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Lumber And Paper

( Originally Published 1918 )

Importance of wood. The really indispensable articles to man's life on earth are few and simple, but one of them is wood. The Eskimo of the Far North has become an expert in the use of bone in making tools and weapons and of snow for winter shelter. The little wood that comes to him is very highly prized ; in fact, small and weak pieces of driftwood are skillfully pieced and glued together to make a block big enough to do anything with. This was in the time, of course, before the white man came to him ; and the whole story but illustrates to what limits men may be driven in the absence of this basic natural resource. Hardly any other part of the natural environment enters more intimately and vitally into the life economy, and certainly into the beginnings of the industrial career, of the human race ; consequently a country with extensive forest areas is at an advantage in the struggle for existence and in the competition with other countries.

Our forest resources. We have already described the forest resources of our country and have seen that originally, in both extent and value, they were unsurpassed by those of any other civilized country ; that we have carelessly spent these resources, so that approximately one half of the value of our forests has been used up ; and that a conservation movement is now on foot whose aim is to have the annual growth at least equal the annual drain.

Early processes. The European colonists who began our national history were forced to start the business of lumbering at once ; they had to build themselves shelter and they were obliged to clear land for cultivation. The houses were made of logs, and whatever boards or shingles were needed had to be hewn out or split by hand. The invention of the sawmill was an important incident in colonial history. It was invented in this country in 1633. Sawmills were located on eligible streams, and settlements were not infrequently determined by the presence of a stream affording water power. Mills were in existence in various places in New England by the middle of the seventeenth century, and spread to other parts of the country as these were settled ; the sawmill followed the pioneer wherever he went, after as well as before the Revolutionary period. The simple mills of the day cost anywhere from fifty to five hundred dollars, usually formed a combination with grist-milling, - so that the log-owner paid the miller for the sawing, - and produced a rather petty product. The census of 1840 reports over 30,000 lumber mills, with a total product value of nearly $ 13,000,000, or more than $400 per mill. For the first four decades of the nineteenth century the exports of timber rarely exceeded $5,000,000 a year.

Lumbering. This timber business, however, was of importance to the population. For shipbuilding large timber was needed, and there were often cut single pieces that brought two hundred dollars or more. Lumber was carted to town like farm produce. One Saturday in 1816 there arrived in Belfast between three and four hundred sleighs loaded with lumber, and in 1822, in a single day, 136,000 feet were brought there by team. Lumber was in reality a sort of by-product of land development.

Localization of the industry. The application of the steam engine to the sawmill changed the character of this industry. Where formerly the mills hugged the streams at some local or general fall line, they now could follow the timber ; and where formerly the logs were floated downstream to their destination (which was another reason why lumbering stuck to the rivers), now the industry came to be closely associated with railroads and railroad-building. A sort of intermediate stage, in some places, was where the timber was transported by canal. The modern development of lumbering has been connected with railroad extension more closely, probably, than that of any other industry. Not seldom has the lumberman been a pioneer in railroad building, and not a few roads of to-day were laid down rather recently as part of a local lumbering enterprise. Large-scale production followed upon the extension of railroad transportation, and this was concentrated in the soft-wood areas, where a highly developed variety of sawmill, differing materially from the earlier type, accompanied a much more intensive organization of the industry. White-pine lumbering in the states around the Great Lakes produced a number of big organizations with large capitalization, and Southern and Western lumbering largely imitated the methods, which had already gained much prestige, of the great Northern pine region.

Shifting of the industry. Three causes have combined, since the middle of the nineteenth century, to bring about a shift of the scene of large-scale lumber production in the United States : first, railroad development ; second, concentration of manufacture ; and third, destruction of forest areas by fire. These factors have brought to pass a rapid exhaustion of the forests and a consequent necessity for the industry to seek new fields. In 1850 the northeastern states furnished 54.5 per cent of our lumber, the Lake states 6.4 per cent, the Southern states 13.8 per cent, and the Pacific states 3.9 per cent. In 188o these percentages were 24.8, 33.4, I1.9, and 3.5 respectively. In 1914 they were 9.0, 10.5, 47.7, and 19.3 respectively. The figures for intervening decades show that this movement was a constant and consistent one. And this shift has meant change in the nature of the output : white pine, which used to constitute about half of the total product, is now something like a tenth ; and the leading woods now cut are yellow pine, Douglas fir, white pine, hemlock, oak, spruce, and Western pine.

Importance of the industry. Lumbering is now, as it always has been, one of the basic industries of the country. There are over eight hundred thousand wage-earners employed in the production of lumber and in its remanufacture, and as an agency of employment of labor this industry is surpassed only by farming, railroading, and mining. In value of product lumbering and connected enterprises stand fifth in the list of groups of industries — after the food, textile, iron and steel, and chemical groups.

The planing mill. We turn now to illustration of the industries consequent upon and allied with lumbering. The planing mill produces a large number of commodities, such as sashes, blinds, doors, interior woodwork, moldings, and a great number of minor products connected with building and other operations. Here are products worked up from the raw timber and approximately ready for use, needing only the fitting in at the hands of the local artisan.

The furniture industry. Then there is the furniture industry, which has grown to large proportions. This industry deserves particular mention. It was built up in this country from very humble beginnings. At first much of the furniture, and practically all of the finer variety, was imported from England — cabinets, chairs, tables, chests, and beds. These were highly valued, as one can see from reading the wills of colonial times : a man will be found to have carefully enumerated such possessions, leaving his bed to this person, his favorite chair to another, and so on. Furniture was imported because the colonists lacked fine tools and technical knowledge ; and then, again, they were all more or less pressed by the necessity of producing food and other articles of an indispensable order. Fine furniture was a luxury on the frontier, and whatever was homemade was of the rudest description, as, for example, the schoolroom benches without backs, the discomforts of which have been set forth in novels and stories of colonial and frontier days.

Its earlier development. The local furniture business started, of course, in the local carpenter shop. Here were fashioned plain hardwood chairs, benches, and bedsteads " strong as a house." Everything was massive and there was no pretense of style; native wood was used, for the mahogany and other more elegant furniture was imported. It was not until after the beginning of the nineteenth century that furniture-making began to be separated from general carpentry work ; and it was stimulated during the War of 1812 by an import tax. In 1815 there were a good many furniture-makers at work in the large centers of population, and American ideas began to appear. The rocking-chair was an American product and also the art of veneering. Furniture soon came to be lighter, handsomer, and cheaper. The demand in-creased ; for while in the earlier period the home was but scantily furnished, now families bought a dozen pieces where they had formerly bought one. By the middle of the century the domestic furniture manufacture had complete control of the domestic market, and the only importation was of the most fashionable and costly varieties, in total value not comparing with that of the American product. The use of machinery, the better transportation, the specialization of the cabinet shop which confined itself to furniture, the new devices which were always being invented—these factors caused the industry to assume large proportions, so that in 1850 the value of furniture produced was about $ 15,000,000 and the employees numbered 7,000.

Progress since the Civil War. The industry suffered much by reason of the Civil War, but it revived promptly and has had an almost unbroken prosperity since. The bulk of the manufacturers engaged in making a product appropriate for the homes of the masses at a price within reach of all. Improvements in woodworking machinery have made it progressively advantageous to replace handwork by imitating it to a high degree of nicety. New models and new articles have been evolved : it is said that the bureau, the folding bed, and most of the combination pieces which can be used to economize space in small city apartments are of American origin. Many changes have been made in the varieties of wood used : early in the nineteenth century mahogany, maple, and black walnut were the mode ; then cherry and ash became common ; about 1880 oak came into prominence ; and at present mahogany, curly birch, and maple are used in the better grades of furniture. There have been notable changes also in the style of upholstering, the haircloth, favored years ago, having been supplanted by a variety of more pleasing textures and colors.

Present conditions. At the present day the United States is the most important manufacturer of furniture in the world, and, in addition to the control of the domestic market, we also are the greatest exporters of this product, which we send to all parts of the civilized world. The present value of our annual furniture production is about twice the value of the 1899 product. The greatest increase in business has taken place in states of large population — New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The superior character of the wood in certain parts of these last two states is largely responsible for their standing in the industry. Grand Rapids, Michigan, for example, is a very important center for furniture manufacture, although its population is small. The cities which figure most prominently in the manufacture of furniture are Chicago, New York, Grand Rapids, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. The states whose products have the greatest value are New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Wisconsin.


Early stages of paper-making. Paper-making is an ancient art ; the Egyptians made paper from the papyrus plant (whence the name), though it was not much like what we now call paper. The Moors in Spain, however, eight or nine hundred years ago, manufactured a product more like ours ; paper mills are said to have been in operation there as early as 1085. The invention of paper-making in the modern sense thus came before the invention of printing, but until the press was at work the consumption of paper was small. Books were too rare and expensive to cause any demand for paper competent to summon an industry into being. The development of the newspaper was what created the big demand. It is recorded that the first news sheets were printed in England in 1622, and soon thereafter arose a considerable demand for these and for pamphlets and books. Paper mills then attained some prominence in Europe, and their output was relatively large.

Use of linen rags. The first paper material was vegetable fiber, and a wide variety was tried. Then, in the fourteenth century, linen rags came to be employed ; at this time the clothing worn in countries like France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, even among the peasantry, was largely linen, and much cast-off clothing was available for rags. In the seventeenth century these countries and Holland gained considerable reputation for papers made from linen ; but when cotton came into common use, cotton rags supplanted linen rags, just as cotton cloth had superseded linen cloth.

Paper manufacture in the colonies. When the colonists came to America they soon became great users of paper. Oiled paper was used, in the absence or costliness of glass, for the windows. Printing was soon developed here, and newspapers and pamphlets appeared in relative profusion ; many sermons were printed. In short, paper was consumed in comparatively large quantities and figured prominently among the imports. The English government forbade paper manufacture in the colonies, but mills were started, none the less, there being one near Philadelphia as early as 1693. At the opening of the eighteenth century there were paper factories in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey ; and shortly before the Revolution there were forty factories in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. These factories used cotton or linen rags. After the Revolutionary War broke out paper importations were cut off, which stimulated paper-making here : the paper for the Continental notes was made in Pennsylvania, and in 1791 Hamilton lists paper manufacture as one of the most important industries of the country. The qualities made were of great variety — for writing, printing, wrappping, sheathing, for the covering of walls, and so on.

The use of machinery. The earlier papers were handmade, for paper-making machinery was rare. Then, early in the last century, came the Fourdrinier machine, by which the fluid stock is manufactured into finished paper by an automatic process. As long as the product was handmade the output was bound to be slight, but the introduction of large machines made possible an immense increase in product. Paper-making machines were brought to the United States about 182o, but we soon began to make our own. These machines were a great boon to Americans : labor here was high and hand manufacture costly, and the American genius, as we have already shown, lies in processes which do not require so much time and patience. The greatest development and perfecting of paper-making machinery has come since the Civil War.

The use of wood pulp. Along with the great improvements made in paper manufacture has gone great change in the material from which the stock is made. Many articles are still used for paper-making, but the cheapness of wood pulp, with such an abundance of wood, altered the whole business during the latter part of the last century. Many varieties of wood have been tried, but perhaps the most available is spruce. The pulp-wood is cut into lengths suitable for grinding and the bark removed ; then the blocks are held firmly against a revolving grindstone and gradually reduced to a mushy consistency, or pulp. This pulp-wood is the basis for all lower grades of paper. The wood is often treated nowadays by a chemical process instead of being ground ; this is an American invention first used in 1867.

Recent developments. Paper-making has become an important American industry only since about 1870, for until then very little wood pulp was used, and the wholesale character of manufacture could not appear. To-day this pulp is the main source of the world's paper supply, and it has changed the location of our paper mills. They used to be found in the large centers of population, along the small streams, and on the borders of or even within cities and towns ; but since 1890 the industry has migrated to the forest areas, especially those of New York and New England, where the desirable spruce is to be had. A great deal of power is required in paper-making, and this is supplied mainly by water. Because the northern New England states and New York had both the spruce and the water power, they have become the greatest paper-manufacturing districts in the United States. Massachusetts too has the water power and is near enough to get pulp from the Northern forests ; it has also a skilled labor supply and is near both to the centers of . population and to those ports through which enters the supply of rags. It should not be thought that paper-making from rags has passed utterly away ; it is still an important branch of the industry and produces the finest and costliest paper, chiefly for writing. Holyoke, Massachusetts, is a notable paper-manufacturing center, especially for fine writing paper made from textile fragments.

Rapidity of recent development. The rapidity of growth of the paper and wood-pulp industry can be seen from the following figures. In 1869 the value of output of our mills was $39,000,000 ; $57,000,000 in 1879 ; $79,000,000 in 1889 ; $127,000,000 in 1899 ; $267,000,000 in 1909 ; at the present day, over $300,-000,000. The states which figure most prominently in the industry are New York, Massachusetts, Maine, and Wisconsin, but a number of others have an important output of wood pulp and paper. The United States ranks first among the countries of the world as a producer of this commodity.

Wall paper. We wish to select one variety of paper, namely, wall paper, by way of illustration of the special development of the industry.. This is an article whose use is traceable to the Old World, but it was of little interest to the colonists ; only in homes of wealth was wall paper to be found before 1750. Whitewashed walls were regarded as the proper thing, and this fashion persisted down to the Revolution. In fact, " wall hangings " is a better name for what later became wall paper ; for even the wealthy, who imported such articles, merely hung them up against the walls, so that they could be moved about and from house to house. Shortly before the Revolution some few wall hangings were manufactured here, and though the paper was very poor, its use revolutionized house decoration in this country. Until near the middle of the last century American makers of wall papers did not undertake to cater very much to the demands of wealth and taste, but engaged, rather, in supplying the masses with cheap hangings. It was shortly before the middle of the century that the first important advance was made in the development of the industry for printing wall papers ; machines were imported in 1844. Previously the printing had been done by hand and the value of the annual output was small ; there were only five factories, employing some five hundred men and producing a product whose annual value was only $250,000. But by 1860 there were twenty-six establishments, making about $2,000,000 worth of paper hangings a year ; and now there are about fifty factories whose annual output is valued at $16,000,000.

Styles in wall paper.- We may conclude with a quotation from Bolles, written in 1878, which sheds some little light upon the fashion in house decoration.

Not only are the styles of paper constantly changing, but the tastes of people also change concerning their use. Only a few years ago it was generally believed that many kinds of wall paper were unhealthy, because of the poisonous ingredients put in the coloring materials ; while the paste used in sticking papers to the wall attracted moisture, making rooms damper than they would otherwise be. Accordingly, a period of general wall-scraping was inaugurated. Having thoroughly cleaned off old paper and paste, walls were painted; it being everywhere admitted that the colors adopted were healthy, as well as more pleasing to the eye. But now taste is setting once more in the opposite direction, colored walls are being recovered with paper, the most stylish mode of putting it on being to use three shades, — the lightest shade for the middle or body of the wall, a darker shade for the top and a still darker for the bottom. By and by we shall doubtless hear of another change, made as suddenly as this ; and perhaps wall papers may be discarded altogether.

Here speaks more wisely than he knows a kindly satirist of fashion, for thus it swings from one extreme to the other.

Other uses of paper. Some of the uses of paper could scarcely have been anticipated years ago. We hear of paper car wheels, and the latest years have seen the development of a prosperous business in making paper roofings. Such roofings are of tarred paper strewn with powdered stone ; they are readily and speedily, put on in long and wide overlapping strips, will shed rain perfectly, and last for many years. It is easy to imagine what might have been the astonishment of the Egyptian who first made papyrus paper on the banks of the Nile had he realized some of the uses to which the offspring of his invention were to be put.

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