Great Lakes lumber on the Great Plains: The Laird, Norton Lumber Company in South Dakota
The Great Plains lacked the resource settlers required to create a built environment that met their cultural needs. That resource was lumber. Late nineteenth century migration to the Plains occurred concurrently with growth in the Great Lakes lumber industry. The Plains needed lumber and the lumber industry needed a market. This study accepts the thesis suggested by many lumber industry historians, that Great Lakes lumber reached the Plains. But no single study has isolated a region of the Plains and looked at the origins, distribution, or impact of the lumber that arrived there. This study isolates a portion of the Plains, east central South Dakota, as well as a Great Lakes lumber producing region, Wisconsin's Chippewa Valley. It examines the pattern and process by which lumber reached and was distributed in South Dakota. The Great Dakota Boom, 1878 to 1887, and the Laird, Norton Lumber Company, Winona, Minnesota, provide the focus for this study. The pattern of Laird, Norton's lumber distribution in Dakota indicates that lumber companies needed railroads to enter a territory before they did. Laird, Norton then followed settlers across southern Dakota as they arrived on the trains. The eastern portions of Dakota were settled first, thus the early lumber yards were found there. As settlement moved west, so did the lumber yards. In the process older yards in the east were closed. As for the process by which it sold lumber in Dakota, Laird, Norton hired agents, it minimized advertising costs, and insisted that lumber be sold only for cash. The company also resolved competitive situations with pools and price fixing, it obtained regular independent customers, and it attempted to keep its yards and independent customers well stocked. The Great Dakota Boom expired between 1886 and 1889. But prior to its demise, Laird, Norton and its competitors sent millions, of board feet of lumber to Dakota. The result was the region's first built environment. Indeed, the result establishes that, at least for the regions studied, Great Lakes lumber reached, and had a substantial impact on the Great Plains.
John Nunn Vogel,
"Great Lakes lumber on the Great Plains: The Laird, Norton Lumber Company in South Dakota"
(January 1, 1989).
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