Reviews / Comptes rendus - Mary Shakespeare and Rodney H. Pain, West Coast Logging: 1840-1910.

Reviews / Comptes rendus

Mary Shakespeare and Rodney H. Pain, West Coast Logging: 1840-1910.

Warren F. Sommer
Heritage Village Burnaby, B.C.
West Coast Logging: 1840-1910. Mary Shakespeare and Rodney H. Pain. Ottawa, National Museums of Canada, 1977. (National Museum of Man, Mercury Series, History Division. Paper No. 22). 84p., illus., bibliography. ISSN 0316-1900. Free

1 The publication of an intelligent and comprehensive history of early British Columbia lumbering has long been overdue. Unfortunately, West Coast Logging: 1840-1910 by Mary Shakespeare and Rodney Pain does little to fill the void. Pain and Shakespeare's is an enthusiastic work, but one without clearly defined purpose or coherent organization — a work showing little evidence of strong editorial guidance.

2 In their seventy-odd pages the authors attempt to describe the major technological developments that affected the British Columbia lumbering industry in its formative years. Archival photographs and photographs of logging artifacts support the text. Pain and Shakespeare begin by discussing the first (late eighteenth century) non-aboriginal use of the forest resource. After identifying the major hand tools of this earliest phase of logging, the authors demonstrate how the industry became increasingly mechanized. As the nineteenth century progressed, teams of oxen and horses reached stands of timber that tidewater hand-loggers had previously found inaccessible. Then, by the early 1900s, steam donkeys and logging locomotives made animal power obsolete. As the authors have noted, similar changes took place in the mills. Steam engines supplanted water wheels and electricity supplanted steam.

3 West Coast Logging suffers from few blatant errors of fact. Instead, the work falls short in its manner of presentation and in its sometimes superficial treatment of the material at hand. The authors' chapter organization is especially disturbing. Sections conceived geographically, temporally, and thematically are all interspersed. With chapters on subjects so ill-connected as "Early History," "Hand Logging," and the "Chemainus Sawmill," the work tends to be more a collection of information than a carefully conceived analysis. The book's lack of direction is especially evident in the section on the Chemainus mill. Although the authors suggest that the mill's history is a representative one, their discussion of it is cursory and lacks focus. By failing to interpret the information they present, Pain and Shakespeare allow no generalizations to emerge. The reader can only guess at what the authors are trying to demonstrate.

4 Additional difficulties stem from the very design of the book. The illustrations, though generally well-chosen, are often poorly placed. A photograph of a geared logging locomotive faces a page of text on electrification in the mills, while a photograph of a cook-house gong stands opposite a discussion of high lead logging. The captions are equally troublesome. Terms and names appear in the captions pages before they are explained in the text. Further confusion arises from the publisher's decision to use the same point-size type for text as for photographic captions. This arrangement disrupts the flow of the book, for several captions fill entire pages and are easily mistaken for-part of the text.

5 To their credit Pain and Shakespeare avoid the anecdotal excesses that plague other accounts of early Pacific coast logging. Instead, the authors have concentrated on identifying artifacts and explaining their use. By drawing together materials from diverse and scattered sources, Pain and Shakespeare have produced a work that may prove useful in museums with small collections of logging artifacts. Workers in institutions with larger collections or more extensive research goals, however, will find the publication disappointingly inadequate. West Coast Logging offers the reader a pleasant ramble through a bygone industrial age, but falls far short of being a truly rigourous or illuminating study.

Warren F. Sommer