You are here

Forestry Students and Fire Tower, 1922

Cornell forestry students on summit of Mt. Morris. Fire-lookout tower at back
Cornell University Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, CUA_deptforestry_009
Document Description
Cornell University Forestry students seated on the summit of Mount Morris below a fire tower in the Adirondack Mountains, 1922.
What is the purpose of a fire tower?
Why would a class of students examine the tower as part of their class?
Why would the tower have been built on a rock mound?
Locate Mount Morris on a map. How far did the students have to travel from Cornell University to reach this location?
Historical Challenges
What was significant about Cornell University's College of Forestry when it opened in 1898? How long was the College of Forestry open? It reopened after a few years under a new name as a part of Cornell's College of Agriculture. What was the College of Forestry called at the time this photograph was taken? What is it called today?
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Write a newspaper article as if it were the year 1928 that describes safety precautions one must take to prevent forest fires.
Art: Create a poster for fire safety week.
Beil, Karen Magnuson. Fire in Their Eyes: Wildfires and the People Who Fight Them. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1999. ISBN: 0152010432
George, Jean Craighead. Fire Storm. New York: K. Tegen Books, 2003. ISBN: 0060002638, 0060002646
Godkin, Celia. Fire!. Markham, Ont.: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2006. ISBN: 1550418890
Landau, Elaine. Smokejumpers. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 2002. ISBN: 0761323244
Lauber, Patricia. Summer of Fire: Yellowstone, 1988. New York: Orchard Books, 1991. ISBN: 0531085430
Morrison, Taylor. Wildfire. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. ISBN: 0618509003
Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw. Fire: Friend or Foe. New York: Clarion, 1998. ISBN: 0395730813.
Nobisso, Josephine. John Blair and the Great Hinkley Fire. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. ISBN: 0618015604.
Morrison, Ellen Earnhardt. Guardian of the Forest: A History of Smokey Bear and the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program. Alexandria, VA: Morielle Press, 1995. ISBN: 0962253758.
Podskoch, Martin. Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, The Southern Districts. Fleischmanns, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 2003. ISBN: 1930098464.
Podskoch, Martin. Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, The Northern Districts. Fleischmanns, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 2005. ISBN: 1930098677.

Historical Context
Fire towers are an essential part of the history of New York State.  They have been used to guard against fires spreading throughout forests in the Catskills and the Adirondack Mountains. While lightning had always been a threat to the forests, it was not until the late nineteenth century that railroads and expanding tourism also caused a variety of forest fires, which became a serious threat to life and property in these areas.

In 1909, the state began to build lookout towers that would house a man who would remain on duty throughout the fire season. The positioning of the towers was crucial in providing a wide, spanning, almost aerial, view of an area, in hope of identifying any fire early on and preventing tremendous damage. Over the next decade these lookout stations evolved into metal towers with enclosed cabs. They rose as much as seventy feet above the forest floor. Later, cabins were built to provide durable homes for fire observers, and the towers became a preferred destination for generations of hikers who would climb the towers for the panoramic views.

Essential Question
How do human settlement patterns impact the environment?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain why this object was necessary.