A lumberjack or a woodcutter is a person, who works in the logging industry and their main objective is to cut, harvest and transport trees. The term became popular and developed in particular areas like folklore, sports or mass-media. The words that best describe a lumberjack are strength and masculinity, that’s why men of all ages admire them.
Working as a lumberjack is not an easy task and one has to possess a series of specific traits in order to cope with this occupation.
Lumberjack occupation is a grueling job which requires a lot of physical effort and resilience.
As a short history of this profession, it began in early 1600 in America as a need for building shelters and also insulation. This photo was taken near Bellingham and captures the beginning of lumberjacks.
Lumberjacks used to work in certain establishments which were called logging camps. They used to make these houses with their own hands.
By the 1850s, the logging industry evolved to such extent that paper started being produced. The founder of the first paper mill was William Rittenhouse.
In the process of transportation, the tree logs from the forests were carried to logging camps with horses and oxen.
Another alternative to getting the logs from point A to point B was building timber railway systems to put the felled trees on the move.
The year 1862 introduced the Homestead Act, which promised settlers 160 acres per family. That was the point when the logging industry boomed due to the settlers’ need to remove the logs from their land in order to use it for other activities like farming.
The beginning of the 19th century marked the time where manual lumberjacking went into decline due to the characteristic advances of technology at that time.
The lumberjacks who remained established in isolated camps used to work hard for long hours where the conditions were harsh and camps were often affected by diseases and lice.
Life in a logging camp came with its own consequences and working conditions. As information about it spread, these men acquired fearsome reputations.
After a while, things started to improve enough to sustain a decent work environment and as an effect, the wives and families moved in as well.
They had an outstanding reputation for their rich meals: lunch consisted of sandwiches that contained meat and others with butter and jam.
Since these elements started to improve and develop it facilitated the apparition of schools and other community features. You can see how a school house looked in the picture above.
There were also other means of transporting the logs which appeared later, such as arks for log drives.
Logging occupation was a very dangerous one, lumberjack often risked their lives or the integrity of their limbs.
In order to achieve some organization, the division of labor was necessary and so specialized roles for each individual were set such as chaser, whistle punk or high climber.
A whistle punk is a type of lumberjack who is responsible for the signal wire running to a donkey engine. A donkey engine was a small auxiliary engine.
Choker, setters and chasers were considered the entry-level job position in the logging industry.
In a time of industrial development and modernization, logging remained a traditional profession in which lumberjacks showed pride in their craft, physical strength and preserved their individuality.
The most known lumberjack depiction in folklore is Paul Bunyan. He had all the necessary skills and abilities such as knowledge of the wood, extraordinary strength and intuition.
In pop-culture the stereotypical lumberjack is a strong, burly bearded man who is usually wearing suspenders and long-sleeved flannel shirt.
In order to keep the tradition alive, some sports called loggersports were created. These tested men abilities, strength, determination and rich knowledge of forestry.
The name of Jigger Johnson remained a known one and historians deemed him as “the last lumberjack”. He was famous for working in the U.S Forest Service, known to have caught bobcats alive with his bare hands and drunken brawls.
These amazing men who worked incredibly hard were resilient and managed to face every challenge in their profession and cope with every dangerous situation.In some sense, they truly earned their reputation and place in the history.