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Erik Visits an American Grave (VII)

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This is the grave of Gifford Pinchot.

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Like most Progressives, Gifford Pinchot’s legacy is deeply complicated. The nation’s first major forester, a process begun with his father felt terrible for all the damage he had caused to the American landscape, Pinchot fought to place some level of regulation over the nation’s forests. This was necessary because the modus operandi of the timber industry was to cut down every tree and move on, beleiving there was always another forest somewhere else and besides, the best way to use the land was to turn into farms anyway. This ideology became challenged with the disastrous experiment to farm the cut-over forests in the Great Lakes region. The Harrison administration placed the first extremely limited attempts to regulate forestry on the books, but it took until Theodore Roosevelt before some kind of larger attempt at forest regulation came to being. Roosevelt named Pinchot the Chief Forester of his newly created U.S. Forest Service in 1905, after Pinchot established the Society for American Foresters in 1900. He served in that position until getting into an argument with Taft’s Secretary of the Interior Richard Ballinger over the latter being a hack for the timber industry. When Taft fired Pinchot, it was the last straw between Roosevelt and Taft, leading to the 1912 Bull Moose run.

But Pinchot definitely did not believe in preserving forests for forests’ sake. Rather, he wanted their efficient use and replanting. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Pinchot was a major supporter of the plan to dam the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park to send water to that city. When John Muir and the Sierra Club challenged this, Pinchot and Roosevelt thought of Muir as a loon. Pinchot was all about the greatest good for the greatest number of people. So one assumes that he would be totally cool with us today flooding his graveyard and sending the water to New York City. Have to be consistent after all.

Pinchot, a prohibitionist, also has some responsibility for Pennsylvania’s ridiculous liquor laws. He was governor when Prohibition was repealed and so led his state to create restrictive laws such as the state-run liquor stores and Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, both of which are still around today. Of course, he’s not responsible for those laws still being so restrictive, but still. He also supported big public power plans while governor, with his pre-TVA calls for major dam systems leading to accusations of socialism.

Gifford Pinchot is buried in Milford Cemetery, Milford, Pennsylvania.

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  • cpinva

    it looks as though it’s out in the middle of nowhere. which, for a foresty kind of guy, I guess makes sense.

    • It’s a small town and the cemetery is kind of outside of it. Actually quite a lovely area, right on the Delaware River.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    “Pinchot, a prohibitionist, also has some responsibility for Pennsylvania’s ridiculous liquor laws. He was governor when Prohibition was repealed and so led his state to create restrictive laws such as the state-run liquor stores…”

    While I normally don’t favor the desecration of grave sites…

    Buying alcohol in PA is the worst. Want to buy wine or hard alcohol? You have to go to a state owned liquor store, which are usually only open M-Sat during extended bankers hours (and most of them make WA’s look like BevMo).

    Want to buy beer?
    Well…how much beer? See, you can go to a separate beer distributor, where they can legally only sell you 12 or more. Wait, you only wanted a six-pack? In that case, any local bar can sell it to you, as long as you’re happy with their selection (whatever’s in the small case up front: start with the “must haves” Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light, Yuengling, Blue Moon…lessee…)…and that’ll be $17, please.

    Meanwhile, in the Godless socialist hellscape of California, you can buy beer wine and hard stuff at any grocery or large drug store.

    • Yeah, it’s truly horrible. I had no idea until I had to start spending time there. I now routinely just buy beer at home and bring it with me.

      • Don Kensler

        Uhhh … Erik, it’s illegal to bring any untaxed alcoholic beverages into PA. People buying duty-free on transatlantic flights into PHL or PIT have found that out when they declare it at customs only to have it confiscated by the LCB. When I was younger and living in South Jersey, people from PA would routinely cross the bridges to buy liquor (cheaper!) or wine (cheaper! plus way better selection!) in the hedonist capital called New Jersey at liquor stores conveniently sited just after the feet of said bridges. Well, the LCB stationed agents in unmarked cars in the parking lots of the stores ready to radio the license plate numbers of PA cars to the PA state cops so they could stop the cars on the PA side of the line, confiscate the hooch and the cars.

        Now this was circa 45 years ago, and I see from the State Stores website they have a good selection of wines (back then Thunderbird and Blue Nun were considered high-end wines in PA), and I hear they’ve brought their prices in line with NJ, so I guess interstate competition has resulted in the system reforming itself.

        • Guess I will have to break the law then.

        • Hogan

          A lot of the modernization has been pushed by UFCW Local 1776. Given that the general attitude in PA government is that prohibition should never have ended, they’re the ones with the greatest stake in expanded hours, more locations and better selection.

  • noturlawyer

    The state wine & spirits stores are good union jobs. Hours at my local store are 9-9, except for Sunday when they are 12-5. The selection is quite impressive, and prices are comparable to other states. Not selling liquor in supermarkets & bodegas is probably somewhat better for public health, too.
    The beer system is idiocy.

    • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

      When I worked in local public health, the biggest problems we had in alcohol control were the bars that were encouraging underage drinking, binging / overserving, and state law which typically pre-empts tighter local controls and gives oversight to the alcohol boards (LCBs/ ABCs) who are typically shills for the beverage & hospitality industry. This is a nationwide problem. Even in liberal cities like SF that are generally very public health-friendly, public health basically gave up trying most alcohol control efforts because the wine industry would thwart them at every turn.

      • The Dark Avenger

        When it comes to violations of the law the Alcohol Beverage Control board here in CA is very quick to act. When I lived in Fresno, there was a case of a local minimart that was selling to underage minors. The ABC closed it down, and had a truck at the store that seized all the alcohol in the store and probably destroyed it, all in the same evening.

  • steeleweed

    Colorado used to have (may still have) as couple of State liquor stores with very limited hours. They were the only places you could buy pure grain alcohol.

    In my grandfather’s day, liquor bottles were distributed without the tax stamps affixed. Liquor stores were given stamps they were supposed to apply when a bottle was sold and I assume they had to buy the stamps to assure the government got it’s cut. Lot of stamps ended up on moonshine. :-D

  • DrDick

    Pinchot was also instrumental in instituting the Forest Service’s aggressive fire suppression policies, whose consequences much of the West is currently suffering from.

    • Yes, although Henry Graves deserves more of the blame.

  • the ordinary fool

    While governor, I believe he was also instrumental in the decline of the Coal and Iron Police. Its members were ostensibly screened by the state, but essentially for many years Pennsylvania rubber stamped anyone the companies proposed. The end result was a violent, quasi-governmental police forced used to terrorize workers.

    J. Warren Madden was a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh before he became the first head of the (Wagner Act-era) National Labor Relations Board. Before that, he served on a commission put together by Pinchot to investigate the organization.

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