In the year 1785 a French nobleman and botanist F. Andre Michaux and his father, also named Andre, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to North America. For 20 years they traveled far and wide with special emphasis on classifying forest trees and plants. Then in 1817 the son returned to North America and was alarmed at the extensive destruction of trees and forests caused by logging and uncontrolled fires. In 1855, desperate to help stop the devastation, F. Andre Michaux left a legacy of $12,000 to be used to promote the science-based or "silvicultural" management of Pennsylvania forests. In the year 1877 a noted medical doctor and botany professor, Dr. Joseph T. Rothrock, was chosen as the Michaux Lecturer. The purpose of the lectures was to establish an understanding of forestry, especially in Pennsylvania.
From 1877-1894, on nearly every Sunday afternoon in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, Dr. Rothrock eloquently and persistently promoted a new vision for forestry by drawing attention to the grave ecological effects of present practices. On a buckboard wagon pulled by two horses and carrying a camera and lantern slide projector, he traveled far and wide from lecture to lecture. Slides illuminated by an oil-burning lantern showed the flames and smoke of the fires consuming vast acreages of Pennsylvania forests and trees. Other slides showed the devastation caused by harvesting trees without further care for the site, also known as cut out and get out practices. The Michaux Lectures became very popular and led to a grass roots effort to promote sustainable forestry practices on a statewide basis. The Pennsylvania Forestry Association, the only forestry organization in the nation, was established from this populist base of concern in 1886. Rothrock was elected as the Association's first president. One of its goals was to establish a state agency to deal with the widespread forest devastation.
During the 119 years since the beginning of the Michaux Lectures in 1877, the Rothrock supporters have become uncountable. These supporters from 1877 to the present have rehabilitated, conserved, and preserved the forests of Pennsylvania while still putting them to good use and protecting the environment. The Jewel of Pennsylvania book is an accurate, detailed record of the Pennsylvania state forest system.
Today, the rehabilitated and protected forests of Pennsylvania are vital to everyone for pure air, pure water, wholesome recreation, and an adequate supply of wood products.