The Redwood Forest in 1940s Northern California [DVD]: Redwoods Logging Industry Promotional Film with Video of the Wood Industries & Lumber Mills Chopping Down the Giant Redwood Trees
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(Jan 01, 2008)
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Redwood Saga examines the history of the logging industry as it pertains to the beautiful California redwood forest. The film includes breathtaking footage of these lush landscapes in the 1940s, where trees spanned upwards 350 feet in the air. But this is not a nature appreciation film, because the next thing seen after the beautiful redwood forest footage is the measuring and preproduction process used to transform the beautiful trees into wood products! Axe wielding workers take pride in scaffolding the giant trees and cutting them down. The many steps of the lumber production process are documented, from chopping to moving to manufacturing the end product: specialty wood products like furniture for American homes. Included is tons of interesting information about the logging industry: images of forestry equipment and forestry supplies, such as booms, donkey engines, and flatcars are filmed, and the millponds where the lumber is stored is shown in great detail. As the narrator says, "The Redwood trees of California are probably the oldest living trees," making this film a valuable historical documentation of logging in the redwood forest, an industry now clouded with environmental concern.
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On one hand, it shows how the California redwoods, now the object of awe and protection, were then regarded simply as commercial assets. It explains the properties of redwood lumber that made the trees so valuable. Most viewers will now be astonished by the narrative written by Joseph E. Johnston, but it usefully conveys to us the ethos of a different time.
Students of economic history and industrial organization should likewise be fascinated by the film's view of production processes as the Sequoias were marked, cut, felled, hauled, carried by railroad the millponds, and then cut into lumber. Rookie filmmakers and film editors can admire this sample of a B&W documentary when films were still "cut." And while we are now stunned by this film of how a great natural patrimony was felled, we must also admire the grit and skill of the loggers of the time.
This ten-minute film can also be viewed on the web.