I’ll get around to explaining in just a minute what this picture has to do with birds.


This is a slightly fuzzy photo of a bentwood Singer Sewing Machine case, probably from the 1930’s or ’40’s.

The Resident Expert gave me a copy of The Grail Bird for a winter solstice gift. The book describes the search for the (maybe, maybe not) extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker. The book is a good one, and goes into some detail on the habitat of this extraordinary bird – mostly the remnant swamp forest of the deep South. A last stronghold for the bird was a stand of ancient hardwood known as the Singer Tract, owned by the Singer Sewing Machine Company. There was a strong effort made to secure this place, as it was already known by the 1930’s that the Ivory-bill was on its way out. The Singer people said, “No.”, and eventually the entire area was clear cut. Some of the wood made it into the furniture and cases that Singer built, but I just read that the last of it was harvested during World War II to make coffins and ammunition boxes.

Singer was the world’s largest furniture manufacturer a century ago. They needed a lot of wood. Not many people had visited the southern swamp forests, and as they say, if you don’t love it you won’t fight for it. And so the last stronghold of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker fell.

This is not a new story. Just pick any man-made object nearby, and it’s likely that some living thing is embattled in order to manufacture it. We are just a non-stop, rolling natural disaster.

However, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker might still be out there. And the Singer Sewing Machine still works.


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