Historic Photograph Collections
Brice P. Disque photographs, c. 1912-1950s
Collection number: PH159
Extent: 2 linear ft. (10 containers)
Image shown: "Detail view of riving 4056-foot log, showing use of Griffith jack, wedges and fibre-cutting iron, brush and timber back. Near Raymond, WA, Sept. 1918," Spruce Production Division operations. Photo by Cress-Dale of Seattle. Brice P. Disque photographs, PH159_2_16, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299.
General Brice Pursell Disque (1879-1960) led the monumental Northwest spruce production program to supply lumber for military aircraft, 1917-1919. Eight of the nine albums in the collection are official Army documentation of construction of logging camps, mills, logging roads and railroads; camp life and the civilians and military personnel engaged in the project; and timber felling, transport, and milling operations. The collection provides an unparalleled view of the scope and operations of the Spruce Production Division and the Spruce Production Corporation.
Preferred citation: [Identification of item], Brice P. Disque photographs, PH159-[item number], Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299.
Image shown: "Soldier loggers, mostly sent in from the little pine woods of Carolina and Georgia--no idea at all of the Pacific Northwest" gathered here at the messhalls at Camp IA in Clatsop County, served in Spruce Production Division operations under Disque. Photographer unknown. Brice P. Disque photographs, PH159_9_36_1, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299.
General Brice Pursell Disque (1879-1960) is best remembered for his distinguished service as the U.S. Army officer in charge of the Spruce Production Division of the Bureau of Aircraft Production, and as the President of the United States Spruce Production Corporation, 1917-1919. Under his leadership the chaos that characterized seasonal spruce production in the Pacific Northwest was transformed into an orderly operation. A high degree of organization was necessary to meet the needs of the United States and allied nations for ship and railway timber, commercial lumber, shingles and aircraft frames.
Many Northwest loggers had been recruited for the Forestry Engineer regiments in Europe, and the IWW was organizing those remaining. Timber workers faced terrible hardship, dangerous work, and appalling living conditions that offset the patriotism evident elsewhere in the country and led in the summer of 1917 to an IWW lumber strike. As a civilian acting under Gen. Pershing's orders, Disque investigated the Northwest logging situation and determined that military crews could increase production as they remained neutral in the labor dispute. The Spruce Production Division was established in November 1917. Disque was reinstated in the Army and promoted to colonel.
Image shown: A civilian's team hauls a sled along a muddy road in Spruce Production Division operations. Photographer unknown. Brice P. Disque photographs, PH159_9_64_1, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299.
Disque recruited University of Washington president Henry Suzzalo, mediator Carleton H. Parker, and I.A.B. Scherer, an anti-Wobbly from the Council of National Defense, to resolve the labor problems. Disque used unskilled Army soldiers to resume work in the woods, and with Parker developed a joint pool of civilian loggers and Army workers to get the work done efficiently, under government oversight. Their Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen (Four Ls) was established in Oct. 1917, to ensure a decent work environment, ramp up production, and undermine the IWW. Based on cooperation, nationalism, anti-Bolshevik sentiment and mutual prosperity, the Four L flourished, bolstered by active publicity and recruiting campaigns in the Four L Bulletin and The Lumberjack. It grew to a membership of 110,000 at the end of WWI but foundered during the Depression.
Under the auspices of the Signal Corps, Vancouver Barracks became the operational center and the site of the primary cut-up plant. In the fifteen months of its existence, the Spruce Production Division accomplished an extraordinary amount. Thirteen railroads were built in Oregon and Washington providing 130 miles of track, and motorized fleets traveled on corduroy and plank roads hewed through the forests. Sixty camps and a number of cutting-up plants were constructed and made operational. Spruce production increased nearly 5,000 percent in a year, eventually yielding 141 million board feet. Following the Armistice in November 1918, the Spruce Production Division was disbanded. The railroads and accessible timber stands, and the functional labor relations, remained, and provided a foundation for solid commercial timber production in the Northwest. The interest in the use of aircraft established the new Boeing Corporation as a mainstay of the economy of Washington. A Congressional investigation in 1919 examined charges of corruption and favoritism, and the History of Spruce Production Division, United States Army and United States Spruce Production Corporation played a part in exonerating Disque. For his service with the Spruce Production Division Disque was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
Disque had a lengthy military career that included early service in the Philippines, where he demonstrated an ability to manage labor disputes effectively. In 1912 Disque was assigned to Troop A of the First Squadron of the Ohio Cavalry. From Dec. 1916 to Aug. 1917, he served as Warden of the Michigan State Prison at Jackson, using his spruce production experience to introduce healthful conditions, recreation and industrial training to the inmates during his nine-month tenure. He published an article, "Prison Progress," in the Atlantic Monthly in 1922, detailing his success and his conviction about the need to rehabilitate inmates. Disque returned to military service in 1917.
In his civil career, General Disque served as president of a number of corporations such as the Anthracite Equipment Corporation, G. Amsinck and Co., and the Sulphide Ore Process Company. He also served on various private and public boards and commissions such as the Anthracite Institute and the Solid Fuels Administration for War. He contributed a piece to Edward R. Murrow's series, "This I Believe." One son, Brice Disque Jr., is an author. General Disque died in 1960.
Mickelson, Eric. "The Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumberman: The origins of the world's largest company union and how it conducted business," Seattle General Strike Project, 1999. Formerly available http://faculty.washington.edu/gregoryj/strike/mickelson.htm
United States Spruce Production Corporation. History of Spruce Production Division, United States Army and United States Spruce Production Corporation. Portland, Or., 1920?.
Williams, Gerald W. "The Spruce Production Division," Forest History Today , Spring 1999. Formerly available www.lib.duke.edu/forest/Publications/FHT/FHTSpring1999/fhtspruce.pdf
The collection consists of nine albums and some loose images. Eight of the albums are official U.S. Army documentation of the spruce production effort, and include many photographs by Prentiss, some by Kinsey, and some by Cress-Dale. A ninth album holds snapshots of a cavalry encampment in Ohio in 1912. Miscellaneous images include spruce production, inmate recreation and general scenes of Jackson Prison, and scenes related to Disque's later life.
Image numbering is composed of the collection number, the album number, and the page number: PH159_9_34
Spruce Production albums:
- PH159-1: Officers, Spruce Production Division, US Army. [Portraits, identified.] Date: 1918. By: Various. Loc: Pacific Northwest.
- PH159-2: Spruce Production Division, US Army Air Service Aircraft Production album. Warren Spruce Co. Operations in Willapa Bay . [incl. Prentiss photos] Date: 1918. By: Various. Loc: Pacific Northwest.
- PH159-3: Spruce Production Division, US Army Air Service Aircraft Production album. Warren Spruce Co. Operations in Yaquina and Alsea . [incl. Prentiss photos] Date: 1918. By: Various. Loc: Pacific Northwest.
- PH159-4: Spruce Production Division, US Army Air Service Aircraft Production album. [Warren Spruce Co., Monarch Mill, Toledo; incl. Prentiss photos] Date: 1918. By: Various. Loc: Pacific Northwest.
- PH159-5: Spruce Production Division, US Army Air Service Aircraft Production album. Progress SPDRR [various lines; incl. Prentiss photos] Date: 1918. By: Various. Loc: Pacific Northwest.
- PH159-7: Spruce Production Division, US Army Air Service Aircraft Production album. [Nasel River, WA ; incl. Prentiss photos] Date: 1918. By: Various. Loc: Pacific Northwest.
- PH159-8: Spruce Production Division, US Army Air Service Aircraft Production album. Progress on construction of cut-up plants. [incl. Prentiss photos] Date: 1918. By: Various. Loc: Pacific Northwest.
- PH159-9: Official US Army photographs [Spruce Production Division, US Army Air Service Aircraft Production album. Incl. Warren Spruce Co. operations] Date: 1918. By: Various. Loc: Pacific Northwest.
- PH159-6: Troop A, 1st Squadron Ohio Cavalry Camp at Novelty, Ohio, August 1912 Date: 1912 Aug. By: Disque, Brice Pursell (1879-1960). Loc: Ohio.
- Box 10: [Misc. photos of WW1 aircraft production; Jackson Prison, MI; Pinnacle Club; offprint w/colored portrait of Disque.] Date: 1918. By: Various. Loc: Various.
The Brice P. Disque papers are housed in Manuscripts as Coll. 115. The University of Washington also has a Disque collection related to the spruce industry. The National Archives holds records related to the spruce production in groups 18.4.3 and 18.7.9. Manuscripts written by a son, Brice P. Disque Jr., are housed in Manuscripts as Ax 291.
Publication rights: Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish images must be submitted to the Photographs Curator of Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.
Access restrictions: None.
Provenance: The collection was donated by Gordon Disque, son of Gen. Disque, in 1965.
Processed by: Normandy S. Helmer
Date Completed: December 2005