“American Canopy” – Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation, Erick Rutkow

This is the history of America in terms of trees. At discovery, America was forested from the east coast to the Mississippi River and on some of the westerns lands beyond. The Spanish were interested in gold, but the English needed wood as a structural material. The primary known resource, in America, was tree wood for shipbuilding: planks, masts, and oars. And, the settlers built America with wood: carts, wagons and wheels, buildings, and furniture. Their structures were the first log sided, then framed, shingled, and sided with wood. The forest was harvested to fence fields, and side barns, and homes.

Why do I think the book, “American Canopy”, is interesting?  First of all the title just caught my attention.  “What does the “Canopy” mean, (a tent, a shelter)?  The author Eric Rutkow wrote in such a way that it carries one along almost like reading a novel.  It is a history of America where trees are the vehicle of transport.
The historical perspective is such that I believe the book should be a recommended read in any course of American History!
I learned a great deal about the reason England was predominant in the settlement of North America.  Whereas the Spanish of that era were interested in wealth, gold.  The English people at the time of settlement had exhausted their forest resources, and they could not compete with Spain on the high seas.  American forest resources provided needed masts, and construction material to build wooden ships.  Ships that lead to the defeat the Spanish Armada.
From that thesis, Rutkow goes on.  He continues with trees as a focus of economic value to this day. Think construction and tourism, the California Red Woods, and driving for pleasure through a forested landscape.  His prose makes for a very enjoyable read. 

Book Review by Mac Heebner of State College, PA: Mac is an active volunteer and member.

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