Gerald W. Williams worked for the U.S. Forest Service from 1979 until his retirement in 2005. From 1979 to 1993, he was a sociologist with the Umpqua and Willamette National Forests in Oregon; in 1993-1998, he served as the regional sociologist for the Pacific Northwest Regional Office in Portland; and from 1998 until his retirement in 2005 he was the national historian for the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, D.C. Williams designed and implemented a regional and national history program for the Forest Service which culminated in his appointment as national historian and his authorship of the centennial history of the Forest Service, The USDA Forest Service -- The First Century, in 2000. He has published more than 75 books, chapters, book reviews, and articles and conference papers exploring a variety of historical topics such as the Native American use of fire to manage environments, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the U.S. Army's Spruce Production Division during World War I.
Williams is a native of Oregon and earned degrees from Southern Oregon University (B.A., Sociology; M.A. General Studies Social Science) and Washington State University (Ph.D., Sociology).
The Gerald W. Williams Collection consists of Williams' personal papers; the historic photograph collection that he assembled; photographs taken by Williams and his family; oral histories; maps; moving images and sound recordings; and posters, ephemera, and artifacts pertaining to forestry, environmental history, Native Americans, and geography of the Pacific Northwest.
Williams' personal papers include 35 years of his research notes, manuscripts, and final publications. Included in this component of the collection are copies of more than 6000 documents from the papers of Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, which are held at the Library of Congress. The papers also include materials pertaining to Judge John B. Waldo, the first 100 years of the U.S. Forest Service, the geography and place names of the McKenzie River region, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the U.S. Army Spruce Production Division.
The historic photographs collected by Williams include thousands of postcards from the 1900s through 1940s, documenting watersheds, forests, and communities throughout the Pacific Northwest, with a focus on Oregon. Other historic photographs include a large collection of Oregon and California postcards made by photographer Frank Patterson, a Medford photographer and northwest Oregon and southwest Washington logging scenes taken by John Fletcher Ford (circa 1900-1915). There are also photographs documenting the U.S. Army Spruce Production Division in Oregon and Washington during World War I, large format prints of early 20th century forestry scenes in Washington and Oregon made by renowned photographers Darius and Clark Kinsey, and images depicting Native Americans. A variety of formats are represented including photographic prints, postcards, sterographic images, and glass lantern slides.
The photographs taken by Williams consist primarily of color slides, photographic prints, and film negatives. These include images of national parks and forests in Oregon and Washington, the McKenzie River region of Oregon, and vacation photos. Of particular note are slides of Celilo Falls taken by Williams' father, Jack Williams, in September 1956, a few months before the falls were inundated by The Dalles Dam.
The oral histories include sound recordings and transcripts of interviews of U.S. Forest Service employees in preparation for the Forest Service centennial as well as with residents of the McKenzie River region. Several publications of forestry-related oral histories are included.
The maps consist of items assembled by Williams for his research and for their historic value. They include maps and brochures for national forests throughout the United States; framed historic maps; topographic maps; and maps of Civilian Conservation Corps structures.
The moving images include films, VHS videotapes, and DVDs commemorating the centennial of the U.S. Forest Service and pertaining to the Civilian Conservation Corps in Oregon and Washington, heritage resource management, and national forest roads. The sound recordings include cassette tapes of speeches, special events, and radio interviews. A CD of a production on the sounds of the forest is also included.
The collection also includes political posters, a scrapbook documenting the Smoky the Bear anniversary traveling exhibit, and ephemera and artifacts of the Forest Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Gerald W. Williams Collection, Oregon State University Archives, Corvallis, Oregon.