THE STEAM DONKEY
Ox-and-horse logging was phased out in the 1870s by a combination of technological innovations. The invention of safe portable steam boilers, reliable wire rope and "high-lead" logging led to the development of the mechanical marvel called a "steam donkey," which revolutionized log handling.
    The steam donkey consisted of a boiler and three steam-powered winches mounted on a skid. It was operated by a "skinner," who worked the winches, and a "swamper," who fired the boiler, pumped feed water and kept the machinery lubricated. Anchored to a tree by one of its cables, the donkey dragged itself along the forest floor by its own power.
     These innovations--along with the development of narrow-gauge railroading, the application of steam technology to sawmills and the capitalist exploitation of cheap immigrant labor--reduced the cost of construction lumber and made possible the building of post-Civil-War urban infrastructure as they made working-class housing more affordable.
PHOTO COURTESY OF PETER PALMQUIST, ARCATA, CA

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