Donald Culross Peattie was a botanist, naturalist, and author; active in the United States
in the first half of the 20th century. The following images and descriptions come from
his two-volume work: A Natural History of Trees of North America, first published in 1948,
with illustrations by Paul Landacre included with the 1950 edition.

"Under forest conditions, Sugar Maple may grow to 120 feet, with a 3- or 4-foot trunk clear
of branches half the way--a cylinder of nearly knot-free wood almost unrivaled among our
hardwoods. It is immensely strong and durable, especially the whitish sapwood called by the
lumberman Hard Maple ; a marble floor in a Philadelphia store wore out before a Hard Maple
flooring laid there at the same time. Few are the standard commercial uses for lumber where
Hard Maple does not figure, either at the top of the list or high on it. Tough and resistant to
shock, it becomes smoother, not rougher, with much usage-- as you will notice if you look at
an old-fashioned rolling pin.
And Sugar Maple can produce some notable fancy grains... Familiar to all is the figure
displayed by curly Maple, for it is the wood used for the backs of fine fiddles. Produced by
dips in the fibers, it gives a striped effect that the violin makers insist on procuring, rare
though the figure is. In the age when an American made his own gunstocks, curly Maple
was his favorite.
Plant physiologists tell us that the very glory of Maple's autumnal leaves in due in part to
the sweetness of [its] sap... That sweetness amounts in the Sugar Maple to 2 percent or even
6 percent of the sap. But of course the yield of sap varies much with the method of tapping,
the size of the tree, and the given season...

The early colonists, both English and French, learned the art of sugaring, of course, from
the red man for whom Maple sugar was the only sweet. The Indians had their sugar camps,
just as the white man... Their method was to slash a gash in the tree, when the sap was rising,
and insert a hollow reed stem or a spile of hollow Sumac twig or a funnel of bark. The sap was
then allowed to pour from the spile into a bark bowl or bucket or a gourd shell, and this in turn
was emptied into a large vessel of Elm bark or a tree trunk hollowed out to form a trough. Having
no metal vessels to endure direct contact with the fire, the Indians let the sap freeze and took off
the ice from time to time (thus, in effect concentrating the syrup), or they boiled it by dropping
hot stones into the sap troughs. Some of the hot syrup might then be poured out on the snow
for the children, who ate it as a sort of candy. But for future use, the sugar was stored in bark
boxes. Often on the frontier, "barks of sugar" were bartered from the Indians by the pioneers.
The flavor of sugar-making as an old-time Vermonter knows it is given in the following passage
contributed by Thomas Ripley, lumberman, Yale man (class of 1888), and author of the delectable
volume A Vermont Boyhood:
'The Spring snows begin to melt, leaving soft, wonderful-smelling bare patches about
the Maple trunks in the sugar bush. The Vermont farmer cocks his eye at the sun in its
northwest passage, feels something stirring in his insides and turns his thoughts to the
sugar shanty and the sap buckets. A nippy frost at night freezes little blobs of ice at the
ends of the Maple twigs. A prodigal sun melts them and warms the bare patches. 'Sap's
runnin'!' The mysterious signal is sounded and the annual miracle is on. every boy and
girl in the village knows that sap's runnin'. Teacher knows it, too. For the kinship with
the Maples, human sap as well as vegetable is rising.
'A wonderful transformation takes place in the sugar bush; with a stroke of heaven's
wand, the winter-bound grove becomes a fairyland of blue and gold, picked out with red
and green sap buckets like Christmas tree ornaments. It was good to see and hear the
drip of the sap. It seems to me that I can remember particular days when the sap ran in
a trickling stream, so bounteous was the store.
'With the advent of our pioneer ancestors, the american passion for efficiency set in...
It seems there were various ways of 'boiling down,' each succeeding way an improvement
on the old. In my boyhood, I read of the 'good old times' when two logs were laid parallel
to each other ('side by each,' as undoubtedly it was described), between which the fire was
lighted. And over the fire a row of kettles, a big one at the end, to receive the sap, a smaller
one next and then a still smaller one down to the littlest of all. Dipping from kettle to kettle,
the finished syrup was dipped from the little kettle.
'The long fire and the row of kettles has given way to the march of improvement before I
ever came on the scene. I seem to remember a big flat receptacle over a fire, an evaporator,
I think it was called, into which the sap was poured. It bubbled and threw off the most
delightful smells while the fire was stoked underneath with the dry 'dead and down' wood
that the bush yielded. though it was watched and skimmed from time to time, a lot of smoke
and cinders floated into the boiling, and the finished product emerged a bit gritty, coarse in
texture when compared with the modern stuff, but with the tang of woodsmoke in it.
'As the boiling down proceeded, the boys and girls crowded in for 'sugaring off' parties.
Big dishpans and earthenware bowls were packed hard with snow on which the hot syrup,
fresh from the boiling, was spooned. It coagulated into the moist heavenly dew. Patterns
were made, preferably hearts and arrows with initials of boy swain or girl flutterer.'"

-A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America pp.453-460

"The home of the Black Walnut is the deep rich soil of bottom-lands and fertile hillsides; it grew
abundantly throughout the primeval forests of America.
"Of all the native nut trees of America, the Black Walnut is the most valuable save only
the Pecan, and in the traditions of pioneer life and rustic childhood it is even more famous. In
a more innocent age nutting parties were the most highly prized of children's festivities in
Autumn, throughout the eastern forest belt...
"Black Walnut provides the finest cabinet wood in North America. The colonists understood
its utilization from the first--indeed were exporting it to England from Virginia as early as 1610
--without, however, being able to develop its beautiful figured grains as can be done now with
veneers. On the contrary, they employed solid Walnut wood and often had so little appreciation
of it as a grain beautiful in its own right that they painted its surface. Walnut was used in every
sort of homemade furniture of the Colonial and Federal periods, but seldom in fine styles. By the
time that appreciation of rare grains was born and the rage for Walnut really began (1830 to 1860),
machine-made furniture, turning out Empire, Victorian, and Revival styles, ruined many a fine
piece of wood. Then, as the final irony, when styles improved, Walnut had become comparatively
"There is so little Black Walnut in the forest now (except in the southern Appalachians) that it
is sought by lumbermen in a door-to-door hunt throughout the countryside...

"But in Pioneer times these giants were so abundant in our earth that they were used for such
humble things as snake-rail fences; probably many of the rails that Lincoln split were Walnut.
Millions of railroad ties have, on account of its durability in contact with soil, been made of this
now valuable wood. Cradles were almost exclusively made of Walnut in our heroic era. For gun-
stocks it was, and is, unsurpassed, since no other wood has less jar or recoil; it never warps or
shrinks; it is light in proportion to its strength, never splinters and, no matter how long it is
carried in the hand, will not irritate the palm, with its wonderful satiny surface. In every war, the
United states government has made a fresh raid upon Black Walnut for gunstocks.
"There is a significant difference between the solid Walnut furniture of the pioneers and the
modern Walnut veneers. The old trees were mostly forest-grown, hence slow-growing; it took
almost 100 years to produce a Walnut of timber size under those conditions, and the boards show
a straight grain and very dark heartwood. Thus the old-time Walnut furniture often has a somber,
heavy look, lacking refinement either in grain or design. But there is an honesty about it that links
us to our past. Perhaps the best example of the middle period of American furniture is the great
secretary of President Jackson, to be seen at The Hermitage near Nashville, at which he wrote
his sizzling and misspelled correspondence."

-A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America pp.122-125