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Pulp Friction: 1941

Pulp Friction: 1941

September 1941. "One of the machines that grind wood into pulp at the Mississquoi Corporation paper mill at Sheldon Springs, Vermont." Medium format negative by Jack Delano for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


Theme Song

As I'm looking at this photo, Dick Dale's "Miserlou" plays on the radio.


This guy sure fits that category!

When I moved into my Vancouver, B.C. neighbourhood over forty years ago, there was a pulp mill up the coast at the suitably named community of "Woodfibre". The prevailing winds usually prevented the strong smell of sulphur reaching Vancouver, but every so often it reached my area. When it happened it smelled like a natural gas leak inside the house. The mill closed in 2006.

And we thought we had it bad

I will never, ever, complain again about being confined to a cubicle all day!

NIMBY Pulp Mills

My company does a fair bit of work in pulp mills all over the country. There is a new $2.5 billon pulp mill being built in Arkadelphia, AR that is due to come on line around 2020. First new pulp mill built in the US in over 35 years.

Once built they tend to continue operations for many generations. I have worked in several that were built in the late 1800's and still have equipment in service from those days. Sometimes they get updated controls and safety devices added on.

The same mill

This is indeed the same paper mill now owned by West Rock. I'm pretty sure they are making paperboard there, which would be cardboard things like cereal boxes are constructed from. If somebody knows better, please correct. Paper mills tend to stay in the same place because new ones are a real NIMBY problem for the proposed host locale.


Ouch. That setup looks like a lot of work accidents waiting to happen. Take your pick, hot steam, steam explosions, exploding hydraulics, heavy things falling on something, snagging by powered machinery, and since this is a pulp mill, there should also be lots of keen and quickly rotating blades around.

Likely still there

A paper mill called WestRock now operates in Sheldon Springs. It seems to specialize in corrugated cardboard. I'll bet it's the same mill. I hope they have modernized their equipment since 1941.

A Dirtier Job

... than all of Mike Rowe's combined.

Bad karma

I wonder what he did in a previous life to end up in this hellish job.

Novel Comment

Looks like a scene from a Stephen King movie.

Dante's Inferno comes to mind.

Jack Delano appears not to have been entirely taken in by Vermont's bucolic charm.

Paper mill

Looks like Hell to me.


Looks like a woodchipper on steroids, a veritable OSHA nightmare. I remember my dad giving me a tour of the paper mill where he used to work (it was built around this time), and thank God I never saw anything that looked like this.

No. 1

Of all the photos on Shorpy I've seen over the years of jobs I wouldn't want, I believe this one has taken first place. Imagine the heat and noise of that process and the smell. Years ago we were traveling through a part of Maine we weren't familiar with -- Mexico, Maine. There was a choking smell passing through there. When we got to our destination farther north I asked my friend we were visiting what it might have been. His reply was wood pulp from a paper mill in the area. Incredible photo.

[The smell is from the sulfur used to dissolve the pulp. - Dave]

A dream job if I have ever seen one.

Don't like to wear a necktie to work? No problem.

The Pause That Refreshes

I'd have finished a cold bottle of Coca-Cola, too, doing that kind of hot work.

Minus the tattoos

Shades of Adam Levine at the Super Bowl halftime show yesterday.

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