Paper from Pine: A New Chapter in Papermaking
Charles Holmes Herty, born 1867, found a way to make paper from pine trees, creating badly needed jobs in the South and savings millions of Northern trees.
When Georgia chemist Charles Holmes Herty found a way to make quality paper from pine trees in 1932, he also founded an industry that brought much-needed jobs to the depression-crippled south.
Less than a year after Charles Herty opened his research lab, a Georgia weekly called the Soperton News printed its March 31, 1933 edition on experimental paper made from southern pine trees. Seven months later, nine other newspapers followed suit.
Herty had championed, cajoled and shepherded a watershed event in the centuries-old history of papermaking. Visionary and entrepreneur, twice president of the American Chemical Society, he expounded an idea which was revolutionary in that time: southern pines could be grown as crops and made into excellent white paper.
For decades the prevailing wisdom held that southern pines were too gummy to be used for anything but cardboard and other brown paper. The forest and white paper industries had been built around the less sappy—and quickly dwindling—hardwoods of the northern United States and Canada. In the precarious economic climate of the 1930s, the paper industry had little incentive to venture elsewhere.
For Herty, the incentive was the Great Depression. His native south had been hard-hit by the stock market crash, bank closings and other financial catastrophes. Many of his fellow southerners knew little but farming and lived hand-to-mouth even in the best of times. The region’s abundant pines would provide an economic boost.
Visit the National Historic Chemical Landmarks to learn more about making paper from pine.
Excerpted with permission, National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program