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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The white pine industry and the transformation of nineteenth-century Michigan Neithercut, Mark Edward


The white pine industry dominated the initial settlement and subsequent development of the northern two-thirds of the State of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Between 1860 and 1910 northern Lower Michigan was transformed from forest to cutover; during this same period industrial technology was utilized increasingly to cut, transport, and mill white pine. This study is a historical geography of a nineteenth—century primary resource region. It investigates the geography of the Michigan white pine industry, and analyzes the geographical implications of industrialization. The evolving pattern of resource exploitation is examined, with detailed attention given to (1) environmental impact, (2) spatial organization, (3) patterns of land ownership, (4) scale of production, and (5) transportation of logs from stump to sawmill and of lumber from mill to market. Personal letters and diaries, newspapers, annual reports of government agencies, and account books and correspondence of lumber firms are used as primary data sources. The widespread adoption of technological innovations was found to have dramatically transformed the lumber industry during the late 19th century. In 1860 lumbering was a small—scale, seasonal industry based on human labor and water, wind, and animal power. By 1880 the scale of production had grown significantly, logging was less dependent upon seasonal rhythms, and steam power had increased the dependability of log transportation. A mechanized, rationalized, capital-intensive industry had emerged. Industrialization was found to have greatly enhanced the impact of lumbering on the landscape. Large contiguous tracts of timberland remained unbroken due to the growing scale of forest production and the frequent re—cutting of tracts. Logging became increasingly less selective as improved milling machines utilized smaller logs and woods other than pine. The use of railroads to haul logs and to supply camps extended the lumber economy throughout the region and facilitated the concentration of milling and wood manufacturing in lakeshore mill towns.

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