Paper and People: An Illustrated History of Great Lakes Paper and its Successors, 1919-1999
Great Lakes Paper (now Bowater Thunder Bay)has been and remains a mainstay of Thunder Bay and North Western Ontario’s ecnonmy. It was organized in 1919 by two American entrepreneurs, Lewis Alsted and George Seaman, and began operations in 1924 as a groundwood mill. Three years later, E.W. Backus, the legendary Minnesota Lumber Baron, took over one company, initiated its first major expansion, and created a pulp and paper mill that was generally ackowledged to be the worlds most modern. Great Lakes Paper went on to survive crises of the Great Depression, receivership, recognition and World War II without closing its doors. The company responded to the unprecedented post war demand for newsprint in the United States by investing millions of dollars in modernization and expansion. Growth became the byword at Great Lakes Paper. It led to the installation of wider and faster paper-machines in the 1950’s tothe construction of two kraft mills , a stud mill and a waferboard plant by the end of he 1970’s; and to the addtion of a recycle plant, thermomechanical pulping plant and a fifith paper-machine capable of producing 1440 meters of newsprint per minute during the 1990’s. This illistrated history details the evolution and devlopment of Great Lakes Papers from a local Thunder Bay operation to part of an international forest products corporation. It is based on thousands of negatives , slides and photographic prints , takenover fifty year period by professional photographers and donated to the Thunder Bay Historical Musuem Society in 1995 by Avenor, Inc. included here are imiages of trees being felled by axe, hauled from bush by horses and sleighs and driven by river and lake to the mill unsupplimented by pictures of tree harvers, modern grapple skidders and tandem trailer chip trucks. Every operation of the mill is depicted- from hand fed four pocket gridners to thermomechanical pulping plat. Most important of all, the photographs show people at work and at leisure. They document the exceptional relationships that existed between the company and its employees. Throughout the mergers, structural changes and takeovers, the traditions of technological innovation and competitive spirit-ness have allowed the Thunder Bay facility to remain one if the leading pulp and paper complexes North America.
By: Beth Boegh, Roy Piovesana, and Thorold J. Tronrud
Roy Piovesana, is a Canadian teacher and historian. He is one of three children born to Enrico Piovesana and Christina Brescia. His father emigrated from Pasiano Pordenone in 1924 and his mother was a second generation Italian Canadian born in Fort William.
Dr. Tronrud is the past Executive Director of the Thunder Bay Museum. He has taught courses in British, European, and Canadian history since 1979. He has also taught in the field of Museum Studies and Library Science. Dr. Tronrud has been the editor of the journal Ontario History since 2005 and is also the managing editor for the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society’s journal Papers & Records.
Published by: Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society