Spruce Production Division

Exhibit: Clark Kinsey and the Documentation of the Pacific Northwest Logging Industry

Spruce Division soldiers and Model T Ford

Spruce Division soldiers and Model T Ford, ca. 1918. Special Collections, UW Libraries, C. Kinsey 4577

The Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W. or Wobblies) were one of several pro-union groups that sprang up in the logging camps just prior to World War I. In July of 1917, a three-month strike slowed production, and when the pro-union workers returned to work in September, they continued a work slow-down that caused a shortage of spruce for airplane production. The government decided to intervene and sent Colonel Brice P. Disque to try to resolve the situation. Disque proposed a kind of government-sponsored company union, to be known as the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen (LLLL), or simply the 4Ls. All parties pledged to “support this country against enemies, both foreign and domestic.” In Disque’s mind, the domestic enemy was the I.W.W. The new group met with disapproval from both sides of the labor-management spectrum, but within six months the persuasive abilities of Colonel Disque and new converts among both labor and management led to almost all the owners and over 100,000 woods workers joining the Legion. Still there were not enough workers in the woods, and with the United States entering World War I, more spruce was needed for airplane production. So Colonel Disque organized the Spruce Production Division in November of 1917. The division was transferred to the Bureau of Aircraft Production (BAP) in May 1918. This military division was part of the Army Signal Corps, and its soldiers were assigned to cutting spruce and bringing the logs to the mills. In theory, the soldiers would be experienced loggers; in practice, many had no experience in the woods or any other type of hard, physical labor. However, they worked hard and spruce production increased to adequate levels. The Spruce Production Division was demobilized on August 31, 1919. The 4Ls died out in the Great Depression and the New Deal era of President Roosevelt.