Happy Groundhog’s day! While there are several other groundhogs out there none is more famous than Punxsutawney Phil. Good old Phil has been at it since 1886 but the origins of this holiday have roots in Celtic and Germanic traditions. In Germany it was a hedgehog who made the predictions. When German settlers came to Pennsylvania they turned to the groundhog for meteorological advice, due to the lack of native hedgehogs.
A recent donation to the museum includes a collection of letters written by a James John Welch of Emporium, PA. In one of these letters he writes to his brother, Daniel:
“Emporium Pa February 2nd
This is said to be the day that the wood chuck comes out of his hole and sallies forth in search of fresh food, but if he should see his shadow, the poor fellow becomes disgusted and goes back to his hole and every one knows that we will have six months more of the coldest kind of Winter weather.”
This letter is not dated but in it James writes to Daniel, “How is it your namesake out here is growing to be a big boy and an awful good baby too.” Little Daniel Welch was born in October 1885 (per 1900 US Census), so this letter is most likely written on or after February 2nd, 1886. This is the year that Punxsutawney Phil is said that have made his first prediction. Did James know about Phil? Punxsutawney and Emporium are only 70 miles a part. Or is it just coincidence that the letter is from 1886 as James refers to the “wood chuck” and “six months” not weeks more of winter?
It has been a popular topic for debate: is “Die Hard” a Christmas Movie? Well let’s see… John McClain has to save his wife, Holly (a festive name), and her office Christmas party from Hans Gruber (a German- from a land where many of our Christmas traditions originated) who is definitely on Santa’s naughty list, on Christmas Eve; all while sound-tracked by classic Christmas music. It seems pretty clear that it is indeed a beloved holiday classic.
As a state run museum I’m not quite sure if I have the power to officially declare that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recognizes “Die Hard” as a Christmas movie, but I’m also not sure that I don’t have that power.
Whether or not “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie is in someway a moot point as it is a movie in which someone uses a chainsaw, and isn’t that what really matters?
Soon after Hans Gruber and his international band of bad men enter Nakatomi Plaza, the brothers, Tony and Karl Vreski, go to work to disable the tower’s telephone communication system. Tony is methodically cutting the phone lines by hand but his brother Karl, showing the restraint that he would later become known for, decides to just cut everything with a chainsaw.
It is a quick scene but careful analysis shows that Karl has brought with him an Echo QuikVent Chainsaw (most likely a model QV-8000). This saw is not the type that would be found in the woods but would be instead on a fire truck. According the the QV-8000 instruction manual, “The Echo QuikVent System is a chain saw specially designed for use by trained fire fighters to ventilate, trench and breach burning structures.”
Founded in Japan in 1947, the Kyoritsu Noki Company was a manufacturer of forestry and agricultural equipment. The first chainsaw featuring the “Echo” name, the CS-80, was released in 1963. In 1971 the company changed their name to “Kioritiz” and in 1972 the “Kioritz Corporation of America” was founded, changing it’s name to “ECHO Incorporated” in 1978.
The Echo QuikVent chainsaw has a distinctive angled bar and continues to be marked to firefighters today, 30 years after “Die Hard” was released.
Why the German Karl Verski chose a Japanese chainsaw instead of a Stihl chainsaw, manufactured in his home country, is unknown. Perhaps the Echo saw was property of the Nakatomi Corporation. The Lumber Museum does not have an Echo chainsaw in our collection, but we do have a Stihl.
The Lumber Museum also has a tool in the collection that, like the Echo QuikVent Chainsaw, was specifically designed for use by firefighters.
The Rich Rake was designed by Charles H. Rich, of Woolrich, PA in 1921 as an improved design on the 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.
Check out previous blog entries for more information on the museum’s Stihl chainsaw and the Rich Rake.
In Conclusion “Die Hard” is a Christmas Movie. May Santa bring you $640 million in bearer bonds and a good pair of shoes. Yippie Ki-Yay!
Another Halloween approaches. Instead of coming up with a new movie to write this blog about I decided to just do a reboot of the first edition of “What Chainsaw did that Movie Use?”. That first blog covered “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974), and today I present “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2003). Why come up with something new when there is valuable IP to be mined?
Big budget remakes of beloved cult-classics often miss out on the magic that made the original so beloved. If there is one thing that a curator finds unforgivable in a movie it’s historical inaccuracies. Leatherface received a new chainsaw for the 2003 remake and the 2006 prequel that followed, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.” Both of these movies are supposed to take place in the 1970s but Leatherface is using a Husqvarna Model 359, a chainsaw that was made from 2001-2010.
While the 359 chainsaw might have been too modern for a movie set in the 1970s, a different Husqvarna chainsaw could have worked; for instance, a Husqvarna 65 or 180 would have been appropriate. Husqvarna is a Swedish company that has been around for over 300 years. Founded in 1689, the company originally made firearms. Husqvarna diversified it’s product line over the years making a wide variety of things. In 1959 they introduced their first chainsaw, the Model 90.
The Lumber Museum has some Husqvarna branded chainsaw safety gear (LM2019.13) in its collection. This gear includes a cut-resistant jacket, chainsaw chaps, protective gloves, and heavy rubber boots. A chainsaw can be a very dangerous tool; over 30,000 chainsaw related accidents are reported each year. This protective gear helps to keep the user from being injured while working and is essential for good chainsaw safety practices. Leatherface, however, doesn’t seem too interested in safety or protective gear.
Perhaps when someone else decides to reboot “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning”, they will ‘begin’ by using a period-appropriate chainsaw.
When he attended the 50th reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913, Micajah Weiss was honored as the oldest veteran in attendance. When he died a year later in September 1914 he was the oldest pensioner from the Civil War, but no one seemed to know exactly how old he was. He is reported to have been born some time between 1800 to 1803, but is also listed as having been born in 1810, 1811 and 1818 in various census records. He was born in Delaware Water Gap, PA, at a location listed as ‘Dancing Creek’ or ‘Dancing Rift.’ His grave stone has the dates 1801-1914. What is known is that he made his living as a farmer and a lumberman. He was known as an experienced raftsman, having taken hundreds of rafts down the Delaware River in his during his 55 year career in lumbering.
The first timber raft traveled down the Delaware River in 1764, piloted by Daniel Skinner. The last raft was floated down the Delaware in 1922. As such, Micajah was alive for most of the rafting-era of the Delaware River. It was reported that he would make the 100-mile return trip from Trenton, NJ, where he sold his rafts back to his home in Beaver Brook, NY, located just north of the PA boarder, on foot. He was also know to have made trips to Easton, PA, and on down the river to Philadelphia.
One of his obituaries noted that Micajah had wanted to take one last raft down the Delaware a few years before his death, “just to show the boys that he had not forgotten how”… he was eventually talked out of the idea.
In August 1862, Micajah enlisted in the Union Army with the 141st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, Company G. Further complicating the mater of his age, he is listed on the Muster Roll as 44 years old, but this might have been a lie so as to not seem “too old” for duty. Whatever his real age, he was well past the age of conscription for the Army. When asked about what battles he was in his reply was “Most all of ’em.” In addition to Gettysburg the 141st was at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Battle of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and was even present at Appomattox Court House.
Micajah Weiss was honored at the 50th reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg as the oldest veteran present. Newspapers across the country picked up an article about his attendance. He was reported to have had his picture taken with Col. John Clem, who at 61 was the Youngest Veteran present and was at the time still an active duty military officer. Col. John Clem was better known as “Johnny Shiloh”, famous for his exploits as a young drummer boy.
Michajah would make the newspapers again the next year when he passed away on September 22, 1914. The New York Times listed his age as 114. The Orange County Times listed his age as 112. The Gettysburg Star and Sentinel split the difference. They listed his age as 112 in the head line and 114 in the article.
May the 4th be with you! What do you do when the Galactic Empire is invading your forest planet and your only defense involves cutting down trees, yet you are part of a pre-industrial society that hasn’t developed metal working technology? Just rely on your trusty, time tested stone ax!
The Ewoks were able to use their dense forest home to their advantage against a mechanized foe.
The forest planet of Endor was in reality California’s redwood forests, where the filming took place. The stone axe was in reality a foam headed prop, not suitable for cutting logs at all!
The Lumber Museum has two stone axe heads on display in our main exhibit.
These stone axe heads represent a 3/4 groove head style of groundstone axe. Stone axes and other stone implements were common objects used by the Native Americans who lived on the land that would become known as Pennsylvania, from the end of the last Ice Age to contact with Europeans. The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum resides in the traditional homeland of the Seneca Nation, one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy.
Are people always after your lucky charms? Well, with a bit o’ the “Luck of the Irish” and a trusty chainsaw you can easily recover your lost, wish-granting gold coins. At least that’s how the titular Leprechaun (played by Warwick Davis) goes about it in the 1995 straight-to-video movie: Leprechaun 3.
The Leprechaun is using a McCulloch Electramac EM300s electric chainsaw… perhaps ‘McCulloch’ is Scot-Irish? While it isn’t the most powerful choice, this electric chainsaw is a sensible option for use indoors, bisecting the magician Fazio. There will be no build-up of CO2 fumes from a gasoline-powered engine to worry about; the Leprechaun may be out to murder those who take his coins, but at least he isn’t going to subject the audience to carbon monoxide poisoning.
The first mass-produced electric chainsaw was invented by Andreas Stihl in 1926 and it predated the introduction of a gasoline-powered saw by a year. It was a large, two-man saw weighing over 100 pounds. It sold well despite this drawback, remaining in production until 1948. The applications this saw could undertake were limited because of the need for a cord to connect it to an electric power source.
An electric chainsaw like the McCulloch Electramac EM300s is best suited to homeowners doing yard work, just as far as your extension cord can take you. As small/electric chainsaws are not well-suited to the rigors of forestry work or timber harvest, there are currently no electric chainsaws in the Lumber Museum’s collection (However, if anyone has a Stihl STG model that they want to donate, please let me know). The Lumber Museum does have a Stihl Model 017 light-weight 2-cycle chainsaw that was used by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) at Susquehannock State Forest in the early 2000s, on display as an example of tools used in modern forestry work.
If you are interested in more information on McCulloch chainsaws and want to see one of the museum’s McCulloch saws, check out the December 2020 edition of the “What chainsaw did that movie use?” blog post.
And remember: if you happen to find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it’s probably best just to leave it be.
North-central Pennsylvania had many short line logging railroads that were incorporated in the late 19th and early 20th century in service of the lumber industry. These railroads often only lasted a few years as production would move elsewhere after land was clear cut or a mill closed. One such railroad was the Oleona Railroad Company which transported lumber cut in the Kettle Creek Valley. Incorporated in 1901, the Oleona RR ran eight miles from Cross Fork, PA to Oleona, PA. The Goodyear Lumber Company financed and built the railroad but the only trains that operated on it belonged to the Lackawanna Lumber Company and the Pennsylvania Stave Company. Eventually, the Oleona RR was combined with the Oleona and Germania Railroad, an independent operator with five miles of track from Oleona to Germania Brook, resulting in a single 13 mile-long short line. After the last lands owned by the Lackawanna Lumber Company in the Kettle Creek Valley were cut the railroad was sold to the American Sugar Refining Company in 1908, the parent company of the Pennsylvania Stave Company. When their stave mill, located in Cross Fork, closed in 1912, the Oleona Railroad was dismantled. The two Shay locomotives that operated on the line were transferred to other logging railroads owned by the Brooklyn Cooperage Company, a subsidiary of the American Sugar Refining Company.
Today, in honor of his 212th birthday, we look at Abraham Lincoln’s vampire hunting weapon of choice. Having died about 80 years before chainsaws were widely available, Abraham Lincoln had to do his rail splitting and vampire hunting with an axe.
While the axe in the movie poster above appears to be a Yankee or Delaware pattern, it seems that during the movie the 16th President favors a Baltimore-Kentucky pattern axe, perhaps an homage to his birth-state of Kentucky.
So, happy birthday to a great vampire hunter and an even greater President!
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.
It is winter in North-Central Pennsylvania; it is cold and the ground is covered in snow. The men of the Civilian Conservation Corps didn’t get snow days. They were out working year-round and needed winter clothes that kept them warm but also allowed them to perform their duties.
Ernest Wilson spent two winters in the CCC: the first at Camp S-133 Hammersley Fork where he was stationed from October 1934- June 1935, and the second at Camp S-122 Two Mile Run from July 1935- March 1936. His winter clothes are on display in the PA Lumber Museum’s main exhibit.
Similar clothing is depicted in the painting, “CCC Boy, Winter Costume” painted by Pennsylvania-born artist Sterling Smeltzer; currently in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Sterling Smeltzer was born in Williamsburg, PA in 1908. He attended Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie-Mellon University) in Pittsburgh where he studied engineering and structural design and art. He graduated in 1931- right into the Great Depression. The Roosevelt administration created several programs that commissioned public art to employ out-of-work artists during this time. The first, The Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), was run by the US Treasury Department and was short-lived, lasting only from December 1933 to June 1934. Smeltzer was commissioned to paint a mural in the Altoona, PA post office for the PWAP, but this mural is currently unaccounted for. He was also commissioned to paint a post office mural in Willoughby, OH in 1938 that has also unfortunately been lost to time.
“CCC Boy, Winter Costume” was most likely painted by Smeltzer as part of the CCC Art Project that was operated by the US Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture, 1934-1937. As part of this program, artists were assigned to CCC camps to create art as a reflection of the life and accomplishments of CCC enrollees.
During his time in association with the CCC, Smeltzer was tasked with putting together an exhibit in a new museum located in a CCC-built structure situated in the CCC-developed Hawks Nest State Park in West Virginia. Smeltzer created several original paintings to help fill-out the exhibit. This small museum has been moved from the original CCC building, but reproductions of the paintings (displayed to preserve the originals) can be be viewed at the Ansted Culture and History Museum.
Sterling Smeltzer is listed on various websites as a “WPA” artist, but does not appear to have worked for the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). It seems to be a common mistake to label any artist who made art for the Federal Government during the Depression as a “WPA” artist. After the Depression, Smeltzer went on to work for Curtiss Aircraft in it’s industrial arts section. He eventually retired from North American Aviation and passed away in 1982. He is buried in Altoona.
Here are some images of CCC enrollees from Camp S-87 Ole Bull preforming winter work in 1936. These men working in the snow made sure to bundle up in their CCC-issued winter clothing.