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Random Artifact Time: Gunter’s Chain

L69.1.42

A Gunter’s Chain is a tool that was used by surveyors as a means of measuring land. This tool was named after Edmund Gunter, the English mathematician and astronomer who invented it in 1620. A Gunter’s chain is 66 feet long and divided into 100 links with each link measuring 7.92 inches. In this system, 10 square chains equals 1 acre and 80 chains equals 1 statute mile.

The Gunter’s chain would become a standard tool for surveyors in England and throughout the English Colonies and Territories (This included the United States as a former colony). “Link and Chain” are official measurements used in British Imperial Units. Gunter’s chains eventually were replaced by steel ribbon tape, a type of wound tape measure.

Surveying land was important to the PA lumber industry as accurate measurements were required for sale, transfer and harvest of individual timber tracts. Later as the Commonwealth started to purchase and acquire deforested land, surveyors were used to measure out boundaries for state forest and park land. Though Gunter’s chains are now obsolete as a surveying tool, knowledge of their use and measurements in links and chains is useful when dealing with old land deeds and maps.

This Gunter’s Chain (L69.1.42) was donated by the Penn State School of Forestry.

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Random Artifact Time: CCC Camp Exchange Coupon Book

Civilian Conservation Corps Camps served as their own little communities, providing almost everything a CCC Enrollee could need. In addition to the Barraks and Mess Hall, camp included, Rec Halls and other recreation facilities, classroom, and medical facilities. The camps also included Camp Exchanges or Canteens, small stores that sold useful everyday items that an Enrollee could want but that wasn’t issued by the CCC. Such items could include toiletries, candy and snacks, soft-drinks, tobacco, writing paper, etc. Beer was allow to be sold at the Canteen of the Veterans’ Camps, who’s members were veteran’s of WWI and thus older than the regular Enrollees. These Camp Exchanges were a benefit to the camp in several ways. The men wouldn’t have to wait until they could get permission to go to town (which could be a distance from camp) to make a purchase. They could visit the Exchange after dinner when their day was done and there was time to relax. Any profit that was made by the Exchange was put back into the camp and could be used to buy next recreational equipment or other items for the benefit of the men.

Camp Exchange Coupon Book, S-88 Lyman Run (LM83.5.2)

Enrollees could request coupon books on credit, like the one above, and use the coupons as payment at the Exchange. These books were issued in $1 amounts and were filled with individual coupons worth 5 or 10 cents. When the monthly payday came around a Enrollee would receive his 5 dollars a month (after 25 dollars automatically was sent home). Any amount owed to the Exchange was taken out of that 5 dollar pay.

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Random Artifact Time: Bank Note from The Lumbermen’s Bank of Warren

Prior to the Civil War the United States Government did not issue paper money for wide spread circulation. The paper money that was used in everyday transaction were known as Bank Notes and were issued by private banks. These bank notes promised payment in species (hard money) but only at the bank that issued the note.

This Five Dollar Bank Note (L72.60.1) was issued by The Lumberman’s Bank of Warren. This bank was chartered on February 28th, 1834 and was the first bank to open in Warren, PA. The bank’s name is a nod to the importance of the lumber industry to the Warren County in the first half of the 19th century. According to the “History of Warren County” (1887) the first lumber raft headed down the Allegheny River from Warren to Pittsburgh in 1799 or 1801. An engraving of a sawmill is prominent on this bank note.

This bank only operated for a few years. It collapsed in 1838, a victim of the Panic of 1837, the first great economic depression in US history. The building that housed The Lumbermen’s Bank of Warren is still standing, known as the Mansion House.

This system of bank notes from individual banks had many flaws. This was especially evident while traveling. Since these notes were issued and backed by private banks and not the government there was no legal requirement for a store owner to accept them as payment. Often a bank note would lose it’s value the further away from the bank you got. A Tavern owner in Baltimore might only give you 4 dollars for this 5 dollar note from the Lumbermen’s Bank in Warren. If you happened to have this 5 dollar note after the Lumbermen’s Bank closed in 1838 it was worthless. There were as many as 8,000 different kinds of money in the US prior to the Civil War.

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Happy 50th Birthday to Us!

The idea for a museum highlighting the heritage of the lumber industry in Pennsylvania started with the suggestion that the Penn-York Lumberman’s Club acquire a logging locomotive to display at their annual Woodsman Carnival, which had been held at Cherry Springs Park since 1952.. This suggestion was made in May of 1963 and at the July meeting of the members of the Penn-York Lumbermen’s Club decided to go further and to work towards the development of a museum.

The members of the Penn-York Lumberman’s Club worked together with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) to plan this new museum. A 160 acre site was acquired from Denton Hill State Park and in 1966 the Pennsylvania General Assembly approved funds for the construction of the Lumber Museum. Prior to construction beginning in 1969 several member of the General Services Authority tried to cut the funding for the museum. Fortunately the members of the Penn-York Lumbermen’s Club, PHMC, and their supporters were able to rally support and save the museum.

The Visitor Center was dedicated on August 1st, 1970…. and then immediately closed for regular hours due to lack of funding. “Lumber Museum Open, Then Closes” read the headline of The Potter Enterprise’s coverage of the Visitor Center dedication. The formal opening would occur two years later on August 4th, 1972, after the completion of the recreated Lumber Camp. Both ceremonies were planned to coincide with the annual Woodsman’s Carnival in honor of the efforts of the Penn-York Lumberman’s Club.

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Moving Day for Camp S-92

On Christmas Day 1934 a fire broke out in Civilian Conservation Camp S-92 Asaph, located in Asaph, PA, Tioga County. The fire destroyed the Orderly Room, Hospital, Supply Room, and one Barrack. The damage from the fire coupled with the fact that the camp was located on private land, it was decided to relocate the camp to a new site. The camp was moved four miles south to Darling Run State Park (now a part of Tioga State Forest) right next to the banks of the Pine Creek. CCC enrollee James McCarty was in camp at the time and took these pictures showing the buildings of Camp S-92 Asaph being dismantled for the move to the new location. Once the camp was moved it was given a new number and name, S-155 Darling Run. The S-155 camp site is easily accessible today. It is 1/2 mile south of the Darling Run parking access area on the Pine Creek Rail Trail.

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Random Artifact Time: Fleshing Knife

Tanneries were an important part of North-Central Pennsylvania’s industry in the late 19th into the mid-20th century. Pennsylvania’s Tanneries were directly tied to the lumber industry because of the use of tannin-rich Hemlock tree bark in the tanning process.

This fleshing knife was used by Tannery workers to remove the hair and remaining tissue from hides after they have been soaked in a lime solution. These workers were known as “Beam Hands” because they placed the wet hide on a fleshing beam in order to scrap the hide with the fleshing knife.  (See the last image in the post)

This knife is marked “P. Emerick Cin. O” and was reportedly used at the Damascus Tannery in Coudersport, PA.

Close up showing the maker’s mark.
P. 122 of “Practical Treatise on the Leather Industry” by A. M Villon (image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library)
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Random Artifact Time: The “Excelsior” Chamfer Plane

This Chamfer Plane, used for making edges in woodworking, was made by the Mander and Dillin Company that was located on Germantown Ave. in Philadelphia.

This particular plane was owned by F.P. Case (1859-1937) who lived in Troy, PA. Mr. Case’s grandson, F. Marshal Case, was one of the driving forces in the creation of the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum and donated this plane.

The maker’s mark and the owner’s name
First page of the patent (Google patents)
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Ice Harvest

As the first day of summer is coming up, let’s talk about Ice Harvesting!

Many sawmills would harvest the ice from their log pond during the winter freeze. In the days before mechanical refrigeration was common, ice harvesting was a major industry. Ice that was taken from frozen ponds would be stored in ice houses using straw or sawdust, which was plentiful in a sawmill, for insulation. When properly stored, the blocks of ice could last until the next winter. Before mechanical refrigerators, many homes had iceboxes that could be supplied all year long to help keep food cool.

The Lumber Museum has some ice harvesting tools in it’s collection to highlight this activity.

You can see many of these tool in action in this film from 1919 showing Pennsylvania ice harvesting at Pocono Manor.

(Public Domain courtesy of the Prelinger Archives)

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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