Skip to main content

Chapter 1 - Lumber In Its Relation to Other Industries

From the light that science projects into the obscurity of the remote past we have every reason to believe that not only the progress but the very existence of the human race was dependent on timber. The trees provided a refuge for our ape-like ancestors and thus saved them from destruction by the monstrous beasts and reptiles that then inhabited the earth. The first weapon of primitive man was a wooden club. Without wood the discovery of fire, which started man on the road of civilization, would have been impossible. The invention of the wooden bow-and-arrow marks the beginning of another important stage in the advance of the race. In his first rude attempts at agriculture the savage scratched the ground with a pointed stick, which later evolved into the wooden plow. In the early stages of development man lived without agriculture, but it is scarcely conceivable that his existence would ever have been possible without timber.

As the race passed from savagery through barbarism to civilization wood remained essential to its progress. Even today, without wood and the products of wood, civilization in its present form could not exist. In our daily lives we are constantly dependent on wood. We live in wooden houses, sleep in wooden beds or bunks, sit on wooden chairs, eat at wooden tables, use wooden toothpicks and matches, walk on wooden sidewalks, ride in wooden cars, sail in wooden ships, and finally are put in wooden coffins and hauled to the boneyard in wooden hearses. Policemen enforce the law with wooden clubs, and only too often that same law is the product of wooden heads. The newspapers and books we read and the paper on which we write are made from wood pulp. An endless variety of commodities, both solid and liquid, are stored and transported in wooden boxes and barrels. Wood is extensively used as :a fuel, and some idea of its value in that capacity may be gained from the following estimate by the Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture:

In heating value one standard cord of well-seasoned hickory, oak, beech, birch, hard maple, ash, elm, locust or cherry wood is approximately equal to one ton (2,000 pounds) of anthracite coal. However, a cord and a half of soft maple, and two cords of cedar, poplar, or bass wood, are required to give the same amount of heat. One cord of mixed wood, well-seasoned, equals in heating value at least one ton of average grade bituminous coal. Either as raw material or as part of the tools and machinery, lumber is used in all industries.

In Agriculture the farmer must have lumber to build his dwelling house, barn, granaries, silos, etc. To fence his fields he must have wooden posts; often the entire fence is made of wood. He picks his fruit from a wooden ladder, packs it in wooden boxes, with wood pulp paper, and hauls it to the railroad in a wooden wagon. Wood forms a part of all agricultural tools, implements and machinery. Late statistics show that the present demand for wood for farm implements exceeds 320,000,000 feet a year, and if the wood that goes into agricultural hand tools were added the total would probably exceed 400,000,000 feet.

In the Mining Industry wood is used to timber the mines to prevent them from caving in. Wooden ties support the tracks in and around the mines. Wooden cars transport the coal or ore from the working to the shaft. Shaft houses and other buildings around the mines are built wholly or partly of lumber. In coal mining, timber forms the principal part of tipples, washers , etc. Wood forms part of some of the mining tools and machinery. Without lumber it would be practically impossible to carry on mining.

In the Construction Industry lumber is one of the principal raw materials. Even when the main part of a building is of some other material (such as brick, stone, steel or concrete) lumber is used for floors, ceilings,laths, window frames, doors, and in many other ways. On buildings lumber is used for staging. On concrete work to construct the forms, and for temporary supports. On railroad and general construction work timber is used for bridge building, for culverts, for piling, railroad ties, etc. Wood forms an important part of the machinery of construction, such as derricks, steam shovels, dump cars and the like. Most of the tools used in this industry are part wood . Lumber is used to build the camps which shelter the men and animals employed. If the supply of lumber were cut off it would only be a short time before the entire building industry would be forced to shut down.

The Transportation Industry is literally supported by wood. The 275,000 miles of railroad track in the United States rest on wooden ties. It is estimated that the railroad and electric lines of the country use approximately one hundred and twenty million ties every year. The vast network of telegraph and telephone wires that covers the country is upheld by wooden poles. By far the greater part of the rolling stock is built of lumber.

In Marine Transportation lumber is far from being a thing of the past. A large part of the commerce of the world is still carried in wooden ships. The small boats, scows and barges in the harbors and on the canals and rivers are built almost entirely of wood. Lumber is used for docks and wharves , and where here other materials are used they often rest on wooden piling.

General Manufacturing--How vital lumber is to this industry can be appreciated by quoting a few figures. Fifty-two thousand, or nineteen per cent of the 276,000 manufacturing establishments in this country, use wood solely or in part as raw material. These 52,000 establishments furnish employment to 1,130,000 wage-earners, or sixteen per cent of the 7,000,000 wage-earners in the United States. Whatever goes towards curtailing the supplies of raw forest products to these establishments tend to rupture the continuous employment of a vast army of wage-workers, and thus affects the larger army of their dependents. In a nutshell, one-fifth of all manufacturing establishments and one-sixth of all the wage-workers in the United States are directly dependent for raw material on the product of the lumberjack's labor.

The Printing and Publishing Industry is directly dependent on the product of the forest. Cutting off the supply of pulp wood from which paper is made would completely paralyze this industry, cause the suspension of all newspapers and magazines, stop the printing of books, and throw many thousands out of employment. It is estimated by the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce that the annual consumption of wood pulp exceeds 3,000,000 tons, of which one-fifth is imported. The wood-pulp industry produces annually an output valued at over $80,000,000. These are only a few of the principal uses of wood. Its uses are endless, and extend to every industry and every phase of life. The industrial census of 1913 shows the forests of the United States annually supply over one and a quarter billion dollars' worth of products; employ 735,000 workers; and pay $067,000,000 in wages.

While all other industries depend directly or indirectly on lumber, the lumber industry is also dependent on all others. Agriculture furnishes the food necessary to support the lumber workers, the raw material from which their clothes and shoes are made, and the work animals employed to move the logs.

Mining furnishes the raw material from which axes, saws, steel rails, and logging and sawmill machinery are made. It furnishes most of the fuel to run this machinery, and the oil to lubricate it. Even in its most primitive form logging could not be carried on without the product of the mine.

Construction workers build the sawmills and the roads over which the logs are hauled.

Transportation workers move the logs from forest to mill, and the lumber from mill to consumer. They bring the necessary supplies--food, clothing, fuel, etc.--from farm and factory to logging camp and sawmill town.

The manufacturing industry produces logging and sawmill machinery and tools; also stoves, cooking utensils, etc., used by lumber workers, and the clothes and shoes they wear.

No one industry is independent of the others; all are interdependent. The workers in the lumber industry are not only a part of that industry but are also a part of industry as a whole, which is carried on by the workers in the different industries cooperating together. This co-operation is mostly unconscious on the part of the workers, for they are organized by the capitalists to produce for the benefit of the capitalists, and do not control these producing organizations.

Not only are all industries interdependent; that is also true of all countries. Often one country furnishes the raw material and another turns out the finished product. Modern industry is bigger than any one country; it is world-wide, and pays little attention to national boundary lines. It is carried on by means of co-operation (although unconscious) among the workers in all industries in all parts of the world. For instance, American lumber workers, English marine transport workers, and Chinese construction workers may co-operate to build houses or railroads in China.

The Lumber Industry of the United States is greatly affected by transportation facilities by land and water between different parts of the world, and also by the timber supply of other countries.

The following table, compiled by the United States Forest Service, shows the acreage of forests in the principal countries of the world:

Europe Acres
Russia in Europe
All Other
Total Europe
Asia Acres
Russian Asia
All Other
Total Asia
Australia / Oceania
Africa Acres
Central Africa
All Other
Total Africa
America Acres
South America
United States
Caribbean Islands
Total America
Grand Total

The work of the men in the woods and sawmills is indispensable to society. But owing to their lack of organization they allow society to condemn them to hard labor for life, and to deny them an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of civilization. The workers operate industry, but get little of the wealth their labor produces. The reason for this is that they do not control industry. Organized in the right way and using scientific tactics, they have the power to stop industry, or to control it and run it for their benefit.

How this can be done will be explained in a later chapter.