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100 years ago in the region: Movies, music used to quell labor unrest in logging camps

 (Spokesman-Review archives)
(Spokesman-Review archives)

From our archives, 100 years ago

The region’s lumberjacks were about to get a modern upgrade in logging camp life: movies and music.

The Milwaukee Land Co., which held vast timberlands in the St. Joe country, announced that it was planning to build movie houses in its logging camps.

“It will not be necessary for the woodsmen employed by our company to come to the city to see the latest wrinkle in movie theater attractions,” said Judge A.L. Flewelling, company president. “… We feel they are entitled to amusement and are entitled to the very best. We propose supplying nothing but the highest class of films and constant renewal of program.”

The company also was making a big purchase of record players.

“In each lumber camp, some far from the railroads, you will find this summer the very best phonographs the company could buy,” he said. “… Our boys in the heart of the forest can hear the best bands, the best orchestras, the best singers, the cleverest chatter of the ablest comedians every evening after they are through with work.”

The company was clearly attempting to dispel the image of the logging camp as a primitive, isolated outpost of unremitting drudgery.

“At St. Joe, we have erected a hotel of our employees,” he said. “Every man has a room to himself, a bed to himself and every room is lighted with electricity. The food is first class.”

This was all part of a concerted effort to build a loyal workforce.

“I decided some years ago that if employees were to be made content, they must have good surroundings,” he said. “… There has been some talk of threatened labor trouble among the timber workers … and I will venture right now that there will be no labor trouble in the ranks of the Milwaukee Land Company.”

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