When the early explorers came here, they found a new
world, dominated by stands of virgin forests that stretched from what
is now eastern Canada, south to Florida and west to the Great Plains.
Settlers took from the forest the wood needed for shelter, fuel,
furniture and construction of all kinds.
The first exports from America were poles, shakes,
pitch, tar and other forest products dispatched from Virginia in 1608
by Captain John Smith. He substituted these products for the gold and
spices which The Jamestown Colony had failed to produce. The
beginning of the lumber industry in America has its roots in the
Virginia Company. Several communities claim the first sawmills, but
the records of the Virginia Company indicate that the earliest
sawmills were established in Jamestown, Virginia, before 1608.
Scientific forestry was unknown in America until the
turn of the center. The few foresters in this country were trained in
Europe and they soon found they faced a different situation in the
THE DAWN OF AMERICAN FORESTRY
In 1890, George Vanderbilt, having purchased the
Biltmore Estate in western North Carolina near Asheville, recognized
the need for professional assistance in managing the lands. Gifford
Pinchot, a young American who had received his forestry training in
Germany, was hired in 1892 as chief forester. Pinchot set up a
management plan for the estate and recommended the purchase of 100,000
acres of adjacent forest land. Vanderbilt agreed, and bought the land
known as Pisgah Forest. That land later was the first forest
purchased in the East for the National Forest system. It eventually
totaled 479,000 acres.
After Pinchot resigned from his Biltmore forest
position in 1893, a young German forester, Carl Albert Schenck, was
offered the job. Schenck accepted and in 1895 was officially on the
payroll. Interestingly, on neighboring estates, two young men heard
of Schenck's arrival and petitioned the German for permission to
apprentice (at no pay) for the purpose of "learning the profession of
forestry." Schenck accepted both Overton Price and E.M. Griffith as
It is generally agreed that Price and Griffith were
the first foresters trained in this country. Later in their careers,
Gifford Pinchot became the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service,
Overton Price became Pinchot's trusted deputy chief and Griffith
became state forester of Wisconsin.
A formal school was established at Biltmore by
Schenck in 1898. Instructions had been given on an informal basis to
several young men to assist him in the management of the forest. With
a sharp increase in the number of applicants for training, Carl
Schenck arranged to combine the work and the instruction in an
organized curriculum. Thus, the Biltmore Forest School came into
existence. Schenck left Biltmore in 1909 but the school continued for
four years without a fixed headquarters. It ceased operation in 1913.
During its existence, the Biltmore Forest School
provided instruction to approximately 350 students. Among its
instructors were Homer House, a botanist; Clifton Howe, later Dean of
Forestry at the University of Toronto; and numerous scientists who
lectured on entomology, pathology, wood utilization and geology.
On July 11, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed
into law an Act of Congress that commemorated the Biltmore Forest
School as "the cradle of forestry in America."
Today, no country in the world has more professional
foresters that the United States. From technicians on the ground
solving the everyday problems to the most academic-oriented teachers
and researchers, American forestry is the most advanced anywhere.