Brice P. Disque commanded the U.S. Army's Spruce Production Division and founded the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen during the First World War. Born in Ohio in 1879, Disque entered the United States Army as a private at the start of the Spanish-American War. By that war's end, he was a lieutenant. After a series of various administrative assignments in the army and a brief stint as head warden of the Michigan State Prison, Disque volunteered for combat in France when the United States entered the First World War. His superiors instead sent him to the Pacific Northwest and charged him with accelerating the cutting of spruce and other trees which the Allies needed to build aircraft. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) had dramatically slowed logging throughout the region with a series of strikes and slowdowns primarily aimed at forcing employers to improve conditions in the logging camps and to institute an eight-hour day. After consulting with employers, the American Federation of Labor (AFL), and members of the Washington Defense Council, Disque decided to use a mixture of force and concessions to fight the IWW. He dispatched a number of soldiers to work as loggers and to harass IWW organizers. He also convinced the War Department to add an eight-hour day requirement to all of its contracts with logging companies in the region.
Disque then founded the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen, an organization which was headed by army officers and which acted as part labor union and part patriotic society. Legion organizers enrolled all of the roughly 20,000 soldiers working as loggers and about 100,000 civilian loggers during the war. All enrollees had to sign a loyalty oath and agree not to strike. Enrollees could be members of the IWW or AFL, but they had to promise not to organize workers into any union other than the legion. Disque's measures substantially increased spruce production in late 1917 and early 1918. After the war, timber executives assumed leadership of the legion and turned it into a conservative, industry-wide company union.
Immediately following the war, the United States Congress investigated charges that Disque and the legion had treated AFL members unfairly and spent too much money to accomplish limited results. Although the hearings tarnished Disque's reputation, Congress nevertheless approved his promotion to brigadier general. Disque drifted in and out of active duty in the 1920s and 1930s, alternating between performing training missions for the army and serving on the board of trustees of various private firms. Disque also served as president of the United States Spruce Production Corporation and as president of the Anthracite Institute, a large trade association, 1929-1933. He served in the Solid Fuels Administration for War during the Second World War. Disque died in 1960.
The largest part of the Bryce P. Disque papers is the United States War Department, Spruce Production Division series. The series includes the correspondence of Disque, his advisors, and other Spruce Division officials from 1917 to 1921. They primarily corresponded with one another and with logging companies, unions, and high-level federal officials. The letters are arranged chronologically, regardless of author and recipient. A partial list of major correspondents is included in the inventory. This series also contains over 200 telegrams between Disque and Major Leadbetter (Disque's liaison to the U.S. Army's top brass and to the Aircraft Production Board), dating from May 1918 to the end of 1920. A few Spruce Division reports and Disque's draft of a history of the division are also in this series.
A smaller series is devoted to materials relating to the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen. This includes correspondence between Disque and the legion's secretaries, minutes of the legion's 1918 and 1919 conventions, and copies of the legion's monthly bulletins from 1917 to 1919.
The collection also includes a small number of personal papers. The bulk of the correspondence in this series dates from 1919 to 1960 and relates to the post-war congressional investigation of the Spruce Division and to Disque's later business ventures. The series also contains drafts of Disque's writings and speeches delivered after 1920.
Major correspondents include J. Cheever Cowdin, Clarence F. Lea, Henry Martyn Leland, George Meany, Alton T. Roberts, the American Federation of Labor, American Lumberman, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Employers Association of the Inland Empire, the International Shingle Weavers Union of America, and the West Virginia Timber Company.
Restrictions on Access :
The papers are open to all users.Restrictions on Use :
The creator's literary rights have not been transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.Preferred Citation :
Brice P. Disque Papers. Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries, Seattle, Washington.
The papers are arranged into four series:
Additional Reference Guides :
This finding aid can also be viewed on the University of Washington website.Custodial History :
Most of the material in the collection was given to Dr. Harold Hyman by Disque's widow. Hyman assembled the material in the course of researching his book, Soldiers and Spruce: Origins of the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen (Los Angeles: University of California, Institute of Industrial Relations), 1963.Acquisition Information :
Gift of Dr. Harold Hyman of the University of California, Los Angeles, History Department, 1963.Related Materials :
Disque's widow donated the majority of Disque's personal papers, along with most of his materials relating to the U.S. War Department Spruce Production Division, to the University of Oregon Libraries. For information about those papers, see Guide to the Brice P. Disque Papers, 1899-1957, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon.
Detailed Description of the Collection
Harold Hyman correspondence regarding Soldiers and Spruce: Origins of the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen