Reclaiming Henry David Thoreau, Forest Historian

Peeling Back the Bark

Crayon portrait of Henry David Thoreau, 1854.

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 after his premature passing about our changing environment as well. As Gordon Whitney and William Davis noted thirty years ago in their article “Thoreau and the Forest History of Concord, Massachusetts”: “Although Thoreau was noted primarily for his philosophy, he was also an acute observer of the natural scene, much more than his self-appointed title, ‘inspector of snowstorms and rainstorms,’ might suggest.” And while Thoreau traveled and observed nature in different parts of New England, “As a practical ecologist, surveyor, and husbandman, Thoreau was intensely interested in the…

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This Old (White) House: Turning Salvage Wood into Souvenirs

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Ninety years ago this spring, a major repair project began on the White House in Washington, DC, that ultimately yielded wooden treasures. Work began in March of 1927 to remove large sections of the building’s roof in order to replace wood timbers with steel trusses and undertake a full remodeling of the third floor. This project was necessary due to some structural defects, along with the overloading of the building’s upper-most story. Originally designed as attic space, by 1927 the space had been providing significant storage space as well as servants’ quarters for too long. The roof structure being removed and replaced had been erected between 1815 and 1817 following the burning of the White House by British troops during the War of 1812.

1927 White House roof renovation White House during roof removal process, March 1927 (click for more info).

Remodeling was completed by August 1927. During the construction, the majority of the wooden roof timbers removed…

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

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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 cut down, the native loblolly pine tree, named for President Dwight Eisenhower, stood about 210 yards down on the left side of hole no. 17.

Ike was a passionate golfer and became a member of Augusta National in 1948. The tree was named for Eisenhower because of his inability to avoid hitting it when playing the hole. As a result Ike quickly became obsessed with the tree.

The Eisenhower Tree in 2011. (Photo credit: Shannon McGee-, CC BY-SA 2.0,

As Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, Ike had led millions of soldiers in…

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

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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 of the organization, and before there was incorporated into the constitution the provision that membership be confined strictly to men over twenty-one, there occurred a lumber convention and a concatenation at Memphis, Tennessee, on which occasion, the ceremonies being somewhat modified, a lady was duly initiated.

The fact that there is a woman member in the great Order of Hoo-Hoo is not so much a matter of wonder and speculation, as was the early life of this woman Hoo-Hoo, entering as she did into the business world at a time when woman and commercialism…

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Benjamin Franklin

Sales Spike


More than often in life, we will hit a cross junction when making decisions. This happens almost every minute of the day. Then again, there are some decisions that requires a little more thinking.

There is never an assurance that we are making the right decision. There is always that risk involve. Let’s face it; life is a gamble and breathing is a struggle, well at least for some. So how do we mitigate risk?

Have you ever caught yourself taking a piece of paper and writing to weigh the pros and cons of a certain action you are about to take? It is a simple act of making your options and repercussion more visible.

This, makes decision making a little easier. The mind works in a funny way. Some people are just more visual than others and it helps them feel secure when they can see what they are getting…

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Sell Women On Your Lumber Yard

Below is an article from the Lumber Co-Operator Magazine in January 1942. Are some of these ideas still useful today? What words or ideas would you substitute in this article to apply to today’s culture?

Sell Women On Your Lumber Yard

By S. Ford, Norm Adv lnc., New York City

If you were to concentrate your sales efforts exclusively to women while your competitors limited theirs solely to men, your profits would undoubtedly exceed theirs, provided you had done a really thorough job. It is an irrefutable fact that women do the major part of the buying in this country. Note the figures from a recent Good Housekeeping survey, cited in a previous article. Women control 75 percent: of our national wealth, own 74 percent of all suburban homes and 40 percent of all real estate titles. They also buy 62 percent of all hardware and 98 percent of all household supplies. Eighty-Five percent of all architects interviewed report that women determine the general type of home to be built.

Your first step in selling women on your firm is to take inventory of your yard. Look at it from their Viewpoint with the ultimate objective of establishing it as THE shopping center for quality materials and courteous, considerate service.

By getting the women in your family and employ to list the features that attract them to their favorite specialty shops and stores, you’ll learn a lot you never brew about women’s buying habits and reactions. You’ll learn a lot about your own yard, too.

Are You a Good “Housekeeper”?

How’s your “housekeeping”? Does our office present a neat, well- ordered appearance? Neatness or the lack of it is the first thing a woman notices upon entering a store. If it looks dingy and cluttered up, she’ll leave with the impression that the service is slip-shod and the merchandise. old.

A smart home-like setting, attractively landscaped, builds prestige and helps you sell far more remodeling jobs and new homes. Remodel for profit by turning your offices into permanent display rooms showing as many of your materials in actual use as possible. This type of set-up appeals to women, particularly, and makes it much easier for your customers to buy.

Is your office a comfortable, inviting place in which a woman would enjoy browsing around? In a corner where the light is excellent, arrange some comfortable chairs and a table neatly stacked with plan books and magazines on houses and gardens of the type she reads in her own home.

It’s always smart merchandising to have something interesting at hand to divert your customers when you leave them for a few minutes. Pasteboard models of kitchens, an attractive decorating guide, miniature models of new homes and displays which the customer can work herself, like overhead garage doors, are just a few of the eye-catchers that prompt additional inquiries and roll up profits.

In purchasing other household goods, a woman habitually fingers samples to test their quality and texture, takes colors to the light and work gadgets, but building materials are entirely unfamiliar to her. By planning displays of the type cited above, so she can transfer her regular buying habits to your merchandise, you’ll make her feel much more at home in your yard.

Women are generally far more Ieisurely about shopping than men provided there are plenty of fascinating displays to attract them. Encourage them to drop in often and browse around casually. This habit stimulates “impulse” buying, and naturally the hurried your customer is, the better your chance to do a real selling job,

Courteous, Considerate Service

There are lots of small courtesies you can show a customer that do a tremendous job of building good will. One progressive dealer, whose objective is to make four jobs grow out of every one, always sends his clients a bouquet of flowers and a Rainbo log the day they move into their new home. Upon completing a modernization job, he tactfully inquires how soon his client’s wire plans to entertain and sends her flowers the day of the party. The next day he contacts the hostess who is usually glad to give him the names of her guests.

Another small service that makes a huge hit with customers, and especially women, is n self-perpetuating “Who Does It” Directory. This can take the form of a simple card file or a bulletin board with slots in which local craftsman insert their own cards under the heading of their occupation. Be sure to leave a snatch pad and pencil handy, and place your directory in a conspicuous spot next to an interesting display to catch the customer’s eye as she’s leaving. Invariably it’s the woman who’s most inconvenienced when minor repairs are neglected and this service brings in many appreciative customers.

Neatness and courtesy should also be reflected in your delivery service. Your drivers will be much more welcome when they’re careful not to dribble coal from the walk up to the house find refrain from leaving the: yard in a mess or trampling on the little lady’s prize petunias. She’ll also like you a lot better it you make your deliveries in clean, good-looking trucks, No one likes a paint-scarred, mud-spattered truck standing in their front yard,

Wanted: Creative Imagination

To sell a woman on your firm and keep her sold, creative imagination is essential. Essential, because you have to appeal to her emotions and sell her in terms of beauty, convenience, health and comfort for her family, in language understands. A literal-minded approach wrapped up in dull technical jargon about tensile strength and 2×4″s isn’t going to budge her.

What she wants to know is how insulation helps cut down Little Genevieve’s colds and saves Joe 30 percent on fuel bills … if that colorful tile-board can be applied directly over her old walls minus the usual fuss and muss, . . and what type roofing will correct the squat lines of her house and harmonize with the architecture and landscape.

And she wants practical information such as the cost per month-N0T the cost per square foot — so she can go back to Joe and present her suggestions convincingly.

Today, more and more far-sighted dealers retain at least one woman on their staff to act as hostess and to sell other women. This idea has proved extremely successful, especially in selling kitchen modernization jobs. Some of these women are even trained to do estimating and make pastboard models to show the client exactly how her new kitchen will look. The more you use devices that help the customer to visualize the finished effect, the more you’ll stimulate her desire for your materials and the quicker you’ll dose the sale.

Another prosperous dealer invites eight or ten younger married couples to a bi-monthly houseparty to see films on new homes and go over design portfolios. Further evidence of this thoughtfulness is the fact that the firm provides transportation for its guests. Each design portfolio contains plans limited to a definite price range both to save time and to keep the client from building up a desire for features she can’t comfortably afford. By doing this right at the start, the dealer doesn’t have to break down those desires later at the cost of making a negative impression.

The imaginative dealer also conducts an intensive telephone campaign. Every day he calls a certain number of women on his list to keep them posted on seasonal items like screens or storm sash and special values on pick-up items and other stock.

You’ll also find it profitable to inquire about repairs when you call, and offer to refer the woman to some reliable local craftsmen at any time. And what about contacting women through their hobbies? The members of your local garden club will certainly he interested if you ring them up about garden stakes or trellises from time to time. And they’ll be a lot more receptive if you time your calls carefully so as not to interrupt them when the baby’s being bathed or they’re mixing formulas.

Another way to get women into the habit of dropping in frequently is to distribute handbills featuring special items like sash cord, nails, and enamel. Because of It familiarity, this device is extremely effective in promoting merchandise that doesn’t warrant the use of your regular newspaper space.

In selling women on your yard, the importance of your regular newspaper advertising can’t be over-emphasized. Every year, literally millions of letters pour into magazines and newspapers asking them how to go about planning modernization. where to get washable tileboard, and how much kitchen remodeling costs. The reason? Obviously these letters indicate a live feminine interest in the lumber dealer’s materials and service but he hasn’t taken the trouble to familiarize women with them. Either that, or he hasn’t put his story over in a manner that captures the feminine imagination. If more dealers ran really effective copy aimed at women, and ran it consistently, those letters never would have been written. Instead, the dealer himself would have made many valuable contacts-and sales.

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The Gift of the Pisgah National Forest


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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 around this forest … at every step of the way, they’re encountering nature, some of which has been regenerated by the initiatives of those generations they know not—they know nothing about. And I think that that’s ultimately the greatest gift: that you’ve given to them beautiful, working landscapes and you don’t know where they came from.”

Historian Char Miller closes our new documentary film, America’s First Forest, by acknowledging those who labored to create the Pisgah National Forest, which celebrates its centennial on October 17. We chose that quote because it simultaneously summed…

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