Peeling Back The Bark

  • 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

    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…

  • 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….

  • 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…

  • President bans Christmas tree from White House!

    By James Lewis on December 14, 2016

    (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.) There’s a good deal of misinformation about how Theodore Roosevelt refused to allow a Christmas tree in the White House because of “environmental concerns.” A bit of…

  • 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…

  • The Hoo-Hoo Response to the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

    By James Lewis on October 27, 2014

    The International Concatenated Order of the Hoo-Hoo is one of the country’s oldest industrial fraternal organizations. Formed in 1892 at a train station in rural Arkansas almost as a lark (and possibly while under the influence of alcohol), the idea of a fraternal organization for the timber and lumber industries founded on the ideals of fellowship and…

  • A Giant in Forestry is Gone: Bill Hagenstein, 1915-2014

    By James Lewis on September 9, 2014

    Last Friday we received word that Bill Hagenstein, a giant in the forest industry and the history of American forestry, had died. The following biography is adapted from the files of the World Forestry Center, which he helped to establish in Portland, Oregon. While it does a fine job of summarizing his life and career, it…

  • A review of "Arming Mother Nature"

    By James Lewis on June 19, 2014

    The following book review by FHS staff historian James G. Lewis appears in the Scientists’ Nightstand section of the July-August 2014 issue of American Scientist. ARMING MOTHER NATURE: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism. Jacob Darwin Hamblin. 320 pp. Oxford University Press, 2013. $29.95. In May 1960 scientists and military officers at NATO headquarters came to a conclusion about…

  • A River Runs Through Me: Experiencing Thoreau’s Maine Woods

    By James Lewis on June 13, 2014

    Before I left to join the Thoreau-Wabanaki Journey on May 26, I had planned to write a blog post that would tie together the 150th anniversary of the publication of Henry David Thoreau’s The Maine Woods with George Perkins Marsh’s Man and Nature and the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Wilderness Act. The…

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