Gifford Pinchot and the Old Timers (Volume I)

In 2005, six tattered blue boxes were unearthed at the Gifford Pinchot Collection at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Inside were five thousand pages of hand-written letters, photographs, music, poetry, and vivid descriptions of extensive work carried out by some of America’s earliest, professionally trained, natural resource conservation professionals. The boxes were labeled “The Old Timers.” Penned between the years 1937-1941 by 225 men and women who served under President Theodore Roosevelt and first Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, the narratives offer a mirror back to the America as it once was and a guidebook for the road ahead.

The fascinating personal narratives found in the Old Timers Collection describes the birthing of an environmental agency, the U.S. Forest Service, through the training of individuals with a virtuous vision of public service. The narratives contain tales of extreme hardship, on-the-ground problem solving, interactions with cattlemen, miners, and loggers, as well as first-hand accounts of challenges in which a Forest Ranger turned confrontation into cooperation, gratitude, and respect. The lives of the “Old Timers,” as Gifford Pinchot called them, were not easy but a life of service to the American public and to the natural world was the best life once could imagine. Each was honored to serve and to be given an opportunity to find profound meaning in a time of struggle.

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