Saturday Dec. 26, 2020’s Smile of the Day: Wood Pulp Paper

On this Day:

In 1854, Wood-Pulp paper was first exhibited in Buffalo, USA.

Friedrich Gottlob Keller (born June 27, 1816 in Hainichen, Saxony – died September 8, 1895 in Krippen, Saxony) was a German machinist and inventor, who (at the same time as Charles Fenerty) invented the wood pulp process for use in papermaking. He is widely known for his wood-cut machine (used for extracting the fibres needed for pulping wood). Unlike Charles Fenerty, F.G. Keller took out a patent for his wood-cut invention.

Before wood pulp became widely available, paper was made from rags, which were a limited resource. In the 18th century French scientist René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur suggested that paper could be made from trees. Though he himself never experimented, his theory caught the interest of others, namely Matthias Koops. In 1800 Koops published a book on papermaking made from straw. Its outer covers were made from trees. His method was not like Fenerty’s (pulping wood); instead, he simply ground the wood and caused the particles to adhere. His book does not mention anything about wood pulping.

From 1841 (after noting his idea), Keller worked eagerly on his wood-cut machine. He had spent most of his life so far working with his father as a weaver and heddle maker, and on the side attempting to invent all sorts of machines. A wood-cut machine, however, became his true passion, to which he remained dedicated over the following three years (from 1841 to 1844). In 1844 he completed his work and produced a piece of pulped wood paper from the output of his wood-cut machine. In the summer of 1844 he sent in a sample paper to the German government, hoping to obtain financial support for an improved wood-grinder machine and to develop papermaking further, but without success. Both Charles Fenerty and F.G. Keller started working on wood-based paper at the same time, and made their discovery public at the same time, and at the same time found that no one was interested in it.

Keller remained dedicated to the project, but since he could not obtain national support he sold his invention to a paper specialist, Heinrich Voelter, for about £80. A patent was granted in August 1845 in Saxony, Germany, in both names (Keller and Voelter), and Voelter began production on a mass scale. Voelter did not want to leave Keller out at first because only Keller possessed the knowledge of how to build a suitable wood-grinding machine. Eventually that changed. After 1848 the first machines came out, and in 1852 the renewal of the patent came due, but Keller did not have the money to renew his part of the patent. Therefore, Voelter became the sole patent holder and continued the work, earning a large profit, without Keller.

Heinrich Voelter remained the sole patent holder, leaving Keller unemployed and penniless. The wood-grinding machine was a success, though. Voelter had sold many throughout Europe and the Americas. By 1852 ground-wood pulped paper was being produced regularly in the mill of “H. Voelter’s Sons” in Heidenheim, Germany. The “Frankenberger Intelligence and Weekly” (in Saxony, Germany) was the first newspaper to use Keller’s invention, pulped wood newsprint. It took a couple decades for newspaper and book printers to take over the idea of using pulped wood instead of pulped rags to produce paper, but by the 1860s the new process had gained much popularity, and the transition began.

By the end of the 19th-century few printers in the Western world were still using rags in lieu of wood for paper making. Throughout his life, Keller received no royalties from his invention. However, in 1870 he received from a number of German paper makers and other associations a small sum of money, which he used to buy a house in Krippen, Germany. Towards the end of his life a fair sum of money was collected for him in various countries, enough for a worry-free retirement, and he also received several awards in recognition of his invention (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

I went to the grocery store but at the checkout counter, they didn’t give me an option between paper or plastic.  I said: “Why can’t baggers be choosers?”

Second, a Song:

Were it not for paper, love letters would not have been written. 

“Letter to You” is a 2020 single by American heartland rock band Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The song was released as a lead-in for the album of the same name on September 10, 2020. The song has received critical praise.

Kory Grow of Rolling Stone situates the song as part of a tradition in Springsteen’s songwriting with his trademark earnestness and urgency but notes that, “Springsteen sings about exploring his inner self without truly divulging all that much… [and] Springsteen may never fully reveal himself, but the song still feels like a full picture because of the way he and his bandmates trust in themselves and each other musically.” Dylan Jones of GQ considers the song epic and uses his review as an overview of Springsteen’s career in combining strong storytelling in his songs with his shifts in musical genre, including “the poppy vein of his recent” work. 

Sam Sodomsky of Pitchfork Media calls the song “a heartfelt tribute to those ties that bind”, noting how Springsteen’s work with the E Street Band “is his conduit toward transcendence, community, and emotional uplift” and how those qualities are particularly needed in the present day.  Writing for, Bobby Olivier ranked 326 Bruce Springsteen songs, with this one coming in at 161 for being “is familiarly forceful and earnest” and “strong, catchy and bodes well for the highly anticipated album coming” (per Wikipedia).

Here is Bruce Springsteen and the band performing Letter to You. I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.” – Juan Ramon Jimenez

It was great receiving Merry Christmas thank you notes from so many of you.  Glad you are enjoying the Smiles!

Have a great day!

© 2020 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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