David J. Weber, Book Reviw Editor
Mills and Markets: A History of the Pacific Coast Lumber Industry to 1900. By Thomas R. Cox. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1974. Bibliography. Illustrations. Index. Notes. 332 pages. $17.50.
Reviewed by Edwin T. Coman, Jr., former assistant professor of business history, Stanford Graduate School of Business and author of Time, Tide and Timber, A Century of Pope & Talbot.
Thomas Cox, Professor of History at San Diego State University, has made a major contribution to the study of Pacific Coast business. It is fortunate that he has undertaken this study while records of the concerns are available and a few of the individuals who were active in the early lumber trade are still living. His copious footnotes are evidence of the diligence with which he has located primary source material in company records, correspondence and contemporary accounts to make this work a definitive source of information on an industry which was the mainstay of many a small community on the Pacific Coast and was often the only source of income. The accounts of the unsuccessful attempts to stabilize the industry emphasize both the rugged individualism of the lumbermen and their almost perennial shortage of working capital.
It was wise of the author to set his cut-off date at 1900. After that date a gradually accelerating change took place in the lumber industry. The cargo trade began to decline and had far less significance after the 1930 depression and the rise of the rail trade marked the end of the dominance of San Francisco.
There is almost nothing to criticize in this study and my remarks are largely on the brevity of treatment of a few. aspects of the subject. I wish that a bit more could have been included on the contribution of the logger, that such men as E. C. Brehm and E. S. “Doc” Grammer could have been treated in more detail. While the heyday of the steam schooner was from 1900 to 1930, it was an important means of communication with the small coastal towns in this roadless period. Not only did the steam schooners bring supplies and passengers to these towns but they were a form of investment for the little people in the San Francisco Bay region. Clerks and schoolteachers bought 1/64s in these vessels and often made a good profit after one or two voyages. These are but very minor complaints about a most excellent book, one which is recommended as required reading for any student of the business history of the West.