26 Photographs of the Lumberjacks Who Conquered the California Redwoods

OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center

In 1850, the Redwood Forest spanned more than two million acres of coastal California. The gold rush brought an enormous influx of people to California and the redwoods, with their enormous lumber yields, were used as materials to build the rapidly growing towns. When the gold deposits began to dry up, more and more efforts were focused on logging the forests for profit.

By 1910, the logging industry was the largest employer in Washington state. It was a very dangerous job and it is estimated that one in every 150 loggers died. The loggers would stand on a springboard, which would be fitted into notches above the base of the tree. With crosscut saws and axes, the loggers would then power through the enormous trees. In 1917, the U.S. Army established the Spruce Production Division to supply spruce lumber for WWI aircraft production. Within a year there were 28,000 members of the division.

It is estimated that up to 96% of the redwoods were logged before conservation efforts were needed to keep these wondrous trees. Today, 45% of the remaining redwoods, 38,982 acres of old forest, are protected in the Redwood National and State Parks.

Redwoods have been around the northern California coast for the past 20 million years. Giant sequoia trees can grow over 300 feet tall, redwoods can grow up to 370 feet tall and weigh 1.6 million pounds. They can live for over 2,000 years.

Humboldt County has nearly 1,500,000 acres in public and private forests, including the Redwood National and State Parks. Daily Mail
Lumberjacks working among the redwoods in California. Daily Mail
Pictures from the 1915-era display the work of loggers in the densely forested northern California area. Daily Mail
The photos from northwest California were taken by Swedish photographer A.W. Ericson. A man standing next to a tree for size comparison. Daily Mail
Loggers among the redwoods in California. Photo- Ericson Collection: Humboldt State University Library
Members of the Spruce Production Division sitting in a giant Spruce tree in Oregon. Photo- Gerald W. Williams Collection: OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center
A logger stands on a felled spruce tree, c. 1918. Photo- Library of Congress
A group of men standing on a Spruce tree stump. Photo- Gerald W. Williams Collection: OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center
Loggers with a Redwood 20 feet in diameter. Photo- Gerald W. Williams Collection: OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center
In the redwoods of Humboldt County. Photo- Ericson Collection: Humboldt State University Library
A logger with a redwood. Photo- Swanlund-Baker Collection, Humboldt State University Library
A felled Sequoia tree in California, c. 1900. Photo- Library of Congress