- With the arrival of European settlers to Western Oregon nearly 150 years ago came new methods of forest management. Early settlers' forest practices consisted of little more than harvesting what seemed an endless supply of timber. Forestry in the 20th century eventually incorporated such management concerns as re-forestation, biodiversity, wildlife sciences, recreation, and cultural resources.
While forest practices in the Pacific Northwest changed dramatically during the 20th century, clothing worn by those most commonly associated with the field, the "logger," remained relatively unchanged. While much information has been published regarding the often over-romanticized life of the logger, information regarding the day to day-life and associative material culture remains almost nonexistent. As the 20th century economy in the Pacific Northwest became less dependent on the wood products industry, the culture and way of life for those whose lives centered around this once thriving industry began to disappear.
My interest in this subject developed out of my personal experience working in
the woods throughout the Pacific Northwest for seven years, as a forest fire fighter and park ranger for the Bureau of Land Management, and as an archaeologist for the
U.S. Forest Service and Oregon State University Research Forests.
In this study, I gathered collective memories from 18 individuals who logged throughout Western Oregon between 1920 and 1970. Informants were asked a series of questions pertaining to their logging careers and the clothing they wore. Often termed "old-timers," these informants served as the primary resource of information about work clothing worn by loggers in Western Oregon between 1920 and 1970.
Published information describing the history of logging in the Pacific Northwest, photographs provided by informants showing them at work, the examination of catalogues from manufacturers of men's work clothing, and interviews with representatives of work clothing companies served as secondary resources.
Published materials detailing work clothing worn by loggers is relatively nonexistent. Consequently, persons with first hand knowledge wearing logging work clothing are in many instances the only sources of information. Photographs furnished by subjects, showing them wearing their work clothing were collected as supportive material.
While interviewing subjects for this project, additional questions beyond the scope of the project were asked. Subjects were asked related questions about other types of clothing they wore during their careers. Other areas of logging history and culture explored during interviews consisted of information about changes they observed in the technology of logging hand tools and machinery, land management and associative forest practices, and first hand experiences observing fellow workers severely injured or killed while working in the woods.
With the passing of each "old-time" logger, a living connection between the present and the past, and the stories in between, are gone forever. This project helps to present a written record of some of these connections.