The History Of Lumber

The History of Lumber

The History Of Lumber

As a staple of American culture, lumber has shaped our economy for centuries. It has provided the raw materials for housing, firewood and much more.

The Early Years

The first commercial lumber companies opened in the mid-1840s in Minnesota. Timber lands in the northwoods were abundant and ripe for harvesting, and the forests were located near rivers that could provide transportation and power. Early loggers used an axe, but eventually two-man saws became the tool of choice. These two-man saws were faster and cheaper than axes, as well as less likely to cause injury. Loggers also gathered heated ashes from burning trees for potash, a potassium nitrate which was useful in making soap and glass. This was an important product for the growing settlement of the American frontier. As the United States developed, its forests became an important resource for the nation and the world. This relationship between the forest and the nations of the world was referred to as the lumber economy.

The American Frontier

The American frontier is the region of the United States where European settlers first began to settle in the 17th century. It is a period that is remembered today for its strength, courage, self-reliance, and honesty. The frontier was a hard place for people to live, so they did everything they could to survive. This included working hard every day and making the most of their money. As the settlers moved further west, they discovered new areas of wilderness that were full of large trees. These woods were perfect for lumber, so they started to harvest it from the forest. Lumber was used to make houses, wagons, crates, skids, tools, and more. The logging industry thrived, and the US was able to export more and more lumber from the frontier.

The 19th Century

During the 19th century, lumber grew in importance throughout North America. It was an essential material for early settlers, and it was an important component of international trade. The Great Lakes region of Michigan and Wisconsin became key centers for lumbering due to three factors: Treaties with tribes, settlers arriving westward in the treeless prairies, and a network of waterways that connected the forests to the Great Lakes. For the earliest loggers, harvesting was a labor-intensive process: wood was cut from forestland and hauled to rivers for transportation to mills. As the demand for logs increased, a need to expand the area from which logs could be harvested was recognized. Lumber roads started to emerge in the 1870s, allowing more areas to be cut and liberating the industry from its dependence on rivers for transportation. The small-gauge railroads that followed eventually pushed even deeper into the forests and allowed previously unprofitable timber areas to be harvested.

The 20th Century

During the twentieth century, lumber became a major product of American industry. It fueled the burgeoning railroad industry; it supported the coal mining industry; and it built rail cars, depots, and railroad ties. The logging industry also used waterways to transport logs. They created water-filled troughs (log flumes) to send logs from remote forested areas down rivers and streams. This new technology revolutionized the logging industry. It allowed lumber companies to transport massive quantities of hardwoods, like oak, hickory, and ash, which were too heavy to easily float. This increased the importance of the West as a place where wood was produced and traded. The Pacific Northwest, for instance, has been a significant regional and international participant in the lumber trade since 1827.