UNIVERSITY PARK — The fifth in a series of fall open houses at Penn State’s Pasto Agricultural Museum on Nov. 2 will look at historic logging and timber production.
From 1 to 4 p.m., museum staff will share old photos and stories of the days in the late 1800s and early 1900s when Williamsport was the logging capital of the world, according to Rita Graef, Pasto Museum curator.
Jim Walizer, a board member of the Pennsylvania Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation, will share his passion for the history of timber, logging and forestry in the commonwealth in a presentation beginning at 2 p.m.
Actively engaged in research to save the American chestnut tree — which was wiped out by a blight that was accidentally introduced into North America from Asia in 1905 — Walizer has helped to enhance the collection of early logging tools on display at the Pasto Museum.
“At the time of settlement, Pennsylvania was likely 90 percent forested, covered by a combination of white pine, eastern hemlock and assorted hardwoods,” said Graef. “As settlers pushed inland from the east coast and the need for lumber grew, more and more of the commonwealth’s old-growth forests were harvested.”
Water-powered sawmills sprang up in the interior and mountainous areas of the state and lumber was harvested for all types of construction. Tall and straight, Pennsylvania’s white pine and hemlock trees were much in-demand for ships’ masts. Williamsport became a boom town for lumber as men made their fortunes and workers flooded north and west to clear the hills.
“At our open house, we’ll look at the time before railroads, when the primary conduit for timber to mill was the Susquehanna River,” Graef added. “Small-scale sawmills along tributaries of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River were built prior to the American Revolution.”
Operated by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, the museum is welcoming visitors every Sunday afternoon during Penn State home football weekends as part of an initiative to increase public awareness of the museum’s collection.
Other open houses will feature the following themes:
— Nov. 16: WILD! (with a special exhibit from the Ecosystem Science and Management Department’s bird and mammal collection)
— Nov. 30: Annual Celebration and Ice Cream Social
Graef explained that the open houses help the public appreciate the time when energy for work was supplied by the power of humans and animals.
“By seeing and touching tools and equipment used in early agriculture and rural life, people will better understand how early technological developments led to modern-day advancements,” she said.
More information on the museum and its open houses is available here. To receive information and event reminders via email, send a message to PastoAgMuseum@psu.edu. Graef can be reached at 814-863-1383 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Located on the Ag Progress Days site at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs — 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45 — the museum features hundreds of rare farm and home implements from the “muscle-power era,” before the advent of electricity and gasoline-powered engines.