks because of the global pandemic, I hear the welcome sound of someone playing a piano. A staffer, dressed head…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • Reclaiming Henry David Thoreau, Forest Historian

    By James Lewis on July 12, 2017

    Crayon portrait of Henry David Thoreau, 1854. (public domain) 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…

  • 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

      The vial measures about 1.75″ in length but contains a great deal of information and memory. 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…

  • A Blogpost Unlike Any Other: The Eisenhower Tree, The Masters, and Forest History

    By James Lewis on April 6, 2017

    As the Master’s Tournament gets underway at Augusta National Golf Club this week, one of the icons of the course again will not be there. The famed Eisenhower Tree suffered extensive damage from an ice storm in the winter of 2014 and was removed shortly thereafter. Approximately 65 feet high and 90 years old when…

  • Celebrating the Unconventional: A Brief History of Women in Hoo-Hoo

    By James Lewis on January 19, 2017

    The September 1911 issue of The Bulletin, the old monthly journal of the International Concatenated Order of the Hoo-Hoo, had this to say: Not a great many of our members realize that the Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo has one member who would not take offense if referred to as no gentleman. In the early days…

  • Mary Pickford Stars in “Beverly Hills 9021-Oh Holy Night”

    By James Lewis on December 15, 2016

    Known as “America’s Sweetheart” during the silent film era, Mary Pickford became one of the most powerful women in the history of Hollywood. By 1916, she was earning $10,000 a week plus half the profits of every film in which she appeared (and there were a lot!). And she was producing the movies she acted…

  • 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…

  • Wilderness Travels with a Scientist-Naturalist: A Review Essay

    By James Lewis on March 11, 2016

    Below is an extended version of a review of Jack Ward Thomas’s new set of books originally written for the Journal of Forestry by FHS historian Jamie Lewis. All three books were published in 2015 by the Boone and Crockett Club and each retails for $24.95. Forks in the Trail: A Conservationist’s Trek to the Pinnacles of Natural…

  • Honoring America’s First Forester on His 150th Birthday

    By James Lewis on August 11, 2015

    The following is an op-ed piece by FHS staff historian James G. Lewis that appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times on August 9, 2015, in honor of Gifford Pinchot’s 150th birthday on August 11.  Born just after the guns of the Civil War fell silent, he died the year after the first atomic bomb was dropped. He…

  • Rethinking Wilderness After The Wilderness Act

    By James Lewis on April 22, 2015

    Have you ever been in an urban forest and had the feeling that you were off in the wild because you could no longer hear any cars? Did you find yourself on a river trail and felt as Emerson did when he wrote, “In the woods, is perpetual youth”? Or have you been in state…

  • Review of the PBS film "Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America"

    By James Lewis on April 15, 2015

    Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America is the latest film from Lawrence Hott and Diane Garey for PBS’s American Experience series. It is made in the traditional PBS style, perfect for the Olmsted neophyte and ideal for classroom use because of its length (55 minutes) and subject matter. You can stream it from the American Experience…

  • A Visit to the Carl Alwin Schenck Redwood Grove

    By James Lewis on January 20, 2015

    The silence, once I recognized it, struck me as odd, but then it made sense. I’ve been in louder empty churches, an apt analogy because I was here to pay my respects to the late, great man. I stood alone in the natural cathedral. The giant trees reminded me of the Corinthian columns that supported…

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