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March 19 , 2008

Frederick Weyerhaeuser and the American West


The Weyerhaeuser name looms large in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, and Arkansas, attached to paper mills, cabinet factories, and vast tracts of land, both forested and cut over. Frederick Weyerhaeuser, the man who started the lumber empire, significantly shaped the American economy and landscape from Wisconsin westward in the nineteenth century.

A complex and private man, Weyerhaeuser emigrated from Germany in 1852 at the tender age of eighteen. In just a few years, he would be a prominent lumberman, organizing partnerships among competing companies, rationalizing the business, and then making the largest timberland purchase in the history of the United States.

Author Judith Koll Healey narrates the life of this extraordinary man through newly available resources: his extensive correspondence and journal entries as well as the letters and diaries of family members, friends, and business associates from around the country. She frames Weyerhaeuser’s many commercial opportunities and business decisions within both the family’s internal dynamics and world events: war and unrest, economic upswings and downturns, and western expansion and eastern urbanization. Throughout, Healey offers a thoughtful perspective on his achievements as well as the limitations of his vision for the expansion of the American West.

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