By Susan Murray, Vice-President Public Affairs, Forest Products Association of Canada
Whether it be the poetic “paper is the vehicle of thought” or the more prosaic “fibres in wood are called pulp”, they are among the one-line twitter-length “fillers” put together in 1958 by the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, the precursor to FPAC.
It’s uncertain what this long list of one, two and three or four liners was actually used for back then (let us know what you think) but one could guess that they were used to fill blank spaces in various publications put out more than a half century ago.
We stumbled on this yellowed fragile and fascinating poster-sized find when going through boxes of old material as FPAC prepares to donate some of its historic documentation to the Canadian Archives.
Whatever their use, it is an interesting insight into the forest products industry of almost 60 years ago. How about the one-liner “fine paper is made from rags”. In fact paper was invented in ancient China and the first paper-making facilities in North America back in the 17th century used rags used to make paper. Even in 1958, rags were still used to make fine paper and its estimated that about 2% of all paper production in Canada that year used rags as the raw material.
When it comes to the two-liners from 1958, an example is “Pulp and paper uses one-fifth of all power used by industry”. Being an energy hog is hardly something that we would brag about today. In fact many of our mills have become self-sufficient in energy, and produce green electricity. We now proudly boast that we have eliminated the use of coal and cut the use of oil to generate electricity by about 90%.
One “three line filler” stated that “Pulp and paper making, a major world enterprise, is Canada’s national industry”. Another stated that “The pulp and paper industry ranks first in production, exports and wages paid” or that “In the value of its production the pulp and paper industry has headed the list of Canadian peace-time manufacturing industries for a quarter of a century”.
It’s a good reminder that for most of the 20th century, the pulp and paper industry was the largest industry in Canada, the largest contributor to our GDP, the largest employer and the largest exporter. Those days are long gone. Paper use in particular has plummeted considering the dawn of the digital age. However the forest sector is still a very important contributor to the Canadian economy especially in rural communities. The Canadian Pulp and Paper Association has become the Forest Products Association of Canada which also represents lumber producers, a growing area of the forest sector. We may no longer be Canada’s dominant “national industry” but forest products are still a $58 billion industry employing about 230,000 people with about 200 rural communities depending on it for survival.
One of the surprising “fillers” was one noting that ”Canadian pulp makes cellophane, explosives, film and plastic”, a reference to the innovative uses of wood fibre that existed more than a half century ago. I was amazed to see this talk about innovation back then ― the concept of innovation has become a huge part of today’s forest sector brand. That’s why we have brochures such as “Expect us in the Unexpected”, pointing to everything from car parts to clothes to cosmetics and green chemicals that are now being made from wood fibre. In fact the “fillers” of 2015 or fun facts pushed out on Twitter today are largely about how innovation is in our nature. So maybe the industry of today is not all that much different from that in 1958 after all!
To find more of the various “fillers” from 1958, join the FPAC twitter account and look for throwback Thursdays!