Pennsylvania Lumber History

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a geographic area of abundant natural resources. Over the last two centuries, Pennsylvania has been a world leader in the production of steel, zinc, coal, coke, cement and lumber. At the time of settlement, Pennsylvania was likely 90 percent forested, covered by a combination of white pine, eastern hemlock and assorted hardwoods. As settlers pushed inland from the east coast and the need for lumber grew, more and more of the Commonwealth’s old-growth forests were harvested. Water-powered saw mills sprang up in the interior and mountainous areas of the State and lumber was harvested for all types of construction. Tall and straight, Pennsylvania’s white pine and hemlock trees were much in-demand for ships masts. Williamsport became a boom town for lumber as men made their fortunes and workers flooded North and West to clear the hills. Lumber towns with associated industries, such as tanneries spread throughout the area in the late 1800s. However, by the 1920s, the trees were gone and the land deforested. The Commonwealth bought thousands of acres from the lumber companies and began to reforest the landscape, giving rise to a new conservation movement, the Civilian Conservation Corps and a widespread system of state parks. Today, Pennsylvania’s hardwoods are once again in demand throughout the world and modern lumbering practices insure that the forest will be properly managed. The Lumber Heritage Region of Pennsylvania is widely recognized for its unique history and contribution to the cultural and economic makeup of the State. The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum exists to interpret this industrial history and the story of land use in the Commonwealth from pre-settlement to the present.

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