Two hundred years ago, decades before the age of steam, ships plying the oceans of the world were powered by the wind. Ships carried acres of sails, suspended on a forest of wooden masts and spars.

Without sufficient sail, a ship was dead in the water. Without sufficient masts and spars, sails puddled uselessly on the deck.

Sailing the oceans wore ships out quickly. The endless pressure of howling winds tearing ceaselessly in the rigging is unimaginable. Salt and sun, rotted masts, canvas, and rope. Sailing barnacled hulls against the wearing resistance of waves and currents, required enormous supplies of sails, masts, and spars.

In 1806 war broke out between France and England. France had her own forests. England traditionally bought timber from the Baltic and from her colonies in New England. The American Revolution disrupted the supply of timber from New England while Napoleon Bonaparte ordered a blockade of the Baltic.

The Royal Navy found a ready supply of masts in the forests in what remained of their colonies in British North America. Navy masts were tall; between 75 and 100 feet! Two feet around at the base, and octagonal.

From this early demand by the Royal Navy, there began an enterprise which dwarfed any other in North America at the time.