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The Success Stories of Two Lumber Kings

In: Business and Management

Submitted By Maha8888
Words 1993
Pages 8
The success stories of early North American industrialists were often characterized as being about conquest through resourcefulness and natural ability. John Rudolphus Booth and Frederick Weyerhaeuser both came from an agrarian lifestyle and yet managed to evolve into “lumber kings” that prospered in the lumber industry through amassing significant amounts of knowledge about the trade. They both enjoyed “outside” work more than dealing with managerial problems and they were described as being very private people. However, John R. Booth was much more reticent and self-sufficient than Frederick Weyerhaeuser when it came to business whereas, Weyerhaeuser was very reliant on relationships with other people throughout his career. Therefore, while both of their careers seem incredibly similar at times, it was their personal characteristics and individual modus operandi that accounted for the disparities in their vocations.
For instance, Weyerhaeuser, from the very beginning showed a tendency to move forward in business through networking and connections whereas, John R. Booth preferred to be self-supporting and achieving through preserving. In 1856, after moving to the Coal Valley Township in Rock Island County, Illinois, Weyerhaeuser began working in a small lumberyard attached to the Rock Island and sawmill . This was where he met F.C.A Denkmann who was also a German born immigrant much like Weyerhaeuser himself. They formed a friendship that later on changed into a family relationship as they became double brother-in-laws. Weyerhaeuser became partners with Denkmann and combined their savings to get a surprising amount of capital that allowed them to purchase the mill they worked at. The owner, who at the time was looking for buyers, gladly sold it to them because of the remarkable reputation they had built up for themselves. In the partnership, Denkmann looked after the management of the mills whereas Weyerhaeuser was the general “outside man” which allowed him to learn more about the lumber industry and make more connections with businessmen in the same industry. In contrast to Weyerhaeuser’s method of benefitting from extensive network connections, Booth started his business through the capital he accumulated in wages and gradually expanded by building up a reputation for excellence in his work. He was employed to help with the construction of the Loamy sawmill of which he was appointed manager after one year. In 1854, after moving to Ottawa, he bought a machine shop with the money he had saved from his post as manager. Unfortunately, after eight months, the shop was destroyed by fire. Still he persevered and bought a mill in which he began business operations. However, after the expiry of the first year the proprietor asked for double the rent money, which prompted Booth to leave the mill. He still persisted and managed to find another small mill on which he secured a lease for ten years and started doing business at a very small scale with a single saw. His luck changed when Ottawa became the capital of Canada and in 1859 he won a coveted contract to supply lumber and timber for the new Parliament Buildings that needed to be built. He soon gained a credible reputation that allowed him to finally start being successful. Ergo, Booth favored being independent and managed to succeed through sheer determination, whereas Weyerhaeuser acquired his success through the contacts he made.
Furthermore, while Booth prospered through continuous innovation and investment in different ventures, Weyerhaeuser received his good fortune through the success of enterprises he was associated with. For example, Booth was credited with introducing horses instead of oxen in skidding logs to water. This was a revolutionary change that was later adopted by many other logging camps and organizations since horses are much stronger and faster than oxen. Moreover, he built his own docks, a lumber storage and distribution centre, a sales office, a planning mill and a box factory. His dependence on supplies was further reduced when he continued gathering timber limits during the economic downturn of 1874 to 1876. Soon he was recognized as “the only Canadian lumberman at the time that manufactured his own lumber in his own American mill.” In addition, he started investing in railways since they offered his lumber business major advantages, such as cheaper labor costs on timber drives, elimination of dependency of shipping on seasonal changes, and speed. This made his operations much more efficient. Booth was also good at recognizing opportunities in new ventures which is why he rescued the Canada Atlantic Railway when it was experiencing financial difficulties while under construction in 1878. He completed the 500 miles of railway and helped the organization recover from their financial difficulties. He continued developing the railway trade by building grain elevators, purchasing steamships and buying freight such as wheat for the lines. The railway opened up a vast new country for both him and everyone else. In contrast, Weyerhaeuser gained most of his success from the “Weyerhaeuser Syndicate.” This was a group of Midwestern timber firms with almost a 100 partners that did not know the business of each other. Through the Weyerhaeuser Syndicate, Frederick Weyerhaeuser’s vast holdings were extended. Instead of developing logging operations on his own, Weyerhaeuser began earning controlling interests in active mills through the syndicate. He became the director and practical head of numerous companies that operated in some department of the lumber business. However, Weyerhaeuser owned practically nothing as an individual and he did not invest in various kinds of ventures and properties like Booth did. Therefore, Weyerhaeuser’s success came simply through association while Booth innovated and invested in a variety of different ventures to ensure his success. Accordingly, while both Booth and Weyerhaeuser were philanthropists, the contributions they made to their community – other than the donations to charity – were significantly different. Weyerhaeuser often contributed to the communities he was a part of by looking out for other people’s best interest. However, Booth contributed for both personal reasons as well as social interest. For instance, Booth contributed significantly to Ottawa’s landscape and regional economy. This was probably because of his astute understanding of Ottawa’s regional economy and the relationship it had to international trade. This caused him to delve into a number of different projects that not only helped his own company thrive but also contributed to significantly to Ottawa. For instance, the construction of the Ottawa Arnprior & Parry Sound Railway, which connected the Capital with Georgian Bay, was primarily accomplished due on Booth’s initiative. This accomplishment not only saved Booth a lot of money and made his business operations efficient but they also helped immediately transform Ottawa into an important grain outlet. In contrast, Weyerhaeuser was much more interested in simply being beneficial to other people. It was considered characteristic of him to share opportunities with others, which allowed him to build a sort of rapport with other businessmen that often gave him power. This was the reason why he was often elected as the leader of a variety of different organizations. For example, in 1804 his firm bought timberlands along the Chippewa River (a popular investment at the time). However, because of the many businessmen that bought timberlands there, great quantities of logs had to be floated down the river, which caused them to mix together and create confusion about ownership. Frederick Weyerhaeuser proposed organizing a logging company on a cooperative basis that would help protect their mutual interests, leading to the creation of the Mississippi River Logging Company. Thus, Weyerhaeuser helped solve a problem that did not majorly benefit or interest him. In 1872, Weyerhaeuser was elected president of the company simply because of the honesty of his character and the trust people had come to place in him. Thus, while Booth needed to be personally invested in order to contribute to the community, Weyerhaeuser simply wanted to be helpful to other people.
In summation, Frederick Weyerhaeuser and John Rudolphus Booth both had careers that, despite being parallel in some aspects, were extremely different simply due to the different ways Weyerhaeuser and Booth conducted business. Weyerhaeuser gained much of his success through his personality, the many contacts he made and the trust these contacts placed in him. Booth, on the other hand, gained his success through perseverance, innovation, and hard work. However, both of their success stories highlight the perception of the North American industrialist’s ability to triumph through natural skill or ability that was characteristic of that time.

Bibliography:
[Anonymous]. “Great Canadian Passes”, Toronto Globe. December 9, 1925. P.1 p. 32.
[Anonymous]. “John Rudolphus Booth”, http://www.twu.ca/sites/laurentian/heritage/jrbooth.html.
[Anonymous]. “Nestor of Lumbermen and Pioneer Financier was Near Century Mark”, Toronto Daily Star. December 9, 1924. P. 8. [Anonymous]. New York Times. April 5, 1914. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res= F10D13FA3D5E13738DDDAC0894DC405B848DF1D3.
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[ 10 ]. [Anonymous], “Nestor of Lumbermen and Pioneer Financier was Near Century Mark”, p. 8.
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[ 14 ]. Jamie Bendickson, “Booth, John Rudolphus”, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=7900 [ 15 ]. Jamie Bendickson, “Booth, John Rudolphus”, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=7900 [ 16 ]. Jamie Bendickson, “Booth, John Rudolphus”, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=7900 [ 17 ]. Jamie Bendickson, “Booth, John Rudolphus”, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=7900 [ 18 ]. Jamie Bendickson, “Booth, John Rudolphus”, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=7900 [ 19 ]. [Anonymous], “”Great Canadian Passes”, P.1 p. 32.
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