Eyes of the Great Depression 140

Lange, Dorothea, photographer. Man who worked in Fullerton, Louisiana lumber mill for fifteen years. He is now left stranded in the cut-over area. July, 1937.

Lange, Dorothea, photographer. Man who worked in Fullerton, Louisiana lumber mill for fifteen years. He is now left stranded in the cut-over area. July, 1937.

Man who worked in Fullerton, Louisiana lumber mill for fifteen years. He is now left stranded in the cut-over area.1

In just a few decades about 4.3 acres of Louisiana virgin timber had been clear cut – an area roughly the size of New Jersey.  Most timber companies had a policy of “cut out and get out,” transforming large sections of the state into vast “stumpscapes” of barren cutover land as mill operators moved on to other virgin timber elsewhere in the country.  Priceless timber resources were lost by the millions of acres.2

“No wonder the hotel was empty, the bank closed, the stores out of business; for on the other side of the railroad, down by the wide pond that once had held beautiful, fine-grained logs of Louisiana longleaf pine, the big sawmill that for twenty years had been the pulsing heart of what was now Nameless Town was already sagging on its foundations, its boilers dead, the deck stripped of all removable machinery. A few ragged piles of graying lumber were huddled here and there along the dolly-ways in the yard where for years lumber had been stacked by the million feet, waiting to be sent into thirty states and half the countries of the world. The mill had sawed-out.”3

With the closing of the Fullerton mill over a decade earlier, the subject of this photo apparently stayed behind when most of the rest of the mill community moved on.  Perhaps he tried farming on the marginal cutover land left behind.  Unfortunately, Dorothea Lange recorded little but the terse words of the picture’s caption. “Hearing of an abandoned lumber town in Louisiana, she made a long side trip to photograph the crumbling remains of buildings at Fullerton and the lone inhabitant, a man who had worked in the lumber mill for fifteen years and now was left stranded in the bleak, cut-over land.”4

 


  1. Lange, Dorothea, photographer. July, 1937. Image retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/pictures/item/fsa2000001454/PP/. (Accessed October 25, 2016.)
  2. The Louisiana Lumber Boom, c.1880-1925 – Historic Contexts, Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism; Office of Cultural Development, Division of Historic Preservation
  3. Forbes, Reginald D., “The Passing of the Piney Woods,” 1923, American Forestry, 29, p. 134.
  4. Meltzer, Milton; “Dorothea Lange: A Photographer’s Life;” p. 178; Syracuse University Press, 1978
american history, eyes of the great depression, history, louisiana, people, photography, vintage images

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Nick Rogers Nov 26, 2016

    A depressing story. And the same sort of asset-stripping still goes on all over the world. Yes, I wonder how the lone remaining inhabitant was keeping body and soul alive?
    Nick Rogers recently posted…Playing the fieldMy Profile

    • Mike Nov 27, 2016

      Timber production is quite different now in the American South. After an area is cleared, the land is replanted. The “crop” is decades in the making, but must be worth it in the end.

      We noticed quite a few years back that one property had planted all of its pastureland in trees. Over the years, as the trees grew, less and less of the home could be seen, until, now, it can only be seen looking up its driveway. A couple of months ago, logging crews were at work thinning the trees out. For several weeks, we noticed truck after truck hauling the thinned out trees, presumably to a paper mill about 20 miles from us.

      Amazingly, for all the logging that is done, our US forests are growing. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “Forest growth nationally has exceeded harvest since the 1940s. By 1997, forest growth exceeded harvest by 42 percent and the volume of forest growth was 380 percent greater than it had been in 1920.”
      Mike recently posted…Farmhouse in WinterMy Profile

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