#513) From Stump to Ship (1930)

#513) From Stump to Ship (1930)

OR “The Maine Event”

Directed by Alfred K. Ames and Dr. Howard Kane

Class of 2002

The Plot: The NFR heads up to Machias, Maine for “From Stump to Ship”. Like the title suggests, the film is a documentation of the logging industry in 1930, from the cutting of the trees to its transport down the Machias River, to its preparation in a lumber mill, to its final loading on a boat bound for New York. Filmed by politician Alfred K. Ames, who would often narrate the film during public screenings.

Why It Matters: The NFR gives a rundown, and praises Ames (and Dr. Howard Kane) for “creat[ing] a cinematic record of the lumber industry.” There’s also an essay by Karan Sheldon, New England film archivist and advocate for home movies and amateur films, making her the perfect person to cover “Stump”.

But Does It Really?: Oh yeah. “From Stump to Ship” definitely stands on its own piece of ground compared to other NFR films: a detailed look at the long-gone logging procedures of the 1930s, as well as the kind of presentations Alfred Ames would give to his constituents. Thanks to this 30-minute documentation, I feel wholly qualified to be a 1930s logger; and for that I support this film’s NFR designation.

Everybody Gets One: In addition to owning the Machias Lumber Company, Albert K. Ames was a noted Maine politician, serving three terms in the Maine Senate. While not a professional or amateur filmmaker, Ames was interested in filming the logging process for his future campaign for governor as a way to show people how successful his business was. Fun Fact: the K stands for Kellar.

Wow, That’s Dated: Besides the obvious evolutions in logging technology, Ames mentions one of his employees, “Al Smith, not of New York”, a reference to the former New York Governor of the same name.


Other notes

  • While Ames was the main force behind the film, Washington D.C. physician Howard Kane was recruited to film footage from inside the sawmill. I’m still not sure how or why Kane got involved. While Ames makes several Hitchcock cameos throughout, Howard had to be coerced into his brief on-camera appearances. 
  • What I most appreciate about this narration is that Alfred Ames credits everyone. As each of the loggers makes an appearance, Ames mentions them by name, making sure that these long-gone men get a reprieve from anonymity.
  • The version I watched was the 1985 reconstruction with the original narration intact. This of course reignited my fascination with the Maine accent: Not quite posh New Englander, not quite slurred Bostontian. It always ends up sounding like Jimmy Stewart, or someone warning the teens about the haunted house down the road yonder.
  • I want to know who looked at all these logs travelling down a river and thought, “This would make a great amusement park ride, but it should be themed around the most problematic IP possible.”
  • I have a new goal in life, and it’s to confidently cross a river by walking on moving logs. Your move, Bakhtiari.
  • Did you know that the phrases “high and dry” and “come hell or high water” both come from log driving terms? The things I learn while researching this blog…
  • In the end, while the logging depicted in this film is an impressive undertaking of manpower, you can’t help but be saddened by the massive destruction of our forests. This may be the Lorax’s least favorite movie (besides “The Lorax“).

Legacy

  • A few months after this footage was filmed, Alfred Ames sold 115,000 acres of wood to a paper mill company. While Ames never made another film, William Kane continued his hobby of amateur filmmaking for the rest of his life.
  • Alfred Ames ran for Governor of Maine in 1932, using “From Stump to Ship” on his campaign tour. Ames lost this bid, as well as his subsequent campaign in 1934.
  • Logging is still around, though river log driving was phased out in the ’70s due to environmental/safety hazards. That being said, logging is still one of the most dangerous industries in the U.S., with a fatality rate far higher than the national average.
  • “From Stump to Ship” languished in obscurity until the early ’80s, when the Maine Humanities Council funded a reconstruction of the film, now called “From Stump to Ship: A 1930 Logging Film”. Ames’ original script was found, and actor Tim Sample was brought in to record the narration. More recent screenings have opted to use the original silent film with live narration.

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