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Louisiana Trade Token Articles
  • Lumber Mill and Sawmill Tokens
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  • Louisiana Lumber Mill and Sawmill Tokens

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    One of the more common usages of tokens was by Lumber Mill Commissaries. Often the sawmill community consisted of only the mill, company offices, workers' housing, and the commissary.

    This commissary frequently became the hub of social activity in the community, containing the post office and often being host to church services.Common commissary practices used by most lumber companies were designed to recover as much of the employee's wages as possible.

    Many mills paid laborers daily in tokens that could be used in the company owned commissary. Usually these tokens were exchanged for cash either weekly or monthly.

    Some companies would only pay cash should an employee accept a discount of between five and twenty percent. Other mills paid their workers in cash, but if an employee needed an advance against his wages he was given tokens.

    Sometimes to get some cash, workers would sell the tokens to other merchants or individuals at a discount. In an effort to thwart this, many lumber mill owners placed such terms as "not transferable" on their script. Others issued their tokens in denominations of 4, 8, 20, etc. These would be redeemed for 5, 10, 25, etc. if the bearer accepted merchandise, but the 20% discount applied if the bearer requested cash. Apparently some businessmen in the west-central part of the state developed another scheme, since a number of tokens bear wording such as "24 months after demand we promise to pay bearer" or something similar.

    Cane River Lumber Co. Chopin, LA Good For 5 Cents In Trade
    Cane River Lumber Co.
    1890s Chopin, LA

    The Lumber Industry in Louisiana

    The development of the lumber industry in Louisiana began in the period following the Civil War. There was a great demand for lumber to rebuild the war-torn areas of the South as well as to supply the industrial revolution taking place in the North.

    Early sawmills relied on independent loggers for their supply of logs, but beginning in the 1880s there was a gradual shift to mill-owned timber lands. It was at this time that northern lumbermen began to eye with interest the vast possibilities of the Louisiana forest. Large scale operations could effectively be met by purchasing timberland on a massive scale, and by the 1890s many mills in Louisiana were owned and operated by large firms.

    The Golden Age of lumbering in Louisiana was from 1900 to 1920, and in 1914 Louisiana led the nation in lumber production. Longleaf yellow pine was abundant throughout the state. The chief demand for lumber was for construction, telegraph poles, railroad ties, and furniture manufacturing. Ship building was also undergoing revolutionary changes. One advance, the fireproofing of wooden decks, created a unique relationship between southwest Louisiana and the United States Navy. Navy purchasing agents, searching the nation for a timber that would readily absorb fire retardant chemicals, discovered that Louisiana longleaf yellow pine served this purpose well. The pitch from these trees also performed well as a waterproof sealant. This led to a branch of the industry known as the "Naval Store."

    In addition to pine, Louisiana sawmills also cut oak, ash, gum, and cypress as well as many other woods. The milling of cypress had significant economic importance to the southeastern region of the state. Cypress was used principally for the manufacture of shingles and cisterns. The logging of cypress was done in the fall and early winter months before the annual spring rains. With the coming of the spring floods the logs were floated out of the swamp through creeks or specially-dug canals to the mill site.

    Zenoria Lumber Company - Zenoria, LA Bi Metal Lumber Company Token
    Zenoria Lumber Company, Inc
    Zenoria, LA

    Lumbering, from the cutting of the tree to the stacking of the lumber, was a difficult process. Most of the sawmills in Louisiana had two centers of activity: the forest camp, where trees were cut and trimmed; and the mill site, where the logs were converted into lumber. A common method of handling the logs was by means of a lumber railroad, also known as a dummy line or a tram road. This usually consisted of a "permanent" railroad track and spur lines extending into the forest, but sometimes temporary sections of track would be laid and moved as the timber was cut. Fanning out from the spurs were skidding roads, over which huge high-wheeled carts drawn by mules or oxen would drag logs to the tracks. Once the logs reached the mill, they were usually dumped into a mill pond. They were then guided to a log slip, where a chain or cable pulled them to the saw carriage. Gang and circular saws greatly reduced production costs, and in 1889 the band saw was used for the first time.

    In 1913, all forest lands were subject to a general property tax. This tax was assessed on land and timber, resulting in an acceleration of timber cutting. These tax laws did not make it practical for landowners to reforest, and it was not until 1944 that this tax burden was alleviated. Some reforestation did occur prior to this time, but much of the credit must be given to Henry Hardtner of the Urania Lumber Company for its pioneer reforestation and conservation activities. Without his efforts and efforts by many other persons, Louisiana forests might not be as developed as they are today.

    Catalog of Lumber Company Store Tokens!

    Our Louisiana Trade Tokens Catalog contains all known Louisiana Lumber Tokens. The two books listed below are excellent books written by Terry Trantow. One in 1978 and a second edition in 1998. The 1st edition has long been out of print and for the most part out of date. However if you get a chance to own a copy by all means do so. Both edition's can still be found at times on eBay.

    Search for the Louisiana Catalog and the 2 Lumber Token Books mentioned below by clicking Here!

    Catalogue of lumber company store tokens
    by Terry N Trantow
    270 pages Publisher: Trantow (1978)
    ASIN: B0006DY15G Availability: Out of Print

    Catalogue of lumber company store tokens
    by Terry N Trantow
    A catalog of the tokens, medals, scrip, and paper money used by logging and lumber companies, naval store companies, and related wood product operations.
    578 pages Publisher: National Scrip Collectors Association; 2nd edition (1998)
    ASIN: B0006FCUNY Availability: Out of Print

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