In the days when logs were floated down rivers to be processed, it was important for the lumber companies to reliably identify whose logs were whose. The Timber Marking Act was passed in 1870 and required logging firms in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick to register a unique identifying mark and then to stamp the cut trees with that symbol. Between 1870 and 1990, some 2,200 timber marks were registered.1 Failure to register and use a timber mark incurred a fine of $50, while wrongly applying a mark to someone else’s logs was also an offence, with a fine of up to $100.

Rathbun Company timber mark stamping hammer

This week, the archives heard from Peter Haughton of Bristol, Quebec, who has come into possession of a timber mark stamping hammer with a Deseronto connection. The hammer’s mark (a six-pointed star) was registered by Deseronto’s H. B. Rathbun & Son on July 18, 1870. Mr Haughton has been kind enough to share photographs of the hammer and also of the relevant page of The Lumberman’s Timber Mark Guide, which lists all the marks that the lumber companies had registered.

Timber marks registered in July 1870

The page shows that the Rathbun Company had registered four different marks in 1870: perhaps a reflection of the scale of the timber limits that were being exploited by this firm. By 1890 The New York Times described the Rathbun Company as “the most valuable lumber manufacturing concern in Canada”.2 It also (slightly less accurately) located Deseronto “a few miles east of Toronto”.

1The Timber Marking Act is likely to be repealed, as logs are no longer transported down rivers in this way. A consultation on the proposal to repeal the Act is available from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
2The New York Times, November 4, 1890 ‘A big syndicate deal