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Bragging Rights

November 30th, 1908 was a good day for the Emporium Lumber Company. That day their band saw mill at Austin, Pa sawed an estimated 11,704 board feet of lumber from just eleven logs. The logs were a mix of cherry and poplar tress. To commemorate this day, and to show off, the company had pictures taken of the big haul on log cars before it was cut at the mill. During the photo development process the tree type and estimated board feet for each log was labeled on the film. “Sawed at Emporium Lumber Co’s Mill Austin, PA” and “11-30-08” also appear on the images.

Emporium Lumber must have been very proud of these logs as the PA Lumber Museum has multiples copies of each image in our collection. The images, along with other papers and archival materials, were donated to the museum by the descendants of William Sykes, one of the co-founders of the Emporium Lumber Company. Someone commented on the back of one of the photo postcards (LM76.12.75)- “Wonderful size for a Cherry Tree”.


The volume of a log was estimated in board feet, with one board foot measuring 12 x 12 x 1 inches, or any combination equating to 144 cubic inches. Estimations of log volume were made with the assistance of a timber scale stick, used to measure the length and diameter of a sawed log. The log scaler (the person who’s job it was to take the measurements) could then work out a mathematical formula which could differ depending on the type of scale used. For the Doyle scale, one of the more popular scales at the turn of the 20th century, the equation was L((D-4)/4)squared. “L” was the length of the log and “D” was the small end diameter of the log. To simplify this process, “Ready Reckoner” books contained sets of tables to assist in the estimation.

Timber Scales on Display at the Lumber Museum
A Close up of L72.62.1 (the middle Scale in the above photo) showing that it measured using Doyle’s scale.
1868 edition of Hanna’s Ready Reckoner and Log Book (LM2019.20.1). This book contained many sets of useful tables for different lumber measurements.
Log Scalers at work (Photo file
The images were turned into photo postcards. The words “POST CARD” which are printed on the back can be seen appearing in the front of this image. (LM76.13.86).