In Wood Hicks and Bark Peelers, Ronald E. Ostman and Harry Littell draw on the stunning documentary photography of William T. Clarke to tell the story of Pennsylvania’s lumber heyday, a time when loggers serving the needs of a rapidly growing and globalizing country forever altered the dense forests of the state’s northern tier.
Discovered in a shed in upstate New York and a barn in Pennsylvania after decades of obscurity, Clarke’s photographs offer an unprecedented view of the logging, lumbering, and wood industries during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They show the great forests in the process of coming down, and the trains that hauled away the felled trees and trimmed logs. And they show the workers—cruisers, jobbers, skidders, teamsters, carpenters, swampers, wood hicks, and bark peelers—their camps and workplaces, their families, their communities. The work was demanding and dangerous; the work sites and housing were unsanitary and unsavory. The changes the newly industrialized logging business wrought were immensely important to the nation’s growth at the same time that they were fantastically—and tragically—transformative to the landscape.
An extraordinary look at a little-known photographer’s work and the people and industry he documented, this book reveals, in sharp detail, the history of the third phase of lumber in America.