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Rich Rake

A Pennsylvania contribution to the tool kit of forest fire fighter is the Rich Forest Fire Fighting Tool, or more simply known as the “Rich Rake” . The Rich raked was designed by Charles H. Rich in 1921 as an improved type of fire rake. A fire rake is a fire fighting tool used to create a fire break, a gap in vegetation intended to deprive fuel to a forest fire. A Rich Rake has an adjustable head and sharp blades so that the tool can also be used as a brush cutter. Charles Rich lived in Woolrich, PA, in fact his grandfather, John Rich, founded the Woolrich clothing company after which the town was named. After Charles’ death in 1948 his daughter, Geneva Bickel took over the business. She ran the business until 1957 when she sold it to P.A. Stover who conditioned to operated under the C.H. Rich Forest Fire Tool Company name out of Lock Haven, PA. In the early 1970’s Ms. Brickel donated two Rich rakes and a company advertisement to the PA Lumber Museum (L72.15).

“Rich Rake” L72.15.2
C.H. Rich Fire Tools Brochure L72.15.3
Charles H. Rich US patent issued Oct. 1923 (source Google Patents)
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WWI Memorial Tree Plaque

After the end of World War One a custom arose in which communities chose to honor those who had given their lives in the conflict by dedicating memorial trees. The American Forestry Association wanted to promote and encourage this tree planting and created a National Honor Roll Memorial Tree Register. Communities that dedicated and planted Memorial Trees were able to register them on the honor roll, in turn The American Forestry Association would issue a dedication plague and registered trees were listed in the Association’s magazine, “American Forestry” .

One such community was the unincorporated community of Progress, PA. On May 12th, 1919 the Progress educational department of the Penbrook Community Civic Club dedicated a memorial tree to five local men who had lost their lives in the late war. Those men are: George Dewey Umholtz, James B. Martin, Ralph B. Kramer, Robert Heinly Hoke, and Oliver Zeiders.

The Progress tree was registered with the American Forestry Association. Notice of the registration appeared in the March 1920 issue of “American Forestry” and a plaque was created. That plaque is now in the collection of the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum (LM2016.5.1).

Progress Memorial Tree Plaque (LM2016.5.1)

In honor of Memorial Day I wanted to look into the names to whom the memorial tree was dedicated.

Private George Dewey Umholtz– Private Umholtz was a member of Company D, 304th Engineers, 79th Division. He was called up for service in May of 1918 and arrived in France after only six weeks in the Army. He died of pneumonia on September 2, 1918. He was 25 years old. “The History of the 304th Engineers”, published in 1920, tells of an epidemic of “Spanish Flu” breaking out among the Regiment, while they where in Maatz in late August/ early September, right before the were getting ready to move to the front. This flu outbreak caused the 304th Engineers their first casualties in France and Company D, Private Umholtz’s Company, was particularly hard hit.

Private Umholtz may be the reason that the plaque is in the collection of the museum and not still in place. The plaque incorrectly lists 1919 are the year of his death, not 1918. It is possible that this plaque was removed and or replaced because of this incorrect date.

George Dewey Unmholtz Reaches France, Harrisburg Telegraph July 27, 1918

James B. Martin– Officer Candidate Martin was still in Officer’s Tranning School at Camp Taylor in Kentucky, when he died from the flu. Camp Taylor was an Army training camp that had opened in 1917. It was the largest such camp with approximately 400,000 to 60,000 troops living there. Camp Taylor also found itself as a hot bed for the flu epidemic of 1918-1919. According to the Explore Kentucky History website the first flu cases emerged in September 1918 and more than 10,000 men would be hospitalized at the camp with over 1,500 deaths. The article in the Lousiville Courier Journal that list James Martin’s death on Oct 11, 1918 also lists 59 other deaths from the flu at Camp Taylor that day.

Harrisburg Telegraph Oct. 11, 1918 (James Martin has two listings)

Ralph B. Kramer- Private Kramer arrived in France in in late October or Early November 1918 after having been sent to Camp Greenleaf in Georgia. Camp Greenleaf was the home of the Army’s medical training operations. An article from the “Harrisburg Telegraph” mentions that Private Kramer was part of a medical detachment but does list his unit. He died of disease (most likely the flu) on April 7, 1919. Despite having died after the end of the war Private Kramer is still considered a casualty of WWI.

Harrisburg Telegraph November 5, 1918

Robert Heinly Hoke- Corporal Hoke (born March 8th, 1892) was a member of Company I, 316th Infantry, 79th Division. Originally listed as Missing in Action Corporal Hoke was killed in action on September 28th, 1918 while fighting North of Montfaucon, France during the Muse-Argonne Offensive. His body was later identified by a cousin, Lt. Smith of the 29th division, and his brother, Lt. Frank Hoke, of the 79th division. Corporal Hoke was initially buried by the Germans and it was said that “his grave marked the extreme advance of the 79th Division.” He was later buried by his brother at the American Cemetery in Montfaucon. In 1921 his body was returned to the United States and he is buried at Shoops Cemetery in Harrisburg. The American Legion Post 272 in Linglestown, PA is named after him.

Oliver Zeiders- Private Zeiders, like Private Umholtz, was a member of Company D, 30th Engineers, 79th Division. He was killed in action on October 31, 1918 fighting in France during the Muse-Argonne Offensive. His wife, Edna, had died only days before news of his death reached home.

Harrisburg Telegraph December 8, 1918
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George Wirt

May is Wildfire Awareness Month and it is possible that no person has been more aware of Pennsylvania Wildfires as George Wirt. Born in McVeytown, PA in 1880, George would go on to attend the Biltmore Forest School, the first forestry school in America. In 1901 he was hired by Joseph Rothrock to be Pennsylvania’s first professional forester in the newly created Department of Forestry.

The next year Rothrock and Wirt set out to establish Pennsylvania’s own school of forestry at Mont Alto. George served as the first Director of the school from 1902 to 1910 when he took on the position of Chief Forest Inspector.

As the Chief Forest Inspector the threat of Forest Fires loomed large. As a response to this threat he drafted legislation, which when it passed in 1915 created the position of Chief Forest Fire Warden. George naturally was appointed to this position. From 1915 until his retirement in 1946 George worked to establish and maintain a network of Forest Fire Wardens and to develop effective forest fire prevention and fighting techniques.

At the end of his professional career in 1946 he wrote, “Lessons in Forest Protection”. He had put in 45 years service to PA’s forests to learn those lessons. George Wirt passed away in 1961. A PA state Hisotrical Marker dedicated to him can be found on the Mont Alto Campus.

As the Chief Forest Fire Warden, George Wirt issued an annual report. This copy is of the 1916 report.
“Lessons in Forest Protection” 1946
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Batter Up!

Baseball has been enjoyed by countless Americans since the mid 19th century and the boys of the Civilian Conservation Corps were no exception. Since current events have put Major League Baseball on hold here are some images from the collection of CCC baseball to help tide us over.

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CCC Camp S-146 Bark Shanty

Civilian Conservation Corps Camp S-146 was located on Bark Shanty road, just north of Austin, PA in Potter County. The CCC, like the US Army, which provided it’s operational leadership, was a segregated organization. Participation of African-Americans in the CCC was not based solely on need but was limited to their percentage of the population (around 10 percent). Approximately 250,000 African-Americans served in the CCC nation wide out of the 2,5000,000 total enlistment for the organization. Pennsylvania had 12 camps that were designated as “colored” camps. The first of which was ANF-5 Sugar Run, which opened on April 24, 1933 in Allegheny National Forest. Camp S-146 was opened in 1935 and was manned by Company 2336-C (the “C” stood for colored). The men of Co. 2336 worked to construct roads and fire trails, fought forest fires and helped combat Blister Rust among other tasks. When a major flood hit the area in 1936 Co. 2336 was one of many CCC companies that provided relief and clean up services. Company 2336-C remained at camp S-146 until the camp closed in 1941, at which time it was one of 6 African-American Camps left in the state. All remaining CCC camps would close with the end of the program in January 1942.

African- American CCC Camps were staffed almost entirely by White Army Officers. One of S-146’s Commanding Officers was Captain (later Colonel)James D. Campbell. Captain Campbell commanded several CCC camps in Pennsylvania and was the CO of S-16 from May 7, 1939 to August 6, 1940. These photos were donated by Col. Campbell and date from his time in command.

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George “Nessmuk” Sears

April is National Poetry Month. One notable poet who lived not too far from the present location of the Lumber Museum was George “Nessmuk” Sears.

George Sears (1821-1890) was an adventurer, author and early conservationist who wrote under the pen name “Nessmuk” . Born in South Oxford (now Webster), Massachusetts, George grew up as an eyewitness to the early days of the American Industrial Revolution.  His home town was where Samuel Slater, known as the “Father of the American Factory System”, had his textile mills. In addition to his early exposure to factory life, George was also introduced to the outdoor life by a Native-American friend named Nessmuck (George would later honor his friend by adapting the name Nessmuck as his pen name). George decided that he preferred the outdoor life to the factory life and started to explore the county. In 1848 he moved to the North-Central Pennsylvania town of Wellsboro, where he would live the rest of his life. It was in Wellsboro that he built his reputation first as an outdoorsman then as a conservationist. 

His 1884 book “Woodcraft and Camping” and the articles he wrote for “Forests and Stream” magazine about his lightweight canoeing trips helped to popularize the notion of outdoor recreation. Just as he had been a witness to the early industrialization of American, George also witnessed the destruction of Penn’s Woods by the logging industry and tanneries. He wrote letters and articles decrying what he saw as the destruction of nature for profit and he joined lawsuits against the bark tanning and lumber industries. Whether he realized it or not these efforts made him one of America’s first conservationists.

In addition to the accounts of his adventures he also wrote poetry inspired by his love of nature and camping. A book of his poems, “Forest Runes” was published in 1887.

“Nessmuk” has been recognized by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission with two historical markers, one located on the town square in Wellsboro, and the other located at Leonard Harrison State Park (the PA Grand Canyon).

Author Front-page image from “Woodcraft and Camping” 1884 (Public Domain)
Nessmuck Historical Marker, Wellsboro, PA.
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Climax Class A

Climax Locomotives are, like the Museum’s Shay Locomotive, a type of geared locomotive that proved useful in hauling logs. Climax locomotives were built in Cory Pennsylvania from 1888 until 1928 and approximately 1100 units were constructed. Climaxes came in three types (Class A, Class B and Class C) of these the Class A had quite the unique appearance. Built on a frame that resembled a flatcar with a boxcar-like enclosure, the Class A had two vertical cylinders and two-speed gearboxes. The Class A could have either a vertical or tee boiler mounted. Only two Class As are known to survive.

Here are a couple pictures of Climax Class As from the Museum’s Archives. Unfortunately there is no information to go with the photos.

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1934 CCC Social Program

One of the newest additions to the collection is this program from a CCC sponsored event illustrates one of the ways that the men of the CCC interacted with the communities near their camps. This event was held at the East Stroudsburg Armory and featured a Basketball game between a CCC team and the East Stroudsburg State Teachers College Jr. Varsity team and a Dance with music by Ken Brown and his Royal Dance Orchestra. Local company’s purchased ads in the program. Company 302 of the Civilian Conservation Corps was stationed at Camp S-93, Laurel Run.

This program served a dual purpose as a autograph book for Ralph Lynch and is filled with the signatures and hometowns of his fellow CCC members. (LM2019.19.1)
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Febriline or Lyon’s Tasteless Syrup of Quinine

Step right this way, friend, and behold the next selection from the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum’s patent medicine collection. While this tonic does fall under the category of patent medicine since it was made before any regulation, and the box does say it is registered with the patent office, it does differ in that it could have been effective. One of the listed uses was as a Malarial tonic, and Quinine is an effective treatment for malaria.


The box describes this tasteless syrup as “It is Pleasant to the taste. CHILDREN LIKE IT”. Which begs the question of how something tasteless has a pleasant taste? (L73.18.1 A,B)

Back of the Box.
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Happy St. Patty’s Day

Curator’s Corner

St. Patrick’s Day is a day for the wearing of the green. You know who wore green? The boys of the Civilian Conservation Corps, that’s who. For most of its existence, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) did not have its own distinct dress uniform. The uniforms initially given to the CCC Boys consisted of a mix of old and new Army issue clothing. In the first years of the CCC, surplus World War I shirts and trousers were issued. That changed in 1939 when the CCC received a spruce green wool dress uniform designed specifically for them. It is unknown who owned this particular coat but it represents the dress coat worn by the CCC from 1939 until it was disbanded in 1942. (LM2019.16.1)