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District Headquarters, Warren Spruce Company, Newport, ca 1918 (KINSEY 2617)

District Headquarters, Warren Spruce Company, Newport, ca 1918 (KINSEY 2617)



Caption on image: Field Acct Dept. Newport Ore. Dec. 1918, No 490 PH Coll 516.4618During World War I, the United States government created the Spruce Production Division in the Pacific Northwest in order to quickly obtain access to spruce trees to be used in constructing airplanes. The Spruce Production Division was created in reaction to a shortage in labor in the Northwest due to a lumber strike in 1917 led by the International Workers of the World. Lieutenant Colonel Brice P. Disque was put in charge of the effort, which used both civilian and troop labor to produce more than 54 million board feet of spruce beams in Oregon alone. The United States government contracted with private companies in Oregon and Washington to produce spruce for the war effort. Army troops built mills at Toledo, Oregon on Yaquina Bay, and at Vancouver and Port Angeles in Washington state. Working alongside civilians, the army workers (who received civilian wages) largely practiced riving (or splitting) of the logs, which often resulted in the use of only 1/6 of a log. This practice was considered expensive and wasteful by commercial operations, but had benefits in the short term. By relying on rived lumber, logging companies were prevented from having to set up large sawmills and other infrastructure, and were able to get the spruce out more quickly. Also during this time, and in response to the I.W.W., was the formation of the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen (LLLL), a union that emphasized patriotism. The Warren Spruce Company was one of several conglomerate logging companies that was organized in order to assist the Spruce Production Division. Organized in February of 1918, the Warren Spruce Company would have operations in many areas along the Oregon and Washington coast, such as Newport, Seaside, Toledo, Waldport, Yaquina, South Beach, Agate Beach, Raymond, North River, and Monteray. The company also worked with existing logging companies such as the Coats-Fordney Lumber Company and the Cobbs & Mitchell Lumber Company, for example. The company also made extensive use of existing railroads such as the Lewis & Clark Railroad in Clatsop County. The company set records for production and the Spruce Production Division in general provided many jobs. However, after the war was over, lumber production would be greatly scaled back and around 7,000 men would be laid from Oregon mills and logging camps by 1920. (Sources: "Unions and Hard Times Between the Wars: World War I Comes to the Coast" by Gail Wells; "Rived Spruce Coming: Warren Company Makes Record for Quick Work" The Oregonian, 02-24-1918; and "History of Spruce Division, United States Army and United States Spruce Production Corporation")
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Kinsey Brothers Photographs of the Lumber Industry and the Pacific Northwest

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