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Pines: Turpentine and Rosin


Circa 1937

In colonial times, naval stores was the "pitch, tar, and rosin" for the wooden ship industry. Now its use for boat building is almost negligible and turpentine and rosin, still called naval stores, go into the manufacture of soaps, polishes, paints, lacquers, inks, linoleum, roofing, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and a large amount into paper size which coats the paper to permit printing.

The old method of "boxing" the trees has given way to the installing of cups and gutters with a greater volume produced of higher quality. Other improvements in this age-old operation are taking place, but substitutes have taken away some of the markets. Research work is being carried on by chemists to keep this important southern industry thriving.

In Florida, over 3,000,000 acres of pine forests are used annually to produce 7,000,000 gallons of turpentine and 800,000 barrels of rosin. Seven and three quarter million dollars were realized from the 1938 operations in which 15,000 wage earners were employed. After the trees are "worked out" for turpentine, they are available for pulpwood, sawlogs, cross ties, veneer, and poles.

The life of the turpentine farm is centered around the turpentine still, the big house of the owner or camp manager and, off to one side in the quarters, the cabins of the darkies. These "tar heels of the piney woods" are good natured, easy going laborers who work four to five days a week, enjoy their Saturdays, and celebrate their pay-days. With no rent to pay, a few greens in their gardens, a few hogs in the woods, their women to catch fish, and a dog or two to hunt possums at night, their lives are filled with contentment.

Both rosin and turpentine are also produced by destructive and steam distillation of fat pine stump wood, employing more thousands of men and returning more millions of dollars to Florida.

Excerpt from "Liquid Gold from Florida's Pines" Know Florida, Issued by the State Department of Agriculture, Tallahassee, Circa 1937, pg. 7.


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