Tuesday, November 17, 2015

LLLL Membership Pin, Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumberman, 1917, U.S Army Spruce Division, WW1

Today we'll be taking another slight detour from our hand tool theme.  We will only slightly stray though......


This pin is a bit of unique history from the Pacific Northwest and WW1.  It is a bronze membership pin from the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumberman, or LLLL, issued in 1917.


The LLLL was the U.S. Governments answer to the near constant lumber union strikes and horrible work condition in the logging camps of the Pacific Northwest during WW1.  
In 1917, the US was ramping up production of aircraft for use over the battlefields of WW1 Europe.  These planes were made of spruce wood.  Nearly all of that spruce wood came from the Pacific Northwest of the United States.  There was one big problem though.  The supply of spruce wood could not keep up with the production rate of aircraft.

In 1917, the logging and timber industry was a miserable place for a man to work.  The hours were basically sun-up to sunset, no days off, terrible food, atrocious living conditions in the logging camps, daily deaths and serious injuries in the field.  Basically the "Timber Barons" were using the workers like disposable cogs in a money making machine.  Not good times if you were a logger!
The main timber industry union of the day was the Industrial Workers of the World.  This union and the workers in it were in a near constant state of strike in one area or another.  The war was on and the U.S. Military could not have this kind of inefficient going-ons hampering spruce production.  
The U. S. Army's solution was to form the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumberman.  The Army organized a division of 25,000 soldiers and sent them to the Pacific Northwest and into the lumber camps to work alongside the civilian loggers.  

US Army Spruce Division soldiers and Loggers at work together.

All civilian loggers were asked to "join" the new LLLL and take a loyalty oath.  If they did not, they were fired and could be arrested.  On the surface this sounds like big government doing a bit of "union busting", but the reality is that it really improved things for the workers in the timber industry and set new industry standards going forward.  
The 8 hour wok day was instituted, sanitary living conditions in the logging camps were enforced, safety practices were instituted to prevent daily deaths and injuries.  In short, it worked.  Spruce production skyrocketed and the timber industry was meeting the Army's quota!  The soldiers in the Spruce Division even benefited.  The soldiers didn't have to fight in the trenches of France and they were paid their regular, low Army salary with additional money paid by the timber companies to bring their wages up to the same level as the civilian loggers.  It was a great deal for everyone (except maybe the timber barons).
After the war was over, the U.S. Army Spruce Division was disbanded, but the LLLL continued on until 1938 as the worker's advocate and "union".


The LLLL pin that I have is one of the original pins that would have been given to the new worker who had just swore his oath and "joined".  
The pin was made by the Whitehead and Hoag Company of Newark, New Jersey, and issued by the U.S. Army's, LLLL.

Let's take a closer look at this beautiful and amazing bit of WW1 history:

















No comments: