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Log Cabins R Us
Folk singer Pete Seeger looked up 'log cabin' at The New York Public Library when he wanted to build a home in upstate New York, according to a recent New Yorker interview (Wilkinson, Alec. "The Protest Singer." New Yorker v.82, no. 9 (April 17, 2006): p44).
Curious, I repeated his query in the library catalog starting with a simple search for "log cabin*" (the asterisk wildcard finds both singular and plural). Now I've posted a guide to these resources, attached below and downloadable from the library's website. I wonder if Seeger learned his cabin craft from How to Build Your Home in the Woods (1952).
More recent, The Science Industry and Business Library has Log Cabin Construction (1975), Building a Log Home from Scratch or Kit (1983), or the muscular-sounding Building the Hewn Log House (1978). A modern-day Seeger with a current library card could borrow Cottage, Cabin & Vacation Home Plans (2007) from SIBL's first-floor circulating collection.
The extended collections of NYPL trace the peculiar history of the log cabin in American life. A log cabin embodies the spirit of Yankee self-help, pioneering and independence. As a form of architecture it is empirical, raw and uncultivated--like the early nation itself. European settlers erected cabins from the plentiful trees they found in virgin forests, and even today cabins are often constructed by the people who will live in them. Presidents were proud to have been born in log cabins--Abraham Lincoln among them. By the early 20th century log cabins were being constructed for vacationing Americans escaping the city: examples are in Camps, Log Cabins, Lodges and Clubhouses (1925).
Search for log cabin photographs in NYPL's Digital Gallery and you'll find not only recreational cabins but images of African American homes from the periods before and after slavery. Many original photographs are in the collections of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Learned historical articles on the construction of log cabins by African Americans are in the JSTOR electronic archives, listed in the guide, or you can visit Schomburg to find out more! Log cabins are still being built, and have new meaning as we become concerned with the environment and economical living. The dream of humble independence lives on in the current movement for Small Houses, some of them on wheels and towable. These tiny accommodations are suitably puritan, but built with 21st century technical expertise and comfort. As you might expect, there are websites (again, see the guide) for fans of the tiny buildings, and a current news item about Small Houses is the "most viewed" story on CNN.com as I post this blog.