The Lumberjacks Who Felled California’s Giant Redwoods

When Euro-Americans swept westward in the 1880s, they needed raw materials for their homes. Commercial logging and timber harvesting became the top manufacturing industry. Failing in their efforts to strike it rich in gold, some men turned to harvesting the giant trees for a booming development in San Francisco. These trees are the tallest and one of the most massive tree species on earth. The size of the huge trees made them prized timber, as the redwood became known for its durability. The redwood forest covered more than 2,000,000 acres of the California coast, making the area prime territory for loggers. The men used axes, saws, and other early methods of bringing the trees down, but by 1918 decades of unobstructed logging spurred on conservation efforts. The Save-the-Redwood League was first to be founded and worked to preserve old-growth redwoods, resulting in the establishment of Redwoods State Park. By the time the park was created, nearly 90% of the original redwood trees had been logged.