Wednesday, May 25, 2011

From the Notepad #2: Kaul Lumber Company

For today's "From the Notepad," the vintage piece of notepad paper is from Kaul Lumber Co. in Birmingham, Alabama. The Kaul nameplate is bookended by the dates 1887 and 1936, which must have been its years of incorporation at that point.

Also printed on the sheet: "Wholesalers to the trade in lumber products of all kinds and species!" and "J.B. Hutter, Phone 1434 -- 11 Harrison Street, Lynchburg, Virginia."

So, Hutter was Kaul's sales representative in Lynchburg and this is a sheet from his personalized notepad. Hutter must not have been with Kaul Lumber for long after this sheet was printed, however, because a 1937 issue of American Lumberman states: "JB Hutter of Lynchburg, Va., has become sales representative of Mixer & Co., Buffalo, in Virginia. Mr. Hutter has been with the Kaul Lumber Co., Birmingham, Ala., for several years."

Kaul Lumber Co. has an interesting history that includes a strong Pennsylvania connection and a very minor York connection. Here goes:
  • John Kaul Sr. was born in Ebersberg, Bavaria, on June 18, 1814.1 He left Bavaria in 1844 and eventually joined other colonists from his native country in St. Marys, Pennsylvania. He built a log house there and married Kunegunda Brindle in September 1844.2
  • One the many children of John and Kunegunda was Andrew Kaul, who was born July 15, 1845, in St. Marys. After finishing his schooling, Andrew became involved in the lumber trade:
    During the following year [1863] he worked for Joseph Lanzel and Peter Kleixner, who were getting out square timber on the Sinnemahoning. In 1864 he and Mr. Lanzel took a contract to supply square timber to Col. Noyes and Simon Cameron, which contract they completed successfully, by delivering their rafts at Marietta, Penn. This partnership was continued, following up the first by a second contract, to cut and peel pine logs for Mr. Bryan of Philadelphia. This necessitated the employment of a number of men, and proved very successful. In 1865 their operations were transferred to West Creek, where they were the pioneers of the woods. Their contract was with Herdick, Lentz & White of Williamsport.3
    Andrew Kaul married Walburga Lanzel in 1865 and their first child was John Lanzel Kaul, who was born in October 1866 and went on to serve as president of Kaul Lumber Co. Andrew, meanwhile, returned to St. Marys in 1868 and purchased some pine lands east of there, including some acreage from Sebastian Weis of York, Pa.
  • And so John Lanzel Kaul (pictured at right), the grandson of John Kaul Sr. of Bavaria, followed his father, Andrew Kaul, into the lumber trade. In Alabama, he eventually took the idea of a completely contained industry to its fullest conclusion by establishing Kaulton, a company town.4

    The Birmingham Public Library's department of archives and manuscripts has the following description of how Kaul built his lumber empire in Alabama:
    John Kaul learned the lumber business by working in his father’s companies in his native Pennsylvania, and in 1889 he toured the South searching for investments. He bought part interest, and later full interest, in the Sample Lumber Company at Hollins, Alabama. In 1902, he changed the company’s name to the Kaul Lumber Company and incorporated the Kaul Land and Lumber Company, which would buy and hold land. The mill at Hollins was shut down in 1911. In 1912, near the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the company built its new mill and company town. The town of Kaulton, with its wide lots, churches, clubs, and well designed houses, was a model of what owner John Kaul called the “new welfare emphasis in the southern lumber industry.”
    None of it lasted very long, though. John Lanzel Kaul died in 1931.5 The company was taken over by a group of trustees, including John's son, Hugh Kaul.6 Also that year, Kaulton's mill closed down. (Kaul Lumber Co., however, continued to operate until the mid-1960s.)

    Few paper records remain of Kaulton, the mill and its employees, according to the Birmingham Public Library. There are, however, a Kaulton Road, Kaulton Park7 and Kaulton Field near the southern edge of Tuscaloosa, not far from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

    Some interesting images of Kaulton and the mill can be seen on the The Encyclopedia of Alabama website (specifically, images 1, 2, 3, 10, 12 and 13 in the gallery).

1. Source: "History of the counties of McKean, Elk, and Forest, Pennsylvania, with biographical selections," published in 1890 by J.H. Beers & Co. This text states that John Kaul Sr. was born in "Elbersberg." But, as there is not a town with that name in Bavaria, to the best of my knowledge, I am assuming that Ebersberg is correct.
2. Brindle had also traveled from Ebersberg to St. Marys in 1844, with a party of three families. According to the aforementioned 1890 volume: "It was understood, however, that on her arrival here, she should become the wife of John Kaul, Sr., in accordance with the betrothal in their native land, and, as related above, she was married to him in the fall of the year they arrived."
3. The source, again, is "History of the counties of McKean, Elk, and Forest, Pennsylvania, with biographical selections."
4. Also of note on Wikipedia: List of company towns, list of company towns in Alabama and the entry on welfare capitalism/industrial paternalism.
5. For more on the early life of John Lanzel Kaul, I recommend "American lumbermen:
the personal history and public and business achievements of one hundred eminent lumbermen of the United States," which was published in 1906 and is available as a Google eBook. The chapter on Kaul discusses his education at Rock Hill College in Baltimore, his early business experience, his start with Sample Lumber Company, his involvement with First National Bank of Birmingham, his marriage to Virginia Roy Head (the daughter of a judge), and his membership in the Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo (a fraternal organization of lumbermen featuring silly names, some of which are derived from Lewis Carroll works).
6. Hugh Kaul went on to become a founder, director and president of the Alabama Forestry Association, according to He also served four terms in the Alabama legislature and had a major hand in the Southern Longleaf Pine (aka Pinus palustris) being named Alabama's state tree.
7. Here are some pictures from an April 2009 community clean-up of Kaulton Park.

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