U.S. Forest Products Lab Centennial Oral History Project

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Established in 1910 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service through the efforts of the newly appointed U.S. Forest Service Chief, Gifford Pinchot, his deputy Overton Price, and the chief of the Office of Wood Utilization, McGarvey Cline; the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory, located in Madison, Wisconsin, became the first research facility of its kind focusing principally on the study and research into the physical properties and resource utilization of wood. Originally residing at 1509 University Avenue on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, now the Materials Science and Engineering Building, the Forest Products Laboratory was comprised of four research divisions: wood preservation, timber testing, wood chemistry and wood technology. Within a short time the Laboratory developed divisions in other research areas in engineering, pathology, wood distillation, and pulp and paper.

Since its founding, the Laboratory has served as the nation’s leading wood research institute. Many of the Laboratory’s significant contributions have included crucial research and cooperative studies with the U.S. Armed Forces during both World War I and World War II, performing experiments on wood for airplane construction; as well as research into box and packaging materials, and charcoal used in gas masks.

More recently, through the inclusion of other research areas, the Laboratory continues to play a significant role in responding to environmental pressures on forest resources by focusing on the study of recycling, developing environmentally friendly technology, and understanding ecosystem-based forest management.

Interview Transcripts

Please note that many of the transcripts within this collection reflect amendments, sometimes significant, provided by the narrator upon review of the initial draft. As such, the transcript of individual oral history interviews may differ from the audio file. To view a verbatim copy of these transcripts please contact the University of Wisconsin-Madison Oral History Program, a part of the UW—Madison Archives.


This project was funded, in part, by the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin and a grant from the Brittingham Foundation.