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Forestry Camp Kitchen and Dining Hall, 1912

Forestry. Camp Kitchen and Eating Room, preparing for supper. Near Woodhull Lake.

New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_1681
Document Description
A kitchen and dining room at a logging camp, circa 1912.
What do you think life was like for a lumberjack?
Why did lumberjacks eat so much?
Tony Beaver and Paul Bunyan are two lumberjacks who were not real, but stories about their lives became "tall tales." Why are they called "tall tales"? What are the characteristics of these two lumberjacks, and what aspects of logging life are evident in their tales?
These conditions look pretty rough. Why would anyone want to be a lumberjack?
Historical Challenges
Peripheral industries sprouted around logging centers, such as tanning. How and why were tanning and logging connected? Locate Tannersville, New York, on a map. Research its local history in connection with the logging industry.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: One egg has approximately 80 calories, one pancake 120 calories, and one sausage 95 calories. If a lumberjack eats 10 eggs, 7 pancakes, and 9 pieces of sausage, how many calories did he eat?
Science: Research the environmental impact of deforestation and conservation efforts. Experiment with recycling paper in your classroom.
English Language Arts: Compare the tales of Tony Beaver (Appalachia) and Paul Bunyan (Northeast States). What similarities can be found? What do these stories say about the life of a lumberjack?
Luen, Nancy. Song for the Ancient Forest. Simon & Schuster Children's, February 1993. ISBN: 0689317190
Barron, T.A. The Ancient One. The Penguin Group, December 2003. ISBN: 0441010326
MacMillan, Dianne. Life in a Deciduous Forest. Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, March 2003. ISBN: 0822546841
Kellogg, Steven. Paul Bunyan. William Morrow & Company, Inc., March 1985. ISBN: 0688058000
Locker, Thomas. Sky Tree. HarperCollins Publishers, August 2001. ISBN: 0064437507


About this Activity


Lesson Topic:

Historical Context
Life was not easy in the mountains. Lumberjacks usually worked from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., a fifteen-hour day. Accidents were frequent, the work was hard, and the pay was low. The top pay for a lumberjack was only $2.50 a day. When the lumberjacks went to work in the fall, they sometimes didn’t come down from the mountains until the drive was finished the next summer. Men from Europe and Canada, as well as America, came to work as lumberjacks in the Adirondacks. They were of all nationalities.

Lumber camps were semi-permanent villages. Early logging camp buildings were often over-heated, poorly ventilated, and smelled terrible. The men slept in rooms called dog rooms. These were large, one-room buildings with bunk beds built next to the outer walls. The dog rooms had a single wood-burning stove in the center for heat.  The men would wash their clothes outside in a kettle full of melted snow. This is also how they took a bath, even in the winter!

Lumberjacks required enormous amounts of food to keep their axes swinging. The cooks in the cookhouses would prepare four full meals a day for the lumberjacks, plus desserts such as pies, cakes, cookies, and donuts. The meals would typically consist of salted pork, bread, and baked beans.  While the lumberjacks were on a river drive, the men would sleep in tents or shanties. Then the meals were prepared by a traveling male cook and his assistant, known as a cooke. The cook and cooke would follow the men in a horse-drawn wagon or gang boat.

Lumberjacks, massive and tough, became mythic and the character of a lumberjack developed into American tall tales, such as Paul Bunyan and Tony Beaver. Paul, of the Northern states, and Tony, of West Virginia, probably never existed, but the exaggerated essence and characters of the lumberjacks is evident in the many versions of their tall tale adventures that are still available today.
Essential Question
How does industrialization change a society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate impact of industrialization on workers and their working environment.